Previous Folio / Sotah Directory / Tractate List

Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sotah

Folio 21a

if there may be a lengthening of thy tranquility,1  and it is written: All this came upon king Nebuchadnezzar,2  and it is written: At the end of twelve months!'3  — [The teaching is] certainly R. Ishmael's and he found a verse which mentions [the period] and repeats it; for it is written: Thus saith the Lord: For three transgressions of Edom.4  But why [was it said] that although there is no proof of this, yet there is some indication?5  — It may be different with heathens upon whom [God] does not execute judgment immediately.

AND ANOTHER FOR THREE YEARS etc. What sort of merit? If I answer merit of [studying] Torah, she is [in the category] of one who is not commanded and fulfils!6  — Rather must it be merit of [performing] a commandment. But does the merit of performing a commandment protect as much as that? — Surely it has been taught: The following did R. Menahem son of R. Jose expound: For the commandment is a lamp and Torah is light7  — the verse identifies the commandment with a lamp and Torah with light; the commandment with a lamp to tell thee that as a lamp only protects temporarily, so [the fulfilment of] a commandment only protects temporarily; and Torah with light to tell thee that as light protects permanently, so Torah protects permanently; and it states: When thou walkest it shall lead thee etc.8  — 'when thou walkest it shall lead thee', viz., In this world; 'when, thou sleepest it shall watch over' thee, viz., in death; and when, thou awakest it shall talk with thee, viz., in the Hereafter. Parable of a man who is walking in the middle of the night and darkness, and is afraid of thorns, pits, thistles, wild beasts and robbers, and also does not know the road in which he is going. If a lighted torch is prepared for him, he is saved from thorns, pits and thistles; but he is still afraid of wild beasts and robbers, and does not know the road in which he is going. When, however, dawn breaks, he is saved from wild beasts and robbers, but still does not know the road in which he is going. When, however, he reaches the cross-roads, he is saved from everything.9  Another explanation is: A transgression nullifies10  [the merit of] a commandment but not of [study of] Torah; as it is said: Many waters cannot quench love!11  — Said R. Joseph: A commandment protects and rescues12  while one is engaged upon it; but when one is no longer engaged upon it, it protects13  but does not rescue. As for [study of] Torah, whether while one is engaged upon it or not, it protects and rescues. Raba demurred to this: According to this reasoning, did not Doeg and Ahitophel engage upon [study of] Torah; so Why did it not protect them?14  — But, said Raba, while one is engaged upon [study of] Torah, it protects and rescues, and while one is not engaged upon it, it protects but does not rescue. As for a commandment whether while one is engaged upon it or not, it protects but does not rescue.

Rabina said: It is certainly merit of [the study of] Torah [which causes the water to suspend its effect]; and when you argue that she is in the category of one who is not commanded and fulfils, [it can be answered] granted that women are not so commanded, still when they have their sons taught Scripture and Mishnah and wait for their husbands until they return from the Schools,15  should they not share [the merit] with them?

What means 'the cross-roads' [in the parable related above]? — R. Hisda said: It alludes to a disciple of the Sages and the day of his death. R. Nahman b. Isaac said: It alludes to a disciple of the Sages and his fear of sin.16  Mar Zutra said: It alludes to a disciple of the Sages when the tradition cited by him is in accord with the halachah.17  Another explanation is: A transgression nullifies [the merit of] a commandment but not of [study of] Torah. R. Joseph said: R. Menahem son of R. Jose expounded that verse18  as though [it were Interpreted] from Sinai, and had Doeg and Ahitophel expounded it [similarly], they would not have pursued David, as it is written, saying: God hath forsaken him, etc.19  What verse did they expound?20  — That he see no unclean thing in thee etc.21  They did not know, however, that a transgression nullifies [the merit of] a commandment but not of [study of] Torah.22

What means He would utterly be contemned?23  — 'Ulla said: Not like Simeon the brother of Azariah nor like R. Johanan of the Prince's house24  but like Hillel25  and Shebna. When R. Dimi came26  he related that Hillel and Shebna were brothers; Hillel engaged in [study of] Torah and Shebna was occupied in business. Eventually [Shebna] said to him, 'Come, let us become partners and divide [the profits]'. A Bath Kol27  issued forth and proclaimed. If a man would give all the substance of his house etc.28

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Dan. IV, 24.
  2. Ibid. 25.
  3. Ibid. 26.
  4. Amos I, II. The respite of a year is trebled and this period corresponds to that given in the Mishnah.
  5. The texts quoted did afford proof!
  6. The duty of Torah-study is not obligatory upon a woman; therefore she cannot acquire so much merit even if she does so, v. A.Z. 3a.
  7. Prov. VI, 23.
  8. Ibid. 22.
  9. The commandment is the torch, Torah the dawn, and death the cross-roads.
  10. Lit., 'extinguishes'.
  11. Cant. VIII. 7. This shows that a commandment has no great protective powers.
  12. 'Protects' from sufferings and 'rescues' from the urge of the evil inclination.
  13. The merit of its fulfilment can thus protect the woman against the effects of the water.
  14. [This is used in a loose sense. The question is the Torah should have 'rescued' them (Tosaf. of Sens.)
  15. These were often a distance from the home and involved a long absence. V. Ber. 17a.
  16. His study of Torah imbues him with a fear of sin which withholds him from transgression. His clear conscience serves him well at the time of death.
  17. This is proof that he had studied correctly and the consciousness of this also calms his mind at the end of his life.
  18. Viz., Prov. VI, 23.
  19. Ps. LXXI, 11, i.e., David because of his sin with Bathsheba, and so they imagined they could pursue him with impunity.
  20. To support them in their view.
  21. Deut. XXIII, 15, E.V. 14. The continuation is: and turn away from thee. Now the phrase 'unclean thing' usually means an immoral act, and it was so understood by Doeg and Ahitophel.
  22. And David was still protected by his zeal in Torah-study. This is the exposition of R. Menahem son of R. Jose.
  23. Cant. VIII, 7.
  24. Simeon studied while supported by his brother, and R. Johanan was subsidised by R. Judah II, the Prince. Each, therefore, forfeited some of the merit which accrued from his study.
  25. Who studied in the direst poverty; v. Yoma 35b.
  26. From Palestine to Babylon.
  27. V. Glos.
  28. Cant. VIII, 7. Hillel, unlike the others named, declined to barter the merit he earned by devotion to Torah.
Tractate List

Sotah 21b

HENCE DECLARED BEN AZZAI: A MAN IS UNDER THE OBLIGATION TO TEACH … R. ELIEZER SAYS: WHOEVER TEACHES HIS DAUGHTER TORAH TEACHES HER OBSCENITY. Can it enter your mind [that by teaching her Torah he actually teaches her] obscenity! — Read, rather: as though he had taught her obscenity. R. Abbahu said: What is R. Eliezer's reason? — Because it is written: I wisdom have made subtilty my dwelling,1  i.e., when wisdom enters a man subtilty enters with it.

And what do the Rabbis2  make of the words 'I wisdom'? — They require them in accordance with the teaching of R. Jose son of R. Hanina; for R. Jose son of R. Hanina said: Words of Torah only remain with him who renders himself naked3  on their behalf; as it is said: 'I wisdom have made nakedness my dwelling'. R. Johanan said: Words of Torah only remain with him who makes himself like one who is as nothing, as it is said: Wisdom shall be found from nothing.4

R. JOSHUA SAYS: A WOMAN PREFERS etc. What does he intend? — He means that a woman prefers one kab and sensuality with it to nine kab with continence.

HE USED TO SAY, A FOOLISH PIETIST etc. What is a foolish pietist like? — E.g., a woman is drowning in the river, and he says: 'It is improper for me to look upon her and rescue her'. What is the cunning rogue like? — R. Johanan says: He who explains his case to the judge before the other party to the suit arrives.5  R. Abbahu says: He who gives a poor man a denar to bring his possessions to the total of two hundred zuz;6  for we have learnt; He who possesses two hundred zuz may not take gleanings, forgotten sheaves, the produce of the corner of the field, or the poor tithe;7  but should he lack one denar of the two hundred [zuz], even if a thousand persons give him [the gleanings, etc.] simultaneously, he may accept.8  R. Assi said in the name of R. Johanan: [A cunning rogue is] he who gives advice to sell an estate which is inconsiderable;9  for R. Assi said in the name of R. Johanan: If the male-orphans sold an inconsiderable estate before [the daughters established their claim at a Court], their act of selling is legal. Abaye said: [A cunning rogue is] he who gives advice to sell property in accordance with the view of Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel; for it has been taught: [If a man said], 'My property is for you and after you for So-and-so', and the first person went and sold it and ate up [the proceeds], the second man can recover from the purchaser. Such is the statement of Rabbi; Rabban Simeon b. Gamaliel says: The second only receives what the first left.10  R. Joseph b. Mama said in the name of R. Shesheth: He who induces others to follow in his ways.11  R. Zerika said in the name of R. Huna: He who is lenient with himself12  and strict with others. 'Ulla said: He

- To Next Folio -

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. Prov. VIII, 12. Subtilty is not desirable in a woman.
  2. Those who disagree with R. Eliezer.
  3. He neglects everything else, and is therefore destitute. The Hebrew word for 'subtilty' is connected with a root meaning 'to be naked'.
  4. Sic., Job XXVIII, 22.
  5. Such an action is illegal; v. Shebu. 31a.
  6. In order to prevent him from taking advantage of the law, so that he can retain the produce for his own kinsfolk.
  7. V. Lev. XXIII, 22, Deut. XXIV, 19.
  8. Pe'ah VIII, 8.
  9. The law of inheritance is that where the estate is small, the daughters inherit 'and the sons can go begging' (B.B. 140a).
  10. Cf. Keth. 95b; and B.B. 137a.
  11. By hypocritically pretending to be pious.
  12. In the interpretation of the Law.
Tractate List