TalmuDigest

For the week ending 24 May 2008 / 19 Iyyar 5768

Sotah 2 - 8

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll

  • The warning given by a man to his wife whom he suspects of unfaithfulness
  • The connection between Mesechta Sotah and Mesechta Nazir preceding it
  • Marriages made in Heaven
  • When the testimony of a single witness regarding the suspected wife is sufficient
  • The debate over three Torah directives as to whether they are obligatory or optional
  • The impact of sin on life in this world and the next
  • The length of time the suspected wife must spend isolated with her paramour for her to be considered a sotah
  • The importance of washing and drying hands before eating
  • The danger of pride and praise of humility
  • When a sotah is not tested with the bitter water
  • When the bitter water has no effect on the sotah or a delayed one
  • Who escorts the sotah to the Beit Hamikdash for the test of the bitter water
  • The efforts of the High Court in Yerushalayim to persuade the sotah to confess her sin
  • The historical confessions of Reuven and Yehuda
  • The place and the process of the sotah's test
  • Avoiding doing mitzvot in bunches
  • The shaming of the sotah
  • Measure for measure in Heavenly punishments

The Taryag Tradition

  • Sotah 3a

The tradition that there are taryag (the acronym of the Hebrew letters whose numerical equivalent is 613) mitzvot seems to run into a problem in our gemara. In regard to three different Torah directives there is a difference of opinion between Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Akiva as to whether they are obligatory or optional. Tosefot raises the problem as to how either of these Sages will deal with the statement made by Rabbi Simlai (Mesechta Maccot 23b) that 613 mitzvot were commanded to Moshe at Sinai. Will the Sage who holds that these three directives are only optional hold that there are three less than the above-mentioned number or will the other Sage who holds that they are obligatory hold that there are three more than that number?

This problem is also dealt with by Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (RAMbaN) in his commentary on the Sefer Hamitzvot of Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (RaMbaM). Although he cites a midrash which indicates that the number cited by Rabbi Simlai may be a matter of dispute, his conclusion is that the taryag tradition must be valid because it is cited so frequently in the Talmud.

The resolution of the problem which both Tosefot and Ramban offer is that the Sage who holds the three mentioned in our gemara are optional was aware that there are three others which are also of Torah origin, while the Sage who holds that they are obligatory was aware that three others which his colleague deems to be of Torah origin are really only rabbinical legislation.

What the Sages Say

"One does not commit a sin unless a spirit of irrationality overcomes him."

  • Rabbi Shimon ben Lakish - Sotah 3a

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