On yesterday’s daf we learned that in general we trust Kutim with regard to areas of Jewish law that they accept, but we cannot trust them in areas of halakha that they reject. The Gemara on today’s discusses examples of situations where Kutim may or may not be trusted. For example, they can be trusted regarding determining the placement of a gravesite, even though there is no biblical command to establish gravesites. Nevertheless, since there is a passage in Sefer Yehezkel (39:15) that refers to a tombstone over a grave, the community of Kutim accepted that tradition.
The term Kutim refers to the nations (not all of whom were truly Kutim, as there were people from other nations, as well) that were exiled to the Land of Israel by the kings of Assyria who were interested in populating the land after they had removed the Israelite people from it.
Upon the return of the Jews to Israel at the beginning of the Second Temple period, the Samaritans, decedents of the Kutim, were active in trying to keep the returnees from rebuilding the Temple and the walls of the city of Jerusalem. Even so, there were families – including members of the kohanim – who intermarried with the Samaritans.
During the following years there were continued tensions between the two communities, and Yohanan Hyrcanus led his troops into battle against the Samaritans and destroyed the temple that they had built on Har Gerizim. Nevertheless, there were also periods of cooperation, such as the period of the Bar Kokhba rebellion. As is clear in our Gemara, the attitude of the Sages towards them differed, although after a period of time a final conclusion was reached and they were ruled to be treated as non-Jews, due to their continued involvement with different types of idol worship.
It is important to note that the Gemara in Yevamot concludes that while a bet din should not accept potential converts whose reason for converting is anything other than a sincere desire to join the Jewish People, nevertheless, if such a person does undergo a full conversion process they are considered Jewish according to halakha. It is possible that the Kutim did not fall into that category because they continued with their idolatrous practices even at the moment of their conversion. Nevertheless, today, the community of Samaritans living in Israel are no longer idol worshipers, and there has been some level of acceptance of them into the larger Jewish community.