September 11, 2022

Ketubot 50

In the instances when I have suggested a Torah interpretation and I have subsequently found the same interpretation in the writings of a great Torah teacher, I have felt a deep sense of gratefulness – leading me to say the words ברוך שכיונתי (‘Blessed [are you, God] who has guided me [in the right direction]’). And why am I mentioning this today? Because while studying today’s daf (Ketubot 50a), I encountered an insight from a great Torah teacher which affirms the interpretation that I penned on yesterday’s daf (see where I suggested a dual meaning to the words עד שיגדילו (‘until children grow up’ – which I explained to refer not only to a parents’ duty to give to their children physically, but also emotionally too). Better still, this insight from a great Torah teacher is based on his interpretation of a verse from the upcoming parsha!
In terms of today’s daf, our Gemara quotes Tehillim 106:3 which states: אַשְׁרֵי שֹׁמְרֵי מִשְׁפָּט עֹשֵׂה צְדָקָה בְכָל עֵת – ‘Praiseworthy are those who are the guardians of justice who perform charity at every moment’ which is explained by the Sages of Yavne, and some say by Rabbi Eliezer, to refer to הזן בניו ובנותיו כשהן קטנים – ‘one who sustains his sons and daughters when they are young’. In contrast, Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani explains this verse to refer to המגדל יותם ויתומה בתוך ביתו ומשיאן – ‘one who raises a male or female orphan in their home and who, having done so, enables them to get married’.
In his commentary to Parshat Re’eh, on the words נָתוֹן תִּתֵּןֹ – ‘you shall surely give’ (Devarim 15:10), the Ktav Sofer (Rabbi Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, 1815-1871) quotes our Gemara and then asks why Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani did not use the word הזן (who sustains), and instead, used the term המגדל (one who raises)?
He answers by explaining that while the word הזן refers to material sustenance, the word המגדל refers to much more than this; it includes an involvement in someone’s education, teaching them values and mitzvot, and readying them to face the world as an independent adult; and the point being made by Rabbi Shmuel bar Nachmani is that if someone does all this for an orphan whom they have taken into their home, this is then the ultimate fulfilment of, ‘performing charity at every moment’.
But why did the Ktav Sofer quote our Gemara? What relevance does it have to Parshat Re’eh? Because Devarim 15:10 speaks about supporting those in need – especially, although not exclusively, due to the financial pressures brought about by the shemitta (sabbatical) year, and it informs usנָתוֹן תִּתֵּן – ‘you shall surely give’. And the point he is making here is that while ‘giving’ to someone involves material giving, ‘you shall surely give’ involves much more than this. It is the gift of love and concern; it is the gift of time and effort, and it is the gift of emotions and caring. And while a parent who does this for their child has given much, when this is done for someone who is not your child, then you have truly, and surely, given.
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