A Kohen Yabam

Ketubot (5:3) | Yisrael Bankier | 9 years ago

We have learnt that eirusin (halachic engagement) and nisuin (marriage) used to be separated by some time to allow for adequate preparation. During that period, since the bride would be living in her parent’s house, the groom was not responsible for supporting her. If however the eirusin period extended too long – for a betulathis is one year – he would then be responsible for providing her with food. We also learnt that the law initially was that if the groom was a kohen, after the time expired his bride would be able to eat trumah even if she was a daughter an yisrael. The reason is that since after eirusin the bride is already considered “kinyan kaspo” should could have really be able to eaten trumah immediately following eirusin. It was only due to a rabbinic decree that prevented her from doing so prior to the above-described point in time or prior to marriage.1

We will not be discussing this decree but rather a different point. The next Mishnah (5:3) teaches that if the year period was shared between the groom and the yabam, the two periods do not combine to enable the (now)yavama to eat truma.

Rashi (Ketubot 57a) explains that the ruling would be same even if she was an arusa for over a year prior to becoming a yavama and had begun eating teruma. The reason is that she would no longer be considered a “kinyan kaspo” of the yabam – she is the kinyan of the late groom and not of the yabam.2 Even though the Mishnah only brought examples where both periods of time totalled to one year, this is because the Mishnahchose examples where she would never have been able to eat trumah.

The Rabbeinu Tam (58a) however argues that the simple reading of the Mishnah implies that if she had indeed been waiting a year prior to becoming a yavama then she could continue eating teruma. He adds that once she has started eating teruma the reason for the tekana has disappeared and she should be able to continue doing so.

The difficulty with the Rabbeinu Tam’s position is that the Gemara (57a) seems to bring Rashi’s exposition: “What is the reason [for the Mishnah’s ruling]? The Torah taught ‘kinyan kaspo’ and [the yevama] is the kinyan of [the yabam’s] brother.” The Rabbeinu Tam answers that the Gemara is not bringing a drash, but rather presenting an asmachta3 for their gezeira. The Tosfot Yom Tov explains that in other words, the gezeira that she can eat teruma after one year is in the case of “kinyan kaspo” where she was an arusa for one year, but not “kinyan achiv”, when she is a yavama.

According to Rabbeinu Tam how can she continue to eat teruma? The Rabbeinu Tam explains that she as able to eat due to the “zika of the yabam” and the “yabam allows here to eat”. The implication is that the yavama’s capacity hinges on the yabam. It might be possible to suggest that as long as the yabam was a valid kohen, even if his late brother was a pasul kohen, if she waited longer than a year then should could eat teruma. The Ramban however explains that both the late brother and the yabam must be valid kohanim for her to be able to eat teruma. The yabam is only in this position by virtue of his brother, so his capacity to allow the consumption of teruma cannot be greater than his late brother’s. Interestingly the Tosfot Ha’Rosh explains that “if she ate [teruma] during the life of her husband, she can continue to eat even now ‘mishum kocho’ since the kinyan has not disappear due to the zika.” The implication there is the here capacity to eat teruma is connected to her late groom and the zika continues it.


1 Note that this point and the rest of the article is only according to the initial teaching (mishnah rishona). The latter decree prevented an arusa from eating trumah prior to marriage in all cases.

2 Most understand that according to Rashi that this law is a biblical one as it is derived from a pasuk. The Ritva however understands that according to Rashi there is a difference whether the yavama started to eating teruma when she was an arusa or after she already married. In the latter case, even according to Rashi, she could continue while she is a yevama. According to this understanding of Rashi it would seem that Rashi maintains that the exclusion of a yevama from eating teruma is rabbinic otherwise it would be difficult to explain the distinction.

3 An asmachta is where the Chachamim utilise a verse not as source for a biblical law, but rather a trigger for a rabbinic one.

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