THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
Ask A Question about the Daf
YEVAMOS 79, 80 - The first two of four Dafim dedicated in honor of Dr.
Charles and Rosalind Neustein, whose retirement to Florida allows them to
spend even more time engaging in Torah study!
1) WAITING TWENTY YEARS TO DETERMINE IF A BABY WILL LIVE
QUESTION: Rebbi Avahu teaches, "When a person has the signs (Simanim) of a
Seris or an Aylonis, and when a baby is born after eight months of gestation,
we do not rely on its external signs ("Simanim") to determine the person's
status until he reaches the age of twenty."
What does he mean, the Gemara asks, when he says that we wait for a baby born
in the eighth month until it turns twenty? Such a baby cannot possibly
survive that long! The Gemara answers that Rebbi Avahu is referring to when
the baby has fully developed Simanim -- his hair and nails are like that of a
mature newborn. (This is according to the Girsa of Rashi and many Rishonim.
However, the Rif and other Rishonim (see Bach) have a different Girsa that
says that Rebbi Avahu is discussing a case where the baby's hair and nails
did *not* grow in, as we will explain.)
The Gemara then cites a Machlokes between Rebbi and the Rabanan. The Rabanan
say that any baby born in the eighth month is an "eighth month baby." (An
"eighth month baby" is assumed to have physical defects and to be incapable
of surviving.) Rebbi says that an "eighth month baby" is a baby born in the
eighth month that also has the Simanim of a premature newborn (the hair and
nails are not completed). If the baby has fully developed hair and nails,
then even though it was born in the eighth month, we assume it to be a
healthy baby, that developed in seven months, which "stayed on" in the womb
and was born a month late.
How does this explain Rebbi Avahu's statement about a baby born in the eighth
month? Why should we have to wait twenty years to determine whether that
child is an eight-month baby? If he is living, obviously he is not an eight-
month baby! For what do we have to wait twenty years?
(a) RASHI explains the Sugya in its straightforward sense; we must wait
twenty years to determine that the person is fit to live and that he is not a
Nefel, a stillborn. Before twenty years have passed, we must suspect that the
child is an eight-month baby, even though he was born with his hair and nails
complete. If he ends up living to the age of twenty, then we assume that he
was a seven-month baby that was just born a month late. (Even though Rebbi
Shimon ben Gamliel says that after surviving for *thirty days* indicates that
the child is not a Nefel, it seems that Rebbi Avahu argues and says that we
must wait twenty years to know that the child is not a Nefel.)
This is very difficult to understand, as the RITVA and other Rishonim ask.
There is a nineteen-year-old man standing in front of us, and yet we do not
deem him a "living person?" How can we apply the stringencies of an eight-
month baby to such a person and say that his life may not be saved through
Chilul Shabbos, and that he is Muktzah and cannot be touched! Second, how can
Rebbi Avahu rule that we must wait twenty years to make sure that the child
is not a Nefel? He is ruling against the Tana, Rebbi Shimon ben Gamliel (who
says that we wait only thirty days), without bringing a source to support his
Perhaps Rashi means that according to Rebbi Avahu, while a baby born in the
eighth month that survives for thirty days is certainly not an "eight-month
baby" (and therefore he is not Muktzah), on the other hand there exists a
strong possibility that he is a Treifah, and that he will not live past the
age of twenty.
A Treifah is certainly considered a full-fledged living person and is treated
like a normal person (meaning that it is indeed permissible to desecrate the
Shabbos in order to save his life). The fact that he is a Treifah only
affects certain specific Halachos. (For example, if a Treifah's ox killed
someone, the Treifah is exempt from the payment of Kofer, Sanhedrin 78a).
This is what Rebbi Avahu is saying. We do not judge the child to be an
undefective person -- that is, not a Treifah -- before the age of twenty.
Until he reaches twenty, we are in doubt that perhaps he is a Treifah.
Certainly, though, he is not treated like "a stone" (like he is treated
within thirty days), because since he lived passed the first thirty days,
that demonstrates that he is not a Nefel. This is consistent with the view of
Rebbi Shimon ben Gamliel who says that the child is not a Nefel after he
lives for thirty days (for the Halachos that are relevant to a Nefel, such as
mourning for him if he dies after thirty days, etc.). But after thirty days,
until twenty years, he is considered a Safek Treifah. (M. Kornfeld)
(This might explain why Rashi says that the mother of an eight-month baby may
feed the baby on Shabbos without touching it "because there is a danger *for
both of them*." Why does Rashi say that the reason she may feed him is not
only because of the danger to her well-being, but also because of the danger
to the baby? An eight-month baby is not considered to be a living person, and
thus it should not be permitted to desecrate Shabbos at all for him! Indeed,
Rashi elsewhere, and Rashi on the Rif here, does not mention the danger to
the baby (as the BACH here points out). RABEINU AVRAHAM MIN HAHAR cites the
comments of Rashi as they appear in our texts, and he argues with Rashi for
this reason. It could be that Rashi learned that the Beraisa which allows the
mother to "bend over and feed it" is discussing both a "eight-month baby"
which was born *with* the signs of an "eight-month baby," and one that was
born fully formed in the eighth month. The latter is not certain to be a
Nefel; there is a chance that he will survive and be a Treifah -- or perhaps
that he will survive and not even be a Treifah. Although the child is
"Muktzah," because there is a chance that the child will survive, albeit a
slim one, one may certainly desecrate Shabbos to save his life.)
(b) The RAMBAN (in Milchamos) says simply that when Rebbi Avahu says that "we
do not determine the status of the person until he is twenty years old," he
is not referring to his statement about an eight-month baby, but only to his
earlier statement, about the Simanim of a Seris and an Aylonis. If a baby is
born after eight months, then certainly we do not have to wait "until he is
twenty years old" to determine that he is not going to live. All Rebbi Avahu
means is that we do not rely on physical sigfns alone to determine whether a
baby is an "eight-month baby."
As for the Girsa in the Gemara, the Ramban's text reads the opposite of ours.
He says that Rebbi Avahu is referring to a child who was born *without*
completed hair and nails. His "Chidush" is that even though we see signs of
an eight-month-old on the baby, if we do not know for sure that the child was
in utero for eight months, it may not be assumed that it will not live.
(c) RABEINU CHANANEL and the RA'AVAD (cited by many Rishonim) explain that
Rebbi Avahu is not discussing whether or not a particular eight-month-baby
will survive in the first place. He is only discussing the laws of Seris and
Aylonis. Rebbi Avahu is teaching that if a child was born in the eighth
month, then even though his Simanim were complete (he has completed hair and
nails), he is weaker than a normal child, and he has Halachic similarities to
a Seris. Because his constitution is so weak, he cannot reach puberty until
he reaches the age of twenty. Any pubic hairs that he grows before that age
are deemed to be mole hairs, and do not grant him the status of puberty; he
must grow two hairs *after* the age of twenty.
(In TOSFOS CHAD MI'KAMAI, who quotes the Ra'avad, we find that the Ra'avad
suggested a second, similar explanation, which he ultimately rejected in
favor of the first. According to this second explanation, the weakness of the
eight-month baby *takes the place of* Simanei Seris. We consider him a Seris
if he does not grow two pubic hairs before the age of twenty *even though* he
does not display any of the Simanei Seris. (Normally, when there are neither
pubic hairs nor Simanei Seris, we do not consider the child a Seris until the
age of thirty-five, see Chart #24.) The fact that he was born in the eighth
month takes the place of Simanei Seris.)
(d) The BA'AL HA'ME'OR prefers the Girsa of the Rif, as cited by the Bach,
that says that Rebbi Avahu is referring to a case where the newborn did *not*
have fully grown hair and nails. He explains similarly to Rabeinu Chananel,
that Rebbi Avahu is discussing the laws of a Seris and not the laws of who is
considered a living person.
The Bal ha'Me'or suggests, though, that when Rebbi Avahu mentions an eight-
month baby, he is not referring at all to an actual baby born after eight
months. Rather, he is saying that the signs of a *Seris* are *the same as*
those displayed in an eighth-month-baby! An eighth-month-baby is recognizable
by his limp hair and incomplete fingernails. Rebbi Avahu is teaching that
even though the Beraisa (80b) that lists the signs of a Seris does not
mention immature fingernails, it, too, is one of the signs of a Seris. When
the Beraisa (80b) lists limp, underdeveloped hair as one of the signs of a
Seris, it means that underdeveloped hair *and nails* are the earmarks of a
2) "SIMANIM" OF A "SERIS"
QUESTION: The Beraisa lists the Simanim (signs) of a Seris and Aylonis. Rav
Huna and Rebbi Yochanan argue what makes a person a Seris. Rav Huna says that
only when a person has all of the Simanim does that prove that he is a Seris,
while Rebbi Yochanan says that having even one Siman is enough to show that a
person is a Seris.
The Gemara continues and says that if the person has "two hairs in his
beard," then all agree that he must have all of the Simanei Seris in order
for him to be considered a Seris.
What does the Gemara mean? One of the signs of a Seris is that the person
*has no beard*. If he has two hairs in his beard, then he *cannot* have all
of the Simanim of a Seris!
In addition, Rebbi Yochanan says that if he does not have two hairs in his
beard, then he needs only one Siman to make him into a Seris. Why does he
need even one Siman to make him a Seris? The lack of hairs in his beard is in
itself a Siman that he is a Seris, and one Siman suffices to make him a
Seris, according to Rebbi Yochanan! (TOSFOS DH d'Havi and DH Ki)
(a) TOSFOS explains that if the person has only two hairs in his beard, it is
not called "having a beard." Even though he has two hairs in his beard, he
can be considered "beardless," and therefore he may still have all of the
signs of a Seris.
As for the second question, when Rebbi Yochanan says that without two hairs
in one's beard, he only needs one Siman, Rebbi Yochanan means that the very
lack of hairs in his beard suffices as a Siman to make him into a Seris. He
does not need even one (additional) Siman, if he is entirely lacking a beard.
(b) Some Rishonim (see RITVA, OR ZARU'A) seem to learn that the Gemara is not
referring specifically to facial hairs in one's beard. Rather, it means two
hairs anywhere on the body. (If they have the Girsa of "Zakan" ("beard") in
the Gemara, then they interpret it to mean the "Zakan ha'Tachton," the lower
hairs; alternatively, these Rishonim did not have the word "Zakan" in the
Gemara at all, like the Girsa of the Vilna Gaon.)
The VILNA GAON points out that this explanation answers the questions of
Tosfos here, because according to this explanation, the Gemara is referring
to hairs elsewhere on one's body and not in one's beard. What Rebbi Yochanan
is saying is that a person who has two hairs on his body, must have the *all*
of the Simanim of a Seris to qualify as a Seris -- including the *complete
lack* of a beard hairs.
The second question is answered as well. *In addition* to not having two
pubic hairs, the person must have at least one of the signs of a Seris --
such as the lack of a beard -- in order to be deemed a Seris. The fact that
he lacks pubic hair alone cannot make him a Seris.
According to this, even *with* two pubic hairs, a person could be a Seris, if
he has *all* of the Simanei Seris. Why, then, does the Beraisa (80a, 80b) say
that a twenty year-old becomes a Seris with Simanim when he does *not* have
According to Rebbi Yochanan, the Beraisa might be discussing a Seris that has
only *some* of the Simanei Seris, in which case he is a Seris only if he does
not have two hairs. But if he has hairs, he would *not* be considered a Seris
with only some of the Simanim, until he has *all* of the Simanim. According
to Rav Huna, though, who says that when one is lacking hairs he still needs
to have all of the Simanim in order to be considered a Seris, why does the
Beraisa specify that a Seris does *not have two hairs*. What is the
difference whether he has hairs or not? Once he has all the Simanim, he
should be a Seris even if he has two hairs?!
Apparently, the Vilna Gaon learned that according to Rav Huna, even having
all of the Simanei Seris does not suffice to make him a Seris if he has two
pubic hairs. When the Gemara says that "none argue that if he has two hairs,
he must have all of the Simanim," it means that he must have *at least* all
of the Simanim. However, even all of the Simanim do not actually make him a
Seris, according to Rav Huna. (M. Kornfeld)