May these words of Torah serve as a merit le’iluy nishmat Menachem Mendel ben Harav Yoel David Balk, a”h.
This week we learned Bava Batra 110. These are some highlights.
Bava Batra 110: Is the rule that a child will be like the brother of the mother still true in our days?
Our daf teaches about the importance of marrying into a good family. It states that most children will be like the brother of the mother. Aharon married the sister of Nachshon. His children were righteous; they resembled the brother of his wife. Just as Nachshon Ben Aminadav was diligent to quickly perform mitzvot, kohanim, the descendants of Aharon, zerizin heim—are diligent and quickly perform the commands of the Almighty. Chida writes that our Gemara is hinted at in the famous poem in the book of Proverbs about the woman of valor. It is written there, אשת חיל מי ימצא, who can find a woman of valor? The first letters of this phrase spell the word אחים, brothers. If you are seeking to find a woman of valor, look at her brothers. Sefer Chasidim (Siman 378) writes: “If a man can marry a woman whose brother is a tzadik and instead marries a woman who has wicked brothers he will be judged harshly. He is causing his children to have a difficult temperament. Children emulate the brother of the wife.” Does this mandate apply in our era? Is it still true?
Orchot Rabbeinu (Chelek Aleph, page 265) teaches in the name of the great Steipler Gaon that he thought this rule was no longer true. It was taught in the days of the Talmud. Then Jews lived in isolated communities. Everyone in the Jewish community was observant. If the brother of a woman was wicked it was very unusual. It was cause for concern. The groom was advised not to join such a family. However, we live in a different world. Our streets are filled with temptations. The media bombards us all with challenges and spiritual attacks. If a brother behaves badly it is not a sign about the family. The family might be great. It is the environment that is bringing him down. You can marry into such a family with no concerns. If the bride is righteous and fears Heaven, you should go ahead and marry her and ignore the lack of religiosity of her brother.
In his Karyana D’Igrata (Chelek Beit Igeret 38) he addresses a groom who had gotten engaged and now found out that the brother of the bride was misbehaving. The groom had asked if he should break the engagement. If he was not to break the engagement the groom wondered if he had to tell his parents what he had found out. The Steipler answered that if there were other brothers who were righteous there was no need to break the engagement. Who is to say the child will emulate the wicked brother? The groom should assume that he will emulate the upstanding ones. Furthermore, since the young lady was wonderful, this is the type of situation in which the Almighty protects those who are simple, Shomrei pesa’im Hashem. He should assume that the Almighty would protect his children and marry her. In addition, it would be terribly humiliating to her were he to break the engagement. Protecting a Jewish woman from shame is a great merit. In that merit alone, his children will grow to be righteous. Shulchan Aruch never quotes the law to check the brother before getting engaged with the sister. Shulchan Aruch must feel that it is not binding halacha and is only derech chassidut, the ways of heightened piety. To break the engagement would be public embarrassment. Publicly shaming an individual is a form of killing. Better to not fulfill a way of heightened piety than to publicly shame. Finally, perhaps the brother who is not observant left the correct path before he had a proper education. As a result, he is like a child who was taken captive by the gentiles and never had a chance to learn. Since he is innocently making a mistake there is no need to break the engagement. The Steipler also ruled that there was no need to tell the parents about the information that had been found out. A child may marry a woman even if his parents do not agree to the match. There was therefore no need to tell them about the negative information if the groom still intended to marry.
Sichat Chulin Hachadash (Perek Beit Ot Aleph) records that they asked the Beit Ephraim about a match for a daughter with a young Torah scholar who had a brother who was sinful. He answered with a novel reading of a verse. The verse describes the stones of the breastplate as being לשם שבו ואחלמה. He said to the one asking, לשם שבו ואחלמה. He meant lesheim shebo, look at the name in him. Look at the boy himself. Ve’ach lama, and why look to the brother? As long as the groom is righteous, there is no need to be concerned that the brother is wicked (Mesivta).
By Rabbi Zev Reichman
Rabbi Zev Reichman teaches Daf Yomi in his shul, East Hill Synagogue.