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Some Concluding Thoughts on Masechet Yevamot

"Rabbi Elazar said, in the name of Rabbi Chaninah: Torah scholars increase peace in the world, as it says, 'and all your children shall be taught about the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children'" (Yevamot 122b). These beautiful words mark the end of Masechet Yevamot. They also mark the end of the tractates Berachot, Nazir, and Kritot--a seemingly odd partnership.

Yevamot 116: One Witness Is Enough

We have previously referred to the special leniency that allows a woman to remarry on the testimony of one witness. This was a most revolutionary innovation, one that seemingly violates a fundamental precept of the Torah: the basic requirement for two witnesses. Compounding the problem was the fact that the stakes were so high--adultery, illegitimate children, and the undermining of the holiness of marriage--and it is no wonder this law was not readily accepted.

Yevamot 115: To Believe or Not to Believe

Back in the tenth chapter of Yevamot, we discussed the case of a woman who remarried on the basis of the testimony of one witness who declared that her husband had died. While she is allowed to do so--"because of agunah, the rabbis were lenient" [and allowed one witness instead of two] (Yevamot 88a)--if it turns out the witness was mistaken, she must be divorced from both her second and first husbands.

Yevamot 109: Torah Study

"Talmud Torah kneged kulam" (Mishnah Peah 1:1). This teaching is generally understood to mean that the study of Torah is equal to all other mitzvoth combined. The reason this is so is because the study of Torah "leads to action" (Kiddushin 40b), making the study of Torah both an end in itself as we explore the manifestation of the Divine in this world, and a means to the end of mitzvah observance. Without study, we cannot properly observe.

Yevamot 88: One Equals Two

"A woman whose husband went overseas, and one[1] came and told her, 'Your husband has died' and she marries [another]..." (Yevamot 87b). Whereas Jewish law requires two witnesses in all matters of criminal and family law, when it comes to freeing a woman who is "chained" to her missing husband, this law is relaxed, allowing the woman to remarry based on the testimony of only one witness.

Yevamot 87: The Ways of Peace

"G-d did not find a vessel more pleasing for the Jewish people than peace" (Uktzin 3:11). Such is the concluding teaching of the Mishnah. No Jew needs convincing as to the supreme value we place on peace. Such includes not only peace between nations, but peace within a family. There is little that stands in the way of bringing peace and tranquility into a home--from lying (see Yevamot 65b) to erasing the name of G-d (see Bamidbar 5:23) if need be.


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