web analytics
November 21, 2014 / 28 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post
IDC Herzliya Campus A Day on Campus

To mark IDC Herzliya’s 20th anniversary, we spent a day following Prof. Uriel Reichman, IDC’s founder and president, and Jonathan Davis, VP for External Relations, around its delightful campus.



Home » Judaism » Parsha »

Safek K’vadai: When Doubt Becomes Certain

In this week’s parshah the Torah writes about the halachos of a sotah. A sotah is a woman whose husband warned her, in the presence of two witnesses, not to go into seclusion with a specific man – but two witnesses saw her in seclusion with that man. Even though the only testimony that we have is that she was secluded with this man, she is nevertheless forbidden to be with her husband as she is an adulteress. This is in effect until she drinks the sotah water.

The Gemara in Sotah 28a says that concerning a sotah, the Torah treats every doubt as if it is certain (safek k’vadai). The Gemara then extends this halacha to the halacha of safek tumah (a doubt as to whether something became tamei). In other words, if there is a doubt whether something became tamei, it has the status of something that definitely became tamei. If the doubt occurred in a private place (by definition less than three people; similar to a sotah), it is viewed as certainly having become tamei. If the doubt occurred in a public place (by definition three or more people), it is deemed as certainly pure.

Reb Chaim Soloveitchik (Stencils) debates what the intention of the halacha was when it says that every doubt should be treated as if we were certain that it was tamei. Did the Torah intend that we should assume that all the necessary details that need to occur in order for it to be tamei actually occurred, thereby rendering it tamei, or should we just render it tamei without assuming that we know what exactly happened? For example, do we assume in the case of a sotah that the woman committed adultery and is thus forbidden to be with her husband, or is she forbidden to be with her husband even though we are unsure whether she indeed committed adultery?

Reb Chaim suggests that there is a proof that we do not assume we know what happened; rather we issue the p’sak with certainty without knowing the story’s details. The Gemara in Sotah says that an adulteress is forbidden regarding three things: to be with her husband; to be with the adulterer (she can never marry the adulterer even after she is divorced from her husband); and participating in terumah. The Gemara derives from the Torah’s written word, “v’nitmah” (written three times) that these same halachos apply to a sotah as well.

Question: Why does the Gemara require three pasukim to teach us these halachos? If we are to assume that we know what happened, i.e. that she was mezaneh, one pasuk would have been sufficient. Since we are to assume that we know with certainty that she committed adultery, all the halachos of an adulteress should apply to her. It seems clear from this that the Torah only intended that we render the sotah forbidden, and not assume that we know the details. Therefore, if the Torah only had one pasuk teaching us that we are to certainly render her forbidden to be with her husband, we would not apply all the halachos of an adulteress to her.

Based on this we can explain the machlokes between Tosafos in Yevamos (11b, d”h mai) and Tosafos in Sotah (28a, d”h ma). Lashes can only be administered to one who transgresses a lav (negative commandment). If, however, one transgresses a positive commandment or even a lav haba michlal assei (a prohibition that is derived from an assei), no lashes are administered. If there is a doubt whether it was forbidden, one does not receive lashes. On this issue, there is a lav for a husband to live with his wife after she commits adultery. This lav is punishable by lashes. The prohibition written in the Torah regarding a safek sotah is a lav haba michlal assei, which is not punishable by lashes.

Tosafos in Sotah says that even though the Torah said with certainty that a safek sotah is forbidden to be with her husband, it is only a lav haba michlal assei; therefore, if her husband transgresses and lives with her, they do not receive lashes. Tosafos in Yevamos disagrees, stating that since the Torah said to treat the doubt as if it were certainly a forbidden act, they receive lashes. The latter Tosafos is difficult to understand as to why there should be lashes by a safek sotah, as the only certain prohibition is a lav haba michlal assei – for which one does not receive lashes. One cannot receive lashes in the case of a safek sotah for having transgressed the lav of living with one’s wife after she committed adultery since it is a safek whether she is an adulteress.

Reb Chaim explains that Tosafos in Yevamos must hold that the Torah’s intention was for us to assume that we knew all the necessary details of the doubt with certainty. In this case we should assume that she committed adultery, and that that is the reason why she is prohibited by a lav haba michlal assei. So even though the Torah does not say explicitly that we should treat the doubt as if it were certain regarding the lav prohibiting the husband from living with his wife after she committed adultery, we can apply lashes if her husband lives with her because we assume with certainty that she committed adultery.

Tosafos in Sotah understands that when the Torah said to treat the doubt as if it were certain, the intention was only to render it as certainly forbidden – and not to assume that we know the details with certainty. Hence we can only treat the doubt with certainty regarding the three things that the Torah said (see above). Since the Torah only said to treat with certainty that which regards the lav haba michlal assei, they do not receive lashes.

For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.

About the Author: For questions or comments, e-mail RabbiRFuchs@gmail.com.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Safek K’vadai: When Doubt Becomes Certain”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Colleagues of the hanged Arab bus driver whose death continues to be referred to as murder despite autopsy finding of suicide. These are Arab drivers of Egged buses, claiming they suffer discrimination by Israelis.
Arab Pathologist Singing New Tune: Murder (By Jews) Not Suicide
Latest Judaism Stories
Rabbi Avi Weiss

Yitzchak thought the Jewish people needed dual leadership: Eisav the physical; Yaakov the spiritual

Weiss-112114-Sufganiot

According to the Sefer Yetzirah, the nature of the month of Kislev is sleep.

Teller-Rabbi-Hanoch-NEW

Though braggarts come across as conceited, their boasting often reflects a low sense of self-regard

Nimchinsky-112114-Learning

Not every child can live up to our hopes or expectations, but every child is loved by Hashem.

Leaders must always pay attention to the importance of timing.

While our leaders have been shepherds, the vast majority of the Children of Israel were farmers.

Maimonides himself walked and prayed in the permissible areas when he visited Eretz Yisrael in 1165

If a man dies childless, the Torah commands the deceased’s brother to marry his brother’s widow in a ceremony known as yibum, or to perform a special form of divorce ceremony with her known as chalitzah.

Dovid turned to the other people sitting at his table. “I’m revoking my hefker of the Chumash,” he announced. “I want to keep it.”

Ever Vigilant
‘When Unworthy, One’s Number Of Years Is Reduced’
(Yevamos 50a)

Question: My young daughter was recently diagnosed with autism. She does not function well socially and is extremely introverted, but we have noticed that she reacts very well to small animals. We reported this to her therapist who suggested that we get a dog or cat as a pet. We know that most religious people frown upon having pets, but we hate to see our daughter suffer and want to do anything that would make her happy. Would it be okay to own a pet in the circumstances we described?

Her Loving Parents
(Via E-Mail)

Ramban interprets Korban as self-sacrifice, each Jew should attempt to recreate Akeidas Yitzchak.

Dr. Schwartz had no other alternatives up his sleeve. He suggested my mother go home and think about what she wanted to do.

Why does Lavan’s speaking before his father show that he was wicked? Disrespectful, yes. Rude, certainly. But a rasha?

We find that in certain circumstances before the Torah was actually given, people were permitted to make calculations as to what would better serve Hashem, even if it were against a mitzvah or aveirah.

More Articles from Rabbi Raphael Fuchs
Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

We find that in certain circumstances before the Torah was actually given, people were permitted to make calculations as to what would better serve Hashem, even if it were against a mitzvah or aveirah.

Rabbi-Twersky-112114

It is difficult to write about such a holy person, for I fear I will not accurately portray his greatness…

The implication of the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 233:2) is that one may not daven Minchah before six and one half hours into the day.

Some Rishonim are bothered by the opinion of the Rambam that bnei Noach are commanded not to eat basar min hachai.

According to the Raavad if one who is uncircumcised breaks something he will be exempt from paying for it since he was chayav kares at the same time as he was obligated to repay for the item he broke.

Others suggest that one cannot separate Shabbos from Yom Kippur by accepting Shabbos early.

While women are exempt from actually learning Torah, they are obligated in a different aspect of the mitzvah.

The Chafetz Chaim answered that there are two forms of teshuvah; teshuvah m’ahava and teshuvah m’yirah.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/parsha/safek-kvadai-when-doubt-becomes-certain/2012/06/01/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: