NASHIM (= "Women"):
Third order of the Talmud, treating of betrothal, marriage, divorce, and in general of all the relations of woman to man. It consists of seven "massektot" in the Mishnah, Tosefta, and Palestinian and Babylonian Gemaras, the order of which is not settled, varying with the views of codifiers and publishers. The several massektot being individually treated in
- (1) Yebamot ("Levirates") legislates on the status of the widow of a man who has died childless: the different relationships and other impediments which prevent her from entering on a levirate marriage, and when Ḥaliẓah (see Deut. xxv. 5-10) substitutes such marriage; where the "yabam" (brother-in-law of the widow) is a priest, a minor, or an abnormal person, and the evidence required to prove the death of a consort.
- (2) Ketubot ("Writs") treats of betrothals, marriagepacts, and settlements, and in general of woman's civil rights and duties.
- (3) Nedarim ("Vows") treats of the several forms of vows by which one binds himself to abstain from anything, and of the dispensation from or annulment of them, especially of the vows of a married woman or of a maiden which may be annulled respectively by the husband or by the father. The Scriptural basis of this treatise is Num. xxx.
- (4) Nazir ("Separated") is founded on Num. vi., and treats of self-consecration as a Nazarite by abstinence, of the particular expressions that are binding, of the period of duration of such self-consecration, and how the vow may be annulled, and from what the Nazarite must abstain. Incidentally the self-consecration of women and of slaves is discussed.
- (5) Soṭah ("Faithless Woman") discusses the rules regarding the wife suspected of infidelity to her marriage vows (see Num. v. 12-31): her summons before the Great Sanhedrin, the administration of the "bitter water," and its effects. It treats also of the functions of the war chaplain, and of the occasion of, and procedure at, breaking the neck of the calf (see Deut. xxi. 1-9). Some portents which will precede the advent of the Messiah are enumerated.
- (6) Giṭṭin ("Documents") is based on Deut. xxiv. 1 et seq., and treats of the annulment of marriages by divorce and of the forms and ceremonies incident thereto. It also legislates on the formalities attending the emancipation of slaves.
- (7) Ḳiddushin ("Sanctifications") treats of the formalities of betrothals and marriages, of the status of the offspring of a legal and of that of an illegal marriage, of intermarriage between certain classes of people, and of the evidence sufficient to prove marriage contracted beyond the borders of Palestine. It closes with some ethical precepts affecting the general intercourse between the sexes.
Maimonides, Bertinoro, and others attempt to account for the order of sequence of the several massektot; but their reasons are not always satisfactory.