(The following is what I wrote to say at a Siyum for Seder Nashim. It was meant to be spoken and not necessarily to be read on a blog. I am posting it as-is. Please enjoy!)
Siyum on Seder Nashim
10 Elul 5771
Welcome to this Siyum on Seder Nashim. Bezrat Hashem we will all finish this final Mishna together, but first I will speak about the Seder of Nashim, and the final Masechta of Kiddushin.
I will start by mentioning that I started learning one Mishna-a-day several years ago. At that time I remember Rabbi Wolvovsky told us a story of the Ba’al Shem Tov that emphasized the importance of learning Mishnayot – something about how the word Mishna is the same letters as Neshama and the Mishnayot that we learn here in this world stay with the Neshama in the world to come. So it’s good to stock up on Mishnayot here. That was the premise anyway and it made me interested in learning Mishnayot, but still not with the impetus to get started.
Shortly after this Adam Gamzon’s grandfather passed away and Adam told me that he was learning Mishnayot in his Z’chus. I decided to do so as well and I learned Brachos – the first Mishna. Once I finished, I decided it wasn’t too bad – a few minutes a day to for some serious Torah learning. I decided to continue and here I am today, having a Siyum on the third order of Mishnayot – Kiddushin.
The message here is clear: Don’t look at the goal constantly. It’s overwhelming. Know your goals and just concentrate on what you need to do today to keep you on the path to accomplishing them. It really works!
And, as another note, I will mention that this is technically my second Siyum on Seder Mishnayot. When I opened up the copy of Kiddushin – the last Mishna in this Masechta, I noticed a bookmark in it and on the bookmark it was written: Eshka bas Yoel Leib Pinchas, my grandmother, Alav HaShalom – my mother’s mother. About 4 years ago when she passed away students of the Yeshiva Gedola of Bridgeport each learned part of the Seder and I myself learned Kiddishin at that time. So there is a special connection to my grandmother in that regard.
And one more thing I’ll mention is that B’H tomorrow the Speter’s are having a Bris – davening starts at 8:30am, right here at Young Israel of Hartford. And it’s a special custom for the father of the child to learn the night before the Bris – it helps keep destructive forces away as I understand. So, this Siyum and the words of Torah discussed this evening mark the start of that for Shaya, so everybody is also taking part of that.
Ok, so Seder Nashim. Reish Lakish expounds a Possuk from Yeshaya (33:6) that says: “The faith of your times will be the strength of your salvations, wisdom, and knowledge; fear of Hashem – that is [man's] treasure.” (“V’haya Emunas Itecha Chosen Yeshuos Chochmas V’Daas (yiras Hashem hi otzaro)” ) He expounds that each one of those words refers to an order of Mishnayot. Zeraim corresponds to “faith”, Moed to “your times”, Nashim to “strength”, Nezikin to “salvation”, Kodashim to “wisdom”, and Taharot to “knowledge”. (Shabbos 31a)
Just going through them very quickly, the first two I understand. The Seder of Zeraim talks about agricultural laws and tithing and Shemita, etc… These are things that ultimately depend on faith. We’re faithful that if we don’t plant in the seventh year there will still be enough to eat, for instance. And the fact that Moed corresponds to “your times” makes sense since that’s what Seder Moed is all about – the holidays – the different times of the year, etc. And then we get to Nashim, which is “strength”, “Chosen”.
What does Seder Nashim have to do with strength? Well, let’s consider the topics in Seder Nashim:
- Yevamos – Levirate Marraige
- Kesubos – Marriage Contracts
- Nedarim – Oaths and Vows
- Nazir – The specific vow to become a Nazir
- Sotah – A suspected adulteress
- Gittin – Divorce
- Kiddushin – Betrothal and lineage
Most of the topics have to do with marriage (even the topics of oaths and vows consider situations whereby a husband can annul the vows of his wife, etc). And the topic of marriage ultimately involves women and so it seems reasonable to say that the Seder is aptly called “Nashim”.
But what do these topics have to do with “strength”? Specifically, why is “strength” associated with topics concerning women. While we can’t speak for every individual it seems to be in general, the gender associated with “strength” is the male, whereas women are more often associated with concepts such as nurturing.
I was curious about this so I looked up other places where this word is used in the Tanach. We find this word “strength” – “Chosen” as it says in the Posuk – 5 times in the whole Tanach, 3 places in Nevi’im and 2 places in Kesuvim.
We have our verse:
1) “The faith of your times will be the *strength* of your salvations, wisdom, and knowledge; fear of Hashem – that is [man's] treasure.” (Yeshaya 33:6)
”וְהָיָה אֱמוּנַת עִתֶּיךָ חֹסֶן יְשׁוּעֹת חָכְמַת וָדָעַת יִרְאַת ה’ הִיא אוֹצָרוֹ.”
And the others:
2) In Yermiah, where he is apparently prophesying about the destruction of Jerusalem: “And I shall deliver all the *wealth* of this city, all [the fruits of] its labor, and all it’s precious items; all the treasures of the kings of Judah I shall deliver into the hand of their enemies and they will plunder them and take them away, and bring them to Babylonia.” (Yermiah 20:5)
“וְנָתַתִּי אֶת כָּל חֹסֶן הָעִיר הַזֹּאת וְאֶת כָּל יְגִיעָהּ וְאֶת כָּל יְקָרָהּ וְאֵת כָּל אוֹצְרוֹת מַלְכֵי יְהוּדָה אֶתֵּן בְּיַד אֹיְבֵיהֶם וּבְזָזוּם וּלְקָחוּם וֶהֱבִיאוּם בָּבֶלָה.”
There the word “Chosen” refers to wealth as opposed to “strength”. And it must be referring to something tangible (as opposed to strength) because it says “I will deliver”.
3) In Yechezkel, where he is talking about the sins of the land: “There is a conspiracy (Kesher) of her prophets in her midst, like a roaring lion that tears [its] prey; they have devoured souls, they have taken away [Jerusalem's] *treasure* and worth, they have increase her widow in her midst.” (Yechezkel 20:5)
“קֶשֶׁר נְבִיאֶיהָ בְּתוֹכָהּ כַּאֲרִי שׁוֹאֵג טֹרֵף טָרֶף נֶפֶשׁ אָכָלוּ חֹסֶן וִיקָר יִקָּחוּ אַלְמְנוֹתֶיהָ הִרְבּוּ בְתוֹכָהּ.”
Here, once again the word “Chosen” refers to “treasure” – not so much “strength”. Similarly, the verse seems to be talking about something tangible when it says “Chosen”.
The last two references are from Mishlei:
4) “The house of the righteous one is greatly *fortified*, but with the arrival of a wicked one it becomes sullied.” (Mishlei 15:6)
“בֵּית צַדִּיק חֹסֶן רָב וּבִתְבוּאַת רָשָׁע נֶעְכָּרֶת.”
Here the word “Chosen” means “fortified” – not “wealthy” or a “treasure”, but once again referring to strength.
5) And the last reference to “Chosen” is in the Possuk advising to “tend to your business and prepare for the future” (Artscroll): “For *strength* endures not forever. Does the crown [of wealth] last from generation to generation?”
“כִּי לֹא לְעוֹלָם חֹסֶן וְאִם נֵזֶר לְדוֹר דור [וָדוֹר׃]”
Once again, the word is used as “strength”, but also could potentially be referring to “wealth” it seems here.
We also find other conjugations in Possukim such as in Tehillim “Hashem, G-d of Legions, who is like You, *O Strong One*, God?, Your surrounding angels attest to Your faithfulness”
…”מִי כָמוֹךָ חֲסִין קהּ…”
So we have a similar word attesting to Hashem’s strength. In that verse we’re certainly not referring to Hashem as “wealthy” and hence we find another case where Chosen must mean “strong”.
It appears that the word Chosen has two distinct meanings with a same general idea for both.
In an Etymological dictionary based on the teachings of Rav Shimshon Rafeal Hirsch, it translates Chosen as a verb to “store strength; hold firmly” and then goes on to give two definitions:
1) storing strength
2) treasury, stored goods
So, at this point we have a much more complete picture of what this word “Chosen” means. And so we can say that Reish Lakish, in the Gemara, is saying that the Seder of Nashim is related to this word Chosen, which refers to either strength or wealth. And by strength we mean fortification or stored strength. Similarly by “wealth” we are referring to stored treasures.
We know that Seder Nashim deals primarily with marriage. Let’s look more close at each Masechta so that it will be clear:
- Yevamos – Deals with the situation of Levirate marriage where marriage is actually compulsory for the man
- Kesubos – Deals with the obligations a husband and wife have towards each other
- Nedarim – Discusses oaths and vows including the vows of a woman which her husband may revoke. Rambam writes that “The entire chapter of Nedarim refers to the vows of women”.
- Nazir – This follows Nedarim and among other things discusses the situation of a man revoking his wife’s vow of Nezirut
- Sotah – Discusses what a husband and wife do when the wife is suspected of adultry
- Gittin – Discuss how a marriage ends, C’vS
- Kiddushin – Methods of betrothal and who is fit to marry who and the resulting status of offspring from certain unions (i.e. lineage)
So, this dual concept of “stored strength” or “fortification” and “stored treasure” somehow relate to this concept of women and marriage.
Perhaps we can suggest that to her husband, a woman is to be described as “Chosen”. Meaning that to her husband a woman is a source of potential strength AND simultaneously she is the one who protects her husband’s wealth. Let’s take those ideas one-by-one.
In one of the Posukim from Mishlei it says the following:
“בֵּית צַדִּיק חֹסֶן רָב וּבִתְבוּאַת רָשָׁע נֶעְכָּרֶת.”
“The house of the righteous is greatly fortified, etc.”
It is known that in the language of the Talmud, one’s wife is known as one’s house. So, we can read the verse like:
“The WIFE of a righteous person is greatly Chosen” If we are referring to the “wife” of somebody as greatly Chosen we can say that the wife is either a great source of potential strength or that the wife is a great protector of her husband’s wealth. In the case of this Possuk, let’s read on.
The verse continues:
“but with the arrival of a wicked one it becomes damaged” – his household – himself become damaged.
Perhaps it’s a stretch, but if we consider this Rasha – “the wicked one” – to be the Yetzer Harah, then we are referring to this righteous person as somebody who merits to be married to someone who is a great “Chosen”. It seems fitting that here Chosen refers to the source of strength (and not wealth). His wife – his source strength and fortification will protect the household when the Yetzer Hara comes and damages it.
We know that a primary purpose of marriage is for one to “cleave to his wife” – to be complete. And it says in Pirke Avos: “Who is strong? One who controls his inculcation.” Perhaps by corresponding to Seder Nashim to this word “Chosen”, we are bringing out this concept that one’s wife serves as a potential strength against the Yetzer Hara and that a man who is married may have low points where “the Rasha comes in” – where he has a negative thought or in some way succumbs to his evil inclination, but as long as he is attached to his wife – his storehouse of strength – he’ll be alright. A wife is a store of strength against the Yetzer Hara.
So that’s a way to understand the “stored strength” definition. What about the definition of Chosen that means “stored treasure” or “wealth”?
Looking in the Gemara in Shabbos 31a, where the word Chosen is related to Seder Nashim, Rashi says the following:
לשון יורשין ועל ידי אשה נולדו יורשין
That “Chosen” is referring to successors and through the woman successors are born to him.
It seems that Rashi is saying that the woman helps store wealth for the man by providing him with children who will eventually inherit this wealth.
So this is referring to procreation.
Hence this term “Chosen” encompasses the two aspects of marriage:
1) Completing the person – as the woman provides fortification and potential strength to her husband
2) Procreation – as the women protects her husband’s wealth through their children
At this point we will, B’H complete the Mesechata The last Mishna of Kiddushin actually does not directly talk about marriage or lineage. Rather it is a continuation of the previous Mishna which was talking about Issur Yichud, and it ends off talking about professions.