June 10, 2022

Yevamot 80

Much of today’s daf (Yevamot 80a-b) addresses the physical סימנים (signs) indicating how a woman or a man have reached puberty, during which the Gemara also speaks of the סריס (the sexually underdeveloped man, i.e. one who has not undergone puberty, and of the איילונית (the sexually underdeveloped woman, i.e. a woman who has not gone undergone puberty). Overall, what we learn from here is that physical maturity is generally considered to be a pre-requisite for marriage and yibum. Moreover, what emerges from our daf – and specifically from the reference of those who would go to Alexandria for medical intervention – is the importance of women and men being aware of and informed about their physical and sexual health, whereby if problems arise, they should seek medical advice and intervention.
At the same time, it is of significance that in yesterday’s daf (Yevamot 79a), reference was made to a very different set of סימנים (signs). Specifically, the Gemara asserts how King David identified three סימנים expected of every Jew: רחמנים (merciful), ביישנים (bashful), and גומלי חסדים (that they perform deeds of kindness).
So within two dapim we have two discussions about סימנים. One relates to physical and sexual maturity, while the other speaks of moral and social virtues, and both are undoubtedly important especially in terms of a marriage. However, far too often in our image-centric world, we emphasize and we celebrate visible looks over moral virtues; appearance over substance; and how people look over who people are. And for younger people looking for love, this can be incredibly confusing and very misleading.
Ultimately, while we train ourselves to look in a physical mirror from time to time to check on how we look, we must also train ourselves to look in a moral mirror to check on who we are. While we speak to our kids about the value of attraction, we should emphasise the role of both physical attraction (i.e. liking what someone looks like), and moral attraction (i.e. liking what someone is like). And while there is no doubt that most marriages require that their partners have the סימנים discussed in today’s daf, it is also true that most good marriages require that their partners have the סימנים discussed in yesterday’s daf as well.
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