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Sotah - Chapter Two

Sotah - Chapter Two

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Halacha 1

When a woman is given a warning and enters into privacy [with the man in question], she is not compelled to drink the bitter water. Instead, if she says, "I committed adultery," she is not required to drink the waters, but she must be divorced without receiving [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah, and she is forbidden to her husband forever.

Similarly, if she says: "I did not commit adultery, but I will not drink the waters,"1 she is not forced to drink, but she must be divorced without receiving [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah.

And if her husband says, "I don't want to have her drink," or if he engaged in relations with her after she entered into privacy [with the man in question], she should not drink [the bitter water].2 Instead, she is given [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah3 and departs; she is forbidden to him forever.

Halacha 2

The following women are not fit to drink [the bitter water] even though they desire to drink, and their husbands desire to have them drink. Instead, once witnesses testify that [such women] entered into privacy with the men in question after witnesses testify that a warning was granted, they are forbidden to their husbands and must be divorced without receiving [the money due them by virtue of] their ketubah. There are fifteen such women; they are:

a woman who was consecrated but the marriage bond was not consummated,

a yevamah who is waiting for her husband's brother to perform yibbum,4

a minor married to a man past the age of majority,

a woman who is past majority who is married to a minor,

the wife of an androgynous,5

the wife of a blind man,

the wife of a man who limps,

who cannot speak, who is deaf, or whose hand has been cut off, and

similarly, a woman who limps, who cannot speak, who is blind, whose hand has been cut off, or who is deaf.

All the above are not fit to drink [the bitter water].6

Halacha 3

What are the sources that exclude these women from drinking [the bitter water]? [Numbers 5:29] states: "When a woman deviates [from the paths of modesty] while married to her husband...."

"While married" excludes a woman who was consecrated, but the marriage bond was not consummated, and a yevamah who is waiting for her husband's brother to perform yibbum. "Her husband" excludes a minor married to a man past the age of majority.7 "While married to her husband" excludes a woman who is past majority who is married to a minor8, and the wife of an androgynous, for he is not a man.9

[Numbers 5:13 states:] "And it was hidden from the eyes of her husband" - This excludes the wife of a blind man.10 "And the priest shall have the woman stand" [Ibid.:18] - This excludes a woman who limps. "And he shall place on her palm" [Ibid.] - This excludes a woman who does not have a hand or whose hand is crooked or shrunk to the extent that she cannot hold [the meal offering]. This applies even if only one hand is in this condition, for the verse uses the plural form of the word palm, [indicating that both hands must be fit to perform this act].

"And the woman shall say" [Ibid.:22] - This excludes a woman who cannot speak. "And he shall say to the woman" [Ibid.:19] - This excludes a woman who cannot hear. And [the passage continues, Ibid.:20:] "When a woman deviates [from the path of modesty] while married to her husband..." - This indicates that she must be of sound body, possessing all the physical characteristics [mentioned previously] that he possesses, and he [must possess the characteristics mentioned that she possesses].

This teaches that any physical factor that prevents her from drinking [the bitter water] prevents her husband from compelling her to drink. And any factor that prevents her husband from compelling her to drink prevents her from drinking.

Halacha 4

When a minor is married off by her father, she is forbidden to her husband if she willingly commits adultery. Therefore, she is given a warning, not to compel her to drink [the bitter water], but so that she will be denied [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah, as stated above.11

With regard to a minor who is entitled to nullify her marriage through mi'un,12 by contrast, no warning is given, for she has no desire to be forbidden to her husband. [Even if she commits adultery,] she is not forbidden to her husband, even if he is a priest.13

Halacha 5

When a man issues a warning to a woman he consecrated or to his yevamah, and she entered into privacy [with the man in question] after [the husband] consummated their marriage, she must drink [the bitter water] like any other [married] woman.14

When a husband issued a warning to his wife and she enters into privacy [with the man in question] before her husband engaged in sexual relations with her,15 she does not drink [the bitter water]. Instead, she is divorced without receiving [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah and is forbidden to her husband forever. [This is alluded to by Numbers 5:20, which] states: "And another man has lain with you other than your husband," [implied is] that relations with the husband preceded relations with the man in question.

Halacha 6

[The following women are judged] like all other married women - who are permitted to remain married - and are required to drink [the bitter water if they violated a husband's warning]: a convert, a freed maidservant, the wife of a convert, the wife of a freed servant, a woman who is of illegitimate parenthood, the wife of a man of illegitimate parenthood and the wife of an impotent man - whether he became impotent naturally or through an act of man.16

Halacha 7

A pregnant woman and a nursing woman are required to drink [the bitter water] in their present state.17 When a woman is required to drink [the bitter water], but her husband dies before she has the opportunity of doing so, she should neither drink18 nor collect [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah.19

Halacha 8

Whenever a man has engaged in forbidden relations from the time he attained majority onward, the curse-bearing waters20 do not test [the fidelity of] his wife. Even if he engaged in relations with the woman he consecrated while she was living in her father's house - which is a Rabbinic prohibition21 - the waters do not test [the fidelity of] his wife. [This is derived from Numbers 5:31, which] states: "The man will then be free of sin, and the woman will bear [the burden of] her sin." [Implied is that] when the man is "free of sin," "the woman will bear [the burden of] her sin."

Halacha 9

Therefore, if a man's wife is forbidden to him because of a negative commandment, a positive commandment, or even [a Rabbinic prohibition - e.g.,] a sh'niyah, and he warned her and she entered into privacy [with the man in question], she should not drink [the bitter water].22 Instead, she should be divorced and should not receive [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah. She becomes forbidden to him for this reason as well.

When a man transgresses and marries a woman who was made pregnant by another man, or who is nursing a child she bore by another man, she may [be compelled to] drink [the bitter water], since there is no transgression involved [in their relationship].23

Halacha 10

When a man is not married to a woman capable of bearing children, nor has he [fathered] children in [a previous marriage], and he marries a barren woman, a woman past the age of child-bearing or an aylonit, [the marriage is not considered desirable in the eyes of the Sages].24 [Therefore,] such a woman may not drink [the bitter water], nor does she receive [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah [if the husband divorces her for violating his warning].

If, however, [the husband] has [already fathered] children, or he has another wife capable of bearing children, he may compel [his other wife] to drink [the bitter water] even if she is past the age of child-bearing, barren or an aylonit, and thus incapable of giving birth.25 For the Torah's statement, [Numbers 5:28] "And she will be cleared and she will conceive" applies solely to a woman capable of giving birth,26 [implying] that if previously she would give birth in pain, she will give birth comfortably; if previously she would give birth to daughters, she will give birth to sons.

Halacha 11

If [a husband] had [another] wife [capable of bearing children] or had children, but they died between the time when the warning was issued and the time the woman entered into privacy [with the man in question], the woman was already fit to drink the bitter water, and she should be compelled to drink.

If [a husband] did not have children or [another] wife capable of bearing children aside from an aylonit or another woman [incapable of bearing children], and his divorcee bore him a son27 between the time when the warning was issued and the time the woman entered into privacy [with the man in question], the aylonit was already excluded from drinking [and that ruling remains].

Halacha 12

Whenever a warning was administered to a woman and she entered into privacy [with the man in question], but did not drink the bitter water - whether her husband did not desire to compel her to drink, she did not want to drink, a witness testified that she committed adultery, she was one of the women who are unfit to drink [the bitter water],28 or the warning was administered by the court [and not by her husband]29 - since she becomes forbidden to her husband, she also becomes forbidden to the man with whom she entered into privacy just as she is forbidden to her husband.30

If this other man transgresses and marries her, he is compelled to divorce her even if she has borne him many children. Based on the Oral Tradition our Sages taught: Just as she is forbidden to her husband, she is forbidden to the man with whom she engaged in relations.31

Halacha 13

[Different rules apply when,] however, a woman was not warned and witnesses came and testified that she entered into privacy with a man, and then they discovered unsavory behavior: e.g., they entered [her room] after [the man in question did] and saw her tying her belt, they found wet spittle on the bed's canopy,32 or the like. If her husband divorces her because of this unsavory behavior,33 she should not marry the man with whom she is suspected [of having relations]; instead, she should be forbidden to him.

If she transgresses and marries [this man] and children are born to them, she need not be divorced.34 If she has not borne [this man] children, he must divorce her.

Halacha 14

When does the above apply? When [the inhabitants of] a city gossiped about the man and woman in question for a day and a half or more, saying: "So and so committed adultery with so and so," and this rumor did not cease. [Moreover, this applies] only when neither [the man nor the woman in question] have enemies who spread this rumor.35

If, however, the rumor was not widespread throughout the city, or the rumor ceased for reasons other than fear [different rules apply]. If she marries [the man in question], she need not be divorced although she has not borne him any children. Even when one witness comes and testifies that she committed adultery with him, she need not be divorced.36

Halacha 15

If a woman who was divorced by her [first] husband for unsavory behavior marries another man and is later divorced by him, she is forbidden to marry the man because of whom she was divorced by her first husband. If, however, she marries him, he is not compelled to divorce her even though she has not borne him children.37

Halacha 16

Whenever two witnesses testify that, while she was married to another man, a woman committed adultery38 with the man to whom she is presently married, she must be divorced by her present husband even though she has borne him several children.

In all the instances where we said that a woman must be divorced, she is not entitled to receive [the money due her by virtue of] her ketubah.39

FOOTNOTES
1.

Although she claims innocence, she is still afraid of drinking the waters. See Chapter 4, Halachah 3.

2.

As stated in Chapter 1, Halachah 2, from the time the woman enters into privacy with the man in question, her husband is forbidden to enter into relations with her. As such, if they engaged in relations, the bitter water will not show her guilt, as indicated by Halachah 8.

3.

Because it is her husband's actions that prevent her from drinking the waters that can establish her innocence, he must bear the financial responsibility.

4.

The commentaries raise a question based on Hilchot Yibbum 2:20, which states that when a yevamah engages in relations with another man, she does not become forbidden to her yavam. They explain that an exception is made when the yavam issues a warning and forbids the yevamah to enter into privacy with a particular man.

5.

A person who has both male and female sexual organs.

6.

If they violate a warning given by their husbands and enter into privacy with the man in question, they are to be divorced without receiving the money due them by virtue of their ketubah.

7.

When a girl below majority was not consecrated by her father, the consecration is not effective by Scriptural law. Even when she was consecrated by her father, she is not required to drink the bitter water unless she is warned after attaining majority. (See Halachah 4.) Note the Kessef Mishneh, who quotes a different source from that mentioned by the Rambam.

8.

A woman consecrated by a minor is not considered consecrated at all (Hilchot Ishut 4:7).

9.

As stated in Hilchot Ishut 4;11, when an androgynous consecrates a woman, the status of the kiddushin is in doubt.

10.

Who could not see, even when the two did not act in secrecy (Sotah 27a).

11.

The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam's ruling, maintaining that a minor is never forbidden to her husband because of adultery unless he is a priest, basing his opinion on Yevamot 33b, which states: "The seduction of a minor is always considered equivalent to rape."

In his gloss on Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 3:2, the Maggid Mishneh substantiates the Rambam's ruling, citing Ketubot 9a, which states that the statements of a husband who claims that his wife is not a virgin are accepted and cause her to be forbidden to him. According to the Rambam, this applies even when the girl is a minor. (See also the Kessef Mishneh.)

12.

I.e., an orphan who was married off by someone other than her father. See Hilchot Ishut 4:8; Hilchot Gerushin 11:1.

13.

Since according to Scriptural law, her marriage is not binding, relations with another man are not considered adulterous. Even a priest who may not marry a woman who engaged in a forbidden sexual relationship may remain married to this girl.

14.

Although these women are not required to drink if they enter into privacy with the man in question before the marriage is consummated, after its consummation the warning issued beforehand is effective.

15.

I.e., the husband and the wife entered into a chuppah, effecting the stage of nisu'in. They did not, however, consummate the marriage. Before they did so, the wife entered into privacy with the man in question.

16.

The words "who are permitted to remain married" are fundamental to the understanding of this halachah. All these women and/or their husbands mentioned are bound by different laws with regard to marriage from the Jewish people as a whole. Nevertheless, if they are permitted to their husbands or to their wives, the laws of a sotah apply.

As such, an illegitimate man or woman must be married either to another illegitimate man or woman or to a convert, as stated in Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah, Chapter 15. With regard to an impotent man, the laws regarding whom he is permitted to marry and whom he is forbidden to marry are stated in Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah, Chapter 16.

17.

We do not wait for her to give birth or for her to wean her child. Note Tosafot, Sotah 26a, who differ and maintain that we should wait for a pregnant woman to give birth before requiring her to drink.

18.

For her husband is no longer alive.

19.

For she did not prove her innocence by drinking the waters.

20.

The term is taken from Numbers 5:18.

21.

See Hilchot Ishut 10:1. The Ra'avad differs with the Rambam regarding this point, maintaining that Sotah 24b appears to indicate that the wife of a man who had relations with the woman he consecrated while she was living in her father's house must still drink the bitter water. The Kessef Mishneh justifies the Rambam's ruling.

22.

For by engaging in relations with his wife, the man has transgressed a prohibition, and hence the waters will not test his wife's fidelity.

23.

It is forbidden to marry such women, as stated in Hilchot Gerushin 11:25. Nevertheless, since the prohibition is not inherent to the couple's relationship - as reflected in the fact that after the 24 months of nursing have passed, the couple may marry - but rather a result of the child's presence, it is not considered a sinful relationship. See the gloss of the Kessef Mishneh and the Mishneh LaMelech.

The Rambam's wording here implies that the faithfulness of the sotah should be tested immediately. From his Commentary to the Mishnah (Sotah 4:3), it would appear that the couple are compelled to separate until the 24 months pass. Afterwards, if the husband desires to resume his relationship with his wife, she must drink the bitter water.

24.

Every Jew is commanded to be fruitful and multiply. For this reason, as the Rambam states in Hilchot Ishut 15:7, the husband is obligated to divorce this woman. Therefore, she is not given the opportunity to demonstrate her fidelity by drinking the bitter water.

25.

Significantly, the Rambam's ruling here reflects a change of mind from his ruling in his Commentary on the Mishnah (Sotah 4:3) where he rules that such women may not drink the bitter water even when the husband has fathered children already.

26.

It is not, however, an exclusion preventing a woman who is not capable of bearing children from drinking the waters. See Sotah 25b. See the gloss of the Ra'avad.

27.

I.e., he was married to an aylonit and a woman capable of bearing children. The woman capable of bearing children became pregnant, he divorced her and then issued a warning to the aylonit.

28.

See Halachah 2.

29.

See Chapter 1, Halachot 10-11.

30.

I.e., if her husband divorces her, it is forbidden for her to marry the man concerning whom she was warned.

31.

This principle applies not only with regard to a sotah, but with regard to every adulterous relationship. The passage in the Torah mentions the word v'nitma'ah ("and she became defiled") twice, once in reference to the husband and once in reference to the adulterer. See Hilchot Gerushin 5:4-5. See also Halachah 15.

32.

This indicates that someone was lying face up on the bed and could not turn to either side (Rashi, Yevamot 24a). See Hilchot Ishut 24:15 and notes, where these concepts are discussed in greater detail.

33.

He is not, however, compelled to divorce her. The matter is left to his initiative (Kessef Mishneh; Beit Shmuel 11:6).

34.

Since there is no conclusive evidence that she is forbidden, she is allowed to remain married, so that the reputation of her children will not be sullied.

35.

The Ramah (Even HaEzer 11:1) differs and maintains that if there are both a rumor that continues spreading throughout the city, and witnesses who saw unsavory behavior, the husband is required to divorce his wife if she has not borne him children [Shulchan Aruch (Even HaEzer 11:2)].

36.

If, however, two witnesses testify to adultery, the adulterer is compelled to divorce her, as stated above.

37.

Although the couple are forbidden to marry, since there were no witnesses to the act of adultery, and the second marriage interposed, a more lenient ruling is given than that stated in Halachah 13.

38.

The Chelkat Mechokek 11:10 emphasizes that this law applies only when the woman willingly committed adultery. If she was raped while married to her first husband, she does not become forbidden to him. Moreover, she also does not become forbidden to the rapist, and if she is widowed or divorced, she is permitted to marry him.

39.

For it is her immodest conduct that caused her to be forbidden.

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