ח׳ באלול ה׳תשע״ה (August 23, 2015)

Nedarim 90a-b: Claims to End a Marriage

Our Mishna teaches that, originally, if a woman made a statement which indicated that she could no longer live with her husband, the would obligate him to divorce her and pay her ketuba. Later on, became concerned that a woman who no longer desired to be married to her husband would make one of these claims, so the ruling was changed.

The following statements are those that were originally deemed sufficient to end a marriage:

  1. Teme’ah ani lekhah – the wife of a kohen tells him that she had relations with another man, and even if it was a case of rape, he will have to divorce her;
  2. Ha-shamayim beini le-veinkhah – literally “the heavens separate us”;
  3. Netulah ani min ha-yehudim – the woman takes a neder never to engage in relations with any Jewish man.

The suggestions made by the Sages when they rescinded their original ruling were:

  1. The woman will have to bring proof that she was raped;
  2. Ya’asu derekh bakasha – literally “they should make entreaties”;
  3. The husband should use his powers to annul the vow, at least as it pertains to him (see Bamidbar 30).

The second claim mentioned in the Gemaraha-shamayim beini le-veinkhah – as well as the response to it – ya’asu derekh bakasha – are left unclear in the Gemara and are subject to different interpretations by the rishonim.

Rashi appears to follow the Talmud Yerushalmi and explains that she is claiming that her husband chooses not to engage in sexual relations with her. In the words of the Yerushalmi, her argument is “just as the heavens are far from the earth, so my husband is far away from me.” According to tomorrow’s daf, her claim is that he is incapable of engaging in relations.

In order to resolve this claim, ya’asu derekh bakasha is understood by Rabbeinu Tam to mean that they should engage in prayer (apparently he is working with the explanation that the husband is suffering from a disability that does not allow him to engage in relations). Rashi follows the explanation of the Yerushalmi and Rabbeinu Ḥananel who explain that a meal should be arranged at which the couple will be encouraged to work out their issues. The rishonim point out that the intention is that neither should be forced into any action, but rather that the couple be counseled to work out the differences that exist between them.

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