Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Ketubot, Prakim 1-2

Perek Aleph: B’tula Niseyt

On Wednesdays the virgins should marry
So their husbands can wake and not tarry
To go Thursday to court
(If need be) and report:
“There’s no blood on the sheet that I carry!”

(2b, 3a)
Said the man to his wife, “Have no fear
Have this Get if I do not appear
Back within thirty days.”
There were dreadful delays
O’er the river, he called out, “I’m here!!”

Virgins marry on Tuesdays as well
For the rabbis knew danger befell
When the Romans could come
Every week and say “Hummm,
Let’s go kidnap that bride – she looks swell!”

If you’ve mixed all the wedding feast wine,
Cooked the meat, baked the bread very fine.
Then the groom’s father dies–
Close the room where he lies
First get married, have sex, and go dine.

There are intimate labors we cite
As a wife’s tasks for he-she-holds-tight :
Mix the wine to his taste
Wash his hands, feet, and face
Make the bed where he lies every night.

“You shall be with a spike on your gear”
Said the rabbis, “We read that as ‘ear'”
If you hear something crude
(Though you might appear rude)
Stick your fingers in so you don’t hear.

Rabbi Yishmael’s famous aside:
Why are tops of the ears tough as hide
With such soft flesh below?
So a man need not know
All that’s said. Stick that soft part inside.

If it chances a little girl’s wed
And her husband finds blood in their bed
Any of those four nights
He assumes it’s all right:
Menstruation it’s not, though it’s red.

(6b; Brachot 16a)
A groom need not say the Shma prayer
When he gets into bed with his fair
Bride. Why not, you might ask–
He’s concerned with task
Yup, it’s only of sex he’s aware.

Rav Zvid said: Virgin sex is OK
On Shabbat, on that most holy day–
Though you might tear some skin
The first time you go in
Still, Zvid did it himself, so they say.

Even babes sang the Song of the Sea
In the womb they kicked jubilantly
“I will sing to the Lord”
Well, perhaps they were bored
Or like slaves they too longed to be free.

Tell us, how many blessings are said–
Sheva brachot – or just six are read?
It depends how you hold:
What’s the story we’re told?
Adam then Eve? Together instead?

All of course know the reason a bride
Stands there under the chuppah; but chide
Anybody so crude
As to say it – how lewd!
(There are things that we all know but hide.)

If a man says, “The door feels ajar
I suspect, ere my time, she went far.”
That’s a bold thing to say!
Still, we trust right away
In his claim, and his wife becomes barred.

(9b, 12a)
If a man eats with his fiancée
In the home of her folks, far away–
He cannot bring then defame
With a “not virgin” claim
He was there! Perhaps he made her stray!

If a man wanders through a dark night
And the doorway is blocked from his sight
Like a groom with his mate
Perhaps he’ll penetrate
If he veers to the left or the right.

How to know if a woman’s had sex?
On a wine barrel seat her, and check:
If you can’t smell the wine
In her breath, she is fine
And intact. (Does it work? What the heck!)

Said one groom: “Rabbi, I did the deed
But I swear, my new wife did not bleed!”
Said the Rav: “Understand
She’s a Dortki, whose clan
Don’t shed blood, though their women bear seed.”

My mom said: Eating dates before bread
Is like taking an axe to a head.
After bread, though, a date
Is a well-oiled fate:
Eat your dates for dessert, then, instead.

If a girl’s of the wood-beaten sort
Her ketubah sum will be cut short
Since she’s not all intact
(It’s a sad but true fact)
She’ll get less than a virgin in court.

Tell us: How do you bring a bad name?
What exactly must be the groom’s claim?
You must stand up in court
Say, “Your daughter falls short
Of a virgin.” You’ll heap her in shame.

Two wedding guests would go to sleep
In the newlyweds’ home. They would peep
To make sure all went well
Just in Judah. They tell
Jokes in Israel: “What customs they keep!”

(12b, 13a, 16a)
If an unmarried lady grows fat
And the rabbis ask, “Whose kid is that?”
And she says, “It’s that priest,”
The kid’s kosher. At least
We trust she knows with whom she begat.

If the rabbis would chance to espy
An unmarried gal flirt with a guy
They would ask, “Who is he?”
“He’s a kohen” (her plea).
Eliezer trusts she wouldn’t lie.

If a girl asserts, “It was a tree
That has taken my virginity.”
Do we hold be her words?
Yehoshua: “Absurd!
We assume bastard rape, naturally!”

If a captive girl comes with the claim:
“They did not sleep with me! I’m not maimed!”
We say, “Most non-Jews would
Rape a girl if they could
And so sadly, we can’t trust the dame.”

Before wedding a widow, one checks:
“Is she pure? Should I make her my next?”
But a rapist would not
Care what woman he got
Do you think he first stops and inspects?!

A young girl went down to a lake
Someone saw, and decided to take
Her by force. If the town’s
One where kohens abound–
One may marry her (risking mistake).

If ten butchers market their meat
Nine are kosher; one’s not fit to eat
A man says I ought
To know from which I bought
It’s an error I will not repeat.

Nine frogs that go “ribbet” and “croak”
And one treyf creeper. Up came a bloke:
“I touched something slimy
But which one? Oh blimey!
Assume I’m impure,” so he spoke.

If a poor helpless baby is found
In a town where it’s Jews who abound
We assume it’s a Jew
(Do we cut off what grew?
It’s so odd. Who leaves babies around?)

Perek Bet: HaIsha SheNitarmela

Says the bride, “Back when we got engaged
Still a virgin I was – at that age
I was thrown to the bed
By some guy, ere we wed.
His field flooded.” But what rules the sage?

There’s a “cup of good news” that is passed
In front of a bride who has cast
Off her white wedding gown
Once her husband has found
Her a virgin. Drink quick! It won’t last.

How to dance before a bride
Who is lovely, but on the inside?
Hillel says: “Say she’s pretty”
Says Shammai: “A pity
To lie.” “But you must!” Hillel chides.

Rabbi Shmuel bar Yitzchak would dance
On three myrtle leaves he’d up and prance
“He shames Torah,” one said,
But not so. For when dead
Stopped the pillar of flame, not by chance.

Dancing with brides is quite lewd
Don’t we think that it should be eschewed?
If she looks like a post
(As do some? As do most?)
You can boogie with real attitude!

What’s a “Hinuma”? we ask
Taking all virgin brides to the task.
A chuppah of myrtle?
A scarf for the fertile
So she could doze behind the mask?

A man claims, “I owe just a bit.”
Do we trust what he says? Not a whit.
For a man would not dare
To deny every share
That he owes. Rather just part of it.

If a witness says, “True, ’twas my hand
That signed there. But you must understand:
I was under duress
When I signed, I confess.”
There is no further proof we demand.

Nothing comes before saving a life
Except spilling a man’s blood in strife
Serving gods of bad nations
Improper relations
(Like bedding another man’s wife).

If two from the shuk say, “Their hand
Signed there. But you must please understand:
They were under duress
When they signed, we profess.”
There is no further proof we demand.

If a man says, “That’s signature’s mine
Though I signed it before a long time.”
If, on his own,
He remembers the loan
You can trust him. The document’s fine.

Cemeteries are where dead are lain
But not all dead. A woman in pain
May not wait for a tomb
For her babe lost in womb
She’ll just hide it in nearby terrain.

Sign your name on a pottery shard
Do it not on a scroll or a card.
Lest a criminal who
Prefers “false” over “true”
Steal that page and write more. It’s not hard.

(21b, Rosh Hashanah 25b)
If three folks see the moon in the sky;
Two cry, “It’s the new moon we espy!”
The third, with two more
Make a beit din, for sure.
“Sancified is the month!” they then cry.

A beautiful maiden-girl said
To the suitors who flocked, “But I’m wed!”
And once every last dope
Had abandoned all hope
She married her heart’s choice instead.

Two witnesses say “Her man’s dead.”
Two say, “No, he is living” instead.
She can’t marry anew
If she did, what to do?
We do not force divorce on her head.

When some captive girls came back to town
Shmuel’s father said, “Keep guards around
To ensure they stay pure.”
Shmuel said, “Are you sure?
For who watched them until they were found?”

If two girls taken captive come back
Each one swears, “I was in no man’s sack!”
We cannot abide
Their claims. What if they lied?
Each must vow that the other’s intact.

Two ass-riders come into a town
One says, “He’s got the best grain around
Mine’s new, hence not so good.”
Do we trust him? We should
Not. For they might switch off in each town.

A non-Jew leaves the tools of his trade
By a river and goes down to wade
Or to take a long drink.
Are his tools, do we think,
Pure? The inner ones, yes, every spade.

There are things only cohens can eat
Like the truma and kodashim meat.
If we see someone nibble
Then should we still quibble?
He might be not a priest but a cheat!

“Yehoshua ben Levi, I swear
It’s a Levi who’s standing right there
How do I know it’s true?
Aliyah number two
Is the one that he took. I was there!”

Said a man who was chatting away:
When a young lad, my classmates would say
When they called me from class
To eat truma, alas:
“Yochanan who eats challah.” Oy vey.

If your woman is carted away
And it’s ransom they hope you will pay
You may then take her back
But we don’t cut such slack
If their goal was to lift axe and slay.

If soldiers come tear through your town
In peacetime, with bottles around
Your wine’s not all right
If ‘twas open. They might
Have poured it for libations unsound.

Reb Zechariah, the butcher’s own son
Said “I swear by the Temple” (which one?)
“That nobody came near
To my wife, who was here,
By my side, ‘til the non-Jews were done.”

“As kids, we’d stop here on Shabbat.”
Do we trust in this claim? Do we not?
Can a man testify
“Dad, when we were small fry
Wrote like this”?? For perhaps he forgot.

One guy married a woman and found
She was not quite the best catch in town.
His brothers then shattered
A barrel, and scattered
Its fruit to show she was unsound.

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