Friday, June 20, 2008

Sotah's Seclusion

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Sotah 28b)states that the case where a sotah is deemed tamei is only when the doubt arisen in a private domain.

The Minchas Chinuch (mitzvah 365) poses the following question: The Rambam in Hilchos Sotah (1:3) rules that it is possible for a husband to warn his wife against secluding with two men at the same time. If she secludes herself with them, she will become forbidden until she drinks. Why is she forbidden? Since there are three people there (the woman and the two men), it should have a status of being a public domain, and she should be permitted!

Incidentally, it is evident from the Rambam that a woman can become a sotah even though she did not violate the laws of yichud (a woman being secluded with a man), for there is no yichud in a case of a woman and two men. This can also be proven from the halacha that a woman can become a sotah when she secludes herself with her father or brother, even thought here is no prohibition of yichud there as well.

Reb Avi Lebowitz brings another proof to this concept: The Gemora in Brochos (31b) states that Chanah threatened Hashem that if she doesn’t have a child, she will behave in a manner where Elkanah will warn her and she will then seclude herself with that man. After drinking the water and emerging innocent, she would be blessed with children according to Rabbi Akiva, who says that if she was barren, she will be blessed with a child. How could a righteous woman like Chanah put herself in a situation where she would be violating a prohibition of yichud? Clearly, it must be possible to accomplish a seclusion that would render a woman a sotah even without a yichud prohibition! (There are commentators who discuss various scenarios where a woman can be rendered a sotah from secluding herself with one man even without violating the issur of yichud.)

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Disciple's Disciple

The Mishna states: Rabbi Yehoshua said: Who will remove the dust from your eyes, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai! For you used to say that another generation is destined to declare a loaf (of terumah) tahor even though it is a shlishi, since there is no verse in the Torah which states that it is tamei. But does not your student, Rabbi Akiva, cite a verse from the Torah that it is tamei, as it is said, whatever is in it, shall be tamei.

The Rambam in his introduction to his Yad HaChazakah, he writes that Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai had five outstanding students. They were: Rabbi Eliezer the Great, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Yosi HaKohen, Rabbi Shimon ben Nesanel and Rabbi Elozar ben Arach. The Rambam continues by stating that Rabbi Akiva studied under Rabbi Eliezer the Great. It would seem that Rabbi Akiva was not a disciple of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai.

It is evident from the Gemora at the end of Tractate Makkos that Rabbi Akiva lived in the times after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdosh. The Maharsha in Yevamos (16a) speaks this out as well. The Gemora there records an incident: In the times of Rabbi Dosa ben Hurkenas, the co-wife of a daughter was permitted to the yavam. This ruling was extremely troubling to the Sages, because Rabbi Dosa was a great Torah scholar and his eyes had stopped seeing, so that he was unable to come to the Beis Medrash to study. A discussion took place as to who should go and notify him that they disagree with him. Rabbi Yehoshua said to them, “I will go.” They asked, “And who will go after him?” Rabbi Elozar ben Azaryah agreed to go. They asked, “And who will go after him?” Rabbi Akiva agreed to go.

The Maharsha explains: Rabbi Yehoshua went first because he was the oldest, for he was a student of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai in the times when the Beis HaMikdash was in existence. Rabbi Elozar ben Azaryah was appointed to be the Nasi after the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash. Rabbi Akiva was in the times of Ben Kuziva in Beitar years afterwards, and that is why he went last. It emerges that Rabbi Akiva was clearly not a student of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, but rather, a student of his student!

Rabbi Yaakov Marcus in his sefer Minchas Yaakov asks: Why did Rabbi Yehoshua refer to Rabbi Akiva as the disciple of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, when he was in fact his disciple’s disciple? Further on in the Mishna, Rabbi Yehoshua (ben Chananyah) refers to Rabbi Yehoshua (ben Hurkanos) as being the student of the student of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai! Why was he not as accurate in the first part of the Mishna? (It would seem that the Rambam in his elucidation to the Mishnayos addresses this point as well.)

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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.

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Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Bari V'shema

The Mishna had stated: If their husbands died before they had a chance to drink, Beis Shamai says that they collect their kesuvah and do not drink. Beis Hillel says: Either they drink, or do not take a kesuvah.

The Gemora (Daf Yomi: Sotah 25a - b)explains the argument: Beis Shamai maintains that a debt from a document which awaits collection is considered as if it has already been collected. [The widow wishes to collect from her husband’s property for her kesuvah. Her claim to these properties is questionable, for perhaps she committed adultery and forfeits her kesuvah. Since it is regarded as if she is already in possession of the properties, the husband’s heirs are trying to take the property away from her. The burden of proof rests on them. If they cannot provide proof, she collects her kesuvah.] Beis Hillel, however, holds that we do not regard the document as if it already collected (and therefore she is trying to take the properties from the husband’s heirs; the burden of proof is on her).

Tosfos HaRosh in Kesuvos (81a) asks: Why doesn’t the Gemora explain Beis Shamai’s reasoning based upon the principle of “bari v’shema bari adif”? Since the woman’s claim is a definite one, because she asserts that she did not defile herself, and the heirs’ claims are only an uncertain one, for they do not know if she defiled herself or not, her claim should be the stronger one, and therefore – win out!

They answer that the principle would not apply in this case for the following reason: Her definite claim is a weak one, for she knows that the husband’s heirs cannot counter her claim, for they have no way of knowing. Their claim, although it is an uncertain one, is a sound one, for there is a strong presumption of guilt based upon the fact that the husband warned her and she went against his warning by secluding herself with that man (raglayim l’davar). When the definite claim is a weak one, it cannot be superior than an uncertain strong claim.

Reb Dovid Parvarsky inquires as to the reason to the above qualification. Is it because the definite claim is a weak one, and that is why it cannot win over the uncertain claim? Accordingly, even if the doubtful claim is a weak one, the definite claim would still not be victorious! Or perhaps, it is because the uncertain claim is a powerful one? Accordingly, even if the definite claim would also be strong, it would not be able to overpower the uncertain claim!

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Sacred Waters - Daf 24

The Rambam rules that if the sotah says, “I defiled myself,” the bitter waters are poured out because there is no sanctity in them.

Rav Shach in Avi Ezri asks: How can the Rambam say that there is no sanctity in the water, when he also rules that if the waters remain overnight, they will be disqualified? Evidently, the waters are sacred, for otherwise, it would not be invalidated on account of standing overnight in the ministering vessel!

He answers: When the sotah says that she has been defiled, there is no necessity for the waters any longer, it is therefore regarded as a kodoshim animal that died, which loses its sanctity.

The Mikdash Mordechai questions this from the fact that one is still obligated to treat the dead animal with sanctity! How can the Rambam rule that the waters should just be spilled out? It should be poured into the special drain designated for sacred liquids!

He answers that a sacrificial offering that died retains its sanctity because halachically the korban is still required to be offered, but this particular animal is not suitable to be brought any longer. However, when the woman says, “I have defiled myself,” the waters accomplished its mission; although not in the most direct manner. The sotah admitted because she was frightened from the affects of the water. Since the waters brought about its intended result, it has fulfilled its assignment, and therefore, it does not retain any sanctity.

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Nezirus of a Son - Daf 23

The Mishna states: A father can impose upon his son a nezirus vow, but a mother cannot impose a nezirus vow on her son.

Rashi comments that the son remains a nazir even after he becomes an adult.

Tosfos in Nazir (28b) disagrees and maintains that as soon as the son becomes an adult, he is no longer a nazir.

Tosfos Yom Tov asks on Rashi: If a father cannot impose nezirus on his adult son, why would the nezirus that he imposed upon him as a minor remain when he becomes an adult?

The Reshash explains that there is a clear distinction between the two cases. A father does not have the authority to impose nezirus upon his adult son. However, when the father imposed nezirus upon his minor son, the child became a nazir. Once he is a nazir, why should we say that the nezirus goes away when he becomes an adult? Since he was a nazir up until now, nothing changes and he remains a nazir.

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Sunday, June 15, 2008

Repentance in the same Situation

It is written [Yirmiyah 22:10]: Cry intensely for one who leaves, because he will not return again and see the land of his birthplace. Rav Yehudah said: This is referring to one who departs this world without children.

Rav Huna said: The verse is referring to a person who committed a sin and repeated it. The Gemora states: Rav Huna is following his reasoning stated elsewhere that one who commits a sin and repeats it; it has become permitted to him.

The Gemora asks: Do you actually think that it is permitted? The Gemora answers: Rav Huna means that it becomes to him as if it was permitted.

The Gemora (Yoma 86b) explains that a true penitent is one who committed a sin in the past and then the opportunity for the same sins comes again a first time and a second time and he is saved from the sin on both occasions.

The Sefer Chasidim writes that a person should not put himself into a situation where he is tempted to sin, because he may not be able to withstand temptation.

The Tzlach questions the words of the Sefer Chasidim from the commentary of the Kli Yakar in Parshas Chukas, who writes regarding the phenomena of the Parah Adumah that the Parah Adumah was capable of rendering pure those that were impure and conversely, rendering impure those that were pure.

The Kli Yakar likens this idea to certain medicines that are beneficial for one who is ill but can prove fatal for one who is healthy. There is a parallel between remedying the body and remedying the soul. One who wishes to repent must be with the same woman that he sinned with the first time, at the same time of the year in which he had sinned, and at the same place where he sinned with her. Thus, the temptation to sin is particularly strong, as his Evil Inclination will entice him to respond exactly as he did before. By resisting the temptation, he demonstrates that he is a true penitent.

The Kli Yakar adds that this is what the Gemora (Brochos 34b) means when it states that in the place where penitents stand, the completely righteous do not stand, i.e. the completely righteous cannot stand in a place of temptation. Yet, according to the Sefer Chasidim, a righteous person is not permitted to endanger himself by entering into such a situation.


The Gemora states that if one commits a transgression and repeats it, it becomes like it is permitted to him.

Rav Shach was once giving rebuke and he questioned if there is any among us that have committed a sin and not repeated it. Woe is to us.

The Mabit in Beis Elokim (shaar hateshuva ch 11) writes that our sages have said if one commits a transgression three times, it becomes like it is permitted to him. Did he have a different version in the Gemora than us? Our Gemora states this to be correct if a person commits a sin even twice.

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