THOUGHTS ON THE DAILY DAF
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Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld
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SOTAH 26,27,29,30 - These Dafim have been dedicated by Mrs. Estanne
Abraham-Fauer in honor of the first Yahrzeit (18 Teves 5761) of her father,
Reb Mordechai ben Eliezer Zvi (Weiner). May the merit of supporting and
advancing the study of the Talmud be l'Iluy Nishmaso.
1) WHAT WOMAN WOULD WANT TO MAKE HERSELF A SOTAH
QUESTION: The Gemara cites three opinions concerning what the verse,
"v'Niksah v'Nizre'ah Zara" (Bamidbar 5:28), teaches. Rebbi Shimon ben Elazar
says that this verse teaches that an Ailonis does not drink the Mei Sotah
because she is not fit to have children. Rebbi Akiva says that if the woman
was an Akarah (childless) until now, then she will be blessed and have
children. Rebbi Yishmael challenges Rebbi Akiva's view and asks that if the
verse is promising the blessing of children for every childless woman who
drinks the Mei Sotah and emerges innocent, then all unscrupulous, childless
women will seclude themselves with another man after Kinuy in order to have
children and they will benefit from their sin, while an Akarah who is modest
and G-d-fearing will lose out as a result of her virtuousness! Rather, Rebbi
Yishmael says that the verse teaches that if the woman has given birth in
pain in the past, then she will give birth easily, or if she has given birth
in the past to ugly children, she will give birth to attractive children.
2) GIVING THE "MEI SOTAH" TO THE WIFE OF A "SERIS"
How does Rebbi Yishmael answer his own question on Rebbi Akiva? His question
still applies to his own interpretation of the verse! Those who have given
birth in pain will seclude themselves after Kinuy in order to gain the
blessing of an easy birth, and the G-d-fearing woman who has given birth in
pain will lose out because of her virtuousness! (TOSFOS DH Amar Lo)
(a) The MAHARSHA in Berachos (31b) answers that a woman would only make
herself a Sotah out of desperation, since the process of a Sotah involves
undergoing terrible torment and disgrace before meriting the blessing of
"v'Niksah v'Nizre'ah Zara." A woman would only consider making herself a
Sotah if she stands to gain a very significant benefit -- such as having
children when she is childless -- that would outweigh the torment and
disgrace of the Sotah process. She would not undergo such an ordeal simply
to be able to bear children with less pain during childbirth.
The TZELACH (Berachos 31b) and the HAFLA'AH (Kuntrus Acharon 115:11; Panim
Yafos, Parshas Naso) add that by making herself a Sotah, the woman risks
losing her husband entirely since he might decide not to bring her to drink
the Mei Sotah and he will divorce her instead. A woman would not risk losing
her husband just to gain the blessing of giving birth easily. If, however,
she is an Akarah, then she stands to lose her husband anyway, since the
Torah gives the right to the husband to divorce his wife after ten years of
childlessness. Since she does not risk losing anything, she will make
herself a Sotah in order to gain the blessing of having children.
(b) The BEN YEHOYADA answers that a painful birth is not necessarily brought
about by the physiological condition of the woman, nor is the tendency to
give birth to ugly or to feminine children dependent on her physical state.
A woman would not consider undergoing the ordeal of a Sotah in order to
prevent the possibility that she will have pain, or an ugly child, from her
next birth. However, a childless woman knows that she will not have children
because of her physiological condition, and thus she is willing to take the
drastic action of making herself a Sotah.
RAV ELAZAR MOSHE HA'LEVI HOROWITZ adds that when Rebbi Yishmael says that if
a woman gave birth in pain, she will give birth with ease, he is not
referring to past births. Rather, he is referring to future births. He means
that if the woman was *destined* to have a birth that is painful, drinking
the Mei Sotah (and emerging innocent of sin) will change her destiny and she
will give birth with ease. Since no woman knows her destiny in advance, she
will not make herself a Sotah.
This might be the intention of TOSFOS as well when he asks his question
specifically from the case of the women who have painful births. Why does
Tosfos not ask from the other cases that Rebbi Yishmael mentions -- women
who give birth to feminine children or to ugly children? Those women, too,
will want to seclude themselves and undergo the procedure of a Sotah in
order to change the way they give birth (MINCHAS KENA'OS)! According to the
Ben Yehoyada's approach, the answer is clear: a woman knows that her past
births have no bearing on her next birth; her next birth might be an
attractive child, or a masculine child. Tosfos asks only from the case of
women who have painful births, because sometimes painful births *are*
dependent on a woman's physical nature (see Bava Basra 16b, Yevamos 65b).
Such a woman should still want to become a Sotah to cure herself, according
to Rebbi Yishmael.
(See also MAHARITZ CHIYUS, EINI SHMUEL, and YOSEF DA'AS.)
QUESTION: The Mishnah states that the wife of a Seris drinks the Mei Sotah.
The Gemara asks that this is obvious -- why should she not be able to drink
the Mei Sotah? The Gemara answers that we might have thought that she does
not meet the requirement of the verse, "Mibal'adei Ishech" (Bamidbar 5:20),
which implies that the Sotah's husband must be able to have relations in
order for the Sotah to drink the Mei Sotah. Therefore, the Mishnah teaches
that the wife of a Seris *does* drink the Mei Sotah.
RASHI addresses the obvious question on the Gemara -- why is it that the
wife of a Seris indeed does drink the Mei Sotah? Why is she not excluded
from the laws of Sotah because of the verse that the Gemara cites,
"Mibal'adei Ishech," that implies that her husband must be fit for Shechivah
in order for the laws of Sotah to apply?
Rashi explains that the verse is not teaching that the husband must be fit
for Shechivah, but rather it is teaching that the Shechivas ha'Ba'al must
precede the Shechivas ha'Bo'el. Rashi adds that a Seris *does* satisfy the
requirement that the Sotah's husband be fit for Shechivah; it is just that
he is unable to impregnate his wife.
Rashi continues and says that the Mishnah must be referring to a "Seris
Chamah" who was born a Seris, because if the husband was a "Seris Adam" (who
was made into a Seris after he was born), then he is not permitted to remain
married to his wife, and therefore she should not be able to drink the Mei
Sotah, just like the case of a woman married to a Mamzer.
Rashi appears to be writing this explanation in order to refute another
possible way of interpreting the Mishnah. We might have thought that there
is another way for a Seris to fulfill the requirement of having the
Shechivas ha'Ba'al precede the Shechivas ha'Bo'el -- if the husband was not
a Seris at the time that he was married, and then he later became a Seris
Adam! Rashi rejects this explanation because in such a case the wife of the
Seris would not be able to drink the Mei Sotah because she is prohibited to
remain married to him.
The problem is that Rashi himself on the Mishnah (24a, DH Eshes Seris) gives
this very explanation that here he is trying to reject! Rashi there explains
that the Mishnah is referring to a Seris who became a Seris *after* he
married his wife, and that is how the Shechivas ha'Ba'al preceded the
Shechivas ha'Bo'el! How can the words of Rashi be reconciled?
In addition, according to Rashi on the Mishnah, what is the Chidush of Eshes
Seris? If the husband became a Seris after the marriage, then the Gemara's
question remains -- it is obvious that the wife of the Seris should drink
the Mei Sotah, because the requirement that the Shechivas ha'Ba'al precede
the Shechivas ha'Bo'el was fulfilled, and the husband *was* fit to have
children at that point!
Third, how does Rashi on the Mishnah answer the question that he poses here
on the Gemara, that the wife of a Seris Adam should not drink the Mei Sotah
because she is prohibited to remain married to him?
(a) The MISHNEH L'MELECH (Hilchos Sotah 2:6, DH v'Eshes Seris) answers that
Rashi on the Mishnah is explaining the Mishnah according to the way the
Gemara initially understands the Mishnah, before it asks that this Halachah
is obvious. It is only after the Gemara asks that this Halachah is obvious
that the Gemara changes its interpretation of the Mishnah and explains that
it is referring to a person who was always a Seris, and that the Seris is
nevertheless considered a "Bar Shechivah" (able to have relations).
However, the Mishneh l'Melech does not answer the third question we asked
above, that the wife of a Seris Adam should be prohibited to him and should
not be able to drink the Mei Sotah.
In addition, if Rashi understands that the Gemara's answer is that a Seris
*is* a "Bar Shechivah," then why does Rashi need to add in our Sugya that
the verse of "Mibal'adei Ishech" is teaching the requirement that the
husband's Shechivah must precede the adulterer's, and not that the husband
must be fit for Shechivah? Rashi should have said that the verse "Mibal'adei
Ishech" *does* teach that the husband must be fit for Shechivah but that the
Seris *is* fit Shechivah (RASHASH)!
(b) The RASHASH suggests that Rashi in our Sugya is really suggesting two
independent approaches. The beginning of the comments of Rashi -- when he
says that the verse teaches that the Shechivas ha'Ba'al must precede the
Shechivas ha'Bo'el -- is following the approach that Rashi on the Mishnah
takes, that the husband became a Seris later. In the end of his comments,
Rashi is giving an alternate explanation (and should contain the words "Iy
Nami") and is eventually rejecting his first explanation (because of the
question that his wife will be prohibited to him and thus will not be able
to drink the Mei Sotah).
The TOSFOS HA'ROSH takes a similar approach, but he says that Rashi actually
changed his mind, and that our text of Rashi is a combination of two
different explanations: Rashi's original explanation, and Rashi's conclusion
in which he rejects his original explanation. Rashi on the Mishnah and the
first half of Rashi here follow Rashi's original explanation (see
Introduction to Eruvin, where we point out that this is a common occurrence
The ME'IRI also cites these as two distinct explanations.
According to Rashi on the Mishnah, who says that the husband became a Seris
later, the Chidush of the Mishnah is that we might have thought that the
husband must be a "Bar Shechivah" not only before the Setirah, but even at
the time of the Setirah. The Mishnah teaches that it is enough if he was a
"Bar Shechivah" before the Setirah, and his Shechivas ha'Ba'al preceded the
How does Rashi on the Mishnah justify the fact that the wife of a Seris is
permitted to her husband and can drink the Mei Sotah? The Rishonim suggest a
number of answers.
1. The ME'IRI explains that the Seris mentioned in the Mishnah might be
referring to a man who became a Seris later in life at the hands of G-d
("b'Yidei Shamayim") and not due to any act of man (or disease). The Me'iri
apparently is referring to the Gemara in Yevamos (75b) that says that a
Patzu'a Dakah who became so b'Yidei Shamayim is permitted to remain married
to his wife. Rashi explains there that this refers to a person whose organs
withered out of fright from hearing a sudden, terrifying loud noise.
2. The Me'iri suggests further that the Mishnah might be referring to a
Seris who is married to a Giyores (convert) or a Meshuchreres (freed
maidservant) who is permitted to remain married to him. (However, the
Mishnah in Eduyos 5:6 cites a Machlokes Tana'im whether a Giyores may drink
the Mei Sotah.)
3. TOSFOS (DH Eshes) implies that the Mishnah might be discussing a Seris
who lost the ability to have children by drinking a sterilizing potion (see
Tosfos 24a, DH she'Einah). Since no physical damage was done to his organs,
he is permitted to remain married to his wife. (However, the Mishnah usually
refers to such a person as an "Akar" (or "Akarah") and not as a "Seris.")