1) HALACHAH: MAY A YOUNG GIRL MARRY AN OLD MAN?
OPINIONS: The Beraisa records a dispute about what law is derived from the verse, "Do not defile your daughter through promiscuity" (Vayikra 19:29). Rebbi Eliezer maintains that the verse refers to a father who marries off his daughter to an old man. The SHULCHAN ARUCH (EH 2:9) rules in accordance with the view of Rebbi Eliezer.
RASHI explains that the reason why one may not marry off his young daughter to an old man is that doing so will lead her to promiscuity, because the young woman will not want to have relations with the old man and, as a result, she will seek to have relations with other men.
Is the Halachah the same when the young woman wants to marry the old man and is attracted to him? May she marry him, or is this law absolute and such a marriage is not permitted?
(a) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Isurei Bi'ah 26:21) does not discuss this point, but his wording implies that the prohibition applies regardless of what the young woman says that she wants. The Rambam says simply that "a man should not marry a young girl, for this causes promiscuity."
(b) However, early sources permit a young woman to marry an old man when she says that she wants to marry him. The SEFER CHASIDIM (#379) explicitly states that this Halachah applies only when the girl does not want to marry the old man. If she wants to marry him because he is a "good Jew" or she feels that it is better for her to marry an older man, she is permitted to marry him.
The CHIDA (in BRIS OLAM) quotes the Avos d'Rebbi Nasan (ch. 16) which records a conversation between Rebbi Eliezer and his niece. Rebbi Eliezer suggested to his niece that she should get married. She responded that she would become his maidservant in order to have the privilege of washing his feet (meaning that she would like to marry him). Rebbi Eliezer told her that she should get married to a young man, close to her own age. His niece, however, repeated her original reply. When he saw how intent she was on marrying him, he agreed to marry her. This clearly shows that a young woman is permitted to marry an older man when it is her desire to do so.
A much earlier support for permitting such a marriage seems to be the marriage of Boaz and Ruth. According to the opinion in Bava Basra (91a) that Boaz was Ivtzan, he would have been over 200 years old at the time that he married Ruth, a young woman.
Although the lenient opinion of the Sefer Chasidim is cited by the CHELKAS MECHOKEK on the Shulchan Aruch, none of the Acharonim mention that he argues with the Rambam or the Shulchan Aruch. His view is cited merely as further explanation for the Halachah.
The MARGOLIYOS HA'YAM writes that the Gemara itself implies that a young woman may choose to marry an old man. Rebbi Eliezer does not describe the prohibition by saying that a young woman should not marry an old man. Rather, he refers to a father who marries off his daughter to an old man. This implies that the prohibition applies only when the young woman is married off by her father, without having made a choice of her own. When she chooses to marry the old man because he finds favor in her eyes (and not because of family pressure), then she is permitted to marry him.
The ARUCH HA'SHULCHAN qualifies this condition by stating that it is not appropriate for a young woman to marry an old man if her sole motivation is that he is rich, or she is hoping that he will die soon and she will inherit his property. He explains that even though she wants to marry him, since her motive for marrying him is his wealth, after she becomes accustomed to being wealthy she might seek to fulfill her desires that he is unable to fulfill and she will live immorally with other men.
(c) RAV YAKOV EMDEN explains that when the Gemara here says that one should not marry off his young daughter to a "Zaken," the word "Zaken" here does not mean a man advanced in years (as it normally means). Rather, "Zaken" here refers to a man who is incapable of having relations with his wife, and incapable of having children. The Gemara uses the word "Zaken" to refer to this man because he has the characteristics of an old man in marriage. If, however, an eighty-year-old man is capable of having relations and bearing children, then he is not considered a "Zaken" with regard to this Halachah.
Rav Yakov Emden first questions his assertion from the fact that Yehoyada ha'Kohen married a young woman when he was very old. He says, however, that no proof can be brought from earlier generations, since their nature was different and they had much greater strength in old age. Presumably, he would refute the proof from the marriage of Ruth to Boaz for the same reason. (Y. MONTROSE)
2) THE LETHAL QUALITY OF METAL
OPINIONS: Shmuel asks why the Torah does not use the word "Yad" ("handheld") when it refers to the metal instrument used in a killing, as it uses that word when it refers to stone and wood instruments. When the Torah refers to a killing perpetrated with an iron instrument, it says, "But if he strikes him with an iron weapon (bi'Chli Barzel) and he dies, then he is a murderer" (Bamidbar 35:16). In contrast, when the Torah refers to a killing perpetrated with a stone or wooden instrument, it says, "But if he strikes him with a handheld stone (b'Even Yad) with which one can kill... or with a handheld wooden weapon (bi'Chli Etz Yad) that can be used to kill..." (Bamidbar 35:17-18), referring to the stone and wood weapons as "Yad."
RASHI explains that the word "Yad" connotes a requirement that the weapon be large enough that it has a part which the killer holds (a handle) when he uses it to kill a person; a person is not considered a murderer if he kills with a smaller instrument (because such an instrument is not likely to kill, and thus it is considered an accidental killing). Shmuel explains that a metal weapon does not need to be this minimum size, such that it has a handle, because even a small metal instrument has the potential to kill.
In what way can a small piece of metal kill?
(a) TOSFOS and the RAN in the name of RABEINU TAM explain that metal causes inflammation and infection of the skin, making it a more deadly weapon (see Shabbos 134a).
(b) RASHI explains that if someone sticks a tiny needle into the heart or windpipe of a person, it will kill him. The Yerushalmi supports the opinion of Rashi.
TOSFOS has difficulty with Rashi's explanation. A wooden thorn would have the same fatal effect, making this a characteristic not unique to metal.
RAV ELAZAR MOSHE HA'LEVI HOROWITZ answers the question of Tosfos. He explains that Rashi and the Yerushalmi are not referring to a person who thrusts a needle into another person. Rather, they are referring to a person who throws a piece of metal which then pierces someone's heart or windpipe. A small quantity of most types of materials will not kill in flight; only metal is sharp enough such that when it is thrown it can pierce a person's skin lethally.
Why does Tosfos not consider that this is what Rashi means, especially since the Yerushalmi seems to support Rashi's explanation? The TORAS CHAIM answers that Tosfos understands that the Yerushalmi is not saying the same thing that Rashi says. The Yerushalmi says that a needle can kill a person when stuck anywhere in the body, as it tends to keep moving into the body even after the original force that thrust it there has finished. Rashi, however, does not say this. Rashi says only that a needle is lethal when stuck into the heart or windpipe. Tosfos therefore questions Rashi's explanation by asking that if the unique characteristic of metal is that it can kill a person by entering the heart or windpipe from the original force with which it is thrust into the person, then that is not unique to metal, since even a wooden thorn can kill from the original force when it is thrust into the heart or windpipe.
(Even if the Toras Chaim is correct, the answer of Rav Elazar Moshe ha'Levi Horowitz still applies to help us understand Rashi's explanation.)
The MAHARSHA has a different difficulty with Rashi. In his commentary on the Chumash (Bamidbar 35:16), Rashi explains the verse based on the Sifri and Yerushalmi, which explain the verse differently from the way the Gemara here explains it. He explains that when the Torah discusses stone and wood weapons, it says, "... with which one can kill (Asher Yamus Bah/Bo)." These words are not written with regard to a metal weapon. This implies that in order for a person to be charged with murder for killing with a weapon of stone or wood, the piece of stone or wood must be of sufficient size to kill a person. These words are not written with regard to a metal weapon because, as Rashi comments on the verse, even a small amount of metal is lethal. Why does Rashi not explain the verse as the Gemara explain it?
The ARUCH LA'NER explains that Shmuel's teaching is based on the omission of both phrases -- "Yad" and "Asher Yamus Bo" -- from the verse that discusses murder with a metal weapon. He asserts that Shmuel's main source for his teaching is the omission of the words, "Asher Yamus Bo." However, the verse cannot mean that a small, obtuse piece of metal which cannot kill a person is considered a valid tool of murder. What, then, defines what is a valid weapon to constitute murder, and what is not? To answer this question, the Torah refers to a metal weapon as a "Kli Barzel," without saying "Yad" as it does with regard to a stone and wood weapon. The fact that the Torah writes "Yad" with regard to the other types of weapons but not with regard to a metal weapon indicates that only when an item such as a needle or other sharp piece of metal is used does a small piece of metal constitute a lethal weapon. Both phrases, therefore, are necessary for this Derashah, and thus both the Gemara here and the Sifri (and Yerushalmi) are correct, and they complement each other.
The Aruch la'Ner continues and answers Tosfos' question on Rashi. A thorn is not considered a weapon, unlike a needle, even though it can be lethal if thrust into a person's heart or windpipe. This is because the Torah considers only something which is a utensil ("Kli Barzel" or "Kli Etz") to be a weapon (such as a needle). A thorn -- although made out of wood -- is not a utensil. If it is a utensil and has a handle ("Kli Etz Yad"), then it is called a small club and not a thorn. (Y. MONTROSE)