Welcome…

I am Rabbi Kaba, aka Red Pill Rabbi, studying the Bible and Jewish wisdom and sharing how modern men can use it to improve their lives.  This site is for adults who are not bothered by adult content.

While I intend to teach other Jews, You don’t have to be Jewish to benefit from our wisdom.  You don’t even have to believe in God.  Most of my work is about self improvement, relationships, and masculinity.

I try, with God’s help, to share brief insights from our daily Talmud study, the “Daf Yomi“, as well as longer essays on the Bible and Jewish holidays.

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Daily dose of wisdom, Nedarim 29: marriage vs money

Our sages discuss a man who vowed that his saplings are an offering for the Temple until they are cut down. If he redeemed (bought back from the Temple) the trees, they automatically become holy as an offering again.

But what about after they are cut: Do these saplings need to be redeemed once more? Or does their status simply fly away?

The Talmud compares this case to a man who tells a woman they are married today, but not tomorrow. That stipulation simply doesn’t work. Her status as a married woman doesn’t just disappear.

By a marriage there is no way to end the relationship other than what the Bible states, through a written document of divorce (Get). A wife is “mekudeshet” meaning holy or exclusive. A specific action that creates written proof is required to undo that special status.

But items given financial sanctity can be redeemed by paying their value to the Temple, without special documentation. The same applies to your own possessions, you can simply sell them or give them away.

It is interesting that many people are more cautious and thoughtful about buying important possessions than they are about who they marry. No one would buy a house without an inspection, title search, and a calculation of what the payments will be. A man wouldn’t buy a sports car without a test drive, checking the VIN, and comparing prices on similar cars.

And yet people assume they can enter a marriage after just dating a while or “falling in love”. We assume that love will help us overcome any obstacles. How many of us write up the pros and cons, the assets and liabilities, or give serious analysis to a potential spouse?

This Gemara is a reminder that our human relationships are more important permanent than our possessions.

We should invest more thought into people than things. Yes, Jewish culture does consider wealth a blessing, and teaches that we must use what God gives us properly and without wasting. We do attach importance to taking care of your physical possessions.

However, human beings are much more significant. They way we relate to others, especially spouses, has a profound impact on our personalities.

Daily dose of wisdom, Nedarim 28: color of authority

The Talmud explains vows made under threat are not real vows, as they are intended only to save the vower from harm. For example, he could vow to violent extortionists or pirates that he doesn’t have any more money for ransom, so they leave him alone. Another example is vowing to a tax collector that certain produce is a tithe or already belongs to the king, so he won’t confiscate it.

The Gemara notes that we are forbidden to lie to a tax collector who is operating legally, with full backing of the government, assuming that the government itself is being fair and equal, not imposing an unjust tax based on race or religion (see the Ran for explanation).

The kind of tax collector you can lie to is one who is taking more than the government authorized, for his own use, or a self-appointed tax collector.

This distinction helps us to think about authority. When someone is exercising valid authority, like your superior officer or manager, then you follow their legal orders. Men naturally form hierarchies, usually based on competence and leadership ability. We also understand that if a man is imposing authority through threat of violence, people will comply. Such as a bank robber waving his gun and demanding money, or pirates holding captives for ransom.

However, when people overstep their proper authority, or try to set themselves up as superior to you, it is vital to question their actions. Certain people, because of their personality or simply since they are used to getting their way, will by default try to push other people around. This type seeks positions of power to provide official validity for their emotional needs. In a workplace this can lead to tension as the actual management now has to deal with someone who considers herself worthy of managing.

Often one partner in a relationship is more dominant. This may work when the leading partner puts the interest of the entire family first, like the captain of a ship, and works fairly with the other crew to reach their chosen destination. However, sometimes people assert control through coercion and authoritarian measures.

In such a situation you should question if this person deserves to have authority. It could be that they have no real power over you, but you gave up your own authority to them. You may need to reclaim it to salvage the relationship, or at least your own health.

Daily dose of wisdom, Nedarim 27: foreseeable accidents

We are studying when circumstances out of your control excuse or annul vows. For example, Jim made a vow that Bill should attend a feast Jim was making, but he became sick, or his son got sick, or Bill was unable to cross the river to get there.

Our sages compare this to an actual case of a certain man who said: If I do not return within thirty days, let this be a bill of divorce (he already wrote it). He came on the thirtieth day but was prevented from crossing the river by the ferry (which was then on the other side of the river). He yelled to the people across the river: See I have arrived, see I have arrived! Shmuel said: It is not considered to be an arrival (and his wife is divorced).

The Talmud asked why the circumstance out of his control did not excuse him. Our sages answer that it is common and foreseeable that the river ferry could be on the wrong side of the river when you arrive to cross.

We only excuse accidents or happenstance that is not normal and foreseeable.

This is an important factor in planning your life. If you know there could be some traffic, then you leave a few minutes early, instead of showing up late and blaming the traffic.

When someone is always blaming outside circumstances for their regular delays and problems, this could be a sign that they are not considering possibilities and planning to avoid issues. Such a person would not make a good business partner.

Daily dose of wisdom, Nedarim 26: individual and group

The Talmud is on the subject of mistaken vows. A man sees a number of men eating his figs, and makes a vow against all of them. Then it turns out that his father was among the eaters, and he wouldn’t mind his own father partaking.

If the vower releases the vow regarding his father, there is a debate if everyone else is also released. The Talmud concludes that annulment of part of a vow releases the entire vow. The logic is that a vow is a total commitment, when the commitment is not complete, the vow as a whole is flawed and collapses.

However, if he made an individual vow against each person, then releasing one keeps the rest forbidden.

When you are interacting with others, be conscious that typically you are dealing both with a group and individuals simultaneously. You may be on good terms with the group generally but have issues with some of the people in that group. On the other hand, you may enjoy the company of a few people in a social circle but you need to be able to impress the group as a whole to spend time with those people.

A wise man develops his abilities to relate both to groups and individuals.

Daily dose of wisdom, Nedarim 25: subjective honesty

The Talmud discusses if someone taking an oath is relying on his internal subjective understanding of the words he is saying, or how those words are understood by others.

Our sages bring an amazing case from almost 2000 years ago known as the cane of Rava:

One man claimed money from another. He came before the sage Rava to adjudicate the case. The creditor said to the borrower: Repay your debt. The borrower said: I already repaid you.
Rava said: If so, take an oath to him that you paid.

The borrower went and brought a hollow cane, and placed the money inside it, and was leaning upon as he went to the court. He said to the lender: Hold my cane in your hand (so that I can take an oath holding a Torah scroll). The borrower took the Torah scroll and swore that he had repaid the loan, that it was already in the lender’s hands.That creditor became angry and broke that cane, and all of the coins inside fell to the ground. And it turned out that the borrower had taken the oath in truth.

Practically all people desire to view themselves as good and honest. To do so they will, in their own head, change the meaning and implication of their words so they can maintain their self identification as honest.

The drive to maintain an honest self-identity is so strong that people engaged in this may not even realize that their reinterpretation of words is effectively lying.

When you are dealing with such situations it is important to refrain from accusing, even when you have evidence. With their core identity threatened, the other person will double down and insist they are always truthful and transparent. They will assert that your are actually lying and demand you apologize for fabricating accusations.

It is better to avoid being judgmental and build rapport with the other person. This may allow some portions of the actual truth to emerge.

Daily dose of wisdom, Nedarim 24: don’t be a stray dog

Our sages examine a case in which a man vows to his friend: you are forbidden to have any benefit from me if you don’t accept this gift for your son.

The vower intends to honor his friend with a large gift for his son’s wedding. If the friend says that it is more befitting his family honor not to accept any gifts, most sages say this vow is void. After all, the vower’s real intent was to bestow respect on his friend and the vow was merely to encourage him to accept.

However, Rabbi Eliezer ben Yakov says that this could be a real vow, if the vower says: I am not a dog, benefiting from you while you do not benefit from me. This would show he wants the vow to be valid to insist that the friend will accept the gift, it was not just encouragement.

In ancient times there were many stray dogs around, and people would throw them food without expecting anything in return. So a stray dog represented someone who only takes without giving back.

One of the fundamentals of Jewish thought is to become like God, to become a giver. God bestows life itself and all of our blessings, we are commanded to walk in His ways (Deut. 28:9).

As you develop yourself and grow in wisdom you will find ways to give back. However, it is vital to know that you can’t always be a giver. Sometimes you will need help from others.

Often a man must first take assistance and guidance from others who are already established and experienced in order to build himself into someone who can give back to the next generation.

Daily dose of wisdom, Nedarim 23: unanticipated consequences and headship

We are learning about when we can revoke or annul a vow. Yesterday we discussed regret as a reason, today we add unforseen consequences. If something negative comes about because you made a vow, and if you knew it would happen you would not have vowed, that is a valid reason to annul the vow.

The Talmud brings an interesting application:

The wife of Abaye had a daughter (from a prior marriage). Abaye said: She should get married to my relative. His wife said that she should get married to her relative. He said to his wife: You are forbidden to benefit from me if you marry her to your relative.

She went and married the daughter to her relative. Abaye came to Rav Yosef to find a way to annul the vow. Rav Yosef said to him: If you had known that she would  defy your will and marry her to her relative, would you have made the vow? He said: No. And Rav Yosef dissolved the vow for him.

The first takeaway is that while we should try to think about the consequences of our words and actions, unanticipated results do come up despite our planning.

The other interesting sociological observation is that men in the past expected their wives to follow their leadership. A wife rejecting her husband’s wishes was rare and was considered unanticipated. By default, men enjoyed headship of ancient families.

Obviously society is radically different today. However, men should be aware that when a woman loves and respects you, she tends to follow your lead – if you are leading effectively. Many problems in modern relationships are no necessarily from a lack of love, but because the man is not leading in an appropriate manner.

Leadership today is often only possible through example, by working towards your goals, having your own life going smoothly and your own emotions under control.

Making demands, oaths, vows, or ultimatums is not leadership. You need to be aware that other people are entitled to their own opinion and agenda, even your wife. You can work to demonstrate how and why your take is correct, but at the end of the day you can only truly control your own decisions and reactions.

Daily dose of wisdom, Nedarim 22: genuine regret or guilt, dealing with anger

The Talmud turns to the topic of how we can annul a vow or oath. If someone has internal regret that he made a vow, then a sage or panel of three men can annul the vow for him.

Our sages discuss how guilt trips over vows being like sinning are not a valid reason to annul them. The Ran explains that if the sage or panel starts telling the vower how awful and sinful vows are, he will be ashamed and lie that he regrets it, even though he doesn’t truly feel remorse. This is not a valid annulment.

If the sage tells the vower that vowing is generally a bad idea and can be problematic, then if that induces the vower to regret it is valid. If instead he is told he is a sinner and should feel guilty or ashamed, this is not valid.

When the motivation to change is external, it is not considered genuine. Yes, sometimes the impetus form you to change comes from outside forces or ideas. However, the motivation must be your own.

The Talmud turns to a critical discussion of anger, citing King Solomon: “turn out anger from your heart and remove evil from your flesh” (Ecclesiastes 11:10).

The way to avoid anger is to stop getting angry. This is good news, it means your anger is truly under your control.

If you are in the habit of getting upset or reacting with rage, be aware that you are the one who can break your cycle. Practice maintaining calm and control, putting your intellect in charge of your emotions.

You can change yourself if you put in the work.

Daily dose of wisdom, Nedarim 21: exaggerating

The Mishnah brings instances of people stating a vow without any intention to vow, but for other purposes. Since their mind is not in alignment with their words, these are not valid statements.

During business deals, the buyer may swears he won’t pay more than two, while the seller can swear he can’t let it go for less than four. Both men would be okay making the deal at three, but they are trying to get a better deal by using exaggerated language. This is posturing for negotiation, not making binding oaths.

The Talmud brings another case of one man urging another to come to his home for a feast. The second swears he won’t even enter the home or drink a drop of water.

As his intent was only to avoid attending the feast, we know he was employing hyperbole. His exaggerated oath is not binding.

We see from here that we need to be aware when people are posturing and exaggerating. Certain people use extreme language when they are angry or feel hurt. They might not really mean what they are saying.

You also need to evaluate how you talk. Sometimes you may feel a need to exaggerate your own ability or status and may get yourself into trouble through pretension. However, sometimes it is appropriate to act the part, speaking in a more refined way can help you to actually become more refined.

However,  actions are the main measure of a man.

Our sages say that great men say a little and do a lot. Abraham said he would bring a little water for travellers and served them a feast.

Daily dose of wisdom, Nedarim 20: bedroom etiquette

The Talmud notes that ignorant people would often take vows and oaths, unaware of the strict punishment (Exodus 20:7). Our sages warn us not to spend our time around such people, and on the topic of avoiding potential problems, advise men not to talk too much with women. Excessive talking leads to flirting and comfort, which can allow intimate acts and adultery to take place.

Exactly how much is too much is not defined, and depends heavily on the social context and era you are in. Our sages were very familiar with human nature, which has not changed over the millennia. Naturally we all understand that there are boundaries we do not want to approach.

From here, our sages launch into the topic of sexual etiquette, and bring a teaching that certain acts of intimacy can negatively affect the nature of the children from that couple. The first thing to note is that our sages do discuss sexual topics in our holy books. The Torah is for all areas of life, not just the synagogue. Our sages sought to learn proper behavior in the bedroom.

They asked Imma Shalom, the wife of Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, a great sage: For what reason are your children so beautiful? She said: My husband does not converse (a euphemism for intercourse), neither at the beginning of the night nor at the end of the night, but only in the middle of the night.

At the beginning of the night there would be people walking around outside, or the couple is still thinking about what happened during the day. This could distract from the act. At the end of the night people are concerned about what they will have to do that day.

The takeaway here is that the best way to be together is to do so without any distractions. A wise man arranged logistics so he can be truly alone with his wife and foster togetherness.