October 23, 2022

Ketubot 80

A phrase that appears three times in today’s daf (Ketubot 80b) during its discussion about the usages of financial resources of a family is רווח ביתא, meaning ‘the gain to a house[hold]’, and – especially as we are less than 24 hours before Rosh Hashanah 5783 – this prompts me to consider what improvements and changes I can and I should be making within my own life that can enable me to be a רווח ביתא.
Before proceeding further, we need to recognize that we belong to various ‘houses’. For example, when we say בית we may be referring to the house where we live (בית). Or we may be referring to where we work (בית העסק). Or where we study (בית מדרש). Or where we pray (בית הכנסת). Or more broadly, to the people to whom we belong and identify with (בית ישראל). And what this means is that the changes that we make to ourselves can enhance and benefit not just ourselves, but also the lives of those with whom we live, work, study, pray and identify with – and many more beyond.
True, our judgement on Rosh Hashanah is on us. Yet part of this judgement considers whether we are growing towards and realizing our potential and whether we are having the kind of impact that we can have on our various ‘houses’ to which we belong and, ultimately, on the world.
Admittedly, this idea is echoed in various passages in the Rosh Hashanah liturgy, but I’d like to mention a particular point which is often overlooked from the Torah reading and Haftarah for the first day of Rosh Hashanah.
It is often thought that the message connecting the Torah reading and the Haftarah on the first day of Rosh Hashanah is that of fervent prayer – since both Sarah and Hannah prayed to have a child. Alternatively, other commentaries note that a unifying theme between these two stories is that they are both birthing stories. However, there is further way to understand these stories – which is that both are preceded by stories of moral chaos. In terms of the birth of Yitzchak, it is preceded with the story of Sarah’s abduction, and before this, the destruction of Sdom. Similarly, the birth of Shmuel is preceded, at the end of Sefer Shoftim, with the story of Pilegesh B’Givah. And in both of these cases, and after these events, we find how a few people step up and turn a terrible situation into a better one; moral chaos into moral order. As the Maharal explains (in his commentary to Gittin 6b): “The episode of Pilegesh B’Givah is written at the end of the book of Shoftim to reflect how the entire book of Shoftim describes a period of uncontrolled lusts within the Jewish people since they did not have a king. We then read that how ‘there was one man from Ramathaim Zophim, from Mt. Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah’ (Shmuel I 1:1) as if to teach us that when the events of Pilegesh B’Givah occurred in Israel, they reflected such a lack of law and order and such moral chaos that something had to change… Therefore [we are then told about] this ‘one man from Ramathaim Zophim…. [called] Elkanah’ and it was from him that emerged the prophet Shmuel who was to appoint the kings in Israel… The episode of Pilegesh B’Givah expressed moral chaos, and [yet it was because of this episode] that the kings were then appointed. It is for this reason that immediately after the story [of Pilegesh B’Givah] we are told ‘there was one man from Ramathaim Zophim.”
Ultimately, what we learn from today’s daf is that while immorality and chaos exists, change is possible and sometimes great change can be achieved by just a few people – which should inspire each of us to consider what רווח ביתא we can make to improve our various ‘homes’ – and thereby improve society as a whole.
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