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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Nedarim

Folio 91a

it is only the man whose field has been ruined?'1  And we answered him, It is [taught in] our Mishnah: (SHE WHO DECLARES,] 'I AM DEFILED TO YOU,' RECEIVES HER KETHUBAH. Now to whom does this refer? Shall we say, to the wife of an Israelite: If of her own free will, does she receive her Kethubah? Whilst if by force, is she forbidden to her husband?2  Hence it must refer to the wife of a priest: now, if of her own free will, does she receive the Kethubah? Is she of less account3 than the wife of an Israelite, [who sinned] voluntarily? Hence it must surely mean by force; and it is stated that she receives her Kethubah.

The scholars propounded: What if she declares to her husband, 'You have divorced me'?4  — R. Hamnuna said: Come and hear: SHE WHO DECLARES, 'I AM DEFILED TO YOU': Now even according to the later Mishnah,5  which teaches that she is not believed, it is [only] there that she may lie, in the knowledge that her husband does not know;6  but with respect to 'You have divorced me,' of [the truth of] which he must know, she is believed, for there is a presumption [that] no woman is brazen in the presence of her husband.7  Said Raba to him: On the contrary. even according to the first Mishnah, that she is believed, it is [only] there, because she would not expose herself to shame;8  but here it may happen that she is stronger [in character] than her husband,9  and so indeed be brazen.

R. Mesharsheya objected: 'HEAVEN IS BETWEEN ME AND YOU,' as ruled by the early Mishnah, refutes Raba's view; for here it involves no shame for her, yet it is stated that she is believed? — Raba holds that there, since she cannot avoid declaring whether the emission is forceful or not, were it not as she said, she would not make the charge.10

But let 'HEAVEN IS BETWEEN US,' as ruled by the later Mishnah, refute R. Hamnuna's view, for here she knows that her husband knows,11  yet it is taught that she is not believed? — R. Hamnuna maintains that here too she would argue to herself, 'Granted that he knows that cohabitation has taken place, does he know whether the emission is forceful'?12  Therefore she may be lying.

A certain woman was accustomed to rise [in the morning] and wash her husband's hands whenever intimacy had taken place. One day she brought him water to wash. 'But,' exclaimed he, 'nothing has taken place to-day'! 'If so,' she rejoined, [it must have been] 'one of the gentile

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. I.e., it is his sanctity, not my wrong-doing, that prohibits me to him.
  2. Surely not! and there is no need to divorce her.
  3. I.e., is her sin of less account?
  4. Is she believed in spite of his denial, or may it be a ruse to gain her freedom?
  5. I.e., the Mishnah as it was subsequently amended.
  6. Whether her statement is true.
  7. I.e., she would not be brazen enough to tell such a lie in his presence, wherefore she is believed.
  8. If she had not actually been ravished.
  9. So Ran. Rashi: her husband might have ill-treated her; she has conceived a strong passion for (another) man.
  10. I.e., since it is a charge of extreme delicacy and unpleasantness, she would not make it if it were untrue.
  11. Whether the charge is true or not.
  12. Surely not, for only the woman can feel that.
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Nedarim 91b

perfume sellers1  who were here to-day; if not you, perhaps it was one of them.' Said R. Nahman: She had conceived a passion for another, and her declaration has no substance.2

A certain woman shewed displeasure with her husband. Said he to her, 'Why this change now?' She replied, 'You have never caused me so much pain through intimacy as to-day.' 'But there has been none to-day!' he exclaimed. 'If so,' she returned, [it must have been] 'the gentile naphtha sellers who were here to-day; if not you, perhaps it was one of them.' Said R. Nahman: Disregard her; she had conceived a passion for another.

A certain man was closeted in a house with a [married] woman. Hearing the master [her husband] entering, the adulterer broke through a hedge and fled.3  Said Raba: The wife is permitted; had he committed wrong, he would have hidden himself [in the house].4

A certain adulterer visited a woman. Her husband came, whereupon the lover went and placed himself behind a curtain before the door.5  Now, some cress was lying there, and a snake [came and ate] thereof; the master [her husband] was about to eat of the cress, unknown to his wife. 'Do not eat it,' warned the lover, 'because a snake has tasted it.' Said Raba: The wife is permitted: had he committed wrong, he would have been pleased that he should eat thereof and die, as it is written, For they have committed adultery, and blood is in their hands.6  Surely that is obvious? — I might think that he had committed wrong, and as for his warning, that is because he prefers the husband not to die, so that his wife may be to him as stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant;7  therefore he teaches otherwise.

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Lit., 'dealers in aloe'.
  2. I.e., she is disbelieved. The reference here is to the wife of a priest; v. p. 280, n. 9. For if she were the wife of an Israelite, she would not be forbidden to him even if it were true. Ran.
  3. [In the presence of the husband ('Aruch).]
  4. That the husband should remain in ignorance of his presence.
  5. So Ran. 'Aruch: and placed himself in a concealed arch by the gate.
  6. Ezek. XXIII, 37.
  7. Prov. IX, 17. Though this Tractate ends with a number of stories referring to adultery, these are not to be taken as reflecting general conditions. The strong opposition to unchastity displayed by the Prophets and the Rabbis, as well as the practice of early marriage, would have conduced to higher moral standards. V. J.E. art. 'Chastity'.
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