TalmuDigest

For the week ending 7 June 2008 / 4 Sivan 5768

Sotah 16 - 22

by Rabbi Mendel Weinbach zt'l
The Color of HeavenArtscroll
  • The dust used for Sotah portion
  • Three cases of oral tradition changing meaning of a Torah passage
  • When it is necessary for dust, ashes, saliva and blood to be discernible
  • The order of placing dust and water in the Sotah potion
  • Text and parchment of the scroll written for the Sotah potion
  • The double amen said by the Sotah
  • The ritual of the Sotah's mincha flour offering and when it is performed
  • If the Sotah refuses to drink her potion
  • Rabbi Meir's career as a scribe
  • The impact of the potion on the Sotah and why it is sometimes delayed
  • The comparison between the power of Torah study and performance of mitzvot
  • Women's role in the study of Torah
  • Foolish piety, clever wickedness and other destructive behavior
  • Definition of an am ha'aretz
  • What Rabbi Yochanan learned from a young girl and from a widow
  • Seven kinds of parush
  • If merit of Sotah affects the impact of the potion

Dust and Ashes, Past and Future

  • Sotah 17a

"I am but dust and ashes," humbly excused himself the Patriarch Avraham as he pleaded for G-d to spare the wicked people of Sodom. (Bereishet 18:27)

In the merit of this humility, stated the Sage Rava, Avraham's descendants were given the mitzvah of the purifying ashes of the Red Heifer and the mitzvah of dust in the potion of the Sotah.

The connection between these two substances and the purpose of these two mitzvot can thus be explained:

Ashes have a past but no future, while the dust of the earth has no past but has a future since things can be planted in it.

The purpose of the Red Heifer's ashes is to wipe out the past — the ritual contamination arising from contact with the dead.

The purpose of the dust placed in the potion the Sotah drinks to prove her innocence is to ensure a future of peaceful relations between the woman and her suspicious husband.

It may be added that it was the expressed humility of our forefather that made us worthy of possessing the power to transform impurity to purity and suspicion to harmony, transformations so supernatural that they are merited only by a people humble enough to recognize that there is a Creator who can make magic from dust and ashes.

What the Sages Say

"Even though women are not obligated to study Torah they nevertheless share the reward of the children they bring to their Torah school and of the husbands whom they permit to study away from home."

  • The Sage Ravina - Sotah 21a

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