May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk a”h.
This week we learned Sanhedrin 75. These are some highlights.
Sanhedrin 75: What Is The Punishment For the Disloyal Daughter of A Cohen Waiting for Yibum?
Our Mishnah teaches about sins punished with burning. A man who has relations with a woman and her mother is punished with burning. A man who has intimate relations with his wife’s grandmother is punished with burning. A daughter of a cohen who is disloyal and sleeps with a man other than her husband is punished with burning. In the Gemara, there is a dispute as to whether the daughter of the cohen who is fully married, nesuah, is the one who is liable for burning or if even the daughter of the cohen who is partially married, arusah, is punished with burning for marital infidelity. What about a daughter of a cohen who is linked to a man but not married to him? Our Torah teaches that if a man dies with no children his wife gets bonded to his brothers with a connection called zikah. This bond is a bit like marriage. It grants the widow the status of shomeres yavam, a woman waiting for her yavam. A shomeres yavam is not allowed to marry freely. She can marry her deceased husband’s brother through yibum. Alternatively, she can perform the chalitzah ceremony on a brother of her deceased husband and she can then marry anyone. If a daughter of a cohen is a shomeres yavam and she is intimate with a stranger what is her punishment?
Rashi is of the opinion that a disloyal daughter of a cohen waiting for yibum is punished with death by burning. Rashi’s source is the behavior of Yehuda the son of our father Ya’akov. The Torah relates that Yehuda had a daughter-in-law Tamar. Her first two husbands, Yehuda’s sons, died without children. She then pretended to be a prostitute and Yehuda impregnated her. Yehuda did not know he had made his daughter-in-law pregnant. He thought that she had become pregnant with a stranger. Yehuda commanded that Tamar be taken out to be burned. What had Tamar done? Why did Yehuda think she deserved burning? Tamara was waiting for yibum with Yehuda’s third son. She was not married at the time she became pregnant. Why was there a thought of a severe penalty? Rashi (Bereishis 38:24) suggests that Tamar was the daughter of Shem, the son of Noach, and Shem was a priest. Tamar was the daughter of a cohen. Even when the daughter of a cohen is merely waiting for her yavam she has a severe prohibition against marital relations. Yehuda thought she deserved death by burning because she was a disloyal daughter of a cohen waiting for yibum.
Ramban disagrees with Rashi. So does Rav Yehuda Hachasid. Rav Yehuda Hachasid argues that only a married daughter of a cohen deserves burning for infidelity. According to Rav Yehuda Hachasid, Tamar was never slated for death. When Yehuda said, ‘Take her out to be burned,” he meant to be branded. Their intent was to make a mark on her cheek as a scarlet letter. The thought was that her becoming pregnant when she was not supposed to should be publicized and shamed. She was going to have a burn mark on her face to dissuade others from similar behavior. She was not slated for death. Shut Harosh (Kellal 18 Siman 13) rules like this suggestion of Rav Yehuda Hachasid. A woman had been disloyal. Rav Yehuda ben Vaker ruled that her nose should be cut off so that she would be revolting to the person who had relations with her. Rosh agreed with the ruling. He said it was necessary to maintain order and holiness in the community.
By Rabbi Zev Reichman
In conclusion, according to Rashi a daughter of a cohen waiting for yibum deserves death by burning for marital relations with a stranger, Ramban thinks it is a mere prohibition like any shomeres yavam who is disloyal, and Rav Yehuda Hachasid feels that it is a prohibition deserving of a physical wound (Mesivta).