[Avodah] tfilat haderech and birchat hagomel

Chana Luntz Chana at kolsassoon.org.uk
Mon Feb 4 04:00:05 PST 2013

On Thu, Jan 31, 2013 at 01:32:01AM -0500, Zev Sero wrote:
>>                                A woman is better off with any man 
>> than with none, because most women find it difficult or impossible to 
>> support themselves....

And RMB replied:

>But then it would be a rov with known exceptions, even in Chazal's day. 
>Thee are enough stories of a matrionis discussing a matter with a 
>tanna. These estate-holding balebastas didn't need income at all.
>(Barring the unexpected tragedy, like losing everything in the fall of 

>The gemara makes an exception for such nashim chashuvos in requiring 
>them to do heseibah at the seider. (Pesachim 108a) And the Rashbam 
>talks of the general heter in terms of most women having a yir'ah for 
>and dependency on their husbands.

>So why would tav lemeisiv not be treated as an umdena or rav, given the 
>identifiable exceptions, rather than a chazaqah?

Because, as I have said many times, chazakah is a rebuttable presumption.
That is different from both an umdena or rav.   Where a chazaka or a rov
coming into conflict, we posken, as we have discussed before, for the rov.
ruba v'chazaka ruba adif - see eg Yevamos 119b ie chazaka carries *less*
weight than a form of rov.  While you keep trying to give it if anything
more weight than a Rov.

>Of course, this reopens the question of whether all chazaqos are 
>unchanging realities or situational. My current line of reasoning would 
>imply that all chazaqos disvara would be existential parts of human 
>nature. And that would be what makes them differ from a ruba deleisa 
>leqaman which is a kelal that only happens to be true.

Which is why I think this attempt to try and strengthen chazakos beyond that
of rov into some form of existential principle - although presumably
necessary to justify RYBS's position (which as I have said before, seems
inherently flawed), just doesn't work in any other context.  

>But since RYBS does invoke a pasuq, and the argument above doesn't 
>entail one, it is my own thought/question about the existential nature 
>of chazaqos, not RYBS's.

Yes, it seems to me that RYBS, because he identifies a pasuk as behind this
particular statement of tan du, therefore is giving tan du a status of an
existential truth about human nature - over and above any other chazaka - so
to stretch this to any other situation described by the use of the term
chazaka in the gemora is going beyond the point even he was prepared to go.

Where I disagree with RZS slightly is that I don't just think it was about
(or just about) economic support.  I think it was more about social
standing.  An unmarried girl had no social standing whatsoever.  A married
woman did, due to having a husband.  A widowed or divorced woman with (but
only with) significant property (ie a matrona) also did.  Now a lot of that
has to do with the economic reality that RZS describes.  Ie a single girl
could by and large not support herself, and, unless there were no brothers,
she had no reasonable expectation of becoming financially independent.  So
long as her father was alive, he might well take another wife and produce a
male heir, so the only situation where an unmarried woman would be
financially independent was if she was orphaned prior to marriage where
there were no male heirs.  That is pretty rare, and clearly nothing to do
with her personally, so she could hardly take any pride from any of this,
nor would such rare cases be built into social standing.

Today a single girl can take pride in accomplishments, financial or
otherwise, without needing to marry.  Of course, in certain social circles,
that doesn't cut much ice.  I have told the story before, but when I went
for shabbas once to my charedi relatives in Boro Park, I was 26, with a
Masters Degree in Law from Harvard, a Fulbright Scholarship, and having
already worked a number of years as a lawyer ... but I was unmarried.  The
oldest child (daughter) of the house was 18 ... and engaged.

On Friday night I at 26 was put on the table with the younger children (ie
15 and below), and the 18 year old was put on the table with the adults.

Now I did speak to the lady of the house afterwards and told her that this
was quite inappropriate, and for shabbas lunch I was put on the table with
the adults - but look at the automatic message and assumption that was made,
prior to my intervention.  Marriage brought social status as an adult.
Higher degrees and scholarships and high financial earning capacity did not
(I had probably already in my short earning life working as a lawyer earned
more than the family income aggregated for most of their years of marriage,
given that the father was in kollel and had been all his life).

But in a society where higher degrees and significant earning capacity did
not exist as a means to demonstrate that I was indeed an adult and not a
child, the only way out of that children's table (in my mind and in anybody
else's) would have been marriage.  And hence the social pressure to marry -
anyone at all, to achieve adult status would have been immense.  I can very
easily see just from this one experience, that if the years had continued to
pass on the children's table, and younger children had leapfrogged me onto
the adults table, I might well have become increasingly willing to say yes
to anybody at all, even someone the size of an ant (as the gemora so pithily
describes), just to launch one's adulthood.

As I wrote in the previous go round of this debate at

>Not only is RYBS's interpretation not muchrach in the pasuk, but, as I 
>keep pointing out, it is not muchrach in the gemora's description of 
>tav lemaisiv either.  The gemora seems rather to be discussing the 
>social status that a woman gains by having her "MRS", even if the man 
>concerned is completely inappropriate.  The relevant piece of gemora 
>ends by concluding that a woman who takes one of these inappropriate 
>men and yet is happy to flaunt her married status also satisfies her 
>sexual needs by taking lovers and bringing up those children as her 
>husband's - see eg Yevamos 118b "v'kulan mezanos v'tolos b'balehen".  
>That is hardly a description of a woman who ve'el isheich teshukateich. If
anything the opposite.




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