Shake of the Dust

Sotah (3) | Yehuda Gottlieb | 9 years ago

The third perek of Masechet Sotah describes the process that an accused Sotah must go through in the Beit HaMikdash. The third Mishnah of this perek outlines the procedure if a woman either admits guilt or refuses to drink the mei sotah. If the scroll (with the Shem Hakedushah) has been erased and she admits guilt, the Mishnah says the dusty water in which the scroll has been dissolved should be poured out.

There is a machloket in the Yerushalmi whether this water, which was used to dissolve Hashem’s name, has inherit kedusha or not. The practical difference between these two opinions is whether one can then use this water for a non sacred purpose, for example, for use in making clay.

The Rambam is of the opinion that this water has no kedusha. This is supported by the Meiri who offers a logical explanation. The original purpose of writing on the Megillah is in order to bring clarity to an uncertain situation. In this case, the woman herself admits her infidelity, and therefore this megillah is no longer needed to determine her guilt. Therefore, the Meiri states in such a case, the water with the dissolved Megillah has no kedusha and can be thrown out.

There are two aspects of potential kedusha that may be contained in the water:

  1. The Kedusha of the water itself due to being drawn from the kior and therefore sanctified in a kli sharet.

  2. The Kedusha of the water due to the Shem Hashem being dissolved in it.

The Meiri’s explanation, that the water comes to bring certainty in an unclear situation, only answers the second aspect of kedusha. There is still uncertainty regarding whether the water has kedusha due to the fact that it came from the kiyor.

The Shayarei HaKorban challenges the Meiri’s explanation due to the fact that any liquid contained in a kli sharet overnight becomes possul due to linah. He answers his question by stating that the water indeed does contain kedushat haguf due to it being placed in a kli sharet. However, once the woman admits her guilt, the water has served its purpose and effectively becomes deconsecrated. Just like something with inherent kedusha loses this once the mitzvah has been performed, the water loses its kedusah once the doubt over this woman has been removed.

The Ridvaz takes exception to this explanation. He states that the Shayerei Hakorbans comparison to an item used in a mitzvah is incomplete as in the case of the Sotah the water is not the item that is removing the safek about this woman. Rather, the woman herself is removing the doubt which has nothing to do with the water - therefore it should retain its kedusha! The Ridvaz therefore states, that the water going from the kiyor and into another kli is actually performing the mitzvah and therefore it no longer has kedusha.1

The Avi Ezri states that according to the Rambam even though there is no kedusha to the Sotah water in this case, he would agree that sanctified water would be pasul if left overnight. He states that as long as the water is fit for drinking it will have this status as water sanctified in a kli sharet. Our Mishnah’s case of the Sotah is different however, in that as soon as the Sotah admits her guilt, this water is of no use and no longer fit for consumption. It therefore becomes like dead kodshim which lose their sanctity and therefore can be thrown away.

1 The Ridbaz states that the law that linah invalidates items in a kli sharet (i.e. poured into from the kiyor) must be consistent with the opinion that these liquids do have kedushah and following this logic it would be forbidden to throw it out.


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