The Mishna uses the terms The handsomest Jew and the ugliest Jew.
The Gem. on 14A informs us, that the Mishna did this in order to teach us incidentally, something that R Yehuda had already taught us openly that its is asur for one to say. How handsome is this Kenani!
1. In order to teach us this (already known halacha) the Mishna also uses the term Ugly Jew. Is it OK to call one an Ugly Jew?
2. Furthermore it could have used the term Eved and say Echad ShHerich es Hanaeh Shbeved, Ves Hakaur ShBeved. An eved is in the parasha of erichin as we see in the 1st Mishna in the Mesechta. And we see later that an Eved is used as an example to tell us about a different din about Shor Hamuad
3. Incidentally, when the Gem. in Taanis talks about Rachav, that if someone would repeat her name, he would become a Bal Keri. Are they not talking about how beautiful this KNani was?!
Thank you for considering my question.
Alex Lebovits, Toronto, Canada
a. I certainly agree that it is not okay to call someone an ugly Jew. However, what can we do if the fact is that some Jews are ugly? The main thing is that I should not say that he is ugly because he is a Jew, Chas v'Shalom!
b. I think it is not true that the Halachah that Rav Yehudah said in the name of the Rav was already known because the Mishnah came before Rav, who was an Amora. The Chidush here is that the Din of Rav is already hinted at in the Mishnah. We learn from the Gemara in Ta'anis (21a) that Ilfa offered to throw himself off of the mast of the ship if he could not find a source from the Mishnah for the Beraisos of Rebbi Chiya and Rebbi Oshiya, so it certainly is very important to know that there is a source from a Mishnah for Rav's Halachah that one should not say how handsome this Kena'ani is.
2. If the Mishnah would have used the term "Eved," this would have caused us a problem. We would have thought that it is only if one was Ma'arich the most beautiful Eved that he need to pay 50 Shekalim, implying that if one was Ma'arich a beautiful Jew he must pay more than 50.
3. The Gemara in Megilah (end of 14b) relates that Rachav converted to Judaism and married Yehoshua bin Nun. So the Rachav referred to in Ta'anis (5b) and Megilah (15a) was already Jewish.
Alex, Yeyasher Kokacha for all of your wonderful questions.
R' Dovid I much appreciate your answers.
In reference to Rachav, however, I am hesitant to agree with you, because it would then turn out , that this is the way they spoke about Yehoshua's wife; which seems to be grossly disrespectable
Alex, you have a good point.
However, we cannot get away from the fact that the Gemara states that Yehoshua married Rachav, so the question is not just on me, because you are also going to have to explain how it is that the Gemara spoke this way about Yehoshua's wife.
I saw that the Ben Yehoyada in Megilah (beginning of 15a) writes that the Gemara there tells us about the world's four beautiful women in order to praise these women for their righteousness, because even though they were so beautiful (and therefore must have had great struggles with their Yetzer ha'Ra), nevertheless they remained Tzadkaniyos.
Along these lines of thinking we may suggest that Rachav is receiving tremendous praise from the Gemara because she decided through her own choice to become a Giyores even though she had this fantastic beauty. Accordingly, the Gemara is not disrespectful to Yehoshua's wife, but, on the contrary, full of admiration.
Alex, thanks again for the stimulating discussions.
Check Ta'anis 20b top of the page kama mechuor... and the story where he regretted calling someone ugly. Also check the maharsha there (says the story might not be talking about physical ugliness but spiritual).
Yehoash Oange, Brooklyn, NY
(a) Regarding the question of calling someone ugly, see Taanis 20a. (According to the reasoning given there it appears that the prohibition would also include calling a non-Jew ugly, since they are also the creation of the Master Craftsman).
(b) However, we should not conclude from this Gemara that ugly people do not exist. See Kesuvos 40b "If the father wishes, he can marry his daughter to a disgusting person or to a Muka Shechin (leper); compare this to the Rambam in Hilchos Erchin 1:8 (who uses the same term with regard to our Mishnah). See also the Gemara in Gitin 58 that discusses "a person who was extremely ugly" - though it appears that the person involved was a non-Jew.
(c) Note also that there is no reason to presume that the person in our Mishnah said explicitly that he is accepting the Erech of "so and so who is ugly." Rather, the Mishnah is teaching as a side-point that we should not talk about how handsome a non-Jew is (even though the Mishnah is not discussing the wording used by the person who made the Neder).
(d) Regarding a non-Jew, the Gemara is not saying that one may not think that he looks handsome. The Halachah is that when one sees a very handsome non-Jew he is obligated to recite a Berachah (she'Kachah Lo ba'Olamo - OC 225). See YD 151, that it is permitted to praise the looks of a non-Jew when one's intent is to express praise for Hashem (even where there are others of finer appearance, and even when one has seen the handsome non-Jew previously, such that there is no obligation to recite the Berachah).
(e) Regarding your question about the Gemara that says that anyone who repeats the name 'Rachav' - the Gemara there is not saying that one is permitted to praise Rachav's beauty. To the contrary, it is forbidden to repeat her name (because of the reason mentioned in the Gemara). Rav Nachman did repeat her name only because he knew that the was capable of exercising self control.