Thursday, June 19, 2008

Scheming Woman

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Sotah 26a) cites a braisa: It is written: Then she shall be innocent and she shall bear seed. This teaches us that if she was barren, she will be blessed with a child; these are the words of Rabbi Akiva. Rabbi Yishmael asked him: If so, all the barren women will seclude themselves (and upon emerging innocent after drinking the bitter waters) and then be blessed with children, and since this one (a woman who remains loyal to her husband and avoids suspicion) did not seclude herself, she will lose out (and remain barren)! What then is the verse teaching us? It teaches us that if she used to have painful births, she will now give birth with ease; if she gave birth to females, she will now give birth to males; if she used to have short children, she will now have tall children; if she used to give birth to dark-skinned babies, she will now give birth to fair ones.

Tosfos asks: Can’t we ask the same question on Rabbi Yishmael as he asked on Rabbi Akiva? A woman who was suffering severe childbirth pains would seclude herself, and after drinking the bitter waters, she will give birth “pain-free”!

Tosfos HaRosh answers that these blessings are not as great as that of a barren woman giving birth. A woman wound not go to such lengths (secluding herself with another man) just to receive these blessings.

The Haflaah in Panim Yafos answers that a woman who was used to painful childbirths will not seclude herself with another man, for she will be afraid that her husband will rather divorce her than have her degraded in Beis Din. A barren woman, however, is not concerned that her husband might divorce her, for after ten years without children, he will anyway divorce her. She therefore has nothing to lose by secluding herself.

The Minchas Kenaos answers by asking the following question: While it is understandable that the woman might employ such a scheme, but where will she find a man to go along with her? An ordinary man will not want to transgress the prohibition of secluding with a married woman. It is illogical to assume that she will seclude herself with a wicked man, for he will want to cohabit with her, and her intention is only to be blessed with children from her husband.

We are compelled to say like the Sifri states that if the husband never had children, he will also be blessed with children. Accordingly, she will find a barren man to seclude with, for he also wants to have a child.

This concern is only according to Rabbi Akiva, who maintains that the barren women will be blessed with children. Accordingly, it can be extended to a man as well. However, according to Rabbi Yishmael, who holds that the blessing is in regards to pain-free child birth, this is only applicable to the woman, and not the man.