Yevamos 120a: Washing Meat to Extend the Salting Deadline

Yevamos 120a: One may not testify that a man is dead unless he saw him within three days of death, but if he saw him later, his appearance may have changed and the witness could mistake his identity.

Rav Dimi permitted the wife of a man who drowned in Karmi and was pulled out of the water more than three days later. Rava permitted the wife of a man who drowned in the Tigris and was pulled out onto the bridge five days later. The reason is because water tightens up the body.

The Aruch Hashulchan 69:72 says that this is proof to the rule of the Gaonim, brought in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah 69:12, that one may not rely on salting to remove the blood from meat after three days, because the blood dries up inside the body (causing the face to be disfigured) and cannot be removed by the salt. Thus if the meat was soaked within the first three days, it can be salted even after three days, similar to the man who fell into the river whose blood and appearance is kept fresh by the water.

יבמות קכ ע”א: אין מעידין אלא עד ג׳ ימיםֹ. ופירש רש”י אם ראוהו בתוך ג׳ ימים למיתתו מעידין עליו אבל אם לא ראוהו עד לאחר ג׳ ימים חיישינן שמא נשתנו מראית פניו ואין זה שהם סבורים.

שם קכא ע”א: דההוא גברא דטבע בכרמי, ואסקוהו אבי הדיא לבתר תלתא יומין, ואנסבה רב דימי מנהרדעא לדביתהוֹ ותו, ההוא גברא דאטבע בדגלת ואסקוהו אגישרא דשביסתנא, ואנסבה רבא לדביתהו אפומא דשושביני לבתר חמשה יומיֹ וכו’ שאני מיא, דצמתי.

שו”ע יו”ד סט,יב: בשר ששהה ג׳ ימים מעת לעת בלא מליחה נתייבש דמו בתוכו ולא יצא עוד ע״י מליחה ואין לאכלו מבושל אלא צלי וכו’.  

שם סעיף יג: ואם שרו אותו במים תוך הג׳ ימים יכול להשהותו עוד שלשה ימים אחרים פחות חצי שעה.

Rabbi Yirmiyohu Kaganoff served as a rav in Buffalo, New York. One short erev Shabbos, there was a severe blizzard across a large part of the country; the major interstate highways and all state routes were closed. About half an hour before Shabbos, the telephone rang.  “Rabbi Kaganoff, I was given your phone number in case of emergency,” said the woman on the other end. “I am a dispatcher for the All-American Transport Company. We have a load of kosher meat held up by the storm that needs to be washed by Saturday night.” Rabbi Kaganoff asked her if she knew the last time the meat was washed. “It was last washed 11 p.m. Wednesday and needs re-washing by 11 p.m. Saturday.”

He politely asked if she could call him back in about 25 hours, which would still be several hours before the meat’s deadline.

Right after Shabbos, the telephone rang again. A different, unfamiliar voice identified itself as the driver of the stuck truck. His vehicle was exactly where it had been Friday afternoon, stranded not far from the main highway.

Rabbi Kaganoff said he would make some phone calls and get back to him. But he could find no mashgiach in the vicinity of Nebraska who was able to go and supervise the washing of the meat. With no good news to tell the trucker, he procrastinated on calling him back.

An hour later, the phone rang again, with the trucker on the line. “Rabbi,” he said, with obvious excitement in his voice, “I’ve solved the problem. I discovered that I was stranded a few thousand feet from a fire station. And now, all the meat has been properly hosed. Listen to this letter:

“On Saturday evening, the 22nd of January, at exactly 9:25 pm, I personally oversaw the successful washing of a kosher load of meat on trailer 186CX and tractor 2008PR. To this declaration, I do solemnly lend my signature and seal,

James P. O’Donald, Fire Chief, Lincoln Fire Station #2.”

Probably noticing Rabbi Kaganoff’s momentary hesitation, the trucker continued, “Rabbi, do I need to have this letter notarized?”

“No, I am sure that won’t be necessary,” he replied. He was not about to tell the driver that halachah requires that a Torah observant Jew supervise the washing of the meat. On the contrary, he complimented him on his diligence and his tremendous sense of responsibility.

Now it was Rabbi Kaganoff who had a responsibility on his hands: Since he knew the meat’s ultimate destination, he needed to inform the rabbi of that town of the situation so that he could reach a decision.

The rabbi of that town consulted with a posek who reasoned that since the truck had been stuck in a major blizzard, unquestionably the meat had been frozen solid, and that they could rely on this to kasher the meat after it thawed out.

Although the Pri Megadim and others do not allow extending the 3-day deadline by freezing, the Aruch Hashulchan and others disagree, and R’ Moshe Feinstein relied on it in extenuating circumstances. (Igros Moshe YD 1:27, 2:21)


[We see here that the kashrus supervisors in this meat plant allowed two leniencies: 1) They allowed extending the 3-day deadline further by washing the meat a second time – the Yad Efraim is uncertain whether this works. 2) They allowed simply hosing down the meat, as opposed to soaking it, and thus they would have relied on the fire hose if not for the fact that it was done without Jewish supervision. The Taz says it must actually be soaked, and the Yad Avraham allows rinsing only in cases when the veins in the meat were already removed. Evidently, the kashrus supervisors in this story relied on the Yad Efraim, who says that one should not be lenient and rinse the meat if it is possible to soak it, implying that if there is no other way, it may be rinsed.]  


Yevamos 121a: Agunah from a Plane Crash

Yevamos 121a: If a man fell into a body of water whose shore can be seen, his wife is permitted to remarry. If the shore cannot be seen, she is forbidden.

יבמות קכא. מים שיש להם סוף אשתו מותרת ושאין להם סוף אשתו אסורה.

Shlomo Anidjar was one of the most respected members of the Chabad community in the French city of Boulogne-Billancourt (a suburb of Paris). At 10:00 PM on June 1, 2009 he was one of the 228 passengers aboard an Air France flight that went missing over the Atlantic Ocean. The Airbus A330-200 plane was last heard from about four hours after taking off from Rio de Janeiro en route to Paris.

Anidjar was 40 years old, and left a wife and 3 children.

The Jewish community planned a memorial ceremony in Paris’s Great Synagogue. Anidjar’s children asked to recite Kaddish for their father, and began sitting shivah together with their mother.

France’s rabbis objected to these signs of mourning expressed soon after the plane went missing, even before the plane’s debris or passengers’ bodies were recovered, and threatened to boycott the ceremony. The rabbis expressed their fear that taking part in the memorial would be perceived as a rabbinical approval that the woman was a widow, while she was in fact considered an agunah.

On June 2, at 3:20 in the afternoon, a Brazilian Air Force jet spotted wreckage and signs of oil, possibly jet fuel, strewn along a 3 mile band 400 miles northeast of Fernando de Noronha Island, near the Saint Peter and Saint Paul Archipelago. The sighted wreckage included an aircraft seat, an orange buoy, a barrel, white pieces and electrical conductors. Later more wreckage and some bodies were discovered.

Following the disagreement, Rabbi Yirmiyahu Menachem Cohen, a senior member of the Rabbinical Center of Europe, decided to convene the beis din of Paris to discuss the matter.

The beis din ruled that before sitting shivah, the family should have ensured that the chances of finding survivors were down to zero, but that now that the wreckage had been discovered, they could continue sitting.

The beis din based its ruling on the initial opinion of aviation experts, who ruled that the plane had exploded in the air, based on the radius where the plane’s debris was found.

The halachic ruling also relied on a response written in the past by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef (Yabia Omer v. 6, Even Haezer 4) in regard to a combat pilot whose plane was hit by a missile and fell into the sea. Rabbi Yosef had said at the time that the explosion of a plane and drowning in the sea were two scenarios from which a person could scarcely escape alive, and that joined together, there was a halachic foundation to release the wife from her agunah status.

Rav Ovadia quotes the Beis Yaakov (9), by the Gaon of Zazmir, who argues that we find similar logic in Kesubos 15a. When a girl was violated in a city in which most people are of good lineage, the Torah would permit her to a kohein, but מעלה עשו ביוחסין – Chazal made an extra stringency and required two majorities: the majority of the city and the majority of the travelers. The two majorities operate similarly to a  ספק ספיקאin which each question has a majority pointing toward leniency – if the man came from the city, chances are he was of good lineage, and even if he was one of the travelers, chances are he was of good lineage.

The Beis Yaakov uses this as a model for the stringency we are discussing – the man who falls into a large body of water where the shore cannot be seen, which is also only a Rabbinic restriction (as evident from the fact that bedieved, if the woman remarried, she is permitted to stay married – Even Hoezer 17:32). Therefore, argues the Beis Yaakov, if there were two majorities – for example, if a man who was very ill and close to death fell into water – his wife is permitted, because probably he died from the illness, and even if not, he probably drowned. Here too, said Rav Ovadia, probably the pilot was killed when his plane exploded, and even if not, he probably drowned in the sea.


Yevamos 90b: The Miraculous Power of Learning Torah

Yevamos 90b: One may listen to a Navi even if he tells you to transgress a mitzvah in the Torah, like Eliyahu on Mount Carmel. This proves that the Sages have the power to permit a sin! – There is it different because the Torah says, “To him you shall listen.” But why not generalize from there? – There it was different because Eliyahu needed to stand up against the sin [of idolatry].

Tosafos: How could we have learned it out from a Navi? Maybe a Navi is different because Hashem told him to do it. The Ri answers: to permit the sin, prophecy would not help. He is only using his prophecy to know that the plan will be effective – in Eliyahu’s case, that fire would come down from the sky on the mizbeach.  

יבמות צ ע”ב: ת״ש: (דברים י״ח) אליו תשמעון ־ אפילו אומר לך עבור על אחת מכל מצות שבתורה, כגון אליהו בהר הכרמל, הכל לפי שעה שמע לוִ שאני התם, דכתיב: אליו תשמעון. וליגמר מיניהִ! – מיגדר מילתא שאני.

תוס’ ד”ה וליגמר מיניה. וא״ת שאני התם דעל פי הדבור היה מתנבא לעבור והיכי נגמר מיניה לעבור משום תקנתא דרבנן שלא על פי הדבור ונראה דכיון דעל פי הדבור שרי משום צורך שעה הוא הדין שלא על פי הדבור שהרי אין נביא רשאי לחדש דבר מעתה וכו’ ואר״י משום דאיתחזק בנביאות היו סומכים עליו במה שהיה מבטיח בירידת אש ושוחטים על הבטחתו קדשים בחוץ שבזכותו ותפלתו תרד אש מן השמים ויהיה מיגדר מילתא שיתקדש שמו של הקב״ה ברבים וע״י כך יחזרו ישראל למוטב.

When Rabbi Shmuel Berenbaum, the Mirrer rosh yeshiva, was sitting shiva for his son R’ Leibel, people told him stories about miraculous recoveries and yeshuos people had experienced through R’ Leibel’s brachos and tefillos. Reb Shmuel listened the entire time quietly. Someone pressed him to express his opinion on such things, and he said, “Nu, he learned so much Torah – it could be true.”

R’ Yosef Simcha Klein, his grandson-in-law, noted that the same was true of Reb Shmuel himself: When he was niftar, many people came during shiva and told stories about how every blessing and promise he gave had come true.

The source for the idea that learning Torah enables one to perform miracles is the Tzidkas Hatzadik (72), who says that Moshe Rabbeinu performed his miracles through learning Torah. (This could be based on the Pesikta brought in the Yalkut on Parshas Chukas, which says that when Hashem told Moshe to speak to the rock, He meant that Moshe should teach Torah in front of the rock, and it would give water – see Emek Hanetziv, Matos 5.) The Tzidkas Hatzadik also says that Eliyahu performed the miracle of bringing down fire from heaven through the power of the chiddush in halacha that he was mechadesh to permit offering a korban outside the Beis Hamikdash.

R’ Yosef Simcha adds that there were two other reasons why Reb Shmuel’s words came true. The first was he felt the pain of others exactly like his own. The Shem Mishmuel relates (Beshalach p. 206) that his father, the Avnei Nezer, once told him, “Anyone can save his friend through his prayer, but only if his friend’s pain touches him to the depths of his heart. This is not easy and only someone on a high spiritual level can fulfill this condition.”

The second was that he was careful with his speech. As R’ Elchonon writes (Kovetz Shiurim Kesubos 208, on daf 62b), we find stories in the Gemara where someone died because a tzaddik suggested that they might be dead, כשגגה שיוצא מלפני השליט. Normally, Hashem fulfills the blessings or curses of a tzaddik because “He does the will of those who fear Him” but in these cases it was not the tzaddik’s will at all. Rather, it is because the speech of someone who guards his tongue is like a sharp axe, which can cut even accidentally. By the same token, his blessings are fulfilled. But when someone does not guard his speech, it is like a dirty and rusty blade that cannot cut.


Yevamos 63a: Babe Ruth and the Jewish Question

Yevamos 63a: What is the meaning of the verse, “All the families of the earth will be blessed in you”? Even the families that live in the earth are only blessed for the sake of Israel. “All the nations of the earth [will be blessed for his sake]” – even the ships traveling from Gaul to Spain are only blessed for the sake of Israel.

ואמר ר׳ אלעזר, מאי דכתיב: (בראשית י״ב) ונברכו בך כל משפחות האדמה וכו’ אפילו משפחות הדרות באדמה, אין מתברכות אלא בשביל ישראלֹ (בראשית י״ח) כל גויי הארץ ־ אפילו ספינות הבאות מגליא לאספמיא, אינן מתברכות אלא בשביל ישראל.

A little Jewish boy on the East Side of New York came home from school and with great excitement told his grandfather, “Grandpa! Imagine! Babe Ruth hit three homers today!”

“Tell me,” asked the old man, “what this Babe Ruth did – is it good for the Jews?”

The above joke appeared in “A Treasury of Jewish Folklore,” published in 1948 by Nathan Ausubel, p. 426. Little did whoever cracked the joke know how much truth lay in it.

On March 16, 2013, speaking at a melaveh malka for K’hal Shaarei Shalom of Nostrand and Avenue P, Rabbi Avrohom Daniel Ginsberg, rosh kollel of Bais Medrash of Flatbush, told the following story. R’ Chatzkel Levenstein and the Mirrer Yeshiva arrived in Brooklyn shortly after WWII. In the summer of 1948, the great baseball star Babe Ruth died, and approximately 80,000 people participated in his funeral. R’ Chatzkel came into the beis medrash then, gave a klop, and remarked about the sadness, the atzvus, that had descended upon the populace with the death of the baseball hero, which puzzled him. He was bewildered by the veneration for a mere ball player. Rav Ginsburg humorously described how people tried to explain to the great European baal mussar, R’ Chatzkel, in Yiddish, the American national pastime of baseball, and the greatness of Babe Ruth. Their efforts were in vain, however, as R’ Chatzkel remained baffled as to how Ruth’s athletic feats, great as they were, had earned him such veneration. According to R’ Shlomo Brevda, who was one of the Americans present then along with R’ Refoel Green, that experience, along with its accompanying feeling of dissonance, was an impetus for R’ Chatzkel ultimately deciding to leave America and move to Eretz Yisroel, where he subsequently served as mashgiach of the Mirrer Yeshiva and Ponevezh in Bnei Brak until his passing, approximately 25 years later.

Perhaps, then, the home runs hit by Babe Ruth helped build two of the greatest yeshivas in the world!