Talmud Tips

For the week ending 24 October 2015 / 11 Heshvan 5776

Sotah 2 - 8

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

Rav Yehuda said in the name of Rav: "Forty days before the formation of the fetus, a voice from Heaven comes out and announces: 'The daughter of Ploni (so-and-so) will marry Ploni (the man whom the fetus will become); a certain house will belong to Ploni (this fetus/man); and a certain field will belong to Ploni.'”

This announcement seems to indicate a degree of predetermination in one’s marriage partner and properties, a concept that the gemara discusses and clarifies.

Tosefos makes an interesting observation. He states that the future wife’s identity is decreed at this stage, even if she has not yet been born or conceived. How does Tosefot know this? The Maharsha explains that this can be derived from the future marriage partners being listed together in the same statement that mentions the future ownership of the house and the field. These latter two events are mentioned as being dependent only upon the formation of the man. So too, the marriage partner is dependant on the formation of the man, even if the woman has not yet been conceived.

One may add that it is possible (and even probable, if the husband builds his own house as was the custom) that the particular house or the field does not yet exist (in the state he will later own it) at the time of the formation of the fetus of the man. Likewise, the announcement of his future wife may refer to a woman who has not yet come into the world.

The Maharsha adds that the novel idea of Tosefot fits well with the exact wording of the text of the gemara. The future wife is called “the daughter of Ploni”, and not called “Plonit”, since she may not be in the world yet to be referred to as “Plonit” (so-and-so). However, her father, Ploni, is already in the world.

  • Sotah 2a

Rabbi Chanina from Sura said: Nowadays a man should not say to his wife, even in private, not to be alone with a certain man, since perhaps we hold like the ruling of Rabbi Yossi the son of Rabbi Yehuda who said “kinuy” (saying to one’s wife not to be alone with a specific man) is valid even without witnesses, and perhaps she will be caught alone with that man, and this will result in her being forbidden forever to her husband since there is no longer (without the Beit Hamikdash) the possibility of clearing her status by means of the test of the “Sotah water” (a special drink and procedure that is a Divine test of guilt or innocence in the case of a suspected adulteress).

This teaching is codified in the Shulchan Aruch, Even Ha’Ezer 178:7. The Rema adds that if the husband nevertheless says to her not to be alone with a certain man, he should retract his statement immediately and withdraw what he originally told her. He should retract his words “immediately” since if she is indeed caught alone with that man it is too late to retract and cancel his earlier statement, and she will be forbidden to him forever (see Even Ha’Ezer 178:12).

  • Sotah 2b

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