Yevamot 35: Whose Baby Is It?

November 12, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Even those far removed from Jewish learning know that it is the mother who determines the Jewish status of a baby. Why this is so is not clearly spelled out. The simplest and most obvious reason would seem to be the fact that while we always know who the mother is[1], the identity of the father is less certain. The Talmudic assertion that "the majority of relations a woman has is with her husband" (Sotah 27a) is just that--a claim...
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No Time to Waste: Yevamot 29

November 11, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
"Whoever starts in a mitzvah, we tell him to finish"; "a mitzvah that comes to your hand, do not let it wait". These and other similar sentiments express the view of our Sages that one must take advantage of an opportunity for a mitzvah without delay and complete the task at hand. This is not only a moral exhortation to complete our duties, but can have legal consequences. The Torah's laws of marriage are presented...
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Yevamot 25: Conflict of Interest

November 06, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Innocent until proven guilty is a fundamental norm of Western jurisprudence. This concept goes back until at least Talmudic times, when our Sages assert that all Jews have a chezkat kashrut, a presumption of honesty. Yet as human beings, we are inherently biased--"man is close to himself" (Yevamot 25b)--and, try as we may, we can never be 100% objective. Generally, such biases can be, at least from a legal...
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Yevamot 25: Pleading the Fifth

November 05, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
By dint of the fifth amendment to the Constitution, US citizens are protected from being forced to give self-incriminating testimony; pleading the fifth is a common refrain in many a courtroom. Jewish law goes one step further; it forbids the giving of self-incriminating evidence. Ein adam masshem aztmo rasha, a person cannot turn himself into an evil person (Yevamot 25b). Thus, one who admits to having...
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Yevamot 24: A Great P'shat

November 02, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
All great pieces of literature can be understood on multiple levels, over multiple time periods, and by a variety of cultures. There is no greater piece of literature than the Bible: "Turn it and turn it, as all is in it" (Avot 5:22). We read, reread, and then read it again as we seek to deepen our understanding of this wonderful text. We begin our study of Torah by seeking to understand its p'shat. "Ein...
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