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Monday, December 24, 2012

Bar Kappara and his 12 Wives

I found this tidbit fascinating.

Rav Zevihi's book Mizahav Umipaz goes on a small tangent and talks about the biography of Bar Kappara.  He quotes the book Yihusei Tana'im Va'amora'im that says that it says "in Aggada" that Bar Kappara had 12 wives who accepted upon themselves to support him due to his great wisdom.

He asks that this seems very strange for a Tanna to have so many wives, something pretty much unheard of even in those days for Talmidei Hachamim.  Furthermore, a source for this "Aggada" cannot be found anywhere.

He noticed that the book "Olelot" by R' Reuven Margoliot asked the same question and came up with a solution to both questions.

He says there that the Yerushalmi Yevamot 4:12 (Classical | Yedid Nefesh) brings down a story:
There was a story of 13 brothers and 12 died without children.  The widows who needed to do Yibum came before Ribbi (Ribbi Yehuda Hanasi) and asked that the remaining brother - the Yavam - perform Yibum to them.  Ribbi therefore instructed him to perform Yibum.  The Yavam requested to be exempt with just Halitza and not perform Yibum as he would not be able to support all of them.  Upon hearing this, each one of the widows accepted upon herself to support the entire household for 1 month of the year and since there were 12 of them, he was not responsible for supporting them.  However, the Yavam said, "Who will support the household during a leap year when there is a 13th month?"  Ribbi himself answered that he would support the household in a leap year.  Ribbi prayed for them that they should all merit having lasting children and build the house of the deceased brothers, and they left.

Three years later, it was a leap year and the 12 women came in front of Ribbi's home, each one bringing 3 children, with the number of children totaling 36. They stood in front of Ribbi's home and Ribbi's servants went up to Ribbi and told him that down below there was a village of children who want to ask how you are. Ribbi peeked out the window and saw the children and their mothers and asked them, "What do you seek here?" They told him, "We seek support for the extra month of the leap year." And he gave it to them.
Olelot comments on this by saying that the gemara Yerushalmi does not specify the name of this Yavam.  However, the Bavli in Yevamot 109a quotes Bar Kappara as someone who favors Halitza over Yibum.  And furthermore, from many places in Shas we know that Bar Kappara frequented Ribbi's home. We can therefore, says Olelot, put 2 and 2 together and say that Bar Kappara was the Yavam in the Yerushalmi story. He first refused to do Yibum to his 12 sisters-in-law and only did so at the request of Ribbi. The women refused to back down and accept Halitza due to Bar Kappara's great wisdom and accepted upon themselves to support the household for a month of the year.

Olelot continues that this sheds light on the gemara Berachot 56b where Bar Kappara had a dream that his 2 hands were cut off, and Ribbi replied that this dream meant that he would not need the work of his hands.  This interpretation was fulfilled since his 12 wives supported him.

The book later supports this theory by showing how rare it was for Tana'im to have more than 1 wife, let alone 12.



At Mon Dec 24, 09:11:00 AM 2012, Blogger Neshama said...

(your new heading...where are you getting this inspiration from?)

At Mon Dec 24, 01:05:00 PM 2012, Blogger Neshama said...

Did you ever see this guy on the train in your morning commute? :-)

At Mon Dec 24, 01:23:00 PM 2012, Blogger yaak said...

I'll write a post about the new heading soon BL"N.

Nope, never saw The Rahmfather.

At Mon Dec 24, 01:37:00 PM 2012, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This guy is doing tremendous job to save Am Israel. Don't ask me how do I know.

--Tsaddik Nistar

At Tue Dec 25, 01:04:00 AM 2012, Blogger Cosmic X said...


R' Reuven Margoliot was an amazing gaon. "Margoliot HaYam" is a must for anyone learning "Sanhedrin".


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