ו׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ה (February 25, 2015)

Ketubot 23a-b: But I Am Pure

Following the principle of ha-peh she-asar hu ha-peh she-hitir that we learned about on yesterday’s daf, the Mishna (22a) teaches that a Jewish woman who was held captive is believed when she says, “Nishbeti u’tehorah ani – I was held as a prisoner, but I am pure [I was never sexually molested].” If she had been, it would have madeher forbidden from marrying a kohen. However, if we know from another source that she was held captive, we can no longer believe her. The Mishna further teaches that had she gotten married already, even if witnesses come who say that they knew she was a prisoner, we allow her to remain married.

Our Gemara quotes Shmuel’s father as ruling that this is true not only in a case where she had already married, but even if the ruled that she was permitted, they would not rescind their ruling and would allow her to marry a kohen – even if witnesses who knew that she had been held prisoner arrived before the marriage took place.

The Gemara relates that Shmuel’s own daughters were taken as prisoners and that their captor took them to Israel, where they hoped to sell them or receive ransom from the community to have them freed. The girls turned to their captors and asked them for permission to enter the beit midrash of Rabbi Hanina, while the captors waited outside. Thus the girls were able to walk into the court, state nishbeti u’tehorah ani and receive permission to marry whomever they wanted based on ha-peh she-asar hu ha-peh she-hitir, and only afterwards did the captors enter to begin negotiations on their sale. Rabbi Hanina realized that these girls must have grown up in a home of scholars and ascertained that they were, in fact, Shmuel’s daughter’s, at which point he encouraged Rav Shemen bar Abba – who was a kohen, and was related to Abba Arika’s family – to marry one of them.

Neharde’a, the city where Shmuel lived, was near the border between the Persian and Roman empires. This made it a clear target, and it was attacked and sacked many times. Some say that this story with Shmuel’s daughters took place during the attack by Septimus Odaenathus in the year 259 CE. From a compilation of the stories that appear in the Talmud Bavli and the Talmud Yerushalmi, it appears that Shmuel had at least three daughters, two of whom married Rav Shemen bar Abba (after the first one died, he married her sister). The third married Issur Giyura.

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