Daf Yomi

For the week ending 20 December 2014 / 28 Kislev 5775

Yevamot 76 - 82

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Only the Men

When King Saul saw how well the royal armor in which he dressed David in preparation for his epic encounter with Goliath so perfectly fit him, he suspected that this youth might one day supplant him as king. As he began to inquire about David's ancestry, his counselor, Doag the Edomite, raised the question of David's very legitimacy, since he was descended from the Moabite convert Ruth, and the Torah commands that "An Ammonite or Moabite may not marry into the community of Hashem." (Devarim 23:4)

Doag's challenge was refuted by Saul's general Avner, who cited a ruling that the Torah's restriction was limited to the men of those nations, and did not include the women. As an explanation of this selectivity, he pointed to the passage following the ban which gives the reason for the restriction: "Because they did not greet you with bread and water during your journey from Egypt, and because they hired Bilaam … to curse you." Since it was not in the nature of a woman to go out to the border to offer hospitality, the blame falls squarely on the men.

Although this explanation for excluding women from the ban applies only to the first part of the passage dealing with lack of hospitality, the Jerusalem Talmud (Yevamot 8:3) extends it to the second half as well by explaining that it was the manner of men, and not women, to hire the services of a curser like Bilaam.

A problem arises regarding the apparent indictment of both of these nations for failing to provide nourishment. In Devarim 2:29, Moshe tells Sichon, the Emorite king, that the Moabites did provide food and drink to his people when they passed by their land. This leads Ramban to conclude that there are two separate indictments contained in the above mentioned passage. Both Ammon and Moab are descended from Lot, who was rescued from captivity by Abraham; and in Abraham's merit their mothers and Lot were saved from the destruction of Sodom. Instead of repaying these kindnesses by doing good to Abraham's descendants, each of them was guilty of an act of evil. Ammon refused to offer food and drink, and Moab, although not guilty of that sin, was responsible for hiring Bilaam to curse Abraham's progeny.

  • Yevamot 76b

Livelihood or Privilege?

During the reign of King David there was a drought for three years. After investigating what sins the people were guilty of to deserve such punishment and failing to find a cause, King David turned to Heaven for direction by consulting the Urim Vetumim. The response was that his predecessor, King Saul, had been guilty of slaying the Givonite converts.

Where do we find, asks the gemara, that Saul slew any Givonites? The answer is that he put to death the kohanim of the city of Nov whom he accused of collaborating with his rival, David. Since these kohanim were the Givonites' source of water and food, this was considered equivalent to slaying them.

Rashi explains that the Givonites' livelihood came from serving the kohanim of Nov who paid for their services by supplying them with food and water. Saul's slaying the kohanim thus removed the Givonites' source of livelihood and this was tantamount to murder.

Maharsha challenges this approach by calling attention to the response of the Givonites when David tried to appease them and thus end the drought. They refused to be appeased and to forgive, arguing that "we have no account of silver and gold with Saul and his family," insisting on no less than the execution of seven of his progeny. If all the Givonites had lost was the food and drink the kohanim supplied them, why could this not be compensated for with silver and gold?

His conclusion, therefore, is that the Heavenly indictment of Saul was not concerning the livelihood supplied by the kohanim. It was about the fact that the Givonites had, in their classical role as "water carriers and hewers of wood," enjoyed the great privilege of supplying the kohanim with their needs - water for drinking and wood for cooking. When Saul slew the kohanim, the Givonites lost this privilege; this was tantamount to death, for which silver and gold could not serve as compensation.

  • Yevamot 78a

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