Talmud Tips

For the week ending 7 November 2015 / 25 Heshvan 5776

Sotah 16 - 22

by Rabbi Moshe Newman
The Color of Heaven Artscroll

Ravina said, “Although women are not commanded in Torah study, however, when they take their children to Torah schools and they wait for their husbands to return from the Yeshiva, don’t they share in the reward with them?”

In this manner Ravina explains on our daf what merit could save a Sotah from being punished immediately; rather this merit could protect her for three years before punishment if she is guilty. Rashi comments that the wife deserves special merit for waiting for her husband to return from learning Torah “in another city”. Why does Rashi add this detail which is not mentioned in the gemara? Answer: If her husband is learning in his “home town” then what is so special about her waiting for him? She goes about her business during the day and then is joined by him at home when he concludes his day of Torah study. Nothing too special about that. However, if she is willing to sacrifice his returning home at night in order that he may learn Torah temporarily out of town in a Yeshiva that is preferable for him, then she is certainly a “woman of valor” and deserving of sharing in the rewards of his Torah study.

  • Sotah 21a

Ulah said, “Not like Shimon the brother of Azaria and not like Rabbi Yochanan of the household of the Nasi, rather like Hillel and Shachna.”

What was special and different about Hillel and Shachna? The gemara explains that when Rav Dimi came (from Bavel to Eretz Yisrael) he said, “Hillel and Shachna were brothers; Hillel learned Torah (in poverty — Rashi) while his brother Shachna ran a business. After the Sage Hillel learned much Torah, his brother Shachna offered him financial support on condition that they share the reward of Hillel’s Torah study. A Heavenly voice announced: “If a person will give all of his financial wealth for Torah, he will be ashamed and disgraced” (Shir Hashirim 8:7).

Although Shachna desired the reward for Torah, he did not offer to support his greatly impoverished brother Hillel during all the time of his Torah study in dire poverty. Only after Hillel became a renowned Torah scholar did Shachna want to buy his Torah, like buying a new car or a new house. This was disgraceful said the Heavenly voice. The honorable way to use one’s wealth and receive reward for Torah study was like that of the other Sages named by Ulah — they were supported by a brother or by a Nasi from the onset to enable them to learn Torah, and therefore the brother and the Nasi were truly part of them and the Sages’ names reflected the praiseworthy supporters.

The Maharsha adds that the gemara asks why the verse repeats the word for “ashamed” — “boz yavuzu” — and not just state it once — “yavuzu”, they will shame him. He explains that the gemara answers that a person who thinks and acts like Shachna did is, doubly shameful. Both in this world and in the next. In this world he does not deserve the honor of his name being associated with the name of his Torah scholar brother Hillel, and in the next world he suffers the shame of a lack of merit and reward for Torah study.

  • Sotah 21a

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