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Extempore Effusions on the Completion of Masechet Kidushin Chapter 1

How is a woman acquired?
When one of three things has transpired—
Give money, a writ,
Or just go and do “it”
(“It” is sex. Should that be your desire.)

You can go buy a woman with cash
(Buy a few if you’ve got a big stash.)
We know this from the field
Bought by Avram (whose shield
Was God). This purchase should not be rash!

Is “Derech” a masculine noun?
Or feminine? Cases abound.
On matters semantic
The Talmud’s pedantic.
“No way!” “Way!” This word gets around.

The way of a man is to court
A woman. He does this for sport.
If you lose something dear
You go hunt far and near
It does not hunt for you. Men, cavort!

The money that’s paid for a wife
Does not go to the girl. She’d cause strife
If she kept all the bucks
It’s for Dad. (Yes, it sucks—
He gets all, though she gives her whole life.)

Can a woman say, “I hereby make
You my husband.” That is, can she take
Him instead of vice versa
Say, give him her purse. A
Fair trade. But the deal would not take.

If a man says, “Behold you are mine,”
To a woman he happens to find.
Does that mean they are married?
Though no ring was carried,
No canopy, contract or wine?

A woman would rather be wed
Than lie all alone in her bed.
Better two bods than one—
Is it really more fun?
(She could buy a warm blanket instead?)

“Half of you is now wed unto me”
Says the groom. Bu can such a thing be?
No, a woman’s not fit
To be midway down split
If she weds, she weds full-bodily!

“I will give you a penny right now
For your daughter. And also your cow.”
Is the coin for the chick
Or for both? It’s a trick–
Half a penny is never allowed.

“With this coin I thee wed unto me”
She then tosses it into the sea.
The coin’s gone forever
Is their bond now severed?
“I did it to test him!” (her plea).

“Be my wife with this loaf of fresh bread.”
A dog’s chasing her! Soon she’ll be dead!
She throws bread to the beast
It slows down for the feast
She escapes. Is she single, or wed?

A man’s picking dates from a tree.
She says, “Throw down two dates please for me”
He said, “If I so do
Will you then be my true
Wife?” “Throw fruit, please” she cries, eagerly.

“Say, how much would you give for your son?”
“I have two dollars. I’d give you one.”
“And how much for your gal?”
“That’s about right, my pal.”
They are wed! Raise a glass, everyone!

An engaged woman waits to be wed
Ten men come and they rape her instead
When they get in her sack
They go in from the back.
Never mind! Stone them ’til they are dead.

A girl’s spouse-to-be starts penetrating
She accepts Kiddushin from one waiting
Patiently by her side.
Now we need to decide:
During sex, do we say they’re still dating?

Said Ben Bag Bag, “I don’t understand—
All the sages say you’re a smart man
That you know Torah’s rooms–
Yet it’s you who assumes
Eating truma – engaged women can.”

You discover a blemish. You say:
“I will not keep you, wife. Go away!”
If the servant’s thus marred
You’d still keep her. Not hard
To see why. Wives are for work and play.

If a woman takes as Kiddushin
Coins at night, when not much can be seen.
If she thinks it’s a pruta
Then morning comes: “Shoot! A
Half pruta? That guy is obscene!”

“You’re my wife with this fine myrtle mat.”
Cries the woman, “You think I’m worth that?”
He says, “Look deep inside
There are four coins that hide
There. Take those.” Does the whole deal fall flat?

There once was a woman who sold
Lovely ribbons. There came a man bold
He stole quite a few
She cried, “Give them back, you!”
He said, “Marry me.” How do we hold?

Chalitzah is done with a shoe
Take it off him, then throw it. You do
It with sneaker and sandal
But don’t cause a scandal
With footwear he can’t fit into.

A slave may not wish for a wife
But his master may say, “Make new life!”
Then he must procreate
With a Canaanite date
Lest the master accuse him of strife.

A Canaanite slave lost his arm
While plowing his master’s great farm
The slave then goes free
Yes, indubitably–
It’s the price he gets paid for his harm.

When a Canaanite slave girl goes free
After six years laboriously
Spent, she gets some nice cash
At her big send-off bash
Hey girl, pocket the dough and then flee!

If your slave boy falls sick all six years
(First a headache, then tonsils, then ears.)
Does he make up the time
Well, as Rav Sheshet chimes
If he sewed, he is not in arrears.

A master may say to his slave-
Girl, “Fantastic are you! How I rave!
I shall make you all mine
In my bed, you’ll fit fine.”
Is she wed or engaged to the knave?

Can a master say, “Servant girl, you
Are not quite right for me, it is true.
But I’ll give you my son,
He’s a minor, but hon’
He’ll be yours someday.” Can he thus do?

All your slaves must be treated with care
With good mattress, good wine, and good fare.
Say, if you eat fine bread
Don’t give stale cakes instead
To him. Ye who buy slaves should beware!

If a priest fighting battles espies
A beautiful maid with his eyes.
Do we call it a vice
If he sleeps with her twice
What’s the law about priest-maiden ties?

If a slave does not want to go free
He must say twice “This life is for me.”
If his Master’s held dear
Then you nail in his ear
It seems strange, yes, that such things could be.

A convert was ready to die
His servant stood very close by.
“Will you bring me my shoes?”
This was Mar Zutra’s ruse
To inherit the servant. How sly!

Can a slave or a woman acquire
A thing that they need, or desire?
Rabbi Meir said no,
They can own things, although
It all really belongs to the sire.

A chicken inserted its head
To a glass jar and screamed ‘til ‘twas red
And the jar promptly shattered
The juice inside splattered
The bird owner pays, Rami said.

Rebbe’s servant girl dunked and came up
With a bone in her teeth from her sup-
per. Then must she repeat
Her dunk from head to feet?
Must her tongue get wet? Rebbe said yup.

Rabbi Shimon dissented and taught
(Though the claim that he made was quite fraught)
If an animal’s gifted
It first must be lifted
Then how is an elephant bought?

Rabban Gamliel rode on a ship
He was gone for quite long on this trip.
He announced: “I will hand
Over tithes atop land.”
Can the land part instead have been skipped?

Can you swear on two things in one oath
Is a double swear something we loath?
Amen then amen
Said the Sotah again
Swearing not just on one thing, but both.

Thank you for buying my wheat
But I fear you’ll have nothing to eat
It burned in a fire
I fear it’s quite dire–
You paid for a worthless receipt.

Father must teach Son a trade
Something that Son can do to get paid.
If he doesn’t; good grief
Son will become a thief—
When he needs food, he’ll swoop down and raid.

Rabbi Hiya was very impressed
For he saw that Ben Levi, half-dressed
Took his son to go study
Before anybody
Awoke. Because it’s God’s behest.

Don’t sin when in private—God’s chair
Is the sky. His legs hang down from there.
As God’s legs are quite long,
If you do something wrong
You bump into His feet. So beware.

If you see someone white-haired, stand up
We respect anyone so grown-up.
You can’t try to flee
Or pretend you don’t see
Him. And pour him some wine in his cup.

If a Torah scroll passes, you stand
(Some will reach out to kiss with their hand.)
If you’re busy with study
You need stand for nobody
Although your respect he commands.

Some mitzvoth can be done any time
It does not matter when the clock chimes.
Hang a mezuzah on your door
Return coins from the floor
Send the mother bird off ere you climb.

Are women commanded by God
To be fruitful? At first you might nod
God tells Adam and Eve
To have babes. But reprieve
Is granted to Eve. Yes, it’s odd.

Are we always considered God’s sons?
Are we all the time His chosen ones?
Yehuda says no,
It depends if you go
In His ways. If so, God loves us tons.

Some mitzvoth depend on the land
(Which is Israel, you must understand.)
Such as: You cannot eat
From the new crop of wheat
“Til the Omer is waved with the hand.

When Moses died, manna stopped falling
Did the people starve while they were bawling?
They ate manna from jugs
(Hopefully free of bugs)
Then made matzah, while Egypt recalling.

Those who honor their fathers live long
But what of that boy, young and strong
Dad said “Bring chicks to me.”
So he climbed up the tree
And then fell to his death. What went wrong?

For sinners, we cut them some slack
We say: Go away dressed all in black
Do your sin while you hide
And although we will chide
You, if you repent, you’re welcome back.

Is it better to do or to learn?
For which action is more merit earned?
Tarfon said: You should do
Said the sages: Not true!
You should learn how to do, we discern.

Ilana Kurshan

Ilana Kurshan is the author of If All the Seas Were Ink, published in 2017 by St. Martin’s Press. She has translated books of Jewish interest by Ruth Calderon, Benjamin Lau, and Micah Goodman, as well as novels, short stories, and children’s picture books. Her book Why Is This Night Different From Other Nights was published by Schocken in 2005. She is a regular contributor to Lilith Magazine, where she is the Book Reviews Editor, and her writing has appeared in The Forward, The World Jewish Digest, Hadassah, Nashim, Zeek, Kveller, and Tablet. Kurshan is a graduate of Harvard University (BA, summa cum laude, History of Science) and Cambridge University (M.Phil, English literature). She lives in Jerusalem with her husband and five children.
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