I'm back and these are my children

Kidushin (4:10) | Yisrael Bankier | 4 months ago

The final perek of Kiddushin, begins by discussing the topic of yuchsin – lineage. The first Mishnah details the limitations on who one can marry based on their lineage. Consequently, establishing one's lineage is important. The Mishnah discusses when one is trusted regarding the claims he makes about his children's yichus1. The Mishnah (4:10) explains that if one went overseas with his wife, and returned with his wife and children, he does not need to bring proof regarding his wife's yichus or that the children are hers. Rashi and the Bartenura explain that her yichus was established when they were married, and since we see the children are attached to the mother, their yichus is not questioned. If however he return with only the new children and says his wife died, he would need to bring proof that they are her children, but no further proof is required regarding her wife's yichus.

The Tosfot however questions Rashi's explanation. If the wife's yichus was established at the time of marriage, in both cases it is obvious that her yichus does not need to be confirmed again. Why then does the Mishnah need to state the obvious? Furthermore, why does the Mishnah need to restate that point in the second case?

The Tosfot cite the Ri who answers that the Mishnah means the two proofs that are not required are regarding the children that they are his (and not from another father) and with respect to the wife, that they are her children. However, in the second case, where the wife did not return, a proof is required regarding the children that they are his own children born to the wife that died while away. The Mishnah however continues that once established, no proof is required that the wife who died is the one whose he left with and whose lineage we had already established.

The Tosfot Yom Tov however finds this explanation forced. In both cases we refer to proof regarding the wife and children, but according to the Ri's explanation, the meaning of those terms is different in each case. The Tosfot Yom Tov therefore suggests that the focus of the Mishnah was with respect to the children. The detail of the wife was indeed unnecessary and only mentioned since in the first case, the children's status is confirmed since they were attached to the mother. Having mentioned the mother's status in the first case, it continued the pattern in the second as well.

R' Tzvi Hirsh Kalisher (chidushim on the Mishnah) however asks, even if her status was established when they married, why it is obvious that in need not be verified again. In this case, the fact that he needed to informed people that this is his wife on return, must mean that enough time has passed, and people do not recognise her. Consequently, the Mishnah needs to teach us that he is indeed trusted when he says, "this is may wife."2

One might however ask, in the next Mishnah we learn that if a single man goes away and returns with a wife and children, he must provide proof regarding his new wife's yichus. If we do not recognise the wife in this case why is the ruling different?

R' Kalisher explains that our case is different since he left with a wife whose yichus was already established. Consequently, we are not concerned that they divorced, or she died and he a remarried (as there has been no news to raise such a concern). The fact that we are not concerned, despite not recognising her is indeed a chidush (novel). Consequently, we understand why the Mishnah needed to teach in the first case that no proof is required regarding his wife's yichus. Why is this point repeated in the second case where the wife dies? R' Kalisher explains that had it not, we may have thought in the first case, we only believe him if we recognise her. The repetition in the second case, where the wife is no longer alive, teaches that the first case is one that is comparable to the second – where the wife we knew is no longer "here" as we do not recognise her.


1 Please note that the term yichus here is used as per the Mishnah where it has halachic significance and not as it is more commonly used to refer to one that is born to a distinguished family.

2 R' Kalisher continues that one cannot suggest that we are dealing with a case that they do recognise the wife, yet we are considered he had divorced her while away and these are the children from a different marriage. The language of the Mishnah "this is my wife" does support the suggestion that this is the concern.

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