What does the necessity to erase the Parshah of Sotah have to do with the
laws of the ink used to write a Sefer Torah?
(a) RASHI explains that Rebbi Yishmael told Rebbi Meir to desist from using
Kankantum in his ink only when writing the Parshah of Sotah in the Sefer
Torah. Rebbi Yishmael holds that one may use the Parshah of Sotah as the
Megilas Sotah (to immerse in the Mei Sotah and erase the words) from an
actual Sefer Torah, because he holds that the Megilas Sotah does not have to
be written "Lishmah."
According to Rashi, it seems that the reason Kankantum may not be used to
write a Sefer Torah has nothing to do with the validity of the Sefer Torah.
The Sefer Torah is valid whether or not Kankantum is used in the ink. The
only reason Kankantum may not be used is so that the Parshah of Sotah
written in the Sefer Torah may be used as the Megilas Sotah (see RITVA,
Why must the Parshas Sotah of every Sefer Torah be written in a way that
will make it valid for use to test a Sotah? Since people assume that the
Sofer who wrote the Sefer Torah did not use Kankantum (it seems that most
Sofrim did not use it, perhaps so that they could erase their mistakes),
Rebbi Meir -- by using Kankantum in his ink -- would be causing the Kohen to
err, should the Kohen attempt to use that Parshah as the Megilas Sotah. The
Kohen would think that it was not written with Kankantum, when it really was
written with Kankantum.
A number of questions may be asked on this explanation.
1. How can the Kohen use the Parshas Sotah from Rebbi Meir's Sefer Torah,
even if Rebbi Meir does not use Kankantum? We learned (17b) that the Parshas
Sotah must be written only *after* the Kohen was Mashbi'a the woman! Rebbi
Meir's Sefer Torah obviously would have been written before the Hashba'ah!
(TOSFOS DH Amar)
Perhaps we may answer the first three questions on Rashi's explanation as
follows. Those who maintain that the Megilas Sotah may be taken from a Sefer
Torah do not require that it be written "Lishmah," like Rashi here says and
like the Gemara concludes (20b). Even though the verse says "v'Asah Lah"
(Bamidbar 5:30), implying that the procedure of the Megilas Sotah must be
done "Lishmah," they understand that this refers only to the erasing
(Mechikah) of the Megilas Sotah and not to the writing (Kesivah) of it.
Those who argue maintain that "v'Asah Lah" refers to the Kesivah as well as
2. We learned earlier (17b) that the Megilas Sotah must be written during
the day and not at night. Does this mean that it is prohibited to write that
section of the Sefer Torah at night, since the Parshas Sotah in the Sefer
Torah must be fit for use as the Megilas Sotah? (See RASHASH)
3. The verse says "v'Kasav ha'Kohen" (ibid.), teaching that the Kohen must
write the Megilas Sotah. We know that everything that the Torah tells us to
do in Parshas Sotah is Me'akev -- the procedure of the Mei Sotah is invalid
if any stage is left out. The RAMBAM (Hilchos Sotah 4:9) indeed rules that a
Megilas Sotah written by a non-Kohen is invalid! How, then, can the Sefer
Torah that Rebbi Meir wrote be used for the Megilas Sotah? Rebbi Meir was
not a Kohen! (See REBBI AKIVA EIGER in his notes on the Rambam in Hilchos
Sotah 4:9, in the name of Teshuvos Mahari m'Beis Levi #37; RASHASH.)
4. What difference does it make if a Kohen does not know that Rebbi Meir
used Kankantum in his Sefer Torah? The Halachah is that he can only give the
water to the woman after the ink is entirely erased in the water and no
impression of ink remains on the parchment ("Ein Rishumo Nikar"). If Rebbi
Meir put Kankantum in his ink, then the Kohen will see for himself that the
words are not being erased and he will not use it!
This is similar to the argument among Tana'im regarding the writing of a
Get. Some say that the Kesivah (writing) must be done "Lishmah" and others
say that only the Chasimah (signing) must be done "Lishmah." According to
the opinion that only the Chasimah must be done "Lishmah," not only does the
Kesivah not have to be done "Lishmah," but *none* of the unique Halachos of
Get apply to the writing of the Get.
Perhaps in the case of Parshas Sotah as well, according to the opinion here
that requires that only the Mechikah needs to be done "Lishmah," the way the
Parshah is written cannot affect its Kashrus. Accordingly, not only will the
writing of the Megilas Sotah not require "Lishmah," but the other laws of
the writing of the Megilah also do not apply -- it does not need to be
written after the Hashba'ah, it may be written during the day or during the
night, and it may be written by a Kohen or by a non-Kohen. (Even though the
verse tells us that it is a Mitzvah for the Kohen to write it, if a Kohen
does not write it, the Megilas Sotah is nevertheless valid.)
Hence, Rebbi Yishmael -- who holds that the writing of the Megilas Sotah
does not have to be "Lishmah" -- indeed accepts a Parshas Sotah taken from
the Sefer Torah written by Rebbi Meir as a valid Megilas Sotah, as long as
it was written with ink that can be erased. (M. Kornfeld and D. Zupnik)
Regarding the fourth question, that the Kohen himself would not use the
Megilas Sotah when he sees that its text does not become erased, it is
possible that the Kohen will not look at the Megilas Sotah to verify that
there is no impression left; he will assume that it was all erased and he
will give the invalid Mei Sotah to the woman to drink. Alternatively, Rebbi
Yishmael was concerned not for the validity of the Megilas Sotah when he
told Rebbi Meir not to use Kankantum when writing a Sefer Torah, but rather
he was concerned for the honor of the Sefer Torah.
Rebbi Yishmael maintains that it is not considered a disgrace to cut out or
erase a part of the Sefer Torah to use for the Megilas Sotah, since the
purpose of doing so is to bring peace between a husband and wife. However,
if the Parshah will turn out to be an invalid Megilas Sotah (i.e. it was
written with Kankantum), then it certainly will be a disgrace to the Sefer
Torah to have its words cut out or partially erased for no purpose! That is
why Rebbi Yishmael says that the Sofer must ensure that the Parshas Sotah in
a Sefer Torah will be valid for use as a Megilas Sotah, and will not be
written with Kankantum. (M. Kornfeld)
We may add that Rashi might have explained the Gemara in the manner that he
did in order to answer the question that the Gemara asks on the Beraisa. The
first Beraisa says that Rebbi Yishmael told Rebbi Meir not to use Kankantum
because it is not valid for writing the Parshas Sotah. The second Beraisa
says that Rebbi Meir told Rebbi Akiva that Rebbi Yishmael never told him not
to use Kankantum. The Gemara presents this as a contradiction and leaves it
unanswered ("Kashya"). However, the RASHBAM in Bava Basra (127a, DH Kashya)
and RASHI in Sanhedrin (72a, DH Kashya) point out that the difference
between a "Kashya" and a "Teyuvta" is that a "Kashya" can be answered
(albeit with a slightly forced answer). The way in which Rashi explains the
Sugya here presents an answer to the "Kashya" of the Gemara, as follows.
When Rebbi Yishmael told Rebbi Meir not to use Kankantum, he meant that
Rebbi Meir should not use Kankantum because the Parshas Sotah should be
valid for use as a Megilas Sotah, and *not* because the Kankantum would
invalidate the entire Sefer Torah. That is what Rebbi Meir meant when he
told Rebbi Akiva that Rebbi Yishmael never stopped him from using it (i.e.
because of the Kedushah of the Sefer Torah). Rebbi Akiva (when Rebbi Meir
learned by him a second time, *after* Rebbi Yishmael), however, told him not
to use the Kankantum because the *Sefer Torah* itself should not be written
with Kankantum. (In fact, perhaps Rebbi Akiva prohibited the use of
Kankantum not only for the Parshas Sotah section of the Sefer Torah but for
*any* part of the Sefer Torah)!
(b) TOSFOS here says, like Rashi, that Rebbi Yishmael stopped Rebbi Meir
from putting Kankantum in the ink that he used only for writing the Parshah
of Sotah in the Sefer Torah. Tosfos explains, though, that this is a
requirement in the laws of writing a Sefer Torah, and it is not a
requirement in the laws of writing the Parshas Sotah, because in the times
of Rebbi Meir (after the Churban) the Megilas Sotah was no longer in use.
The reason for not using Kankantum in the Sefer Torah is because the
Halachah that the Parshah of Sotah must be erasable ("u'Machah") applies to
any Parshah of Sotah that is written -- whether it is written for the
purpose of Mei Sotah or whether it is written as part of a Sefer Torah.
(This is true only according to those who maintain that a Parshas Sotah from
a Sefer Torah may be used as a Megilas Sotah in the Mei Sotah. According to
those who hold that a Parshas Sotah from a Sefer Torah may not be used for
the Mei Sotah, then when it is written as part of a Sefer Torah it does not
have the title of a "Parshas Sotah" since it does not have the same use as a
Megilas Sotah written for the Mei Sotah, and thus the requirement of
"u'Machah" does not apply.)
(c) TOSFOS in Eruvin (13a, DH Chutz) explains that Rebbi Yishmael prohibits
writing the entire Sefer Torah with Kankantum, and not just the Parshah of
Sotah. The reason, Tosfos explains, is either because Rebbi Yishmael learns
that there is a Gezeirah Shavah comparing the writing of a Sefer Torah to
the writing of a Megilas Sotah, or because Rebbi Yishmael holds that,
mid'Rabanan, Kankantum may not be used for the entire Sefer Torah so that
one not mistakenly use it for the Parshah of Sotah.