“There was a Jew in Shushan the capital, [and his name was Mordecai son of Jair son of Shimei son of Kish,] a Benjaminite man (Esther 2:5). What is it saying? If it is to give the pedigree [of Mordecai], it should trace it right back to Benjamin! Only, what is different about these [three names, Jair, Shimei, and Kish]? It was taught: All of them were his name. Son of יָאִיר (ya’ir), Jair—the son who הֵאִיר (he’ir), illuminated, the eyes of Israel with his prayer. Son of שִׁמְעִי (Shime’i), Shimei—the son to whose prayer God שָׁמַע (shama’), heard. Son of קִישׁ (qish), Kish—that הִקִּישׁ (hiqish), he knocked, at the gates of mercy and they were opened to him.
He is called יְהוּדִי (Yehudi), a Jew, confirming [he came] from [the tribe of] יְהוּדָה (Yehudah), Judah, and he is called a Benjaminite man, confirming [he came] from Benjamin. Rav Naḥman said: Mordecai was crowned with [a number of] titles. Rabbah son of Son of Ḥanah said in the name of Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi: His father was from Benjamin and his mother from Judah. However, the Rabbis said: The tribes competed with one another [for him]. The tribe of Judah said: I caused the birth of Mordecai, because David did not kill Shimei the son of Gera [see 2 Samuel 16], and the tribe of Benjamin said: He came from me! Rava said: Assembly of Israel said the opposite: ‘See what a Judean did to me and how a Benjamite repaid me!’ ‘What a Judean did to me’—that David did not kill Shimei [who was liable to the death penalty] from whom was descended Mordecai against whom Haman was jealous. ‘And how a Benjamite repaid me’—that Saul did not slay [the Amalekite king] Agag from whom was descended Haman who oppressed Israel.
Rabbi Yoḥanan said: Always [i.e., in every respect Mordecai] was from [the tribe of] Benjamin. Why was he called יְהוּדִי (Yehudi), a Jew? Because he denied עֲבוֹדָה זַרָה (avodah zarah), idolatry [lit., foreign worship]. For anyone who denies idolatry is called ‘a Jew’ [since he declares the יִחוּדִי (yiḥudi), oneness, of God], as is written, There are certain יְהוּדָאיִן (Yehuda’in), Jewish men [whom you have appointed over the work of the province of Babylonia, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. These have paid no heed to you, O king. They do not serve your god, and they do not worship the gold statue that you set up] (Daniel 3:12)” (BT Megillah 12b–13a).
“‘Anyone who denies idolatry is called a Jew’’ (BT Megillah 13a). And I heard in the name of … that pride is called idolatry, and any denier of her is called a Jew’’ (Rabbi Moshe Ḥayyim Ephraim of Sudylkow, Degel Maḥaneh Efrayim, Derush le-Purim).
“[David said:] There are three signs by which this people [Israel are recognized]: [They are] compassionate, bashful, and generous. ‘Compassionate,’ as is written, And give you compassion, and be compassionate to you and make you multiply… (Deuteronomy 13:18). ‘Bashful [or: shamefaced],’ as is written, That His fear be upon your faces, [so that you do not offend] (Exodus 20:16). ‘Generous [lit., render kindnesses],’ as is written, That he will charge his sons and his household after him [to keep the way of YHWH to do righteousness and justice…] (Genesis 18:19). Anyone with these three signs is worthy of cleaving to this people” (BT Yevamot 79a, cf. BT Pesaḥim 113b: “Three the blessed Holy One loves: he who does not get angry, he who does not get drunk, and he who does not insist on his rights”).
“Ten different genealogical classes went up from Babylon [to the land of Israel in the days of Ezra]: Priests, Levites, Israelites, [priests who became] profaned, converts, the emancipated, bastards, Gibeonites [cf. Joshua 9:4; 2 Samuel 21:1], children of unknown paternity, and foundlings. Priests, Levites and Israelites may intermarry with one another. Levites, Israelites, [priests who became] profaned, converts and emancipated slaves may intermarry with one another. Converts, the emancipated, bastards, Gibeonites, children of unknown paternity, and foundlings are permitted to intermarry with one another. That daughters of priests, however, [may be married to priests who became] profaned was not mentioned [therefore, apparently they are forbidden to each other]” (BT Yevamot 85a, cf. M Qiddushin 4:1; BT Qiddushin 69a).
“A priest takes precedence over a Levite, a Levite over an Israelite, an Israelite over a bastard, a bastard over a descendant of Gibeonites, a descendant of Gibeonites over a convert, and a convert over an emancipated slave. When is this so? When they are all equal. However, if the bastard is a scholar and the High Priest an ignoramus—the bastard scholar takes precedence over the ignorant High Priest” (M Horayot 3:8).
“[‘Ten different genealogical classes went up from Babylon: Priests, Levites…’ (M Qiddushin 4:1)] Why is it particularly taught: ‘Went up from Babylon’; let him teach, migrated to the land of Israel? He teaches us a matter in passing, as it was taught: [Should the matter be beyond you to judge, between blood and blood, between case and case, and between injury and injury, affairs of grievances within your gates,] you shall arise and go up to the place that YHWH your God chooses, [and you shall come to the levitical priests and to the judge who will be in those days, and you shall inquire and they will tell you the matter of the judgment] (Deuteronomy 17:8): this teaches that the Temple is higher than the rest of the land of Israel, and the land of Israel is higher than all [other] lands. As for the Temple being higher than the rest of the land of Israel, it is well: even as is written [Should the matter be beyond you to judge…] affairs of grievances within your gates, you shall arise and go up. But how do we know that the land of Israel is higher than all [other] lands? Because it is written: Therefore, behold, the days come, says YHWH, that they shall no more say, YHWH lives, who brought up the children of Israel out of the land of Egypt; But, YHWH lives, who brought up and who led the descendants of the house of Israel out of the north country, and from all countries where I had driven them; [and they shall dwell in their own land] (Jeremiah 23:7–8).
Then why particularly teach, ‘Went up from Babylon’: let him teach, ‘went up to the land of Israel’? This supports Rabbi El’azar. For Rabbi El’azar said: Ezra did not go up from Babylon until he made it like pure sifted flour: then he went up [he intentionally took those of inferior rank so that they should not remain in Babylon, where, owing to the absence of leaders, they might mingle with the rest of the nation. Therefore the Tanna states: ‘went up from Babylon,’ intimating that in that itself he had a purpose, apart from the rebuilding of the land of Israel, in other words, to purge the Jews in Babylon]. Abayye said: We learnt: ‘they went up’ (M Qiddushin 4:1) voluntarily; Rava said: We learnt: ‘He [Ezra] brought them up’ [against their will]. And they differ over Rabbi El’azar [and his statement,] namely: Ezra did not go up from Babylon until he made it like pure sifted flour: then he went up. Abayye rejects it, Rava accepts it [for such purging could only be effected by compulsion]. Alternatively, all accept Rabbi El’azar’s statement, but they differ in this: One Master [Abayye] holds that he [merely] separated them, whereupon they voluntarily ascended [to the land of Israel in order to become assimilated with the others]: the other Master holds that [even so] he led them up against their will.
Now, on the view that they went up [voluntarily], it is well: thus Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: All lands are as עִיסָה (issah), dough, in comparison with the land of Israel [dough is a mixture of flour and water, i.e., the Jews there have not such a pure descent as those in the land of Israel], and the land of Israel is as dough compared to Babylon [perhaps this was due to the incessant wars with the Greeks, when many Jews and Jewesses were taken captive by the enemy, and the general weakening of Jewish observance during the Hellenizing period and later when the Sadducees ruled the country. The Jews in Babylon, however, were free from all this]. But on the view that he [forcibly] led them up, they were indeed known? [In the land of Israel too, and restrained from intermarrying, so that the land of Israel remained just as pure as Babylon]—granted that they were known to that generation, they were not known to another generation. On the view that they went up, it is well: hence it is written: And I gathered them together to the river that runs to Ahava (Ezra 8:15); and there we camped in tents three days: and I viewed the people, and the priests, and found there none of the sons of Levi (ibid.) [He had to scrutinize them, since those of inferior descent voluntarily joined them]. But on the view that he brought them up—surely he was most careful with them!—granted that he had been careful with the unfit [of low descent], yet he had not been careful with the fit [since he knew who they were; why scrutinize them?].
‘Priests, Levites, and Israelites’ (M Qiddushin 4:1). How do we know that they had come up?—because it is written, So the priests, and the Levites, and some of the people, and the singers, and the gatekeepers, and the Nethinim, dwelt in their towns, and all Israel in their towns (Ezra 2:70).
‘Ḥalalim, Converts, and the Emancipated’ (M Qiddushin 4:1). How do we know ḥalalim? For it was taught: Rabbi Yose said: A חָזָקָה (ḥazaqah), presumptive right, is powerful, as is said: And of the children of the priests: the children of Habaiah, the children of Hakkoz, the children of Barzillai; who took a wife of the daughters of Barzillai the Gileadite, and was called after their name: These sought their listing among those that were reckoned by genealogy, but they were not found: therefore were they, as defiled, excluded from the priesthood. And the Tirshata [according to tradition it was Nehemiah] said to them, that they should not eat of the most holy things, till a priest could consult with Urim and with Thummim (Ezra 2:61–63) [so to speak, ‘never’ since there was no Urim and Thummim in the second Temple, see BT Sotah 48a]. Now [Ezra] said to them, You remain in your presumptive rights: of what did you partake in Exile? of the sacred food [eaten] in the country [Gevul country, a technical term denoting any part of the land of Israel outside the Temple and Jerusalem. The reference is to תְּרוּמָה (terumah), donation]. So now too [you may partake] of the sacred food [consumed] in the country [but not sacrifices. This shows that ‘they were deemed polluted’ means that they were accounted ḥalalim, who may not partake of sacrifices]. But on the view that we promote from terumah to family purity [if a priest is seen eating terumah in his town, where he is known, we assume that he is of pure descent, and permit another priest to marry his daughter], those who ate terumah, they would come to elevate them?—there it was different, because their presumptive status was weakened [when it was seen that other priests ate sacrifices and they did not, it would be known that their genealogy was suspect (Rashi). Tosafot: their status was weakened because they had failed to prove their pure descent]. Then what is meant by ‘Great is a presumptive right?’ [the phrase implies that it leads to some extraordinary concession. But since there was no reason to fear that continuance in their right would lead to error, Rabbi Yose should simply have stated that a presumptive right in the past gives a claim for the future]—because originally they ate terumah by rabbinic law, and now they were to eat terumah by Biblical law [outside the land of Israel terumah is required by rabbinic law only]. Alternatively, after all they would now too eat only terumah by rabbinic law [terumah on fruit and vegetables, which even in the land of Israel is only rabbinic], not Biblical; for when do we elevate from terumah to family purity? [Only when it is terumah] by Biblical law, but we do not elevate [when it is terumah] by rabbinic law. If so, why [state], ‘Great is a presumptive right?’ Because formerly there was no cause to forbid it on account of terumah by Biblical law [since outside the land of Israel there was none available],’ but now [lit., at the end], though it might have been forbidden on account of terumah by Biblical law [on their return to the land of Israel. If they were permitted to eat rabbinically, they might come to eat Biblical terumah], they [nevertheless] ate of rabbinical, but not of Biblical [terumah]. But it is written: And the Tirshata said to them, that they should not eat of the most holy things (Ezra 2:63): thus, only of the most holy things might they not eat [which implies sacrifices of the higher sanctity], but everything else they might eat? This is what he said: [They were to eat] neither what is called קוֹדֶשׁ (qodesh), holy, nor what is called הַקֳּדָשִׁים (ha-qadashim), holies. ‘Neither what is called qodesh,’ as is written: And no outsider shall eat a sacred donation (Leviticus 22:10); ‘nor what is called ha-qadashim,’ as is written: And should a priest’s daughter be married to an outsider, she shall not eat of the levy of the sacred donations (ibid., 12), and a Master said [explaining this:] the priestly dues [lit., ‘that which was separated’, namely, the breast and shoulder] of sacrifices she shall not eat.
[70a] ‘Converts and the Emancipated.’ How do we know it? Rav Ḥisda said, as the verse says, [And the children of Israel, who had come again out of captivity,] and all such as had separated themselves unto them from the filthiness of the nations of the land, [to seek YHWH God of Israel…] (Ezra 6:21).
‘Bastards’ (M Qiddushin 4:1). How do we know it? Because it is written: But when Sanballat the Horonite, and Tobiah the slave, the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arabian, heard it, [they laughed at us, and despised us, and said, What is this thing that you do? will you rebel against the king?] (Nehemiah 2:19): and it is [also] written, [Moreover in those days the nobles of Judah sent many letters to Tobiah, and the letters of Tobiah came to them.] For there were many in Judah sworn to him, because he was the son-in-law of Shecaniah the son of Arah; and his son Jehohanan had taken the daughter of Meshullam the son of Berechiah as wife (ibid. 6:18). Now he [the Tanna of our Mishnah] holds that if a gentile or a slave has intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite, the offspring is a bastard [and we have a case of such intercourse in the verses quoted. Cf. BT Qiddushin 68b]. That is well on the view that the offspring is a bastard; but on the view that it is fit, what can be said? Moreover, how do you know that they had sons [namely Tobiah and his own son, by these Jewesses]: perhaps they did not have sons? Again, how do you know that they were [originally] here [in Babylon] and then migrated; perhaps they were there [in the land of Israel from the beginning]? But [it is learnt] from this: And these were they who went up also from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha, Cherub, Addon, and Immer: but they could not prove their father’s house, nor their descendants, whether they were of Israel (ibid. 7:61). Now תֵּל מֶלַח (tel melaḥ), Tel-melah [lit., saltheap], refers to those people whose deeds were like those of Sodom, which was turned into a heap of salt [cf. Genesis 19:26]: תֵּל חַרְשָׁא (tel ḥarsha), Tel-harsha [lit., heap of silence], to those who cry out ‘Father,’ and their mothers silence them [because they do not know their fathers—they are called שִׁיתוּקִי (shetuqi) in the Mishnah]; but they could not show their fathers’ houses, nor their seed [i.e., their mothers’], whether they were of Israel—this refers to foundlings, gathered in from the streets. Cherub, אַדּוֹן וְאִמֵּר (addon ve-immer), Addon and Immer: Rabbi Abbahu said: אַדּוֹן אָמָר (addon amar), The Lord said: ‘I said that Israel should be as precious to Me as the cherub, whereas they made themselves like the leopard [which is not particular to copulate with its own mate. So Israel, thereby producing illegitimate offspring. The allusion to the deeds of Sodom is similar].’ Others say, Rabbi Abbahu said: The Lord said: ‘Though they have made themselves like the leopard, yet they are as precious to me as a cherub.’ Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana said: He who takes a wife who is not fitting for him [i.e., of an unfit stock], the verse stigmatizes him as though he had ploughed the whole world and sown it with salt, as is said: And these were they who went up also from Tel-melah, Tel-harsha [deriving חַרְשָׁא (ḥarsha), Harsha, from לַחֲרָשׁ (la-ḥarash), to plough. Because ‘they could not show’ etc., i.e., they were ashamed of their unseemly marriages and strove to conceal them, they turned the world into a ploughed heap sown with salt].
Rabbah son of Rav Adda said in Rav’s name: He who takes a wife for the sake of money will have unworthy children, as is said: They have dealt treacherously against YHWH: for they have begotten foreign children (Hosea 5:7). And should you think, their money is saved [to them]—therefore it is stated: Now a new moon shall devour them with their heritage (ibid.). And should you say, his portion, but not hers [because she did nothing wrong]: therefore it is said: their heritage. And should you say [only] after a long time—therefore it is said: a new moon. What does this imply? Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq said: A month comes and a month goes and their money is lost.
Rabbah son of Rav Adda also said—others say, Rabbi Salla said in Rav Hamnuna’s name: He who marries a wife who is not fit for him, Elijah binds him and the blessed Holy One whips him. And a Tanna taught: Concerning all these [Priests, Levites, and Israelites who marry a wife that is of unfit stock] Elijah writes and the blessed Holy One, attests: ‘Woe to him who disqualifies his seed, taints his family and him who takes to wife one who is not fit for him.’ And anyone who [continually] declares [others] unfit is [himself] unfit and never speaks in praise [of people]. And Shemu’el said: With his own blemish [he stigmatizes others as] unfit.
A certain man from Neharde’a entered a butcher’s shop in Pumbedita and demanded, ‘Give me meat!’ ‘Wait until Rav Yehudah son of Yeḥezqel’s attendant takes his, and then we will serve you,’ was the answer. ‘Who is Yehudah son of Shevisqe’el to take precedence over me and be served before me!’ When they went and told Rav Yehudah, he excommunicated him. They said to him, ‘He is in the habit of calling people slaves,’ whereupon he had him proclaimed a slave. Thereupon that man went and summoned him to a lawsuit before Rav Naḥman. When the summons was brought, he [Rav Yehudah] went before Rav Huna [and] asked him, ‘Shall I go or not?’ [His eminent position entitled him to refuse to recognise Rav Naḥman’s jurisdiction over himself]. ‘Actually, you need not go, being a great man; yet in honor of the Nasi’s house, arise and go’ he replied [Rav Naḥman was the son-in-law of the Resh Galuta, the official head of Babylonian Jewry. Rav Huna refers to the latter as Nasi, which strictly speaking was the corresponding title of the head of Jewry of the land of Israel; cf. BT Ḥulin 124a]. On his arrival there he found him making a railing [to the roof of his house, in accordance with Deuteronomy 22:8]. He said to him, Do you not accept [what] Rav Huna son of Idi [said] in Shemu’el’s name, Once a man is appointed head of a community, he may not do [manual] labor in the presence of three? [in order to preserve the dignity of his position]—‘I am [merely] making a small portion of a גוּנְדְּרִיתָא (gunddritha), fence,’ he replied. ‘Is not מַעֲקֶה (ma’aqeh), fence [the Hebrew for the same], as written in the Torah, or מְחִצָה (meḥitsah), partition, as used by the Rabbis, good enough?’ he replied [lit., ‘is it hateful?’ i.e., why such extravagant language?]. He said to him, ‘Sit you down on a אַקַרְפִּיטָא (aqarpita), seat, bench.’ ‘Is not סַפְסָל (safsal), as used by the Rabbis, or אִיצְטַבָּא (itstabba), as [common] people say, good enough?’ he asked. He said, ‘Will you partake of a אֶתְרוּנְגָּא (ethrungga), citron?’ This is what Shemu’el said: ‘He who says ethrungga, is a third [puffed up] with arrogance: either אֶתְרוֹג (ethrog), as it is called by the Rabbis, or אֶתְרוֹגָא (ethroga), as [common] people say.’ ‘Will you drink a cup of אַנְבְּגָא (anbbega), wine?’ he asked him. He answered, ‘Is the term אִיסְפַּארְגּוּס (isparggus), as it is called by the Rabbis, or אַנְפַּק (anpaq), as [common] people say distasteful to you?’ ‘Let [my daughter] Donag come and serve drink,’ he proposed. He replied, This is what Shemu’el says: ‘One must not make use of a woman.’ ‘[But] she is only a child!’—‘Shemu’el distinctly said: One must make no use at all of a woman, whether adult or child.’ ‘Will you send a greeting to [my wife] Yalta,’ he suggested. ‘This is what Shemu’el said,’ he replied, [To listen to] a woman’s voice is indecent.’ ‘It is possible through a messenger?’ He replied, This is what Shemu’el said: ‘One must not enquire after a woman’s welfare.’ ‘Then by her husband!’ He said, This is what Shemu’el said: ‘One must not enquire after a woman’s welfare at all.’ His wife sent [word] to him, ‘Settle his case for him, lest he make you like any ignoramus!’ ‘Why are you here?’ he asked him. ‘You sent me a summons,’ he replied. ‘Seeing that I do not even know your way of speech,’ he exclaimed: ‘would I send you a summons!’ Thereupon he drew out the summons from his bosom and showed [it] to him: ‘Behold the man and behold the summons!’ he said. ‘Yet since you have come here,’ he said: ‘let us discuss the matter, that it may not be said that the Rabbis show flatter each other.’ Then he asked him, ‘Why did you excommunicate that man?’ ‘Because he abused the Rabbis’ messenger.’ ‘Then you should have punished him [by flogging], for Rav punished [by flogging] him who abused a messenger of the Rabbis.’ ‘I dealt with him more severely’ [Tosafot in Yevamot 52a suggests that the reason was because he had insulted the Rabbi himself]. ‘Why did you have it proclaimed that he is a slave?’ He answered: ‘Because he was in the habit of calling [other] people slaves, and he who declares [others] unfit is [himself] unfit, and never speaks good [of anyone, cf. M Nega’im 2:5: ‘All the afflictions man sees, outside his own affliction’]; and Shemu’el said: With his own blemish he [stigmatizes others as] unfit.’ ‘But how did Shemu’el say this: only that one must suspect; yet did he say that he is to be proclaimed [so]?’ Meanwhile, his opponent said to Rav Yehudah, ‘You call me a slave,—I who am descended from the royal house of the Hasmoneans!’ ‘This is what Shemu’el said,’ he replied: ‘Whoever says: “I am descended from the house of the Hasmoneans is a slave’ [because the dynasty was wiped out by Herod, who, in spite of ascending the throne, was always regarded by the Jew’s as an Idumean slave. He, to exalt his children, called them Hasmoneans, see BT Bava Batra 3b]. [Rav Naḥman, who heard this exchange] said to him, ‘Do you not agree with what was said by Rabbi Abba in the name of Rav Huna in Rav’s name: Every scholar who proceeds to give a ruling [in his teacher’s name]: if he has stated it before the event, he is heeded; if not, he is not heeded?’ [i.e., when he gives a traditional ruling bearing on his own case, he is believed only if he had stated it before the same arose] ‘But there is Rav Mattanah who supports me,’ he replied. Now, Rav Mattanah had not seen Neharde’a for thirteen years, but on that day he visited it. He said to him [Rav Yehudah], ‘Do you remember what Shemu’el said when he stood with one foot on the bank and one foot on the ferry?’ ‘Thus said Shemu’el’, he replied: ‘He who claims, I am descended from the royal house of the Hasmoneans, is a slave, because there remained of them only one young girl who ascended a roof, lifted up her voice and cried out, Whoever says I am descended from the house of the Hasmoneans is a slave;’ then she fell from the roof and died.’ So he [Rav Yehudah’s litigant] was proclaimed a slave. On that day many ketubbot were torn up in Neharde’a [of women who belonged to that family, and accordingly bore the status of slaves, so that their marriage was invalid]. When he [Rav Yehudah] was leaving, they came out after him to stone him [for revealing their inferiority]. [But] he threatened them, ‘If you will be silent, be silent; if not, I will disclose against you what Shemu’el said: There are two families in Neharde’a, one called The House of Dove and the other, The House of Raven; and your mnemonic is, Unclean is unclean and the clean clean’ [the dove is a clean bird (i.e., fit for food); the raven is unclean. The House of Jonah is of pure descent; the other is not. Descendants of the two families were probably widespread in Neharde’a, but their origin was forgotten: hence the threat]. They threw away the stones out of their hands, which created a dam in the royal canal [so many were there].
[At that time] Rav Yehudah announced in Pumbedita: Adda and Yonatan are slaves; Yehudah son of Papa is a bastard: Bati son of Tuviyyah in his arrogance refused to accept a bill of emancipation. Rava proclaimed in Meḥoza: Balla’ai, Danna’ai, Talla’ai, Malla’ai, Zagga’ai [these are either places or family names. Probably they are contemptuous nicknames, which may mean, old rags, barrels, patches, stuffings and grape skins]—all these are unfit.
Rav Yehudah said: The Gova’ai are Gibeonites; Dorenunita is a village of Nethinim [Gibeonites]. Rav Yosef said: This Bei Kuvei of Pumbedita [in the vicinity] of Pumbedita consists entirely of slaves [who had intermingled with the populace, though they had never been formally emancipated]. Rav Yehudah said in Shemu’el’s name: Pashḥur son of Immer [a priestly contemporary of Jeremiah who had him put in the stocks because of his dire prophecies of national disaster] had four hundred slaves—others say, four thousand slaves—and all became mixed up in the priesthood, and every priest who displays impudence is [descended] from none but them. Abayye said: And they all sit in the Wall [i.e., the rows of honor] of Neharde’a. Now he [Rav Yehudah] differs from Rabbi El’azar. For Rabbi El’azar said: If you see a priest with brazen forehead, have no suspicions of him, for it is said: [Yet let no man strive, nor reprove another:] for your people are as they that strive with the priest (Hosea 4:4).
Rabbi Avin son of Rav Adda said in Rav’s name: Whoever takes a wife who is not fit for him [i.e., of an unfit stock], when the blessed Holy One causes His Divine Presence to rest [on Israel], He testifies with regard to all the tribes [that they are His people], but does not testify with regard to him, for it is said: The tribes go up, the Tribes of Yah. An ordinance it is for Israel (Psalms 122:4–5): when is it an ordinance… for Israel? When the tribes are Tribes of Yah [but not when their lineage is flawed]. Rabbi Ḥama son of Rabbi Ḥanina said: When the blessed Holy One causes His Divine Presence to rest, it is only upon families of pure birth in Israel, for it is said: At the same time, says YHWH, will I be the God of all the clans of Israel, and they shall be My people (Jeremiah 30:25)—not to all Israel, but to all the clans of Israel, is said [thus the limitation must exclude those of questionable birth]—and they shall be My people. Rabbah son of Rav Huna said: This is a higher standard between Israel and converts. For in respect to Israel it is written, I will be their God, and they shall be My people (Ezekiel 37:27); whereas of converts it is written, For who is this that devoted his heart to approach Me? says YHWH. And you shall be My people, and I will be your God (Jeremiah 30:21–22).
Rabbi Ḥelbo said: Converts are as קָשִׁים (qashim), tough, for Israel as a scab, for it is said: And the strangers shall be joined with them, וְנִסְפְּחוּ (ve-nispeḥu), and they shall cling, to the house of Jacob (Isaiah 14:1). Here it is written: ve-nispeḥu; whilst elsewhere it is written, [This is the teaching for every affliction of skin blanch…] and for inflammation and for a סַּפַּחַת (sapaḥat), scab (Leviticus 14:56) [cf. BT Niddah 13b; Zohar 3:206b. For the many positive statements concerning converts, see BT Bava Metsi’a 59b; BT Pesaḥim 87b; Tanḥuma, Lekh Lekha 6; Bemidbar Rabbah 8:1–2; Zohar 1:215a].
Rabbi Ḥama son of Ḥanina said: When the blessed Holy One purifies the tribes, He will first purify the tribe of Levi, for it is said: And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer to YHWH an offering in righteousness (Malachi 3:3). Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said: Money purifies bastards, for it is said, And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver [by means of their wealth they intermarry with Israel, and having thus mingled, they will not be separated in the future]. What is meant by, that they may offer to YHWH an offering in צְדָקָה (tsedaqah), righteousness? Rabbi Yitsḥaq says: The blessed Holy One showed צְדָקָה (tsedaqah), charity, to Israel, in that a family once נִטְמְעָה (nitme’ah), mixed up [i.e., assimilated with illegitimate elements], remains so [and no attempt is to be made to excise it].
The [above] text [states]: Rav Yehudah said in Shemue’l’s name: All lands are as dough in comparison with the land of Israel, and the land of Israel is as dough compared to Babylon. In the days of Rabbi [circa 135–220 C.E.] it was desired to render Babylon as dough regarding the land of Israel [to declare the families of the land of Israel of purer birth, so that if a Babylonian desired to marry into a families of the land of Israel he would have to prove the purity of his own descent—it was thought that by now the families of the land of Israel were pure, and so it was due to the honor of the land of Israel to make this change]. He said to them, You are putting thorns between my eyes! [Rabbi was a descendant of Hillel, a Babylonian, and so this would cast a stigma upon his birth]. If you wish, Rabbi Ḥanina son of Ḥama will join with you. So Rabbi Ḥanina son of Ḥama joined with them and said to them, ‘I have this tradition from Rabbi Yishma’el son of Rabbi Yose who said on his father’s authority: All lands are as dough in comparison with the land of Israel, and the land of Israel is as dough compared to Babylon’ [i.e., a mere declaration cannot change an historical fact].
In the days of Rabbi Pinḥas it was desired to declare Babylon as dough with regard to the land of Israel. He said to his slaves, ‘When I have made two statements in the academy, pick me up on a stretcher and flee.’ When he entered he said to them, ‘A fowl does not require slaughter by Biblical law.’ While they were sitting and scrutinizing this, he said to them, ‘All lands are as dough in comparison with the land of Israel, and the land of Israel is as dough compared to Babylon.’ They picked him up on a stretcher and fled. They chased him, but could not overtake him. Then they sat and examined [their genealogies], until they came to danger; so they refrained [to accuse influential families of flaws due to their power].
Rabbi Yoḥanan said: By the Temple! It is in our power; but what shall I do, seeing that the greatest men of our time are mixed up into it? [Thus] he holds with Rabbi Yitsḥaq, who said: Once a family becomes mixed up [i.e., assimilated], it remains so. Abayye said: We have learnt likewise: There was a family, Beit ha-Tserifa, in Transjordan, which Son of Tsiyyon [a person of great importance and power] forcibly expelled. There was another, which Son of Tsiyyon forcibly brought near. Such as these, Elijah will come to declare impure or pure, to distance or draw near [cf. the rabbinic saying: תִּשְׁבִּי יְתָרֵץ קֻשְׁיוֹת וְאִבַּעְיוֹת (Tishbi yetarets qushyot ve-iba’eyot), the Tishbite (i.e., Elijah) will resolve difficult questions and problems]. [Hence, only] such as these, who are known; but once a family becomes mixed up, it remains so [not even Elijah will publicize its flaw]. It was taught: There was yet another, which the Sages declined to reveal, but the Sages confided it to their children and disciples once every seven years—others say, twice every seven years. Rav Naḥman son of Yitsḥaq: Reason supports the view that it was once every seven years. Even as it was taught [in a baraita (Tosefta, Nazir 1:2)]: [If one vows,] ‘Behold, I will be a nazirite if I do not reveal the families [which are impure],’ he must be a nazirite, and not reveal the families [this shows how inadvisable and dangerous such action might be; hence once every seven years would have been enough]….
Shemu’el said on the authority of an old man: Babylon stands in the presumption of being fit, until you know how it became unfit [i.e., a Babylonian Jew is presumed to be of pure descent and fit to marry into any Jewish family, unless we definitely know the contrary]; other lands are presumed to be unfit, until you know how they are fit [as stated on 76a; the four preceding generations must be examined]. As for the land of Israel, he who has the presumption of unfitness is unfit; he who has the presumption of fitness is fit. But this is self contradictory: you say, he who has the presumption of unfitness is unfit—hence, when undetermined [i.e., there is no presumption at all about him], he is fit; then you teach, he who has the presumption of fitness is fit hence, when undetermined, he is unfit? Rav Huna son of Taḥalifa said in Rav’s name: There is no difficulty: here it is to permit him to take a wife; there it is to take the wife from him [i.e., to order him to divorce her. When one wishes to marry a woman of proved pure descent, he must prove his own fitness, if he lacks the established presumption. On the other hand, if he is married to such, he is not compelled to divorce her unless his own unfitness is established]. Rav Yosef said: He whose speech is Babylonian [i.e., anyone who speaks the Babylonian language with a Babylonian accent] is permitted to take a wife [of superior birth]. But nowadays, when there are swindlers, we fear [them].
Ze’iri was evading Rabbi Yoḥanan, who was urging him, ‘Marry my daughter’ [however, Ze’iri being a Babylonian, and Rabbi Yoḥanan being of the land of Israel, he did not wish to marry his daughter, since the Babylonians are of purer birth]. One day they were winding down the road, when they came to a pool of water. He lifted Rabbi Yoḥanan on his shoulders and carried him across. He said to him: ‘Our teaching is fit but our daughters are not fit? What is your opinion? If we say the reason is because we learned, ‘Ten different genealogical classes went up from Babylon: Priests, Levites…’ (M Qiddushin 4:1)? Is that to say all of the priests, Levites and Israelites went up? Just as some of these were left, so were some of those left [in Babylon, so that both are equal].’ [However, Rabbi Yoḥanan] overlooked what Rabbi El’azar said: Ezra did not go up from Babylon until he made it like pure sifted flour: then he went up [accordingly, the people who remained in Babylon were all of untainted lineage].
‘Ulla visited Rav Yehudah in Pumbedita. Seeing that Rav Yitsḥaq, the son of Rav Yehudah, was grown up, yet unmarried, he asked him, ‘Why have you not taken a wife for your son?’ ‘Do I know where to take one?’ he replied [i.e., ‘I desire a wife for my son with untainted lineage’]. He said, ‘What do we know? Perhaps [we are] from those of whom is written: They ravished the women in Zion, and the young women in the cities of Judah (Lamentations 5:11). And should you answer: If a heathen or slave has intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite, the issue is fit—then perhaps [we are descended] from those of whom is written, [you] that lie upon beds of ivory, and stretch yourselves upon your couches (Amos 6:4). Now, Rabbi Yose son of Rabbi Ḥanina said: This refers to people who urinate before their beds naked [since they are bereft of any sense of modesty]. But Rabbi Abbahu ridiculed this: If so, see what is written: Therefore now shall they go captive with the first that go captive, [and the banquet of them that stretched themselves shall be removed] (ibid., 7)—because they urinate before their beds naked they shall go captive with the first that go captive! Rabbi Abbahu said, But this refers to people who eat and drink together, join their beds, exchange their wives and make their beds foul with semen that is not theirs.’ Rav Yehudah said, ‘What shall we do [i.e., how can I discern which families are of untainted lineage]?’ ‘Go after the silence,’ [Ulla] replied. As the sons of the West [in the land of Israel] make a test: When two quarrel with each other, they see which becomes silent first, and say: This one is of superior birth [see BT Ketubbot 14b].
[However,] Rav said: Silence in Babylon, is [the sign of] pure birth. But is it so? For Rav visited the house of a vinegar strainer and examined them; surely that means as to their genealogy? No, by silence. He said this to them: Examine whether they become silent or not. Rav Yehudah said in Rav’s name: If you see two families [continually] feuding, there is a blemish of unfitness in one of them, and they are prevented [by Heaven] from cleaving to each other….
Our Rabbis taught: Bastards and Gibeonites will become pure in the future: this is Rabbi Yose’s view. Rabbi Me’ir said: They will not become pure. Rabbi Yose said to him: But was it not already stated: Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean (Ezekiel 36:25)? Rabbi Me’ir replied, When it says further, from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you (ibid.) [it implies] but not from bastard status. Rabbi Yose said to him: When it is said, Then will I sprinkle clean water… you must say: From bastard status too” (BT Qiddushin 71b–72b).
“‘Rabbi Yoḥanan said: There is a difference between them [concerning a person who when he is called] ‘bastard’ protests and [when he is called] חָלָל (ḥalal), profaned, is silent. The first Tanna holds [that] every person who when called ‘unfit’ is silent is [considered] unfit, and thus the first Tanna said: Which is the widow of a mixed family? When there is in it no one who is silent if he is called ‘bastard’ or ‘nethin‘ [see Ezra 2:70], or ‘slave of the king,’ or ‘profaned.’ Whereupon Rabbi Me’ir said to him: This applies only to [each of] these cases since [he who calls him so is liable to] render him unfit [to enter] into [the congregation,] but he who is called ‘profaned’ and is silent [and does not protest against the stigma attached to his descent], is fit, and the reason he is silent is that it does not trouble him [since he is not excluded from the congregation]. Whereupon Rabbi Shim’on son of El’azar said to the first Tanna of Rabbi Me’ir: If you have heard that Rabbi Me’ir declares the person fit in the case of silence, this is not when he is called ‘profaned’ and is silent, but when he is called ‘bastard’ and is silent, for the reason he is silent is because he says to himself, ‘a bastard is well-known.’ But [if he is called] ‘bastard’ and he protests, or [he is called] ‘profaned’ and is silent he is unfit [for the priesthood], for the reason he is silent is because he thinks, ‘it is enough if he is not excluded from the congregation’ [as he is not excluded from the congregation, he does not desire any investigations into his origin (Rashi)].
One baraita taught: Rabbi Yose says: [if he is called] ‘bastard’ and is silent, he is fit, and if he is called ‘profaned’ and is silent, he is unfit [for the priesthood]. And another baraita taught: [if he is called] ‘profaned’ and is silent he is fit, [but if he is called] ‘bastard’ and is silent, he is unfit. There is no difficulty; the one is according to the first Tanna in the sense of Rabbi Me’ir [who holds that silence in response to allegations of being ‘profaned’ does not render one unfit], and the other one is according to Rabbi Shim’on son of El’azar in the sense of Rabbi Me’ir” (BT Ketubbot 14b).
“Rabbah son of Son of Ḥana said in the name of Rabbi Yoḥanan: All agree that where a slave or a heathen had intercourse with a daughter of an Israelite the child is a bastard. Who is meant by ‘All agree’? Shim’on the Temanite. For although Shim’on the Temanite said that the offspring of forbidden intercourse under the penalty of flogging is not a bastard, his statement applies only to the offspring of forbidden intercourse under the penalty of flogging, since the betrothal in such a case is valid [cf. BT Yevamot 23a] but here, in the case of a heathen and a slave, since betrothal in their case is invalid [see BT Qiddushin 68b], they are like those whose intercourse is subject to the penalty of כָּרֵת (karet), excommunication [lit., cutting off].
An objection was raised: If a slave or a heathen had intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite the child is a bastard. Rabbi Shim’on son of Yehudah said: A bastard is only he who [is the offspring of intercourse which] is forbidden as incest and is punishable by excommunication [now this Tanna, whose view is exactly the same as that of Shim’on the Temanite, indicates quite clearly that the offspring of intercourse with a heathen or slave is not a bastard!]—rather, Rabbi Yosef said, who [is referred to by] ‘All agree’? It is Rabbi [Yehudah ha-Nasi]. Although Rabbi said, ‘[Cohabitation with a deceased brother’s wife after חֲלִיצָה (ḥalitsah), Loosening, with her rival has not the force of marriage and no divorce is required. The child from such intercourse would consequently be deemed a bastard] these words are applicable only according to the view of Rabbi Akiva who regards a חֲלוּצָה (ḥalutsah), released woman, as a forbidden relative’ [see BT Yevamot 52b], while he himself does not share the same view [but maintains that the child of such intercourse is no bastard], he agrees [with Rabbi Akiva; and the child is consequently a bastard] in the case of a heathen and a slave. For when Rav Dimi came [from the land of Israel to Babylon] he said in the name of Rav Yitsḥaq son of Avudimi in the name of our Master, ‘If a heathen or a slave had intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite the child [born from such intercourse] is a bastard.’
Rabbi Aḥa, the officer of the city, and Rabbi Tanḥum son of Rabbi Ḥiyya of Akko village once redeemed some captives who were brought from Armon to Tiberias, [among these] was one who had become pregnant from a heathen. When they came before Rabbi Ammi he told them: It was Rabbi Yoḥanan and Rabbi El’azar and Rabbi Ḥanina who stated that if a heathen or a slave had intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite the child born is a bastard.
Rabbi Yosef said: Is it a great thing to enumerate men? [i.e., just as a string of names could be quoted in support of the view that the child is a bastard, an equally imposing number could be quoted in opposition]. Surely it was Rav and Shemu’el in Babylon and Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi and Son of Qappara in the land of Israel—and some say to remove Son of Qappara and insert the Elders of the South—who said that if a heathen or a slave had intercourse with a daughter of an Israelite, the child born is fit! Rather, Rabbi Yosef said, it is [the opinion of] Rabbi [and it is Rabbi’s fame and position, and not the number of comparatively minor authorities that imparted the force of law to this view]. For when Rav Dimi came he said in the name of Rav Yitsḥaq son of Avudimi that it was reported in the name of our Masters that if a heathen or a slave had intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite the child [born from such intercourse] is a bastard.
Rabbi Yehoshu’a son of Levi said: The child is tainted. In respect of what? If it be suggested in respect of entry into the community, surely Rabbi Yehoshua son of Levi said that the child was fit! Then it must be in respect of the priesthood; for all Amoraim who declare the child fit admit that he is ineligible for the priesthood. This is inferred by deduction from the case of a widow a fortiori. If in the case of a widow who was married to a High priest, whose prohibition is not equally applicable to all, her son is tainted, how much more should the son of this woman be tainted whose prohibition is equally applicable to all [since the daughters of priests, of Levites and of Israelites are all equally forbidden to marry a heathen or a slave]. The case of a widow who was married to a High Priest may be different, since she herself becomes profaned! Here also, as soon as cohabitation occurred the woman is disqualified; for Rabbi Yoḥanan stated in the name of Rabbi Shim’on [alt., Rabbi Yishma’el]: From where is it inferred that if a heathen or a slave had intercourse with the daughter of a priest, of a Levite or of an Israelite, he disqualified her? [From eating sacred donations if she is the daughter of a priest. If the daughter of a Levite or an Israelite who was married to a priest and left with children after her husband’s death, she loses her right to the eating of sacred donations (to which she was entitled by virtue of her children) and, of course, becomes ineligible to marry a priest, as soon as intercourse with the heathen or slave had taken place]. It was stated And should a priest’s daughter be married to an outsider, [she shall not eat of the levy of the sacred donations] (Leviticus 22:13); Only in the case of a man in relation to whom widowhood or divorce is applicable; a heathen and a slave are consequently excluded since in relation to them no widowhood or divorce is applicable.
Abayye said to him: What reason do you see for relying upon Rav Dimi? Rely rather on Ravin! For when Ravin came [from the land of Israel to Babylon] he reported that Rabbi Natan and Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi ruled that such a child is fit; and Rabbi Yehudah ha-Nasi is, of course, Rabbi!
And Rav also ruled that the child is legitimate. For once a man appeared before Rav and asked him, ‘A heathen or a slave had intercourse with the daughter of an Israelite—what is he?’ He said: ‘The child is fit.’ He said, ‘[Then] give me your daughter.’ ‘I will not give [her] to you.’ Shimi son of Ḥiyya said to Rav, ‘People say that in Media [i.e., in foreign lands where wonders occur,] a camel can dance on a [mere] qav; here is the qav, here is the camel and here is Media, but there is no dancing!’ [i.e., Rav had displayed originality and marvelous courage by his ruling, and yet stops short of carrying it into practice]. ‘Had he been equal to Joshua son of Nun I would not have given him my daughter,’ the Master replied. He said, ‘Had he been like Joshua son of Nun others would have given him their daughters, if the Master had not given him his; but with this man, if the Master will not give him, others also will not give him’ [since they would regard the Master’s refusal as an indication that the man is actually unfit]. He would not go away, [thus Rav] fixed his eyes upon him and he died” (BT Yevamot 44b–45b).
“Our Rabbis taught: Let a man always sell all he has and marry the daughter of a disciple of a sage. If he does not find the daughter of a disciple of a sage, let him marry the daughter of [one of] the great men of the generation. If he does not find the daughter of [one of] the great men of the generation, let him marry the daughter of the head of the congregation. If he does not find the daughter of the head of congregation, let him marry the daughter of a charity treasurer. If he does not find the daughter of a charity treasurer, let him marry the daughter of a schoolteacher, but let him not marry the daughter of עַם הָאָרֶץ (‘am ha-arets), people of the land [i.e., ignorant country folk], because they are detestable and their wives are vermin, and of their daughters it is said, Cursed be he who lies with any beast (Deuteronomy 27:21)….
Rabbi El’azar said [of the] ignorant country folk: It is permitted to stab him [even] on the Day of Atonement which falls on the Sabbath. His disciples said to him, Master, say to slaughter him [ritually]? He replied: This [ritual slaughter] requires a blessing, whereas that [stabbing] does not require a blessing. Rabbi El’azar said: One must not join company with ignorant country folk on the road, because it is said, for it [Torah] is your life and your length of days (Deuteronomy 30:20): [seeing that] he has no care for his own life [in that he forsakes Torah], how much the more for the life of his companions! Rabbi Shemu’el son of Naḥmani said in Rabbi Yoḥanan’s name: One may tear ignorant country folk like a fish! Said Rabbi Shemu’el son of Yitsḥaq: And [this means] along his back.
It was taught, Rabbi Akiva said: When I was of the ignorant country folk I said: If I only had a disciple of a sage [before me], and I would maul him like a donkey. His disciples said to him, Rabbi, say like a dog! The former bites and breaks the bones, while the latter bites but does not break the bones, he answered them.
It was taught, Rabbi Me’ir used to say: Whoever marries his daughter to ignorant country folk, is as though he bound and laid her before a lion: just as a lion tears [his prey] and devours it and has no shame, so ignorant country folk strike and cohabit and have no shame.
It was taught, Rabbi Eli’ezer said: Only that we are necessary to them for trade, [otherwise] they would kill us! Rabbi Ḥiyya taught: Whoever delves in Torah in front of ignorant country folk, is as though he coupled with his betrothed in his presence [so great is the affront which they feel when Torah is studied in their presence (Rashi)], for it is said, A teaching did Moses charge us, a heritage for Jacob’s assembly! (Deuteronomy 33:4): do not read מוֹרָשָׁה (morashah), heritage, but מְאוֹרָסָה (me’orasah), the betrothed.
Greater is the hatred of ignorant country folk for the disciples of the Sages than the hatred of heathens for Israel, and their wives [hate even] more than they. It was taught: He who has studied and then abandoned [Torah] [hates the disciples of the Sages] more than all of them. Our Rabbis taught: Six things were said of ignorant country folk: We do not commit testimony to them; we do not accept testimony from them; we do not reveal a secret to them; we do not appoint them as guardians for orphans; we do not appoint them stewards over charity funds; and we must not join their company on the road. Some say, We do not announce their lost articles [he who finds lost property is obligated to announce it; if the owner is of the ignorant country folk, he is not obligated to announce it]. But the first Tanna [why does he omit this]? Virtuous seed may sometimes issue from him, and they will enjoy it, as is said, What the wicked will prepare, the righteous will wear (Job 27:17)” (BT Pesaḥim 49b).
“For Rabbi Abba has said, ‘How many wicked there are in the world who engender more virtuous children than the righteous!’” (Zohar 2:12b).