Thursday, September 4, 2008

Daf: Gittin 41-44 – Procreation, Shady outreach methods, Pleonasm, Freeing an עבד to enable mitzvah observance

Still catching up on old notes… for those who are interested, bear with me while I catch up. For those who are not interested, well, I guess it doesn’t matter whether I am caught up or not, right? Skip down the page to hear about evertything that’s wrong with rabbinic speeches.

Gittin 41b

The gemara here cites, as proof that an עבד should be allowed to marry, the pasuk of לא תהו בראה לשבת יצרה, “Gd did not create the world to be empty; Gd formed it for settlement.” They do not bring the classic פרו ורבו “Bear fruit and multiply.” Tosafot לא explains why.

Here we talk about forcing a person to violate biblical law, having him free his עבד, in order to enable the עבד to fulfill a mitzvah of procreation; this is odd, given that Shabbat 4a says we do not tell a person to sin in order to benefit others!
Tosafot כופין offers two approaches: 1) In the case in Shabbat 4a we are dealing with a sinner who did something wrong (putting dough in an oven right before Shabbat) to enter that position; here, the עבד did nothing wrong. 2) Procreation is a mitzvah which helps the community.
Both of these approaches open major questions regarding sinning to benefit someone else, and regarding Outreach methods. What would you think of a Jew who broke a Jewish law in order to become close with someone who was sinning, arguing that he was justified by Tosafot’s argument here – since he would be helping this person, who might then turn out to help others? Or what would you think of a Jew who lied to someone for the sake of “outreach,” making that same argument?

An important point of methodology: Why do we use logic here against a pleonasm (גזירה שוה)? This pleonasm is מופנה, utilizing textual anomalies on either side – so it should not be open to challenge! Tosafot מה suggests that even with a strong pleonasm, logic can challenge it, and result in us using different methods of analyzing those textual anomalies.

Gittin 42b
Tosafot הואיל explains that we need a גט שחרור (document freeing an עבד) in a case in which people might suspect that the עבד was not really freed. This bothers me; the gemara sounds as though the עבד is not free without this document, but in this case the document is really just supposed to be, per Tosafot, an extra protection for the freed עבד’s sake!

Gittin 43b
Note that the gemara here brings the imperative of פרו ורבו, Bear fruit and multiply, for an עבד – which it did not do back on 41b. See Tosafot back on 41b, and the Maharsha on that Tosafot.

Gittin 44a
The gemara at the bottom of this page is fascinating. Ordinarily we say מילתא דלא שכיחא לא גזרו ביה רבנן, that the sages did not make decrees for unusual cases. Here, though, they did make the decree – just not to be too harsh.

The gemara here discusses freeing an עבד in order to enable him to perform mitzvot, since his master has put him in a position where he will otherwise be unable to perform mitzvot. That sounds like it should be an automatic requirement – but we see in this gemara that the עבד has the right to say, “No, I’d rather remain an עבד even though that means I will not be able to perform mitzvot.”

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  1. On 41b, isn't this the difference between your cases vs. freeing a slave: with the latter there simply is no alternative that will enable him to marry, whereas when it comes to Jewish outreach there is always some other method of accomplishing what's needed without violating halachah?

  2. Could be - but I don't think the kiruv organizations who do this would agree with us.