Y'vamos, chapter 6, mishna 4, reads, in part:

אירס את האלמנה ונתמנה להיות כהן גדול יכנוס. ומעשה ביהושע בן גמלא שקידש את מרתא בת ביתוס ומינהו המלך להיות כהן גדול וכנסה.‏

If someone kidushin-betrothed a widow and was appointed kohen gadol, he may marry her [even though a kohen gadol may not marry a widow, since there was already kidushin in place]. Indeed, it happened that Y'hoshua b. Gamla kidushin-betrothed Marsa b. Baysos, the king appointed him kohen gadol, and he married her.

What does the story add?

I've seen a mishna cite a story to prove a point (though I can't find any examples at the moment). But, as far as I recall, such stories either (a) end with "and the rabbis approved" or (b) are about authorities (like rabbis) and thus are authoritative. Here, (a) is certainly not true. (b) seems to be false also: the mishna gives no indication that the actors in this story are people to be emulated and indeed the commentaries on the mishna say that "the king appointed him" implies that Y'hoshua b. Gamla was unworthy of the post. So there doesn't seem to be any authority supplied by the story; what does it add?

  • 1
    Please take a look at sefaria.org/… . No responsibility taken for the source. Commented Apr 1, 2019 at 12:06
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    (a) ex. Pesachim 4:8 (b) ex. Maaser Sheini 5:9 (c) one party cites a story to prove their opinion, and the other party rejects the proof (ex. Sukkah 2:1), which also doesn’t apply here
    – DonielF
    Commented Apr 5, 2019 at 14:17

2 Answers 2


Tosafot Bava Batra 21a write that Yehoshua b. Gamla was wholly righteous (צדיק גמור), and that the implied criticism in Yevamot is simply because there were other more qualified priests available for the position of high priest.

Thus, I suggest, your option b) may in fact be correct. This story is being cited as a proof to the quoted halachah, in the sense that a righteous high priest followed this ruling.


Indeed this is strange that the Mishna talk about the story of YBG.

Melechet Shelomo

ע"כ: ואיתא בת"כ סוף פ' ב' דפ' אמור: ומינהו המלך בגמ' דייקי' מדקתני מינהו ולא קתני נתמנה דקשר של רשעים הוא שהכניסה מרתא בת בייתוס תרקבא דדינרי זהב לינאי מלכא עד דבעא לאוקומי ליהושע בן גמלא בכהני רברבא ומ"מ מצינו בו שתיקן תקנות גדולות בישראל כדאמרי' בבבא בתרא ברם זכור אותו האיש לטוב ויהושע בן גמלא שמו שאלמלא הוא נשתכחה תורה מישראל: וראיתי שהגיה ה"ר יהוסף ז"ל גמלה בה"א מרתה בה"א:‏

Despite that his wife, who came from a rich family, gave the king a great amount of money for his nomination for kehuna gedola, however he made a big program for Tora to spread education for children, that every community must pay a teacher (in the second chapter of Baba Batra). It's his merit if Tora was not be forgotten in Jewish people.

Ritba says (Yevamot 61a)

. in a first interpretation that this Yehoshua Ben Gamla was an homonym, not the known as righteous.

. In a second pshat he says that he became righteous afterwards.

But we can argue that even if not a first choice for Kehuna gedola, YBG was already known as Tsadik and Talmid Chacham. Perhaps he didn't know that his wife gave money to the king. The pshat of Gemara is that Gemara makes a Dyuk. The dyuk is that in this story which is a Maase Rav because of the greatness of YBG, there is an allusion to what is happened behind the scenes. This is clear from the way Gemara addresses the maase

מנהו אין נתמנה לא אמר רב יוסף קטיר קחזינא הכא

He (the king) nominated him, he was not regularly nominated (by Kohanim and king). Rav Yosef said I see in this formulation of the Mishna an allusion of protectionism (link between reshayim). But this is the dyuk, not the main teaching of the maase.

So the maase has two levels of teaching.

  1. Pshat pashtut. The standard pshat of Maase Rav

  2. Deduction from the style of the Mishna. The behavior of his wife and the King.

See also Mishna Yoma 3.9

וְקַלְפִּי הָיְתָה שָׁם וּבָהּ שְׁנֵי גוֹרָלוֹת. שֶׁל אֶשְׁכְּרוֹעַ הָיוּ, וְעֲשָׂאָן בֶּן גַּמְלָא שֶׁל זָהָב, וְהָיוּ מַזְכִּירִין אוֹתוֹ לְשֶׁבַח. ‏

עַל הָרִאשׁוֹנִים נֶאֱמַר (מִשְׁלֵי י, ז): “זֵכֶר צַדִּיק לִבְרָכָה",‏


בן גמלא - יהושע בן גמלא כשנתמנה להיות כהן גדול עשאן של זהב:&rlm:

Yehoshua Ben Gamla did Kalpi from gold. And they say about him (not he alone) the remembering of Tsadik is blessing.

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