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Nedarim, 20

NEDARIM 19 & 20 (7 Av) - has been dedicated to the memory of Dr. Simcha Bekelnitzky (Simcha Gedalya ben Shraga Feibush) of Queens N.Y., by his wife and daughters. G-dfearing and knowledgeable, Simcha was well known in the community for his Chesed and Tzedakah. He will long be remembered.


QUESTION: The Gemara says that marital relations involving any of nine particular negative elements will bear children who will be "the rebels and those who transgress against Me" -- "ha'Mordim v'ha'Posh'im Bi" (Yechezkel 20:38), since their creation involved an element of grave impropriety. Among these nine characteristics are marital relations conducted by a man with a wife whom he hates (and therefore he thinks about other women). The children born of such a union are called "B'nei Senu'ah." Another group of children born from improper relations are the "B'nei Temurah," which the RAN explains to be referring to a man who thinks that he is living with one of his wives when actually it is his other wife.
(a) If "B'nei Senu'ah" are born with the traits of "ha'Mordim v'ha'Posh'im," then how are we to understand the conduct of our forefather, Yakov Avinu? The verse quotes says that Leah was hated by her husband Yakov (Bereishis 29:31, 33)! How can we say, Chas v'Shalom, that the children born from the union between Yakov and Leah -- the Shevatim of Hashem and the forebears of the Jewish people -- could have the Midos of "ha'Mordim v'ha'Posh'im?"

(b) Yakov Avinu married Leah when he thought he was marrying Rachel. He lived with Leah that night and Reuven was born from that union (like the Gemara says in Yevamos 76a; see Tosfos there DH she'Lo). Only the next morning did Yakov Avinu find out, to his astonishment -- that it was Leah and not Rachel. Accordingly, it would seem that Reuven is a "Ben Temurah," since his father did not know which wife he was living with, but, again, how can we possibly suggest that one of Yakov's sons was a child with the Midos of "ha'Mordim v'ha'Posh'im?"


(a) There are several approaches to this question.
1. The RAMBAN explains, in the name of the RADAK, that Leah did not really mean that she was hated. Rather, she meant merely that she was loved less than Rachel (as implied by the verse, Bereishis 29:30).

2. The PRI MEGADIM (OC 240:8) points out that the TUR says that giving birth to "B'nei Senu'ah" depends on the frame of mind at the time of the marital relations. At that moment, Leah was beloved unto Yakov (as implied by Bereishis 29:32), and hence her children were not "B'nei Senu'ah."

(b) The RA'AVAD (in SEFER BA'ALEI HA'NEFESH) asks why Reuven was not a "Ben Temurah." He offers a number of answers.
1. He suggests that "B'nei Temurah" does not refer to children born from a union where the man intended to have relations with one wife and instead had relations with another wife. Rather, it refers to children born from a union where the man intended to have relations with an *Ervah* but ended up with his wife. He supports this assertion with the logic that having intention to live with one wife and accidentally living with the other is not serious enough to cause the children to be "rebels." If, on the other hand, the man has intention to live with an Ervah, then it makes sense that his children will have terrible Midos, since he had intention to do something that was absolutely forbidden. All of the other Rishonim, however, cite the Ra'avad's second explanation of "B'nei Temurah," as follows.

2. The Ra'avad suggests further that before the Torah was given, the Avos did not observe the "Dikdukei Mitzvos," the fine details of the Mitzvos. What does the Ra'avad mean? We know that the Avos kept all the Mitzvos before they were given (see Yoma 28b)!

It seems that the Ra'avad is saying that the Avos did not keep the minor points of the Mitzvos, and therefore Yakov was not careful to find out beyond any doubt who the wife was that he had just married. Since he did nothing wrong, the child was not affected. Alternatively, the Ra'avad might be saying, like the OR HA'CHAIM says in Parshas Vayechi, that since the Avos were not commanded to fulfill the Mitzvos, the had the prerogative to sacrifice the observance of the minor details of a Mitzvah for the sake of greater considerations (in this case, Yakov did not want to cause Leah to be embarrassed).

3. The MAGEN AVRAHAM (OC 240) writes that "B'nei Temurah" are born when a man does not see the woman he is with and thus he mistakes her for a different wife of his. Yakov Avinu, on the other hand, saw the bride and intended to live with whom he saw, but he thought that she was Rachel and not Leah. However, according to the explanation of the MEFARESH of "B'nei Irbuvya," such an error should still produce children who are "B'nei Irbuvya."

4. The CHIDA in BIRKEI YOSEF (OC 240) suggests that the child is affected only if the father did something wrong at the time of conception (like the Ran says, "Tzad Aveirah"). Yakov Avinu, though, did nothing wrong; he made every effort to verify that this was the bride that he thought she was, but all of his efforts did not help. Since it was beyond his control, the child was not affected.

The Chida points out that this answers another question. According to the ASARAH MA'AMAROS (Ma'amar Chakar Din 3:10), Yishai -- the father of David ha'Melech -- Yishai had intentions to live with his maidservant, but the maidservant switched places with Yishai's true wife, and David ha'Melech was born from that union. In that case, too, David was not a "Ben Temurah," because Yishai had given Simanim to his maidservant, but she gave over the Simanim to Yishai's wife. Since the circumstances were beyond Yishai's control, the child was not affected.

5. The CHIDA there then cites an ancient manuscript that asks not only from the conception of Reuven and David, but also from the children of Yehudah and Tamar. When Yehudah had relations with Tamar, he was unaware of the identity of the woman, and if so, their offspring should have been "B'nei Temurah." (This might not be a question at all, though, since Yehudah certainly had intentions to live with that woman; he just did not know her identity.) The manuscript answers that the reason none of these cases produced "B'nei Temurah" was because the intentions of the *mother* at the time of the conception of a child are more important and consequential than the intentions of the father. In each of these cases, the woman certainly knew who the man was. It was only the man who did not know who the woman was.

(This approach cited by the Chida contrasts with the words of RABEINU AVRAHAM MIN HA'HAR, who writes that the intentions of the *man* are more important that the intentions of the woman. Rabeinu Avraham Min ha'Har says that this is why the Torah gives the man the right to divorce his wife (and does not give the wife the right to divorce her husband) -- because if he wants to divorce his wife, it affects her children (who have not yet been conceived) more than if she wants to divorce.)

(Although Reuven and David were certainly not "B'nei Temurah," perhaps it was this "Shemetz" of Temurah involved in their conception, in that the father did not know who the woman was, that caused both Reuven and David to be accused of a "Shemetz" of an Aveirah of Arayos. The Asarah Ma'amaros adds that it is because of this slight imperfection in the conception of Reuven that caused him not to be able to receive a portion of Eretz Yisrael proper but to receive instead his portion in Ever ha'Yarden.)

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