Over Shabbat, I read through pages 70-71 in Tractate Kiddushin.
I got to that Tractate from the MAHARASH’s responsa about the MAHARAL’s lineage.
First, I will bring the screenshots from that below (the highlighted area is where he specifically refers to the MAHARAL):
My husband translated this with me, and the MAHARSHAL refers extensively to pages 70-71 in Tractate Kiddushin in his very interesting responsa.
The Gemara begins by telling us:
Ten genealogical classes went up from Bablyonia to Eretz Yisrael: Kohanim, Leviim, Yisraelim, chalalim (disqualified Kohanim), converts, freed Caananite slaves, mamzerim, nesinim, shetukim and asufim.
The Gemara then gets into a whole big discussion about what a big, genealogical mess the whole thing is already (1800 years ago…).
Already back then, there were so many Kohanim who’d married goyim and ‘forbidden’ women without anyone knowing; and there were so many slaves who didn’t follow the proper procedure for being freed (which would render them as halachically Jewish converts) before marrying a Jew; and there were mamzerim walking around all over the place, due to adulterous affairs.
This is where the MAHARSHA starts quoting from, in his responsa.
Here’s some of what he says, taken directly from the Gemara in Kiddushin, 70b, with some ‘extra’ bits from the Gemara included for context.
R’ Chama the son of R’ Chanina said: When the Holy One, Blessed is He, rests His Divine Presence, He rests it only on the genealogically fit families in Israel….
[Another saying from R’ Chama the son of R’ Chanina:]
When the Holy One, Blessed is He, will purify the tribes in the Messianic era, by separating the genealogically tainted from the genealogically pure, He will purify the tribe of Levi first….
[FOOTNOTE 3: “[T]he sons of Levi” is a reference to the Kohanim, who are descended from Levi.]
R’ Yehoshua ben Levi said: Silver (i.e. wealth) purifies mamzerim, as it is said: And he shall sit [as] a refiner and purifier of silver, i.e. he shall purify mamzerim who mixed with Israel as a result of their ‘silver’.
Mamzerim that have gained acceptance into the legitimate congregation of Israel (e.g. through the use of their wealth) will not be isolated in the Messianic era….
[FOOTNOTE 4: According to R’ Yehoshua ben Levi, mamzerim will not be separated from the congregation of Israel, because too many families have been infiltrated by mamzerim.
When the verse says, He shall purify, it does not mean that the impurities will be removed; rather it means that the impurities themselves will be purified. (Rashi, see note 14 etc).]
The MAHARSHAL then quotes this next bit of the Gemara, in his responsa above:
R’ Yitzhak said: The Holy One, Blessed is He, performs and act of charity with Israel, in that once a genealogically tainted family (e.g a family into which a mamzer has married) is mixed with Israel, it is mixed.
Even in the Messianic era, the disqualified members of such a family will not be isolated.
Later on, there’s a story about R’ Pinchas, who made an announcement in the yeshiva in Babylon about ‘Eretz Yisrael’s genealogical status’ being inferior to that of Babylon’s.
FOOTNOTE 10 explains: “He anticipated that he would have to leave immediately after making this statement, because otherwise the students would demand that he corroborate his words by disclosing the identities of the disqualified families in Eretz Yisrael.”
The Gemara continues:
The students attempted to ascertain whether R’ Pinchas teaching was correct:
They sat and investigated the families of the Land of Israel, until the came to danger, and then they refrained from investigating further.
FOOTNOTE 12: “Their research led them to discover the disqualification of certain powerful families who would kill them [if their impurities were revealed] (Rashi).”
It’s very interesting that this is the page being cited by the MAHARSHAL, in relation to what was actually going on 500 years ago in the Jewish community.
Whoever understands, understands.
Let’s finish with one more story from the Gemara, in Kiddushin 71b, then we’ll sum up what we just learnt together.
Rav Ulla comes to visit Rav Yehuda in Pumbedita, and he sees that his son, Rav Yitzhak, is still unmarried, so he asks Rav Yehuda:
“What’s going on? Why haven’t you married your son off?” Rav Yehuda replies: “Who knows where I can find a genealogically fit wife for him?!”
Rav Ulla says to him: “Do we know where we come from?”
And then starts listing a whole bunch of verses stating how idolaters ravished Jewish women in the town of Judea in Biblical times; and talking about Jews who ‘defile their couches’, which R’ Abahu explains as referring to wife-swapping.
“Since our predecessors engaged in this type of adulterous activity, no-one can assume that he is genealogically fit!” says R’ Ulla.
So then, Rav Yehuda asks him, “So what do we do?” Ulla answered him: “Go after silence, i.e. seek a family whose members are quiet and peaceable…
[In Eretz Yisrael] they use the following method to investigate someone’s lineage:
“When two people would quarrel with each other, they would see which one is the first to quiet down, and then they would say, ‘that person is genealogically purer than the other.”
So, here’s the main takeaway points from Kiddushin 70a-72b:
Even 1800 years ago, there were so many forbidden and / or adulterous unions going on in the Jewish community, that even the head of the Torah Academy in Pumbedita was having trouble finding a ‘genealogically fit’ wife for his son.
- Adulterous affairs and immoral behavior have been going on for so long, not even the most illustrious Jew today can be 100% sure that some ancestor of theirs didn’t put a massive spanner in their genealogical works.
- It behooves us all to act with a little humility, and to stop thinking that ‘great yichus’ excuses terrible middot and evil actions.
When Moshiach shows up, he will declare everyone pure.
- The exception to this is those people who pushed their way into the Jewish community ‘by force’, i.e. they never intended to convert sincerely, or to serve Hashem, they just wanted the status, money or other perks of technically being part of the Jewish community. Elijah the Prophet will push these people away.
The way you can tell how ‘genealogically pure’ someone is, is by checking their middot and temperament.
- If they are angry, argumentative, brazen, obsessed with their own honor, always have to be right, and can never back down, make peace and apologise – then they probably aren’t so ‘fit’, Jewishly-speaking.
The more calm, conciliatory, peaceable and kind a person is, the more genealogically ‘fit’ they probably are.
There is so much more to say, as always, about how the ‘Kohanim’, dafka, are prominently in the middle of all these stories of mamzerim and unsuitable converts who ‘push their way in’ to the Jewish community, and use their money and government influence to stop anyone challenging them.
We covered some of those links already, like in this post, for example:
And also remember those missionary Elks, who claimed to be Kohanim?
Screenshot from HERE:
I was at the Israel Museum last week, looking at the sarcophagii that were found in Talpiyot, that many people claim are of ‘Jesus son of Joseph‘ and his family.
It was found in a family tomb of Kohanim.
And that ties in with the claim that the early xtians themselves make Yoshki’s brother and first ‘Bishop of Jerusalem’, James, that he was some sort of alternative ‘High Priest’ – i.e. a Kohen.
And we know from our own sources, that Yoshki was a mamzer, and that everyone in the community apparently knew that.
All this stuff is very deeply connected to what is still going on in our communities today.
There is nothing new under the sun.
So, tachlis, we come back around to this:
Instead of focussing on yichus and external ‘status’, the discussion needs to be 100% on middot.
People with beards and payot – even Rebbes with beards and payot, even ‘modern orthodox’ Tzaddikim from RIETS – are doing unspeakable things in our communities, and enabling and excusing behavior that can only be called ‘pure evil’.
Any time that happens, there is a problem that needs to be addressed, not dodged or ‘shut down’ with personal insults against the people who are questioning what is going on, and trying to stop this evil from continuing.
At this stage, it seems nearly all of us probably come from ‘genealogically tainted’ families, one way or another, and Moshiach is going to resolve that issue, when he finally shows up.
But our part is to work on our middot.
And there are no shortcuts in that process, whoever you happen to be related to.
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