THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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Bava Metzia, 87
1) THE MAN IS MORE GENEROUS WITH GUESTS
QUESTION: The Torah uses two phrases to describe Avraham's request to Sarah
to prepare bread for the guests, "Kemach" (flour) and "Soles" (fine
flour) -- "Avraham hurried to the tent, to Sarah, and said, 'Quickly prepare
three Se'ah of Kemach, Soles!'" (Bereishis 18:6). The Gemara derives from
the use of these two phrases that "the wife is less generous with guests
than is the husband." RASHI explains that Soles is superior to Kemach, and
that Sarah said that she would make breads of Kemach, and Avraham told her
that she should make breads of Soles.
2) HALACHAH: ASKING ABOUT THE WELFARE OF ANOTHER MAN'S WIFE
Where, though, is there any indication in the verse that Sarah said that she
would make breads of Kemach? In the verse (as cited above), it is Avraham
who is speaking, and there is no dialogue with Sarah in the verse! If the
Gemara infers that Sarah spoke from the repetitiveness of "Kemach" and
"Soles," then how does the Gemara know that it was Sarah who said "Kemach"
and Avraham who said "Soles?" Perhaps it was Sarah who said "Soles" and
Avraham who said "Kemach!"
(a) The MAHARSHA explains that it is not possible that Avraham would have
told his wife to make breads of *Kemach*. Avraham certainly was not stingy
when it came to serving guests, for we see from the verses, as the Gemara
points out, that Avraham "said a little and did a lot." It certainly must
have been Avraham who wanted to give the guests food made from the most
superior type of flour, and therefore Avraham must have said only "Soles."
Accordingly, it must have been Sarah who said "Kemach." (It is not feasible
to suggest that *because* Avraham exemplified the attribute of "say little
and do much," he said "Kemach" in order to say little and he planned to give
them Soles. The attribute of "say little and do much" applies only to what
oneself is going to do. One does not say little and then require someone
else to do much (in this case, Sarah).
(b) RAV YAKOV EMDEN writes that the Gemara understands the verse to be
saying as follows. Avraham said, "Quickly prepare three Se'ah!" Sarah asked,
"[Shall I prepare the three Se'ah with] Kemach?" Avraham told her, "[No,
prepare them with] Soles." (I. Alsheich)
I. QUESTION: Rebbi Yosi teaches that the reason why there are dots over the
letters Alef, Yud, and Vav in the word "Elav" (Bereishis 18:9) is because
the Torah wants to teach us proper manners. The Torah is teaching that a man
should inquire about the welfare of his host's wife. The Gemara asks that
Shmuel rules that one may not inquire about the welfare of another man's
wife at all. The Gemara answers that it is permitted when one asks her
*husband* about her welfare, but not when one asks anyone else.
The Rishonim ask that in the Gemara in Kidushin (70b), Shmuel explicitly
states that it is prohibited to inquire about the welfare of a woman even by
sending the inquiry to the woman via her husband!
(a) TOSFOS here answers that the Gemara here does not mean that it is
permitted to ask about her welfare. Rather, the Gemara permits merely asking
where she is (as the Mal'achim asked Avraham, "Where is Sarah your wife?" in
order to make her more beloved to her husband, by emphasizing how Tzanu'ah
she was, or because of the requirement to act with Derech Eretz and ask a
man about his wife). It is prohibited, though, to ask about her welfare.
II. OPINIONS: What is the reason behind this prohibition, and in what
circumstances might it be permissible to inquire about the welfare of a
(b) TOSFOS in Kidushin answers that the Gemara here permits asking a husband
about his wife's welfare. The Gemara in Kidushin prohibits sending the woman
a greeting of Shalom, even via her husband. This is also the view of RASHI
here (DH Al Yedei Ba'alah).
It seems that Tosfos in Kidushin and Tosfos in Bava Metzia are arguing
whether it is permitted to inquire about the welfare of a woman from her
husband. According to Tosfos in Kidushin, it is permitted, while according
to Tosfos here, it is prohibited.
(a) RASHI in Kidushin (70b, DH Ein Sho'alin b'Shalom Ishah Klal) says that
asking a woman about her welfare is prohibited because one thereby "makes
her heart and mind familiar with him," creating a feeling of affection
within the woman which could, Chas v'Shalom, lead to sin.
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (EH 21:6) rules like Shmuel, who says that it
is prohibited to ask a married woman about her welfare, even via a
messenger, and even via her husband.
According to this reasoning, it would be permitted for a man to inquire
about a woman's welfare from her husband, as Rashi here says, since the
woman herself is not aware of it and thus she will not feel affection
towards the other man.
(According to the BACH (EH 21, DH v'Ein), for this reason it is permitted to
ask any other person, and not only her husband, how the woman is doing. The
CHELKAS MECHOKEK (EH 21:7) argues and says that it is only permitted to ask
her husband, as the Gemara in Bava Metzia implies, for her husband
specifically avoids relating the man's inquiry to his wife, while any other
person will not be so particular.)
(b) The RITVA in Kidushin, however, implies that the reason a man may not
inquire about the welfare of another man's wife is because the *man* will
feel close to the woman and might, Chas v'Shalom, have sinful thoughts.
(This also seems to be the view of the ME'IRI.) The Ritva writes that if a
man knows himself well and he knows that he has subjugated his Yetzer ha'Ra
and he is in complete control of his thoughts such that he never allows
sinful thoughts into his mind, it is permitted for him to ask a married
woman about her welfare. The PISCHEI TESHUVAH (EH 21:4) quotes the YAD
EFRAIM who explains that this is why Elisha was permitted to send a greeting
of Shalom to the Ishah ha'Shunamis (Melachim II 4:26).
According to the Ritva, the Isur is because of the man's tendency to have
sinful thoughts, and is not because the woman will feel affection towards
the man. Consequently, it is permitted for a man who is in complete control
of his thoughts to ask a woman about her welfare. According to Rashi, such a
man would still be prohibited from asking a woman about her welfare. On the
other hand, according to the Ritva, it would *not* be permitted for a man to
ask a husband about his wife (when the wife will not know about it), since
there still exists the concern that he will have sinful thoughts.
How, though, does the Ritva explain the Gemara here that says that the
Mal'achim were permitted to ask Avraham Avinu about his wife? The DIVREI
SHALOM (2:14) explains that the Ritva learns like TOSFOS here. Tosfos says
that the Mal'achim were permitted to ask only "where is Sarah," but not to
ask about her welfare.
The Shulchan Aruch rules like Rashi's understanding of the Gemara in Bava
Metzia and says that it is permitted to ask a husband about his wife's
It is interesting to note the comments of the BEN YEHOYADA to the Gemara
here. The Ben Yehoyada suggests that this Isur applies only a man who is
completely unknown to the woman; by inquiring about her welfare, he creates
a bond of affection. If, however, the man is a relative of hers, or is a
frequent guest in her home, it is not prohibited to inquire about her
welfare, because it is clear that his intention is not to form a bond of
affection, but rather to express to her his gratitude for her hospitality,
and, on the contrary, it is a proper act of Derech Eretz to express concern
about her welfare.
The TAZ rules that if the woman was ill or there was some other
circumstances which would deem it inappropriate *not* to ask about her
welfare, then one may add in a letter that one is writing to her husband,
"Please inform me of the welfare of your wife."
3) TAKING FRUIT FROM THE FIELD OF A "KUSI"
QUESTION: The Torah (Devarim 23:25) teaches that a hired worker may eat the
fruits of the field in which he is working, but he may not place the fruits
into his vessel (to save and bring home). The Gemara derives from the verse,
"Ki Savo b'Cherem *Re'echa*" -- "When you enter the vineyard of *your
friend*," that this restriction applies only "b'Cherem Re'echa," in the
vineyard of a Jew, but not "b'Cherem Kusi," in the vineyard of a Kusi (or a
Nochri), in which a hired worker *may* collect the fruits and place them in
his vessel to bring home.
The Gemara asks that according to the opinion (Bava Kama 113a) that holds
that it is permitted to keep an object that was stolen from a Kusi, we do
not need a verse to teach that a hired worker may take home fruit from the
Kusi's field! The Gemara answers that according to that opinion, the verse
indeed is not teaching that it is permitted to take home fruit from a Kusi's
field, but rather the verse is teaching that one may *only* take fruit from
the vineyard of one's fellow man, but not from a vineyard of Hekdesh in
which one was hired to work.
The Acharonim ask why the Gemara does not answer its question as follows.
There is a view that maintains that even though Gezel Nochri is Mutar,
nevertheless when the object is in the hands of a Jew it does not have the
status of "Lachem," of fully belonging to the Jew (this is the view of the
SEFER HA'YERE'IM, #421, as cited by the MAGEN AVRAHAM OC 633:3). According
to this, why is the Gemara asking that we do not need a verse to teach that
a hired worker may keep the fruit of a Kusi's field? Granted, we would know
that he may keep the fruit because of the Halachah that Gezel Nochri is
Mutar, but we would not have known that the fruit becomes the full
possession of the Jew (such that if he took an Esrog, it is considered to
belong to him so that he may use it for the Mitzvah on Sukos)! (See MINCHAS
CHINUCH, Mitzvah 558:3.)
ANSWER: The Acharonim answer that, indeed, the Sefer ha'Yere'im had a
different Girsa in the Gemara, the Girsa of the RITVA here. According to the
Ritva's Girsa, the Gemara asks that according to the opinion that holds that
it is permitted to keep an object that was stolen from a Kusi, "Mai Ika
l'Meimar?" That is, the Gemara is not asking that we do not need a verse,
according to the opinion that Gezel Nochri is Mutar, to teach that a hired
worker can keep the fruit, because, indeed, the verse *is* necessary to
teach that the fruit that he takes belongs fully to him. Rather, the Gemara,
when it says that "b'Cherem Re'echa" excludes the vineyard of a Kusi, is
saying that a hired worker may *not* take *any* fruit from the field of a
Kusi. To that, the Gemara asks why not, if Gezel Nochri is Mutar? The Gemara
answers that, indeed, the verse is not excluding the vineyard of a Kusi, but
rather it is excluding the vineyard of Hekdesh. (I. Alsheich)