Five Woman and Sotah

Sotah (6:2) | Yisrael Bankier | 2 months ago

The Mishnah (6:2) teaches that if one person claims that he witnessed that the Sotah indeed had an affair, then she would not drink the mei Sotah -- the process is stopped -- and she loses her ketubah. Furthermore, that individual does not need to be a kosher witness.

Recall that we learnt in Masechet Yevamot (15:4) that a kosher witness is not required to testify that a woman's husband had passed away to allow her to remarry. Nevertheless, there were five woman that could not be believed. That was because there was an assumed animosity that might motivate a false testimony which would ultimately harm her. The Mishnah here explains that if the single witness was one of those five women, then even though it would stop the sotah process, it would not cause her to lose her ketubah.

R' Akiva Eiger however asks that we find that if the husband died before the sotah process could be carried out, then she would not receive her ketubah. That is because since there was kinui (she was prewarned) and setirah (she was witnessed in seclusion with that man) there is a doubt whether an affair was committed. Consequently, until the matter is clarified by way of the mei sotah, she does not receive her ketubah based on this doubt. The same should be true in this case also. She should not receive her ketubah until her innocence has been proven. What difference does it make that it was one of the five woman that testified? As long as the doubt has not been cleared, she should not receive her ketubah.

R' Akiva Eiger also cites the Yerushalmi that asks why a single witness should be trusted to make her lose he ketubah at all. Financial matters normally require two valid witnesses. The Yerushalmi answers that since the Torah trusted a single witness in this case to stop the sotah process, it follows that they are trusted to make her lose her ketubah. The Yerushalmi explains this is similar to the fact we trust a single witness regard issurim, e.g. that a particular mass is chelev. If person subsequently eats it having been prewarned by two witnesses, he would be liable to lashes. R' Akiva Eiger asks why this explanation is even necessary. Even without the elevated trustworthiness of a single witness, she cannot receive her ketubah from the moment of setirah until she drinks the mei sotah.

The Ohr Sameach (Terumot 8:15) however explains that there is difference between the case of a single witness and these five women. If the single witness came after the woman already drank the mei sotah, since the water already confirmed her innocence, there is no longer a "ragliam le'davar" and the single witness testimony is dismissed. If however they testified, and the kohen nonetheless gave her the mei sotah to drink, in that case the water would not be effective and her survival is no proof.

With respect to the five women however, the Ohr Sameach explains that they are not trusted. Nonetheless, in this case, the Chachamim do not allow her to drink the mei sotah. If however, she went ahead and drank the mei sotah and survived, she would be permitted to her husband, because these five women were not believed. It is for this reason that she receives her ketubah. This is different to the case where her husband dies before she was able to drink the mei sotah. That is because in this case, because the five women are not trusted, the mei sotah would work. Meaning the path to clarify her innocence is still available to her and she is willing to take it. It is only the Beit Din that is stopping her from drinking the mei sotah. Therefore, she should not lose her ketubah as a result.


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