ח׳ בשבט ה׳תשע״ה (January 28, 2015)

Yevamot 116a-b: Divorce By Flying Camel

We learned on yesterday’s daf that, in a situation where testimony is given about the marital status of a particular person, Abaye expressed concern that someone else may have the same name as the subject of the testimony, while Rava is not concerned about this.

Our Gemara tells the story of a divorce document found in the city of Sura, which read: “Here in the city of Sura, I, Anan bar Hiyya of Neharde’a, have divorced my wife.” After checking throughout Babylonia, only one other person with the name Anan bar Hiyya was found. He was a resident of the city of Hagra, and there were witnesses who testified that on the day that the document in question was written, he was with them in Neharde’a – not Sura. Surprisingly, Abaye says that in this case he is not concerned that there might be a mistake, since the witnesses say clearly that the other possible Anan bar Hiyya was with them in another city. Rava, on the other hand, is specifically concerned in this case; due to the proximity of Neharde’a and Sura, if the man had gamla parha – a “flying camel” – or could travel be-kefitza – by “jumping” from one to the other (a miraculous shortcut) – he may have gotten to the other city the same day. Additionally, he could have sent a messenger to have the document written, so he did not need to be present at the time.

The rishonim argue that Rava invoking flying camels and jumping from one city to another is not the heart of the matter. The real concern is that the man divorcing his wife may have sent a messenger to have the document written on his behalf. Nevertheless, the cases mentioned by Rava do have reasonable explanations. Different types of camels have specific characteristics and are used for different types of work. Most camels are used as beasts of burden and are rather slow. There are, however, also racing camels that can gallop like horses for long distances, and they are known as “flying camels.” Although most of the commentaries explain that kefitza is done by use of some magical device, the Meiri suggests that it may simply refer to a fast runner and explains that Rava is saying that the man in question was swift afoot and thus able to travel from one city to the other in less time than we would imagine.

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