Sunday, August 10, 2008

Guest post: The Romantic Halacha

Eliezer, alias The Almighty Editor, sent me the following:

Due to my great affinity for sin, I could not find a better way to pass Tisha B'Av than to read a Shu"t Tashbetz, specifically responsum 9 of volume 3. As the Code of Jewish Law cautions, reading the "Torah of the Lord" did in fact "gladden [my] soul" and dislodge some of the mourning for the horrible destruction. So that you can guiltlessly enjoy the same pleasure, I have translated the responsum for your post-fast reading. The translation is as literal as possible. I know this may make it difficult to read, but I could not deprive you of any of the rabbis' eloquence.

There was a story here in Algeria. One bochur from the Isles of Sardinia named Yehuda bar Yitzchak made a shidduch with a maiden from Algeria named Balanka bas R' Yitzchak the Levite his soul is in Eden. The said maiden is under the guardianship of her mother and her mother's husband. After a while, the said maiden refused to marry the said bochur, and she engaged herself to a different bochur whose name is Karshkash Avram (sic.) who lives today in said Algeria. A month after the said Karshkash got engaged, the said Karshkash wanted to betroth the said Balanka. And when the said Yehuda heard that the intention of the said maiden Balanka is to become betrothed and married to the said bochur Karshkash, Yehuda called most of the members of our community, may their Rock guard them and bless them, to the synagogue and there he publicly publicized that the said maiden Balanka ought to guard herself not to accept betrothal [money] from the said bochur Karshkash, for she is already betrothed to the said Yehuda. Our opinion, and the opinion of most of our community is the said Yehuda did this out of his great wrath toward the said maiden for her refusal to marry him, for he distanced his witnesses, the witnesses of the betrothal, and said that in front of two German (Ashkenazi) guests that passed by here two years before this dispute did he betroth her. And one who wishes to lie will distance his witnesses. What did the said Karshkash do? He went to one house of this city where the said maiden Balanka and her mother were, and there he betrothed her in front of two kosher witnesses. After all these things, there was a quarrel between the two said bochurim over the said maiden and they went before the royal courts and each brought his case before the said courts. And then the courts ordered the trustees of our community, may their Rock guard them, that they should choose wise and discerning men from among those that find themselves in our community and they shall have the authority to judge this dispute according to laws of Israel. And they chose three judges1 for this, and they accepted the claims of each of the above mentioned [bochurim] and the claims of said Balanka, who said that she never accepted betrothal [money] from the said Yehuda, only from the hand of the said bochur Karshkash; and they accepted the testimony of the witnesses who testified that the said Karshkash betrothed the said maiden Balanka in front of her mother and in accordance with her will as was written at length in the court records that were made by the president of the court1. And after the court heard the claims of the above-mentioned, and they wanted to remove fights, disputes, and quarrels from among the above-mentioned, they established their legal ruling: the said Balanka is to be divorced from both young men2 and she shall remain free of either of them and she shall go and marry whomever she pleases. According to what is heard among the members of our community, may their Rock guard them and bless them, from the mouths of the women, that the intention of the said maiden and the intention of her mother was that in a few days the said maiden Balanka would go and marry the said bochur Karshkash. What did the said Yehuda do with some of his cohorts3? They surrounded with the royal courts that Yehuda and the said Karshkash shall accept upon themselves with a severe oath with the power of a ban that neither of them will be able to betroth and marry the said maiden all their days forever4. And the said Yehuda, as he knew that the said maiden Balanka did not want him at all, said that he will swear that he will not marry her all his days forever--but with this [stipulation]: that the bochur Karshkash should swear like him. Then the said Karshkash said that he will not swear under any circumstances5. According to our understanding, for this reason did the said Karshkash refuse to swear: for he loved the said maiden Balanka very much and she also loves him. After this, one individual went to [the said Karshkash's father] Nevdam Karshkash and to his son, the said Karshkash, that at least the said Karshkash should accept upon himself the said oath. For if the said Karshkash does not want [to swear], the intention of the master the parnes6 is to put Karshkash in jail and to torture him with iron chains and to punish him monetarily. And due to their great fear of these things, as [people] forced to save their money, the said Nevdam agreed to coerce his said son to accept upon himself the oath with the power of a ban that he will not marry all his days forever the said maiden. And so did the said bochur do, as one forced to fulfill the will of his father: the said Karshkash swore the said oath. According to what he says now, he did not swear with complete will. But at the time of the swearing, he admitted in front of witnesses at the said oath[-swearing ceremony] that he swears with a full heart and with a desiring soul. And the said bochur Yehuda also swore this oath and he accepted upon himself with the power of a ban that he would not marry all his days forever the said maiden. And eight days after the said Yehuda accepted upon himself the said oath, he married a woman, from the members of our community, may their Rock guard them and bless them. And after this a rumor went out among the members of our community that the said Karshkash says that the oath and the ban that he had accepted upon himself not to marry the said maiden Balanka, (he says that the oath and the ban which he swore7) was under duress and that there is no place for such an oath. And these words reached the master the parnes. When the master the parnes heard that love of the said bochur Karshkash for the maiden Balanka is great, and that Balanka too is very desirous to marry the said bochur Karshkash, the master the parnes ordered us ח"מ8 to annul this oath for the said bochur Karshkash, so that the said Karshkash can betroth and marry the said maiden Balanka. And we, the ח"מ, when we saw that the dispute has proliferated among the members of our community concerning this over the past year, we accepted upon ourselves not to permit and not to forbid; and we told the master the parnes that this matter requires wise men greater than we. And then the master the parnes commanded us ח"מ, in the authority of our master the king Dargon, long may he reign with a fine of 100 flowers of Dargon to testify the rule which arises from the said matters with our signatures9 and it shall be placed before those who instruct instructions in Israel. And they have with great kindness written their opinions with their honorable signatures clearly explained concerning the said oath9. And we, the undersigned, as ordered by the master the parnes to testify the principle of the matter, have truthfully written the story as it occurred. With trustworthy testimony we have signed our names here seventeen days in the month of Kislev the year five thousand one hundred eighty six to the creation of the world [1426 CE].

[Signed,] Ishtaruk Baruch the Levite; Samuel bar Raphael

The recipient of the above letter, without any flowery salutations, writes that Karshkash's oath is not binding, but if Karshkash is an NRF suffering from OCD, he can have the oath annulled by three laymen, and marry Balanka with a clear conscience. The rabbi then concludes as follows (bear in mind that in Hebrew the following paragraph has a rhythm which got lost in translation):

For the sake of [preserving] the ways of peace, and to banish wars and calling out "it is partiality!"10 between a man and his brother and between his litigant who binds words upon him1

And to carry out the words of the askers, their oil is pure olive oil on the head of the proclamation1

And at the top of the olive tree everyone crushes1 &9

I have gone out from the position of humility to speak in the place of the great ones and to boast as one who opens a war belt while still girding11

For all help in the heavenly work of bringing a bride to the house of her husband and to take her out of captivity

And one who says, "Why do I need this bother? Peace to you, O my soul. For he locks his house with a lock and a bar.

"And how shall I go out to fight quickly? It is better that I should make myself cripple and lame

"And to be honored and sit in [my] house, for it is honorable for a man to sit in a home and to pass the brook, and let the good tidings die." 1

[To such a person, I say:] Also this has God not chosen, and the permission is given at every time to speak like a horse, a crane, 1 twittering and bound 9

Also an elderly1 also one old, also a bochur also a virgin, and every wise-hearted12 woman, also young boys and young girls, lads and lasses, mature males and mature females

Perhaps the lord will be gracious to them, and our words will go out in an auspicious time to couple the nice couple and they shall proliferate like fish13 with blessed fruits of the womb, fruitful and multiplying, and hatching1

And they shall be blessed with assets near the city far from the eye, flocks and cattle firstlings and offspring.

And God who has caused them to journey, manly journeys1

Shall gather in those whom he has pushed away, to the chosen house, both the native born and the sojourner

And if anger returns to us and the remains of the anger will be bound1

And those who desire our evil and those who pursue us as a running eagle, He Who calls in the mountains, their seat to the earth He shall crush

He shall destroy them; He shall obliterate them; He shall subdue them; and as one shakes a sifter shall He shake them

And their sword shall enter their heart—the great deathly destruction!1

And the kings and the ministers who rule over us and have mercy on us, their enemies into their hands shall be locked

So speak, as one sitting on the birthing stool, valiant ones he shall strengthen9

Like sending presents and gifts of peace

To the holy congregation, its elders, and its judges, and its police their world and old age9 they have established their residence in Isradaniah in the city of Algeria.

[Signed,] The man that he and his father, their taste has lasted and their scent has not changed

And they have been emptied from vessel to vessel: from Prubintza to Morocco and from Morocco to Algeria.

Who signs in the month of Adar II the year of 14ח"י ח"י הו"א יודו"ך (life, life, he shall acknowledge you)

To hear of your peace he will rejoice and be happy,

Shimon the son of1 Tzemach, זלה"ה

Well there you have it folks. How often does one come across a halachic responsum concerning a romantic saga full of intrigues and which ends off with a call for young and old to join forces to rescue a damsel in distress, a colorful prayer for the redemption, and a brief history of the letter-writer's family?

1 I'm not sure I translated this correctly.

2 Literally "should go out from this one and from this one"

3 Literally "individuals from our community, may their Rock bless them, who support his hand"

4 I don't know what it means "to surround the court." Apparently Yehuda pulled strings with the non-Jewish authorities to make it appear as if the authorities were forcing both of them to swear.

5 Literally "from any side"

6 Presumably, "the master the parnes" was some authority who was in Yehuda's back pocket.

7 Parenthesis in the original text (Didn't that sound Lessons-in-Tanyaesque?)

8 I have no idea what this stands for.

9 I have no idea what this means.

10 In Hebrew, קריאת תגר

11 See I Kings 20:11

12 See the Parshas Vayakhel and Pekudei (I can't be bothered to look up the exact verse).

13 See Jacob's blessing to Ephriam and Mansassah (again, I can't deal with exact verse now).

14 The Gematria of the Hebrew phrase is 94. I do not know how that stands for a year. Presumably this letter was sent in 1427, as the question was sent in 1426.


what a nice story said...

Wow! This is so professional, with fancy hyperlinked footnotes and all that!

who would have thunk? said...

Do you think Yehuda ever thought that his dastardly deeds would be remembered 500 years later?

The Real Shliach said...

Glad everyone liked it.

who would have thunk? said...

make that 600

The Real Shliach said...

I'm glad that someone's paying attention.

nemo said...

Can said Karshkash remarry said Balanka once she receives a Get from said Yehuda?

One cannot be Machzir Grushaso if the woman remarries. In this situation, the giving of a second Get may be an ipso facto acknowledgment of a second marriage - whether it really happened or not. (I'm forgetting the exact Halachik terminology for what I'm trying to say.

E said...

If Judah had married her, then k's betrothal was not valid, as he was betrothing a betrothed woman. if judah was lying, then what really happened was that k betrothed b; then she got divorced from him and received a worthless document from judah and then remarried her first husband. IOW, if she was married to judah, then she is not the ex wife of k. if she is the ex wife of k, then she was never married to judah. sorry for not capitalizing and not spelling out the names. im on my phone.

nemo said...

Right. It's one or the other. Shoulda realized that.

Nemo said...


Nemo said...

How does Kriat Tagar mean 'it is partiality?'

I thought it mean call to battle or something like that.

The Real Shliach said...


Nemo said...

but if Karshkash is an NRF suffering from OCD

The Real Shliach said...

I had the same question. (Hollers..) "Where's Eliezer?"

e said...

NRF=neurotic religious freak. The rabbi actually wrote "אם לבו נוקפו". I couldn't decide between NRF and OCD, as they were both such nice translations. So I used both.

Jastrow translated kara tagar as "cried 'It is partiality!'" I always thought that krias tagar was complaining that the guy acted like a merchant and ripped you off.

The Real Shliach said...

Thank you for enlightening us. BTW, this post made for a nice vacation...

Nemo said...

I liked my call to Jihad a little better. Oh well, should've consulted Rabbenu Jastrow.

IIRC it's used in a Shach in Y"D 98 about some Rabbi who didn't like people instituting the Minhog of a requisite six hour wait after meat. Or something like that.

Look it up.

Cheerio said...

she musta been some catch!

Anonymous said...


nice professionally-looking translation. your footnotes were the best part

seems as though in those days, the shidduch crisis was about men.
too bad.
seems as though they could've used my services...

e said...

That was a totally unprofessional translation. It was way too literal.

Anonymous said...


that's the beauty of it.

Nemo said...

Yes, it's got an experiential kick to it. We can all feel like we did the learning on our own because of the headiness of the legalese.

Nemo said...

BTW, is it possible that Ch"M is Chachmei Morocco (even though they were shipped off to Algeria)?

The Real Shliach said...

wannabeshadchanit: I'm still waiting for that email...
Eliezer: don't be afraid to make your translations good.
Nemo: Learning? Decoding more like it.
Special message to Eliezer: Translate more! Save me time and energy!

wannabeshadchanit said...

trs: that would require me making up a fake email, so you dont (Gd forbid) figure out who i am, and come knocking on my door to use my bathroom or borrow stuff or be a shabbos guest

hey, if you set up a gmail account for me, i'll be happy to email you.

this reminds me of all the times i wanted to sign up for things, but didnt want to be bothered with spam at my actual email address. i think i may very well have hudnreds of random emails floating around...too bad i never wrote them down

The Real Shliach said...

1. You don't want me a Shabbos guest? That's not very nice. Lubavitch is all about love. Where's your Ahavas Yisrael? Anyway, just because you email me doesn't mean that I know where you live. Heck, I met Nemo today, but I still don't know from whence he whelped.
2. Just get a blog. If you have gmail already, it'll take about thirty seconds to set up.
3. What are you signing up for exactly?

e said...


IMHO, every one needs three e-mail adresses:
(1) a real one, (2) an address that can get cluttered with spam and (3) an address that is anonymous. Remember those three addresses and their respective passwords, and you have all the e-mail addresses you'll ever need!

wannabeshadchanit said...

trs, would love to have you over for a shabbos meal. then i can set you up! i'm sure it would be fun...especially if you bring yoni c :o)

e: yes. the key is to write them if i could only find a pen....

wannabeshadchanit said...

btw, i actually started a family blog. haha. they all think that it was to ensure that everyone stays in touch. the real reason was that it was two weeks before my anniversary and i wanted to make sure that everyone remembered it.

but i cant really use that and stay anonymous, can i?

The Real Shliach said...

Wannabeshadchanit: Name the time, place, and we'll see what we can do.

e said...

TRS: tsk, tsk.

WannabShadchanit: in your settings, you can choose which blogs should show up. I, for example, am a member of a certain blog for work purposes (to protect my shred of anonymity, I won't say how i need to blog for work), and you can't see it in my profile. Of course you can't see anything else in profile, but that's besides the point.

wannabeshadchanit said...

trs: nice try. you almost nailed yourself some sweet and sour salmon, apple kugel, lokshin kugel, garlic-dressed salad, chatzilim (not babganoush, as you americans call it), chummos, schug, corn salad, tuna salad, and hot pepers (and that's just the first course)

anyway, i dont quite know how my husband would react to you showing up


(ps-trs-is receiving technological assistance called flirting?)

e said...

You wrote, "but i cant really use that and stay anonymous, can i?"

I thought you were worried that if you comment here using the Google account that you use for your family blog, we would know who you are b/c your family blog would be in your blogger profile. Is this not what you meant?

I don't think chit chatting with a married woman counts as flirting. Bu then again, what do I know about this stuff?

wannabeshadchanit said...

oh, true true
the only thing is, the google account is pretty much the same as my aol account, which is what everyone (in my circles, that is) knows me by


haha, you make me feel old. i think i'm actually the same age as you guys-24. soon you'll be calling me mrs wannabeshadchanit

Nemo said...

Why is it that all newly-weds (or those close enough to it anyways) always serve corn salad for Shabbos?

e said...

Your Blogger name is not necessarily the name on your Gmail name. When I send mail from Gmail, my real name shows up. When I comment, you only see "e."

Ma'am, you're WAY older than us. Girl mature faster than boys. If you hang around here long enough, you'll certainly learn that.

wannabeshadchanit said...

nemo: one word-simplicity

directions for corn salad:
take can opener
open can
(on shabbos, open both ends)
drain can
(dont do that on shabbos)
dump corn in bowl
*extra fancy step, not for beginners: add cut up red pepper
add serving spoon

e-too complicated. i'll just skip getting an email resume from trs, and just invite him over for shabbos

ps-can i save that comment you made and use it against you in any future gender-war war?
how old are you toddlers, anyway

The Real Shliach said...

OK, lots to respond to. Yay!
1. Mrs. WannabShadchanit: Why did I blow it? What could I have done differently?
2. There is now way you serve apple kugel and lokshin kugel in the first course. If you do, then by law I have to come and stop this perversion of the traditional Shabbos repast.
3. Where's the gefilte fish and chrein? And not the pathetically sweet shtuff you Israelis serve, the American version which can kill a man at twenty paces.
4. He would probably think it hilarious.
5. Flirting? That's a tough question. If you were single then probably yes, but since you're married it's probably okay.
6. You're 24? Older than Nemo, Eliezer, and TRS. Not that much older, but older.
7. We're not mature, Eliezer? Yeah, that's probably pretty true.

Nemo said...

One second ... Where did she say that she was Israeli?

Wannabeshadchanit- Why am I sensing a bit of favoritism towards TRS? You don't know me and you already have something against me ...

The Real Shliach said...

1. Mrs. WannabShadchanit: Your corn salad looks like it desperately needs some love. Skip the pepper and put a pickle in there, preferably dill. Then give it a spoon of mayonnaise and some salt and pepper, and that bad boy will shine!
2. OK, where's that invitation?
3. Oh man, Mrs. WannabShadchanit, you missed the mother of a gender war a couple weeks ago. Here's the link:
4. I won't divulge the other's ages without their explicit permission, but I'm 21.

Nemo said...

If you really want to act like you're Shana Rishona and in Kollel, do something fancy and chop some hearts of palm into your corn salad.

Then lie to your spouse and say it's the best salad you've ever tasted.

(Pass the chummus!)

The Real Shliach said...

You mean you tell him that the salad which you made is the best salad you ever tasted? I'm missing something here.

Nemo said...

Whatever. Someone makes the salad and someone lies. Doesn't matter which spouse (even men can make corn salad).

The Real Shliach said...

Oh, ok. Stam Lehaer, I make the corn salad every week, and it rocks.

The Real Shliach said...

Wannabeshadchanit: I totally forgot to ask you this before, but how do you know Yoni C?

wannabeshadchanit said...

too much to answer...
must not overload brain


okay, where to start....

you can come to my shabbos table (ooo, bring nemo...he sounds lonely), but first you have to get to know my husband. haha. in order to make this a bit more challenging, i wont tell you who he is. good luck. i'll give you one hint, though. he's a cute looking scruffy lubab.

after you befriend the entire ch male population (married, male, that is), you can come over.

here's a little explanation of our shabbos meal. we never make it past the fish course, so all of the yummy stuff gets served first. hmm. maybe that's why we never make it past the fish.

i dont serve g-fish at my table. i refuse to serve something that smells like sweat. in these latter months, however, i have allowed it in through the back door (which is also the front) by shnorring from my dear mother-in-law.

we dont have chrein either. i never knew why, but now i'm enlightened. i guess my philosephy also extends to serving things which may kill my guests (being as it only kills men)

regarding serving salad/lying: yes, that does happen in teh begining of marriage, until you turn to your spouse and say, "man, i cant stand that stuff!" and it turns out, neither can he.

yoni and us go way back....

wannabeshadchanit said...

ps-just kidding about the yoni comment. dont get any ideas about him. he's a good chassidishe boy

The Real Shliach said...

1. I can come? You're allowing me to come? What do you think, a lonely Bochur with nowhere to eat? My sister happens to have the best food in CH (ask Eliezer, among many others), and I certainly won't miss out on her cooking because someone is "allowing" me to come. If you invite me, then we can talk.
2. As for finding out who your husband is? Listen, I've had enough of these internet guessing games. You want to tell me, tell me; otherwise, don't bother, because I certainly won't.
3. Do you even make a soup, chicken, or Cholent?
4. Perhaps you could learn how to make gefilte fish...
5. You only serve food which isn't lethal? So nothing with bones? Do you have knives on the table? Bichlal, many people actually enjoy food which doesn't taste like cardboard.
6. Don't worry, I'm a huge fan of Yoni. Tell him I said that, because when someone you're a huge fan of tel you that he's a huge fan of you, then it makes your day.

Balanka said...

Ha. You guys never heard the end of the story. Karkash turned out to be an abusive husband. He beat me every night (but only when he was sober, so it was all right). He left me for another woman only twelve months after our wedding, taking all my inheritance with him. (My parents had died mysterious deaths immediately after the sheva berachos.) I have raised our twin boys all alone. Last I heard from him, Karkash had come out of the closet and was in a "civil union" with yehudah.

And that rabbi made it seem like it's some big mitzvah to help me marry that bastard...

e said...

Oh Balanka! You make me cry. What a hard life you have had.