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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Yebamoth

Folio 120a

That of allowing1  her rival to marry before herself. If it is granted that a rival may give evidence in favour of her associate, her rival may be permitted to marry even if she herself did not remarry. If, however, it be maintained that the reason is because she would not cause injury to herself, the rival would be permitted to marry only if she herself had married again, but if she herself did not remarry, her rival also would not be permitted to remarry. Now, what [is the decision]? — Come and hear: R. ELEAZAR RULED: SINCE THEY WERE ONCE PERMITTED TO THE LEVIR THEY ARE PERMITTED TO MARRY ANY MAN. Now, if it be granted that [the reason is because] she would not cause injury to herself one can well see the reason why only when the one married again is the other permitted to remarry. If it be maintained, however, that the reason is because a rival is eligible to tender evidence in favour of her associate, [the associate should be permitted to marry again] even if the rival did not remarry. Consequently it must be concluded2  that R. Eleazar's reason is: Because she3  herself had married again and she would not cause injury to herself! — R. Eleazar may have argued on the basis of the view of the Rabbis.4  'According to my view [he may have said in effect] a rival is eligible to tender evidence in favour of her associate, and even if she herself did not remarry the other may be allowed to marry again. According to your view, however, you must at least agree with me that where she herself' remarried the other also should be allowed to marry again, since she3  would naturally not injure herself!' And the Rabbis?5  — She might be acting [in the spirit of] let me die with the Philistines.6

Come and hear: If a woman and her husband went to a country beyond the sea, and she returned and stated, 'My husband is dead', she may be married again and she also receives her kethubah. Her rival, however, is forbidden. R. Eleazar7  ruled: Since she becomes permitted her rival also becomes permitted!8  — Read: Since she was permitted and she married again. Let it, however,9  be apprehended that she3  may have returned with a letter of divorce and that the reason why she made her statement10  is because it was her intention to injure her rival!11  — If she was married to an Israelite, this would be so indeed;12  but here we are dealing with one who married a priest.13


GEMARA. Our Rabbis taught: Evidence [of identification]23  may be tendered24  only on [proof afforded by] the forehead without the face25  or the face without the forehead — Both together with the nose must19  be present.26

Abaye, or it might be said, R. Kahana, stated: What is the Scriptural proof?27  — The shew of their countenance28  doth witness against them.29

Abba b. Martha, otherwise30  Abba b. Manyumi, was being pressed for the payment of some money by the people of the Exilarch's house. Taking some wax he smeared it on a piece of rag and stuck it upon his forehead. He passed before them and they did not recognize him.31

THOUGH THERE WERE ALSO MARKS etc. Does this imply that identification marks are not valid Pentateuchally? A contradiction, surely, may be pointed out: If he32  found it33  tied to a bag, a purse or a seal-ring34  or if it was found among his furniture,35  even after a long time, it33  is valid!36  — Abaye replied: This is no difficulty. The one is the view of37  R. Eliezer38  b. Mahebai while the other is that of37  the Rabbis. For it was taught: No evidence [of identification] by a mole may he legally tendered. R. Eliezer38  h. Mahebai ruled: Such evidence may be legally tendered. Do they not differ on the following principle,39  that one Master40  is of the opinion that identification marks are valid Pentateuchally41  while the other Master42  is of the opinion that identification marks are only Rabbinically valid? — Said Raba: All43  agree that identification marks are valid Pentateuchally; but here they differ on the question whether it is common for the same kind of mole to he found on persons of simultaneous birth.44  One Master42  is of the opinion that it is common for the same kind of mole to be found on persons of simultaneous birth,45  and the other Master46  is of the opinion that it is not common for the same kind of mole to be found on persons of simultaneous birth.47

Others say: Their48  point of difference here is whether a mole usually undergoes a change after one's death — One Master49  is of the opinion that it usually undergoes a change after one's death50  and the other Master46  is of the opinion that it does not usually undergo a change after one's death.

Others maintain that Raba said: All51  agree that identification marks are only Rabbinically valid; but here [it is on the question] whether a mole

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Where a woman who went overseas with her husband leaving her rival in the home town returned and stated that her husband was dead.
  2. Lit., 'but infer from it'.
  3. The woman who reported the death of her husband.
  4. Lit., 'according to their words he said to them'.
  5. Why do they not allow the associate to marry even in the latter case?
  6. Judges XVI, 30. In order to inflict injury upon her associate she is willing to suffer injury herself.
  7. Var. lec. R. Eliezer cf. supra p. 845, n. 16.
  8. Cf. supra 118a. This proves that, on the evidence of a rival, an associate is always permitted to marry again whether the rival who gave the evidence did or did not herself marry again.
  9. If the reason why a rival is believed in respect of her associate is not because she is eligible to tender evidence but because she would not injure herself.
  10. Lit., 'that which she said thus'. That her husband was dead.
  11. She herself would thereby suffer no disability since she herself is in any case divorced from her husband.
  12. There would be ground for suspecting that she was divorced.
  13. Who may not marry a divorcee (v. Lev. XXI, 7). Had she been a divorced woman she would not have ventured to contract such a marriage for fear lest her former husband might return and expose her.
  14. In respect of a dead man.
  15. To enable the widow to marry again.
  16. [H] cf. [G].
  17. Or 'mortally wounded' (v. Rashi). [H] rt. [H], to cut an artery', a mode of execution practised among certain peoples (cf. Jast.).
  18. Since it is possible to recover life even in such precarious conditions.
  19. Lit., 'until'.
  20. After this period, the decay of the corpse would hinder identification.
  21. Lit., 'hours', 'times'.
  22. Decomposition in one case may be much more rapid than in another. The period of THREE DAYS mentioned must, therefore, be varied according to physical and climatic conditions.
  23. In respect of a dead man.
  24. To enable the widow to marry again.
  25. V. supra note 5.
  26. If the evidence of identification is to be valid.
  27. That the full face is essential for identification.
  28. Emphasis on countenance; not any other part of the body.
  29. Isa. III, 9.
  30. Lit., 'which he', 'who was'.
  31. Lit., 'they did not discover it'. [H] (cf. [H]) 'to examine', 'to discover'.
  32. A man who was carrying a letter of divorce from a husband to his wife.
  33. The letter of divorce after it had been lost for a time.
  34. Cf. infra 120b. [H] 'ring'.
  35. Cf. Rashi.
  36. B.M. 27b; provided he is able to identify the bag, or any of the other objects mentioned, as the original object to which the letter of divorce had been tied. Though the assumed validity of the document affects a Pentateuchal law (permitting a married woman to marry a stranger) it is nevertheless permitted to rely upon the identification marks, contrary to the implication of our Mishnah.
  37. Lit., 'that'.
  38. Pesaro ed. and MSS. read 'Eleazar'.
  39. Of course they do.
  40. R. Eliezer.
  41. Cf. B.M. 27a.,
  42. The first Tanna.
  43. Both the first Tanna as well as R. Eliezer.
  44. [H]., lit., 'son of his circle', ('circle' referring to the sphere of the zodiac). Persons born at the same hour of the day are assumed to be physically and morally subject to the same planetary influences for good and for evil.
  45. As the corpse and the man in question might have been such persons, all marks, other than those afforded by those of the full face, are no reliable proof of identity.
  46. R. Eliezer.
  47. A mole, therefore, is a valid identification mark.
  48. Cf. supra p. 849, n. 14.
  49. The first Tanna.
  50. Hence it cannot be regarded as a valid mark of identification.
  51. V. supra p. 849, n. 14.
Tractate List

Yebamoth 120b

constitutes a distinct1  identification mark2  that they differ. One Master is of the opinion that it constitutes a distinct identification mark,2  and the other Master is of the opinion that it does not constitute a distinct identification mark.

With reference to the version according to which Raba stated that 'identification marks are valid Pentateuchally' [the objection might be raised:] Surely it was taught, THOUGH THERE WERE ALSO MARKS ON THE MAN'S BODY OR CLOTHING!3  — As to the BODY [the marks indicated by the witnesses were only that the corpse was] long or short;4  and as to one's CLOTHING [no reliability can be placed upon their identification] since borrowing might be apprehended.5  If, however, borrowing is to be apprehended how could we allow the return of an ass6  on [the strength of] the identification marks of a saddle!7  — People do not borrow a saddle because it makes the back of the ass sore.8  Where one 'found it tied to a bag, a purse or a seal-ring',9  how do we allow its return!10  — As to a seal-ring one is afraid of forgery;11  as to one's bag and purse, people are superstitious12  and do not lend such objects.13  And if you prefer I might say [that the identification marks of one's] CLOTHING [consisted in a statement] that they were white or red.14

EVEN THOUGH THE WITNESSES HAVE SEEN HIM WITH HIS ARTERIES CUT etc. This then implies that a man whose arteries have been cut may live; but this is inconsistent with the following: A person does not cause defilement15  before his soul has departed, even though his arteries had been cut and even though he is in a dying condition.16  [Thus it follows that] it is only defilement that he does not cause but that it is impossible for him to live!17  — Abaye replied: This is no difficulty. The one represents the view of18  R. Simeon b. Eleazar; the other that of18  the Rabbis. For it was taught: Evidence may be legally tendered on [the death of a person] whose arteries were cut,19  but no such evidence may be tendered concerning one crucified. R. Simeon b. Eleazar ruled: No such evidence may be legally tendered even concerning one whose arteries were cut, because [the wounds] might be cauterized and [the man] may survive.20  Can this,21  however, be reconciled22  with the views of R. Simeon b. Eleazar? Surely in the final clause23  it was taught: It once happened at Asia that a man24  was lowered into the sea and Only his leg was brought up,25  and the Sages ruled: [If the recovered leg contained the part] above the knee [the man's wife] may marry again,26  [but if it contained only the part] below the knee she may not remarry!27  — Waters are different since they irritate the wound.28  But, surely, Rabbah b. Bar Hana related: I myself have seen an Arab merchant who took hold of a sword and cut open the arteries of his camel, but this did not cause it to cease its cry!29  — Abaye replied: That [camel] was a lean animal.30

Raba replied: [The operation was performed] with a glowing hot knife,31  and this is in agreement with the opinion of all.32

OR BEING DEVOURED BY A WILD BEAST etc. Rab Judah stated In the name of Samuel: This has been taught only in the case [where the attack was] not on a vital organ,33  but where it was on a vital organ, evidence may be legally tendered.

Rab Judah further stated in the name of Samuel: If a person whose two organs34  or the greater part of them were cut35  escaped, evidence [of his death] may be legally tendered.36  But this cannot be! For, surely, Rab Judah stated in the name of Samuel: If a man whose two [organs]34  or the greater part of them were cut35  indicated by gestures, 'Write a letter of divorce for my wife', [such document] is to be written and delivered [to his wife]!37  — He is alive38  but will eventually die.39  If this is so40  one41  should go into exile42  on account of him; while, in fact,43  it was taught: If a man cut [unwittingly] the two, or the greater part of the two [organs44  of another man] he is not to go into exile! — Surely in connection with this it was stated that R. Hoshaia explained: The possibility must be taken into consideration that the wind might have aggravated the wound45  or that he himself46  also may

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  • [H] rt. [H] 'to shine', 'glisten'.
  • And may consequently serve as proof even in pentateuchal prohibitions.
  • If identification marks have pentateuchal validity these should have been regarded as reliable.
  • Which cannot be regarded as reliable marks of identification.
  • There is no proof that the dead man was wearing his own clothes. V. supra note 5.
  • That was found.
  • V. B.M. 27a.
  • The saddle of one ass does not fit another. A saddle, therefore, is a proper mark of identification.
  • Supra 120a.
  • It is possible, surely, that the objects were borrowed from another man and that the document tied to them was not the lost original.
  • Of the seal; and does not lend it to anyone. Hence it may justly be presumed to belong the person on whose body it is found.
  • The lending of such an object is supposed to effect a transfer of the lender's luck to the borrower.
  • Cf. supra n. 3.
  • Many persons wear garments of red and white, and the colours therefore, cannot be regarded as a reliable mark of identification.
  • As a corpse.
  • Ohal. 1, 6.
  • Which is contradictory to the implication in our Mishnah.
  • Lit., 'that'.
  • The evidence being accepted as valid to enable the man's wife to remarry.
  • Lit., 'he is able to burn and to live'. Our Mishnah would thus represent the view of R. Simeon b. Eleazar.
  • V. supra n. 8.
  • Lit., 'be set up'.
  • V. infra 121a, the continuation of our Mishnah.
  • A diver.
  • Lit., 'and it did not go up in their hands but his leg'.
  • Since after the loss of so much of the limb the man cannot survive.
  • Because a man may survive even in such circumstances. The drowning also cannot be regarded as a certainty since the waters may have thrown the body up on another shore where the man's life may have been saved. Now, if our Mishnah represents the view of R. Simeon b. Eleazar, remarriage should be forbidden even in the case where 'the part above the knee' was also torn away!
  • And this makes survival in the first case (cf, supra n. 2 final clause) impossible.
  • Till the actual moment of death, which shows that even after the cutting of its arteries an animal may still live.
  • And the wound was not deep.
  • Which cauterized the wound.
  • Since all agree that a cauterized wound is not fatal.
  • Lit., 'from a place from which his soul does not depart'.
  • The oesophagus and the trachea.
  • Lit., 'he cut on him two or the greater part of two'.
  • His wife being permitted to marry again. 621. 70b.
  • Lit., 'behold these shall write and give'; which shows that one in such a condition is still regarded as a living man. How, then, could it be said that Rab Judah in the name of Samuel accepted the legality of the evidence of death in similar circumstances!
  • Hence the validity of his letter of divorce.
  • And the evidence of his — death is consequently also valid.
  • If eventual death is regarded as a certainty.
  • The man who unwittingly inflicted the wounds mentioned.
  • Cf. Deut. XIX, 2f
  • Lit., 'wherefore'.
  • The oesophagus and the trachea.
  • Or 'made him senseless' (cf. Jast.).
  • By excessive struggling.