More details of laws of yichud are discussed and stories are brought to discuss battles of rabbis with their yetzer hara in their desire for women.
If a husband goes abroad with a wife or without a wife and shows up on the scene with or without a wife and with kids – depending on the situation, he may have to prove that the wife’s lineage or that the kids belong to the wife or both or neither. The gemara then proceeds to discuss presumptive status and how far we take it. The next mishna deals with laws of seclusion, yichud – who can be secluded with who and who can’t.
There is a debate between Rav and Shmuel regarding a case where a father bethrothed a daughter at the same time that the daughter betrothed herself and then it became clear after that the daughter had reached the stage of maturity, which is a stage where the father can no longer betroth her. Rav says we assume she was already mature when the betrothal of the father took place and therefore she is only betrothed from her own betrothal. Shmuel holds that she is betrothed to both because we don’t know what her status was at the time of the betrothal. Two other cases are brought to question Shmuel’s psak – one, a mikveh that was found to be less than the minimum amount and another where wine that was used to separate trumot and maasrot and turned to vinegar. The gemara then explains why those cases are different. Then the gemara suggests that there was a tannaitic debate about the same thing but ultimately rejects the suggestion.
The gemara gives a number explanations for Rabbi Elazar’s opinion about why a Cuti can’t marry a Cutit. How far back does one need to check the lineage of the woman’s family he is planning to marry? It depends on if she is from the family of Kohanim or not. Why does one need to check her family but she doesn’t need to check the man’s family? There are all sorts of people whose family lineage doesn’t need checking. The gemara explains each one.
Different opinions whether having had a forbidden relationship forbids one from marrying a Kohen. Does it depend on whether the situation would have caused a problem for the offspring or not? The gemara then proceeds to understand the final opinion brought in the mishna that questionable people can’t marry each other nor can they marry mamzerim. Rav and Shmuel have a difference opinion about who to hold like and it contradicts their opinions elsewhere. Various explanations are brought to resolve the contradiction.
Various people are mentioned who are believed in particular situations to identify who is who – for ex. who is the first born, who bought the item from the store owner and who won a court case. In all these cases there is a time frame given for the identifier (midwife and mother in firstborn case, store owner and judge in the other 2 cases) Why did Abba Shaul call a shtuki “beduki“? A mishna which seems somewhat like the previous mishna is brought regarding people who are forbidden to marry within but are allowed to marry without. The gemara raises many questions on the mishna and several interpretations are brought which are then analyzed.
There is a debate whether a convert can marry a mamzer. Why can a shetuki (unknown father) and asufi (unknown parents – abandoned child)not marry a regular Jew? According to the gemara, by Torah law they can, but the rabbis wanted to institute a higher standard for yochasin, lineage matters. The gemara discusses in the asufi case distinctions between ways the baby/child was abandoned. Not in every situation is it considered an asufi.
Since Babylonia was considered pure in terms of the lineage of its residents, the exact borders are delineated and discussed as well as exceptions in both directions. Rebbi on his death bed proceeds to prophesize about various things including various cities with residents of flawed lineage and also the birth of Rav Yehuda who will ultimately step into his shoes. There is a debate about whether the opinion brought that all other lands (other than Babylonia) have people with flawed lineage is just Rabbi Meir’s opinion and the rabbis disagree and think all people are by default unflawed or do the rabbis agree? There is a debate also brought about whether mamzerim will be purified in the future or not.
Proofs are brought that all 10 categories of people were brought from Babylonia to Israel in Ezra’s time. One who calls someone pasul is himself pasul. Shmuel understands that he is projecting. Rav Yehuda took Shmuel literally and in a long and entertaining story, he declares someone a slave because he called others a slave. He is summoned to Rav Nachman’s court and forced to explain his poisition. But all throughout, Rav Yehuda maintains the upper position and in doing so causes many others to be declared as having flawed lineage in the town of Rav Nachman. Other statements are brought in the gemara stressing the importance of marrying appropriate people.
A possible solution to resolving a mamzer problem is debated in the mishna based on a halacha learned in the previous mishna about the offspring of a Caananaite maidservant. If her offspring goes by her, then a male mamzer can marry her and have the master free the offspring in which case the offspring would be Jewish. The gemara derives that according to the opinion that allows this, it is permitted ab initio. And that opinion is accepted in halacha. However, nowadays in the absence of Caananite maidservants, this solution is not possible. The fourth perek begins with a description of all the differnet lineages of the people that came to Israel in the time of Ezra and who is allowed to marry who. There is a debate between Rava and Abaye about what happened historically. Did Ezra forceably remove all those with problematic lineage when he went to Israel to ensure that proper records would be kept and people wouldn’t marry in forbidden marriages or did he recommend it and most of them followed of their own free will.