The Precarious Ties That Bind Us: Sotah 2a.Editor's Introduction
For those not acquainted with talmudic study, it will be helpful to know that it is a twenty-five-hundred-year-old process of cooperative textual reasoning, which begins with the effort to understand the connection between the legal/philosophical code (the Mishna) and the Bible and ends by reaching into every conceivable area of Jewish -- and human -- interest. The opinions of generations of rabbis (and often the very lineage of their opinions) are recorded in a sort of free-form roundtable, omitting all the apparatus of introduction, transition and conclusion that we take for granted in intellectual discourse today. The task of the student of Talmud is to tease out the meaning of these extremely compressed and often cryptic cryp·tic
1. Hidden or concealed.
2. Tending to conceal or camouflage, as the coloring of an animal. texts: the texts of the "Oral Law," a system of biblical interpretation which did in fact take place in discussion form and was never recorded in writing until the compilation of the Mishna in the third century C.E.
The Mishna starts, more or less, with an apodictic ap·o·dic·tic
Necessarily or demonstrably true; incontrovertible.
[Latin apod legal pronouncement intended to represent that part of the law not given in writing in the Bible. Thus it rarely if ever quotes a biblical text, but always assumes our familiarity with an area of biblical law for which it is supplying a more detailed description. The Gemara (compiled around 500 C.E.) is a commentary on the Mishna, in which several generations of rabbis attempt to solidify so·lid·i·fy
v. so·lid·i·fied, so·lid·i·fy·ing, so·lid·i·fies
1. To make solid, compact, or hard.
2. To make strong or united.
v.intr. the authority of the Mishna by tying its rules back to specific biblical warrant and thus "freeing" other biblical verses for use in the further interpretation necessary for an evolving legal civilization. At the same time, for many contemporary scholars, this form of legal literary genre Noun 1. literary genre - a style of expressing yourself in writing
writing style, genre
drama - the literary genre of works intended for the theater
prose - ordinary writing as distinguished from verse captures an indigenous mode of philosophical endeavor. In the essay that follows, the central opportunity for interpretation is created by the juxtaposition juxtaposition /jux·ta·po·si·tion/ (-pah-zish´un) apposition.
The state of being placed or situated side by side. of two apparently unrelated injunctions in the book of Numbers Noun 1. Book of Numbers - the fourth book of the Old Testament; contains a record of the number of Israelites who followed Moses out of Egypt
Numbers (whose Hebrew title is Bamidbar): the Sotah, the ordeal of a wife susp ected by her husband of adultery, and the vows of the Nazir, the Nazirite or ascetic. Why do these subjects appear together in the Torah? Why are they treated in reverse order in the Mishna? To the rabbinic rab·bin·i·cal also rab·bin·ic
Of, relating to, or characteristic of rabbis.
[From obsolete rabbin, rabbi, from French, from Old French rabain, probably from Aramaic imagination, no juxtaposition of this kind is ever random: some subtle relationship must exist between the situation of the ascetic and the situation of the suspected wife (or of the jealous husband). Ira Stone suggests that the relationship may hinge on Verb 1. hinge on - be contingent on; "The outcomes rides on the results of the election"; "Your grade will depends on your homework"
depend on, depend upon, devolve on, hinge upon, turn on, ride the nature of vows and the danger they present to a voluntary relationship -- an argument with implications both for human marriage and for the marriage (real or metaphorical) between humanity and God. His method shows how the patient study of an apparently impenetrable im·pen·e·tra·ble
1. Impossible to penetrate or enter: an impenetrable fortress.
2. Impossible to understand; incomprehensible: impenetrable jargon. text may yield profound and surprising rewards. -- c.m.
MISHNA: If one jealously warns his wife (not to associate with a certain man), R. Eliezer says: he jealously warns her on the testimony of two witnesses, and makes her drink (the water of bitterness) on the testimony of one witness or his personal testimony. R. Joshua says: he jealously warns her on the testimony of two and makes her drink on the testimony of two.
How does he jealously warn her? If he says to her in the presence of two, do not converse with that man, and she conversed with him, she is still permitted to her husband and permitted to partake of the heave-offering. Should she have entered a private place with him and stayed with him a time sufficient for misconduct to have occurred, she is forbidden to her husband and forbidden to partake of the heave-offering. If (her husband) died, she performs the ceremony of Halizah but cannot contract a Levirate marriage Not to be confused with Levite.
Levirate marriage is a type of marriage in which a woman marries one of her husband's brothers after her husband's death, if there were no children, in order to continue the line of the dead husband. .
GEMARA: Now that the Tanna  has finished (Tractate trac·tate
A treatise; an essay.
[Latin tracttus; see tract2.] ) Nazir, what is his reason for continuing with (Tractate) Sotah? It is according to according to
1. As stated or indicated by; on the authority of: according to historians.
2. In keeping with: according to instructions.
3. the view of Rabbi;  for it has been taught: Rabbi says, Why does the section of the Nazirite adjoin that of the suspected woman? To tell you that whoever witnesses the suspected woman in her disgrace should withhold himself from wine. But (the Tanna in the Mishnah) should treat of (Tractate) Sotah first and afterwards that of Nazir! -- Since he treated of (Tractate) Kethuboth (marriage settlements) and dealt with the theme. "He who imposes a vow upon his wife," he next treated of (Tractate) Nedarim (vows) and since he treated of (Tractate) Nedarim, he proceeded to treat of (Tractate) Nazir which is analogous to Nedarim and then continues with Sotah for the reason given by Rabbi.
If one jealously warns his wife. As an accomplished fact it is allowable, but as something still to be done it is not. Consequently our Tanna holds that it is forbidden to give a warning.
R. Samuel b. R. Isaac said: When Resh Lakish began to expound ex·pound
v. ex·pound·ed, ex·pound·ing, ex·pounds
1. To give a detailed statement of; set forth: expounded the intricacies of the new tax law.
2. [the subject of] Sotah, he spoke thus: They only pair a woman with a man according to his deeds; as it is said, For the sceptre SCEPTRE - Designing and analysing circuits.
["SCEPTRE: A Computer Program for Circuit and Systems Analysis", J.C. Bowers et al, P-H 1971]. of wickedness shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous. Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Johanan: It is as difficult to pair them as was the division of the Red Sea; as it is said, God setteth the solitary in families: He bringeth out the prisoners into prosperity! But it is not so; for Rab Judah has said in the name of Rab: forty days before the creation of a child, a Bat Kol  issues forth and proclaims, The daughter of A is for B; the house of C is for D; the field of E is for F! -- There is no contradiction, the latter dictum [Latin, A remark.] A statement, comment, or opinion. An abbreviated version of obiter dictum, "a remark by the way," which is a collateral opinion stated by a judge in the decision of a case concerning legal matters that do not directly involve the facts or affect the referring to a first marriage and the former to a second marriage.
Our Mishnah is divided among three subjects. First, the rules concerning the warning given by a husband to his wife regarding his suspicion that she has been unfaithful; second, the rules regarding a husband's ability to require that his wife undergo the ritual for wives suspected of unfaithfulness; and, third, a description of the warning and what action on the wife's part constitutes an act which violates the terms of that warning. While our interest is primarily in the discussion of the Talmud on this Mishnah, it is not reasonable to refrain from making some preliminary comments on the unadorned text of the Mishnah itself. Some of the points we take note of will be followed up in the Gemara and some will not. Among those that are, some will be germane ger·mane
Being both pertinent and fitting. See Synonyms at relevant.
[Middle English germain, having the same parents, closely connected; see german2. to our particular discussion and some will not. Nevertheless, they are worth noting considering that, articulated or not, the rabbis can be assumed to have been aware of all of them.
The introductory phrase: "if one warns his wife," raises two immediate problems, both of which will occasion subsequent discussion. First, what is the force of the definite article definite article
A member of the class of determiners that restricts or particularizes a noun. In English, the is the definite article. "Ha koneh et esha," here translated as "if one warns?" Is it indeed mandatory to warn one's wife of one's jealousy prior to being permitted to require that she undergo the Sotah ritual? And what does the word kaneh mean, warning or jealous or both?
Finally, the Mishnah describes exactly what the warning is: "Do not converse with that man." And the Mishnah describes the effect of the warning in light of the wife's subsequent behavior. Remarkably, if the woman violates the specific terms of the warning, her status does not change nor is she liable for the Sotah. But if she acts in a way that would independently throw suspicion on her, then, since she'd been warned, her status changes immediately and she is liable for the Sotah. The Mishnah ends with a brief elaboration of the consequences of the death of a husband immediately before the Sotah ceremony. The woman is considered her husband's wife to the extent that she must perform Halitzah, the ritual by which her husband's brother is released from the obligation to marry her. But she is enough of a marked woman so that halitzah is her only option; she cannot enter a Levirate marriage.
The Gemara begins by thrusting us into the world view of the biblical book of Bamidbar, Numbers. And more importantly, it is an interesting critique of the Book of Bamidbar as well as a definitive interpretation of a part of it. The fifth chapter of Bamidbar is the first chapter following the detailed census of the people and the equally detailed census of the priests, and the perhaps more detailed description of division of labor and responsibilities in the portage Portage (1, 2 pôr`təj; 3 pôr`tĭj).
1 Town (1990 pop. 29,060), Porter co., NW Ind., a suburb of Gary, on Lake Michigan; inc. 1959. of the Tent of Meeting. The very first chapter after the census and the description of responsibilities for the moving of the camp contains a brief injunction to remove from the camp anyone who is defiled de·file 1
tr.v. de·filed, de·fil·ing, de·files
1. To make filthy or dirty; pollute: defile a river with sewage.
2. (5:1-4) and then a lengthy description of the Sotah (5:5-31); the next chapter concerns the Nazir (6:22-27) and culminates in the injunction for the priests to bless the people with the three-fold priestly blessing The Priestly Blessing, (in Hebrew: Birkat Kohanim, ברכת כהנים), also known as nesiat kapayim (raising of the hands) is a Jewish ceremony and prayer recited during certain Jewish services. (6:22-27). Only then does the book go on to describe the actual setting up of the Tabernacle Tabernacle (tăb`ərnăk'əl), in the Bible, the portable holy place of the Hebrews during their desert wanderings. It was a tent, like the portable tent-shrines used by ancient Semites, set up in each camp; eventually it housed the Ark . It is almost as if those who are defil ed must be removed, and those who are Sotah and Nazir are the chief concern of the working of the Tabernacle. And with their status clarified the priest may proceed to bless the people. The Gemara asks the obvious question: What do the Nazir and the Sotah have in common such that they are juxtaposed jux·ta·pose
tr.v. jux·ta·posed, jux·ta·pos·ing, jux·ta·pos·es
To place side by side, especially for comparison or contrast. in scripture and in Mishnah, for tractate Sotah follows immediately after Tractate Nazir? We are told that this order conforms to the view of Rabbi Yehuda Ha-Nasi, who taught: "Why does the section of the Nazirite adjoin that of the suspected woman? To tell you that whoever witnesses a suspected woman in her disgrace should withhold himself from wine." But if this is the reason, which we will consider momentarily, then the Tanna "should treat of (tractate) Sotah first and afterwards that of Nazir," for that is the scriptural scrip·tur·al
1. Of or relating to writing; written.
2. often Scriptural Of, relating to, based on, or contained in the Scriptures. order and it was on that order that Rabbi Yehuda was commenting. However, a new order is introduced, not tied entirely to the scripture of the Torah but to the inner logic of the Mishnah as sc ripture. That is, the Mishnah treats Marriage Agreements (ketubot) first, in which it discusses the theme "He who imposes a vow upon his wife"; next the teacher of the Mishna was led to discuss the subject of vows in general, then the specific type of vow that constitutes Naziriteship, and then, for the reason given by Rabbi Yehuda, the Mishna turns to the subject of Sotah.
We must, as is always the case with Talmud study, slow down. In these few lines we have covered much intellectual ground. We have encountered the peculiarities of the opening chapters of Bamidbar and we have questions. Why are the Sotah and Nazir sections sandwiched between the census and instructions for shared responsibility for moving the Tabernacle and the actual erection of the Tabernacle? Why are these two sections further "sub-sandwiched" between the short interdiction INTERDICTION, civil law. A legal restraint upon a person incapable of managing his estate, because of mental incapacity, from signing any deed or doing any act to his own prejudice, without the consent of his curator or interdictor.
2. of defiled people remaining in the camp and the priestly blessing? Why has the order of treating Sotah and Nazir been reversed? What is their relationship? What does it have to do with disgrace and wine? Why does our Gemara quote, "He who imposes a vow on his wife?" What is the relationship between vows and Sotah? Vows and Marriage Agreements? Vows and God? Each of these questions would require a separate essay to address adequately. Neither our Gemara nor we will do so. But all of these questions are not accidently brought forward to f orm the context in which our central questions regarding the Sotah, and, I believe, regarding the nature of voluntary relationships, will be discussed. First then, some preliminary remarks regarding this "presentation" of context.
The integrity of the Torah, the rabbinic understanding of Torah, and the integrity of rabbinic literature Rabbinic literature, in the broadest sense, can mean the entire spectrum of Judaism's rabbinic writing/s throughout history. However, the term often used is an exact translation of the Hebrew term Sifrut Hazal , all require that we take seriously the meaningfulness of the juxtaposition of the Sotah and the Nazir. It does not have to be meaningful -- but the tradition claims that it is meaningful. That should be sufficient. The only hint of the meaning of this juxtaposition afforded us by the Torah itself is in the passages that precede and follow Sotah and Nazir. One could infer that the Torah is legislating leg·is·late
v. leg·is·lat·ed, leg·is·lat·ing, leg·is·lates
To create or pass laws.
To create or bring about by or as if by legislation. a "moral/ritual clean-up" culminating in the invocation invocation,
n a prayer requesting and inviting the presence of God. of the ascetic withdrawal of Naziriteship in order to prepare the community, raise it, if you will, appropriately for receiving the blessing of God delivered by the priests. The defiled are expelled, the suspected fallen woman is uncovered, the community forsakes wine and sensual pleasure as exemplified by the Nazir and then is prepared for the blessing. Classical and medieval commentators both support this general reading.
The Talmud does not reject this level of context, but it significantly broadens the context and in doing so relegates the biblical context to the side. It may even neutralize neutralize
to render neutral. it entirely, though gingerly gin·ger·ly
With great care or delicacy; cautiously.
[Possibly alteration of obsolete French gensor, delicate . In its place, by reversing the order and connecting Sotah to Ketubot by way of Nedarim and Nazir, the Gemara turns our attention away from the supposed shamefulness of the indicted INDICTED, practice. When a man is accused by a bill of indictment preferred by a grand jury, he is said to be indicted. woman and toward the husband and the problem of vows, promises. Promises which solidify relationships and promises which undermine them. The quote from the Mishnah in Ketubot: "He who imposes a vow upon his wife," is found at the beginning of the seventh chapter. There are thirteen chapters in the Mishnah Ketubot; the subject of vows forms a small part of those thirteen chapters. Had the subject been at the end of the tractate and then continued on to the larger subject of vows in general we would not have been surprised. But in the present circumstance we can only assume that the discussion in Sotah is meant not to allude to allude to
verb refer to, suggest, mention, speak of, imply, intimate, hint at, remark on, insinuate, touch upon see see, elude a m erely technical, unmeaningful chain of events accounting for the change in order from biblical to Mishnaic but to indicate a very purposeful change in order on the basis of the subject of the seventh chapter of Ketubot in which various situations are described wherein husbands have imposed unreasonable and arbitrary hardships on their wives by the mechanism of vow-taking. It alludes also to the fact that, if the husbands do not recant in a timely fashion, the wives are granted divorces in order to be free of these hardships.
Now the context for our discussion of the Sotah emerges. What are vows? In Jewish tradition the stipulations between husband and wife are not called "wedding vows." Rather, husband and wife agree to be bound by the stipulations of rabbinic law as expressed in the ketuba.  The ketuba is delivered and witnessed before the marriage ceremony and read again under the canopy. The groom betroths the bride k'dat Moshe v'yisrael-- according to the law of Moses and Israel. The bride accepts a ring or some other token of value to indicate her acceptance of the terms of the ketuba. Neither promises anything more than is expected of them by the highest, noblest consensus of the community. But the calm influence of law and communal norm cannot forever prevent the passionate misuse of speech, the perversion Perversion
See also Bestiality.
bondage and domination (B & D)
practices with whips, chains, etc. for sexual pleasure. [Western Cult.: Misc. of promises into vows by which a husband is liable to exert his power over his wife. Marriage is a voluntary relationship and as such it is susceptible to perversion. For humans to remain committed to being for the o ther and not over the other, something must substitute for the law of nature which binds parent to child in mutual concern. The substitute is law itself, and law is but language, and the vow is a perversion of language. Its effects destroy the fragile bonds between husband and wife. Resort to such language is strongly discouraged. In its wake, wives are protected by law.
The deleterious deleterious adj. harmful. effects of vows on marriage are no less serious than their effects on general society. Tractate Nedarim makes this abundantly clear and is, we now see, the logical follow-up to Ketubot. The marriage relationship, so strong as to be called familial, is undermined by vows. How much more so the other relationships of society. How much more so the relationship between the individual and God. The special vow to consecrate con·se·crate
tr.v. con·se·crat·ed, con·se·crat·ing, con·se·crates
1. To declare or set apart as sacred: consecrate a church.
a. oneself to God was not generally approved of by the rabbis, as evidenced by Tractate Nazir. If the taking of vows undermines marriage and general community life, it equally undermines religious life which at its best is the ultimate voluntary relationship. The rabbis interpret the verse in Leviticus: "I will be your God and you shall be my people" to mean "If you are my people, I am your God." Words, used to assert power, ultimately separate the individual from the human community in which religious life, by right, must be worked out. The Gemara appears to be saying that one who has not heeded the warning of Ketubot and refrained from questing for power over his wife, who has not heeded Nedarim and eschewed the language of vows which undermines the stability of ail social relationships, and has perverted per·vert·ed
1. Deviating from what is considered normal or correct.
2. Of, relating to, or practicing sexual perversion. his religious life into an ascetic piety -- he will be obsessed ob·sess
v. ob·sessed, ob·sess·ing, ob·sess·es
To preoccupy the mind of excessively.
v.intr. with jealousy and resort to the primitive ritual of Sotah.
It is true, as Rabbi said, that whoever witnesses a suspected woman in her disgrace should withhold himself from wine. But Nazir precedes Sotah in the Mishnah because it is part of the problem that can lead to Sotah. So what shall we do with Rabbi's reasoning? Perhaps the wine he refers to is not the wine of foolishness alluded to by many commentators, but the wine of joy and sanctification sanc·ti·fy
tr.v. sanc·ti·fied, sanc·ti·fy·ing, sanc·ti·fies
1. To set apart for sacred use; consecrate.
2. To make holy; purify.
3. and freedom used at Pesah, on Shabbat, and twice under the bridal canopy. Perhaps anyone who witnesses the disgrace of a Sotah should give up on joy for a time, for the human lust for power over others has poisoned another sacred relationship.
The priestly blessings, not mentioned at all in our Gemara's discussion, loom behind it. If the world view of Bamidbar demanded an ascetic withdrawal as the final act of purity preceding the joining of God's word to this world, tractate Sotah demurs. Instead, a renunciation The Abandonment of a right; repudiation; rejection.
The renunciation of a right, power, or privilege involves a total divestment thereof; the right, power, or privilege cannot be transferred to anyone else. of oppressive relationships is called for. That piety which forsakes responsibility for other people in favor of fidelity to an abstract God is rejected. Such fake fidelity is, in fact, shown to be a problem of replacing human promises with oppressive vows. Only when the humiliations this oppression causes are eliminated can the true speech be heard. The speech of God. The blessing of countenance -- the recognition of God's face in the human face. The blessing of peace.
If one jealously warns his wife. As an accomplished fact it is allowable, but as something still to be done it is not. Consequently our Tanna holds that it is forbidden to give a warning.
The Gemara now focuses on the text of the Mishnah itself. The opening phrase has been understood as an "if" clause -- "If one jealously warns his wife." It would seem then that it is not mandatory to warn one's wife before causing her to undergo the Sotah ceremony. In fact, the Gemara goes further and asserts that the Tanna of our Mishnah holds that it is forbidden to give a warning. However, if one goes ahead and gives such a warning, then the regulations described in the Mishnah come into force.
At this point in the sugya,  still at the very beginning of our consideration of the Mishnah, the Gemara asserts the conclusion that it is forbidden to issue such a warning. In light of our interpretation of the preceding passage, we might be tempted to deduce de·duce
tr.v. de·duced, de·duc·ing, de·duc·es
1. To reach (a conclusion) by reasoning.
2. To infer from a general principle; reason deductively: that the Gemara is prepared to further show its discomfort with and distaste for the Sotah ceremony. In light of the passage which follows, however, such a simplistic sim·plism
The tendency to oversimplify an issue or a problem by ignoring complexities or complications.
[French simplisme, from simple, simple, from Old French; see simple deduction, much as we'd prefer it, is not possible. Before going on to that next passage, but already chastened chas·ten
tr.v. chas·tened, chas·ten·ing, chas·tens
1. To correct by punishment or reproof; take to task.
2. To restrain; subdue: chasten a proud spirit.
3. in anticipation, we must assert at least a provisional meaning to this short dictum.
We notice here the form of the dictum as much as its content. The giving of a warning is presented neither as forbidden nor permitted but as problematic. If one does it, it is permitted but one ought not to do it. This is not an uncommon structure in Talmudic law Talmudic Law Is the law that is derived from the Talmud based on the teachings of the Talmudic Sages.
The description of the Sotah in the Book of Numbers, chapter five, uses two forms of the root word [CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII ASCII or American Standard Code for Information Interchange, a set of codes used to represent letters, numbers, a few symbols, and control characters. Originally designed for teletype operations, it has found wide application in computers. ]. The entire passage can be translated as follows:
If any man's wife go aside and commit a trespass trespass, in law, any physical injury to the person or to property. In English common law the action of trespass first developed (13th cent.) to afford a remedy for injuries to property. against him, and a man lie with her carnally car·nal
1. Relating to the physical and especially sexual appetites: carnal desire.
2. Worldly or earthly; temporal: the carnal world.
3. , and it be hid from the eyes of her husband, and she be undetected, and she be defiled, and there is no witness against her, nor is she taken in the act and the spirit of jealousy come upon him and he be jealous of his wife and she be defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him and he be jealous of his wife and she not be defiled: then shall the man bring his wife to the priest....
The rabbis, in our sugya, interpret the Hebrew word for jealous in two ways, corresponding to the two forms in which it appears. "The spirit of jealousy," which will be taken up in more detail later in the Gemara, is used to yield the law actually accounting for the Sotah ceremony while "he be jealous" is used to yield the requirement or possibility of a warning. As we will see later, one of the primary purposes of our sugya is to teach us something about the rules for reading texts. Some might say that this is the ongoing purpose of the Gemara in its entirety. That is, how to continue to hear the revelatory command which is always present behind the frozen facade of a text. While the subject will be treated more specifically a few lines later, it is no less present at the outset. The unspoken question to which the Gemara is responding and to which the Mishnah in its time responded is: what is the meaning of the biblical text such that it chooses to repeat the word "jealous" in a slightly altered form in our passage?
A question which must be asked is: Should we assume that the Bible had any purpose in using the word "jealous" twice other than a "stylistic" technique? And are "stylistic" techniques merely decorative or don't they have a substantive dimension? Did the writer, in other words Adv. 1. in other words - otherwise stated; "in other words, we are broke"
put differently , intend anything by his/her choice of words Noun 1. choice of words - the manner in which something is expressed in words; "use concise military verbiage"- G.S.Patton
phraseology, wording, diction, phrasing, verbiage ? The answer to this question is in some ways obvious. A writer must be assumed to have intended something by the choice of a word. And if a text can possibly be understood as having access to divinity, the mark of that divinity is the ability of the text to intend far more than the human writer can know in his/her writing. The underlying principle of Mishnaic/Talmudic Judaism, the heart of Midrash and, therefore, of Judaism as we know it, is that the Jewish task par excellence is to continue to hear the divine intention behind the text, a hearing that is verified partially by its resonance in the way we live our lives, the way we treat one another. Without recourse A phrase used by an endorser (a signer other than the original maker) of a negotiable instrument (for example, a check or promissory note) to mean that if payment of the instrument is refused, the endorser will not be responsible. to this principle the Midras h is unintelligible UNINTELLIGIBLE. That which cannot be understood.
2. When a law, a contract, or will, is unintelligible, it has no effect whatever. Vide Construction, and the authorities there referred to. as is its counterpart, halacha.  In this light, the Mishnah's understanding of the biblical text is the intended meaning of the Bible at that time. The Gemara's understanding of the Mishnah is the meaning of the Bible at that time, and our understanding of the Gemara is the divinely intended meaning of the biblical text for this time. This is the process of revelation.
With this in mind, we return to our short passage. First of all it is an assertion about the Mishnah's reading of the biblical text. It states that the doubling of [CHARACTERS NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] in the biblical passage intends, according to the Mishnah, to raise the question of whether a woman should be protected from the consequences of her husband's jealousy by requiring him to issue a difficult warning. It then further asserts its own reading of the biblical text in light of the Mishnah's reading, that though the warning is strictly speaking Adv. 1. strictly speaking - in actual fact; "properly speaking, they are not husband and wife"
properly speaking, to be precise forbidden, if it is issued it is valid. We can now ask why this latter should be so.
The opening discussion of our Gemara has already alerted us to the fact that the Mishnah understands the institution of the Sotah as a critique of the unreasonable demands a man may make of his wife and as a ritual which is designed to discourage men from making such unreasonable demands, including the demands implicit in Adj. 1. implicit in - in the nature of something though not readily apparent; "shortcomings inherent in our approach"; "an underlying meaning"
underlying, inherent unreasonable fits of jealousy. For the Mishnah and some teachers following this Mishnah, the requirement to warn one's wife before witnesses of one's suspicion is a legitimate method of adding to this discouragement. However, our Gemara is concerned that the piling of legal language onto a ritual whose purpose they deem to be paradoxical--that is, a ritual whose purpose it is to discourage its application and the conditions which might lead to its application--may in fact cause the irony of the paradox to disappear and the ritual to be interpreted unidimensionally. They therefore forbade for·bade
A past tense of forbid.
forbade or forbad
the past tense of forbid
forbade forbid the issuance of a warning because it provided too serious a legal structure to the ceremony, while recog nizing that if a warning had been given, the safeguards the Mishnah had built into the warning was likely to accomplish its intended goal. To forbid it not only ab initio [Latin, From the beginning; from the first act; from the inception.] An agreement is said to be "void ab initio" if it has at no time had any legal validity. but also ex post facto ex post facto adj. Latin for "after the fact," which refers to laws adopted after an act is committed making it illegal although it was legal when done, or increases the penalty for a crime after it is committed. Such laws are specifically prohibited by the U. S. , in the face of the Mishnah's ruling would only result in embroiling the entire matter in too serious a legal debate, exactly what they wanted to avoid.
R. Samuel b. R. Isaac said: When Resh Lakish began to expound [the subject of] Sotah, he spoke thus: They only pair a woman with a man according to his deeds; as it is said, For the sceptre of wickedness shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous. Rabbah b. Bar Hanah said in the name of R. Johanan: It is as difficult to pair them as was the division of the Red Sea; as it is said, God setteth the solitary in families: He bringeth out the prisoners into prosperity! But it is not so; for Rab Judah has said in the name of Rab: forty days before the creation of a child, a Bath Kol issues forth and proclaims, The daughter of A is for B; the house of C is for D; the field of E is for F!--There is no contradiction, the latter dictum referring to a first marriage and the former to a second marriage.
We began by raising a question about the nature, the possibly contradictory nature, of human relationships. In the course of attempting to answer this question we have dealt with the subject of vows, the use and misuse of these ties that bind people to one another and to God. We have concluded that voluntary relationships such as marriage, other societal relationships and even the relationship of individuals to God are all undermined by the imposition of vows. We have concluded that vows are an abuse of the gift of language from which people must be protected and that the priestly blessings revealed in the Torah are the antithetical an·ti·thet·i·cal also an·ti·thet·ic
1. Of, relating to, or marked by antithesis.
2. Being in diametrical opposition. See Synonyms at opposite. model of language to vows. We have assumed that these aforementioned relationships are, indeed, voluntary. On the basis of this assumption our interpretation seemed reasonable. However, in the next passage of our text the legitimacy of this assumption is more directly investigated. The subject under discussion in this Aggadic (non-legal) passage is the nature of relationships, mar riage in particular. The Talmud wants to know whether relationships are a matter of free will or are determined.
The discussion opens with two biblical verses expounded, one by Resh Lakish, the other by Rabbi Yohanan. The first appears to support the notion that marriages are pre-ordained. The second may or may not be a direct response on this issue. In order to more fully understand the relationship between these two verses we must look at them in their context. The first verse is quoted from Psalm 125 in order to support Resh Lakish's assertion that marriages are "arranged" according to a man's deeds--that is, the righteous man warrants a good wife and an evil man an evil wife. This quote is taken from a rather short psalm that it would be helpful to quote in its entirety.
They who trust in the Lord shall be like Mount Zion Mount Zion
celestial city. [Br. Lit.: Pilgrim’s Progress]
See : Heaven which cannot be removed but abides forever as the mountains are about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth and forever. For the sceptre of wickedness shall not rest upon the share allotted al·lot
tr.v. al·lot·ted, al·lot·ting, al·lots
1. To parcel out; distribute or apportion: allotting land to homesteaders; allot blame.
2. to the righteous; lest the righteous put forth their hands to do wrong. Do good, O Lord, to those who are good and to those who are upright in their hearts. As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them away with the workers of iniquity INIQUITY. Vice; contrary to equity; injustice.
2. Where, in a doubtful matter, the judge is required to pronounce, it is his duty to decide in such a manner as is the least against equity. : but peace shall be upon Israel.
The first thing one might notice in this psalm is the presence of a better verse to prove Resh Lakish's point than the one he chose. For while the verse: "For the sceptre of wickedness shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous," can be interpreted to mean that a man's wife is allotted to him according to his righteousness, the verses: "Do good, O Lord, to those who are good and to those who are upright in their hearts. As for such as turn aside to their crooked ways, the Lord shall lead them away, etc." appear even more clearly to apply. After all, the first part of the verse mentions the heart and the second part lends an image of a man being led to the marriage canopy as a punishment. Comical com·i·cal
1. Provoking mirth or amusement; funny.
2. Of or relating to comedy.
com as this complaint might at first seem, it points out the general difficulty of ascribing to this poem any such intention as Resh Lakish wants to find in it. Especially given our interpretation of our sugya to this point, we must now more boldly ask what is the purpose of quoting these verses and this psalm? In view of the problem of human relationships and language, the problem of vows and their abuse, what is Resh Lakish trying to accomplish?
Before we attempt to answer this we must take yet another step. To consider an interpretation of one biblical verse without considering a second biblical verse juxtaposed to it would betray the integrity of the text. The verse quoted by Rabbi Yohanan from Psalm 68 is part of a much larger text. For our purposes quoting that psalm in its entirety would be excessive. It will be sufficient to quote the stanza stan·za
One of the divisions of a poem, composed of two or more lines usually characterized by a common pattern of meter, rhyme, and number of lines.
[Italian; see stance. in which our verse appears.
Sing to God, sing praise to His name:
Extol ex·tol also ex·toll
tr.v. ex·tolled also ex·tolled, ex·tol·ling also ex·toll·ing, ex·tols also ex·tolls
To praise highly; exalt. See Synonyms at praise. Him who rides upon the clouds;
Ya is His name: and rejoice before Him.
A father of the fatherless, and a judge of widows, is God in His holy habitation HABITATION, civil law. It was the right of a person to live in the house of another without prejudice to the property.
2. It differed from a usufruct in this, that the usufructuary might have applied the house to any purpose, as, a store or manufactory; whereas .
God makes the lonely ones dwell in a house.
He brings out the prisoners into prosperity.
But the rebellious ones dwell in a parched parch
v. parched, parch·ing, parch·es
1. To make extremely dry, especially by exposure to heat: The midsummer sun parched the earth. land.
Our initial impulse was to see Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yohanan as antagonists antagonists,
n muscles that counterbalance agonists during specific movements.
opioid Neurology A pain-attenuating peptide that occurs naturally in the brain, which induces analgesia by mimicking endogenous opioids at opioid . But the context of both of their quotes makes clear that this is not so. They are, rather, mutually supportive. Their joint position appears to be that husbands are fitted to wives on the basis of the husband's deeds. Rabbi Yohanan's choice of biblical warrant for this position adds only that the process of determining the character of such deeds is a difficult one, even, if you will, for God; as difficult as the bringing of redemption itself. Certainly, then, the matching of husbands and wives must be accomplished by God, and the relationship of husbands to wives, paradigmatic See paradigm. of all human relationships, must not be voluntary but obligatory.
However, before we rush to conclusions, and before we attempt to extrapolate extrapolate - extrapolation meaning from those conclusions, we must take a final step in analyzing this sugya. For the position of Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yohanan is not meekly meek
adj. meek·er, meek·est
1. Showing patience and humility; gentle.
2. Easily imposed on; submissive. accepted by the Gemara. It is challenged immediately on the basis of a traditional teaching, not on the basis of a biblical verse. Rav RAV Rous-associated virus.
Rous-associated virus Yehuda quotes a teaching of Rav. This teaching asserts that forty days before the conception of a child a heavenly voice proclaims who this child is destined des·tine
tr.v. des·tined, des·tin·ing, des·tines
1. To determine beforehand; preordain: a foolish scheme destined to fail; a film destined to become a classic.
2. to marry. This teaching is proceeded by the phrase: "But it is not so," thus establishing itself as clearly adversarial ad·ver·sar·i·al
Relating to or characteristic of an adversary; involving antagonistic elements: "the chasm between management and labor in this country, an often needlessly adversarial . . . to the position of Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yohanan. Since it clearly establishes its position as denying all free will to the making of relationships, we must interpret Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yohanan as supporting the idea that indeed relationships are voluntary! In that light we are now prepared to evaluate the position of Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yohanan and the different implications of their different proof texts. Then we can evaluate the opposing view of Rav Yehuda and Rav.
The construction of the Talmudic argument forces us to understand Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yohanan as maintaining the voluntary nature of relationships. Yet both men invoke verses which hint of divine will as a strong force, as a providence, in fashioning strong relationships. Does this not undermine the voluntary nature of relationships and sound more like Rav's position? No. Rather, it reinforces the non-totalist philosophy of the Talmud. Not only are there two sides of an argument, but each side is aware of its own inadequacy to fully represent reality.
More importantly, both Resh Lakish and Rabbi Yohanan are convinced that relationships must ultimately remain voluntary because the divine will itself is constrained by the actions of people. It may be God who sits and struggles to find faithful wives for faithful husbands, but only on the basis of deeds of faithfulness of both. That is, the divine will can only be deduced retroactively ret·ro·ac·tive
Influencing or applying to a period prior to enactment: a retroactive pay increase.
[French rétroactif, from Latin : after human beings have kept faith with one another their relationships can be said to be divinely willed. Rabbi Yohanan does not, however, simply echo Resh Lakish. Resh Lakish chooses to rely on Psalm 125. This psalm indicates that God is responsive to human righteousness. That God is a protecting God in that the good shall be rewarded; those who trust in God shall be rewarded with peace. The focus of the psalm is on trust as righteousness. On the other hand Rabbi Yohanan demands more. He does not imply that trust is enough to designate persons as righteous. Rather, he reminds us that God is the father of the fatherless, the judge of how widows are treated. Only when our relationships echo these concerns -- when we treat all of our relations as though they were fatherless or widows -- when we assume full responsibility for their welfare -- only then does God endorse, so to speak, those relationships. And Rabbi Yohanan does not expect that this will be easy. He compares it to the most difficult event imaginable -- to redemption. It is difficult for God to effect redemption because it is difficult for human beings to effect redemption, that is, to enter into voluntary relationships imbued with the quality of concern for the other.
It is no wonder then that the Talmud presents another view. If viable relationships were voluntary, that is, dependent on the ethical concern of the partners, there might never be viable relationships. Since we know that there are, it must be because they are obligatory, that is ordained or·dain
tr.v. or·dained, or·dain·ing, or·dains
a. To invest with ministerial or priestly authority; confer holy orders on.
b. To authorize as a rabbi.
2. on high. But now we have the contradiction laid out in its boldest terms: the Talmud exclaims that those two views seem to be contradictory. Then the Talmud demurs. There is no contradiction, rather reality itself demands what might appear to be a logical contradiction. The marriage that is ordained on high is a first marriage. The one that is dependent on human deeds is a second marriage.
The sugya comes to a profound and remarkable conclusion. There is a divinely ordained providence with which human relationships are imbued. And these divinely ordained relationships are, therefore, not voluntary. But neither are they indissoluble in·dis·sol·u·ble
1. Permanent; binding: an indissoluble contract; an indissoluble union.
2. . Our deeds can, in fact, cause those divinely ordained relationships to be betrayed. Isn't that, after all, what we learned in the earlier discussion of the Sotah, Nazir and vows? We can destroy relationships, even those which are obligatory, ordained and seemingly indissoluble. Language, and its ability to be abused as an instrument of power, is what can betray these relationships. And having betrayed the relationships that are given to us as it were as gifts, ordained from birth--our relationships with parents, siblings, friends, the spouse of our youth and God -- then our ability to rebuild these relationships is solely dependent on our deeds, specifically our care and concern for the other.
Finally, it is clear that the Talmud reconciles these two irreconcilable positions in the light of Rabbi Yohanan's bold analogy. Just as we begin life with certain obligatory relationships given us as gifts and yet we betray them, so too we began history in a state of redemption which we betrayed. It is as hard for God to give us the gift of redemption as to give us the gift of indissoluble relations. And once we have betrayed both by our actions to gain power over others, we can effect redemption only on the basis of our righteousness. This righteousness is defined as care for the orphan and the widow in each person. It is, however, equally clear that Resh Lakish's view is not rejected. That is, we can be certain that God's love is unshakable; we can trust in it and build upon it a life of righteousness which will engender en·gen·der
v. en·gen·dered, en·gen·der·ing, en·gen·ders
1. To bring into existence; give rise to: "Every cloud engenders not a storm" our redemption.
Ira F. Stone is the Rabbi of Temple Beth Zion-Beth Israel in Philadelphia and Visiting Lecturer in Jewish Philosophy Jewish philosophy
Any of various kinds of reflective thought engaged in by those identified as being Jews. In the Middle Ages, this meant any methodical and disciplined thought pursued by Jews, whether on specifically Judaic themes or not; in modern times, philosophers who at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, known in the Jewish community simply as JTS, is one of the academic and spiritual centers of Conservative Judaism. Along with the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Seminario Rabínico Latinoamericano in Buenos Aires, Argentina, . He is the author of Seeking the Path to Life (Jewish Lights, 1993), Reading Levinas/Reading Talmud (JPS JPS Jewish Publication Society
JPS John Peter Smith (Hospital; Texas)
JPS Justice & Public Safety
JPS Jean Piaget Society
JPS Juvenile Polyposis Syndrome
JPS Joint Planning Staff , 1998), A Really Perfect Poem Has an Infinitely Small Vocabulary (Mellon Poetry Press, 2000), and Sketches for a Book of Psalms Psalms (sämz) or Psalter (sôl`tər), book of the Bible, a collection of 150 hymnic pieces. Since the last centuries B.C., this book has been the chief hymnal of Jews, and subsequently, of Christians. (Xlibris, 2001).
(1.) The authorities of the Mishna are called by the term Tanna, meaning teacher by the authorities of the Gemara, themselves known as Amoraim, or an Amora.
(2.) Rabbi Judah Ha-Nasi Judah ha-Nasi (j`də hä-nä`sē), c.135–c.220, Palestinian Jewish communal leader (tanna). , or Judah the Prince, is credited with being the compiler/editor of the Mishna and its most authoritative teacher. Hence he is usually know only as "Rabbi," without further identification.
(3.) Literally "Daughter of Voice" meaning a heavenly voice, a direct message from God.
(4.) The Jewish wedding agreement.
(5.) The term used to describe a unit of talmudic discussion.
(6.) Jewish law.