web analytics
July 1, 2015 / 14 Tammuz, 5775
At a Glance
Judaism
Sponsored Post


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.

Current Top Story
Future guard? Arab child with Hamas headband aims toy rifle on the Temple Mount after prayers in the Al Aqsa mosque.
Shin Bet Foils Nascent Hamas Coup in Palestinian Authority Territories
Latest Judaism Stories
800px-Gustav_Jaeger_Bileam_Engel

Bil’am’s character is complex and nuanced; neither purely good nor purely evil.

Staum-062615

Amalek, our ultimate foe, understood that when unified, we are invincible and indestructible.

Torat-Hakehillah-logo-NEW

Perhaps on a deeper level, the mitzvah of parah adumah at this junction was not just to purify the body, but the spirit as well.

Rabbi Avi Weiss

Halacha isn’t random; it’s a mechanism guiding individuals and society to a higher ethical plateau.

Question: Should we wash our hands in the bathroom with soap and water, or by pouring water from a vessel with handles three times, alternating hands? I have heard it said that a vessel is used only in the morning upon awakening. What are the rules pertaining to young children? What is the protocol if no vessel is available? Additionally, may we dry our hands via an electric dryer?

Harry Koenigsberg
(Via E-Mail)

Less clear, however, is whether the concept applies to the area of civil law such as the law of transfer of property.

The greatest of men, Moshe, had to wait for Hashem to sprinkle purifying waters on Bnei Yisrael to mark the conclusion of the period of death.

My Plate, My Food
‘My Loaf Is Forbidden To You’
(Nedarim 34b)

Of Chukkim “Satan and the nations of the world made fun.” They may appear irrational & superstitious

I realized from this story that I was sent as a messenger from above. Hashem has many helpers in this world to help do his work.

Tosafos answers that nevertheless the sprinkling is a part of his taharah process.

“What difference does that make?” replied Shraga. “What counts is the agreement that we made. I said two hundred fifty and you accepted.”

Zaidie’s legacy of smiles and loving words was all but buried with him, now the family fights over $

Israel’s complaining frustrated Moshe, making it increasingly hard for him to lead effectively

Dovid’s musical Torah teachings were designed to penetrate the soul and the emotions.

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

Tosafos answers that nevertheless the sprinkling is a part of his taharah process.

Taste-of-Lomdus-logo

Performing ketores outside the Beis Hamikdash, and at the wrong time is an aveirah.

Ten of the twelve spies returned with a negative report, stating that this would be impossible.

The flavor of the mon was not artificial; the mon would now consist of the actual flavors from the desired food.

Tosafos suggests several answers as to how a minor can own an item, m’d’Oraisa.

The question is: What about pidyon haben? Can one give the five sela’im required for pidyon haben to a kohen’s daughter?

The mitzvah that parents must give their son a bris milah is a mitzvah that they must perform for someone else – namely their son.

The Bach writes that he mentioned his insights to many of the leading gedolim and no one disproved him.

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: