June 10, 2022

Yevamot 70

Today we begin Chapter 8 of Massechet Yevamot titled הערל which is often translated as ‘an uncircumcised person’, and it is here where we are taught that those who are ערלים are not permitted to consume terumah.

However, the word ערל, although certainly used in the Torah to refer to someone who is physically uncircumcised, actually means something much much broader. For example, the fruit of a tree during its first three years of growth is also referred to by the word ערלה (see Vayikra 19:23) – as if there is some sheath covering the tree that is inhibiting a farmer or homeowner from taking of its fruit. Similarly, when Moshe describes his speech impediment, he says of himself that he is עֲרַל שְׂפָתָיִם – of ‘uncircumcised lips’ (Shemot 6:12) – as if there is a covering over his mouth making it difficult for him to speak. Similarly, the prophet Yirmiyahu (6:10) said of the people that they were  עֲרֵלָה אָזְנָם – ‘of uncircumcised ears’, meaning that they acted as if they could not hear God’s words. Finally, we find that the Torah (Devarim 10:16) speaks of those who are עָרְלַת לְבַבְכֶם – ‘of uncircumcised hearts’, meaning that they act as if they cannot comprehend or connect with God.

Having explained all this, it is therefore worthwhile remembering that just as we learn in today’s daf (Yevamot 70a) that someone who is a physical ערל is unable to consume physical terumah, so too, those who are a figurative ערל – as per the different categories that we have discussed – are unable to consume certain emotional or spiritual experiences.

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