Yevamot 22: Brotherly Love

October 30, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Life is not always fair. So much that befalls us--both positive and negative--is beyond our control. And there is little that is less fair than being born a mamzer, an illegitimate child. Through no fault of one's own, one is stigmatized for life, unable to marry most Jews. Such status is the result not of an unfortunate accident, but of a deliberate sin of the most heinous kind: adultery or incest by the mamzer...
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Yevamot 21: The Limits of Teshuva

October 28, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
On Yom Kippur afternoon, the Torah reading focuses on the Jewish sexual ethic. The Torah has a relatively long list of relatives with whom intimacy would be considered incest. If one were to "marry" one of these people--say, one's aunt--such a union would be of no standing. There is a second group of prohibited marriages, issur kedusha[1], where one may not marry someone; but such a forbidden marriage, while a...
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Yevamot 17: Living Together

October 26, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
It is the Jewish woman who is privileged with bestowing Jewishness to her offspring. Yet while the mother determines the Jewish status--or lack thereof--of her offspring, it is the father who determines particular family status. Thus, whether one is Kohen, Levi, or Yisrael is determined by the father. This distinction between the relationship created by the mother and that created by the father is brought into focus as we study the opening...
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Yevamot 17: Are You Jewish?

October 22, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The assimilation and subsequent loss of Jews has been a problem since the beginning of Jewish history. Many of us were taught--in kindergarten, no less--how Abraham and Sarah converted many to Judaism. This is the midrashic explanation of the verse we will read next week, “and the nefesh, souls they made in Charan” (the simple explanation is that nefesh refers to the wealth they had acquired). Yet these...
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Yevamot 13: Learning to Differ

October 20, 2014 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Our rabbis greatly extolled the virtues of arguments for the sake of heaven. In these disputes, the disputants not only do not take their opponents' critiques personally, they welcome them; and through them, they sharpen and refine their views. Unfortunately, such disputes are rare, as most people find it difficult to separate the "person from the problem". But Beit Shammai and Beit Hillel are not most people. "Beit Shammai...
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