The Weekly Daf

For the week ending 15 December 2007 / 6 Tevet 5768

Ketubot 109 - Nedarim 4

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Ecology and Economy

Where is it preferable to live -- in a town or in a big city? Small-town dwellers and suburbanites will give you one answer, while the denizens of a metropolis will give you another. The truth, of course, is that a good case can be made for both. The halachic ramifications of this sociological reflection are whether a man can force his wife to move from town to city or vice versa.

The mishna clearly states that a husband cannot compel his wife to leave a town and come live with him in the city, nor to leave the city and live with him in a town. Objection to moving from city to town is readily understood, observes the gemara, because everything is available in a metropolis. But why should a woman object to moving from a town to a city?

The answer given is based on an observation made by Rabbi Yossi bar Chanina that it is difficult to be a city-dweller. The historical proof of this observation is the account we find of the settling of Eretz Yisrael by the exiles returning from Babylon. Although most of the people were more interested in establishing their homes in towns throughout the land, their leader, Nechemia, was determined to see that Jerusalem would be sufficiently populated. He therefore ordered that lots be drawn to designate which tenth of the total population would be assigned to live in Jerusalem, and he appealed for volunteers beyond that number. His appeal won a positive response, "And the people blessed all those who had volunteered to live in Jerusalem." (Nechemia 11:2)

What is so difficult about living in a big city that deserved such a special blessing and which serves as grounds for a wife refusing to move there?

Rashi explains that because of the large population in the city, the houses are crowded together with little air available to their residents, in contrast to the town where fields and orchards adjoining the homes provide a pleasant atmosphere. Metzudot David on Nechemia and Tiferet Yisrael on the mishna suggest that the difficulty of city life lies also in the high cost of living there. It is the wife's prerogative to favor the positive aspects of either town or city in her choice of where to live.

  • Ketubot 110b

The Sages' Love of the Land

The final pages of Mesechta Ketubot describe the great love which the Talmudic Sages had for Eretz Yisrael. Let us cite two examples:

Rabbi Chanina picked up stones that were on the road. Tosefot explains his action based on a Midrash (Tanchuma Parashat Shlach) describing this sage's journey from Babylon to Eretz Yisrael. There were no border signs in those days indicating where the Holy Land began, so Rabbi Chanina developed his own test. He picked up a stone and felt its weight. Finding it too light, he realized that he had not yet reached his destination. When he finally picked up some stones that had substance, he realized that he was in Eretz Yisrael. He kissed those stones and recited the passage, "For Your servants desired her stones, and its dust found favor in their eyes." (Tehillim 102:5)

Rashi, however, has another interpretation which ties in with the following piece of gemara. Rabbi Chanina, he explains, was already in Eretz Yisrael and his lifting stones had a different purpose. His love of the land was so great that he was anxious to see that no one could fault it for having poor roads. He therefore went about removing stones and other obstacles from the roads.

That same sort of consideration seems to be the motive of Rabbi Ami and Rabbi Asi who, in order to find comfort in the shade, would leave the place where they were studying Torah when the sun's rays became too hot. On cold days they would move from their unheated place to where they could enjoy the warmth of the sun. They did so, explains Rashi, so that they would never have cause to complain even about the climate in Eretz Yisrael.

But wouldn't any one of us move from an uncomfortable place to a comfortable one? What is so remarkable about the behavior of these sages? The answer is that they could certainly have continued studying despite a little discomfort, while moving necessitated a loss of precious time spent in intense Torah study. They nevertheless made that sacrifice so that it should never occur to them that there was something imperfect about living in the Eretz Yisrael they so loved.

  • Ketubot 112b

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