(Permission is granted to print and redistribute this material
as long as this header and the footer at the end are included.)


brought to you by Kollel Iyun Hadaf of Har Nof
Rosh Kollel: Rav Mordecai Kornfeld

Ask A Question about the Daf

Previous daf

Sotah, 44

SOTAH 44 - dedicated by Marcia and Lee Weinblatt to Jeri and Eli Turkel, with Mazal Tov wishes for Tamar's marriage to Netanel Casado.


QUESTION: Rebbi Yosi ha'Glili, in the Mishnah, says that anyone who is afraid to join the army in going to war "because of the Aveiros in his hand" is sent back from the battlefront. Rebbi Yosi argues with Rebbi Yosi ha'Glili and says that only a Kohen Gadol who married an Almanah, a Kohen who married a Gerushah or Chalutzah, or a Yisrael who married a Mamzeres or Nesinah is sent back from the battlefront. The Gemara explains that Rebbi Yosi ha'Glili and Rebbi Yosi are arguing whether one who transgressed an Isur d'Rabanan returns from battle. According to Rebbi Yosi, only one who transgressed an Isur d'Oraisa returns but not one who transgressed an Isur d'Rabanan.

If, according to Rebbi Yosi, one who transgressed an Isur d'Rabanan does not return from the battlefront, then why does Rebbi Yosi state that a Kohen who married a Chalutzah, or a Yisrael who married a Nesinah, returns from the battlefront? The Gemara (Yevamos 24a, Kidushin 78a) says that the Isur of a Kohen to marry a Chalutzah is only mid'Rabanan!

Regarding the Isur of a Yisrael marrying a Nesinah, the Rishonim argue whether it is an Isur d'Oraisa or an Isur d'Rabanan (see Insights to Yevamos 79:2). Although Rashi in our Sugya (DH k'd'Rabah) writes that it is an Isur d'Oraisa, in Kesuvos (29a) and Yevamos (37a) he writes that the Isur is mid'Rabanan. The Rishonim (see BA'AL HA'ME'OR in Yevamos 76a) point out that this question is the subject of a Machlokes between the first version of Rava's ruling in Yevamos (76a) and the second version of his ruling there. According to the first version of Rava, in which Rava rules that the prohibition is mid'Rabanan, how can we reconcile the words of Rebbi Yosi who says that one who marries a Nesinah returns from the battlefront? (TOSFOS in Kesuvos 29a, Makos 13a; TOSFOS YOM TOV and MAHARITZ CHIYUS here)

A similar question may be asked on the Mishnah in Makos (13a), which gives a list of those who receive Malkus for transgressing a Torah prohibition, and it includes a Kohen who marries a Chalutzah and a Yisrael who marries a Nesinah. The same question may be asked on the Beraisa in Yevamos (85a) which distinguishes between those who marry someone prohibited to them mid'Oraisa who must give a Kesuvah, and those who marry someone prohibited to them mid'Rabanan who do not give a Kesuvah, and it includes a Chalutzah and a Nesinah in the list of marriages prohibited mid'Oraisa!


(a) TOSFOS (in Kesuvos and Makos) suggests that the Mishnah mentions Chalutzah and Nesinah only because it mentions Gerushah and Mamzeres. It is the style of the Mishnah to mention Chalutzah together with Gerushah, and Nesinah together with Mamzeres, as we find in many places.

This answer is difficult to understand. Normally, the Halachah of the Mishnah can apply to Chalutzah or Nesinah as well. But if the Halachah of the Mishnah does not apply to Chalutzah or Nesinah, then how can the Mishnah include them simply because, in other places, they are written together? Here, when the Mishnah mentions Chalutzah and Nesinah, the Halachah does not apply to them!

Tosfos probably means that the Rabanan consider the Isurim of Chalutzah and Nesinah exactly the same as the Isurim of Gerushah and Mamzeres, even with regard to Halachos that normally apply only to a woman who is Asurah mid'Oraisa, because the prohibitions are of such a similar nature. (See Tosfos in Makos 13a.)

(b) The RITVA in Makos (13a) writes that Chalutzah is more severe than a normal Isur d'Rabanan, since the prohibition is supported by an Asmachta. Therefore, it is comparable to an Isur d'Oraisa. The Ritva does not explain why the Mishnah equates the Isur of Nesinah to an Isur d'Oraisa, even though it is not supported by an Asmachta.

Apparently, the Ritva is following his own view elsewhere (in Kesuvos 29a) that a Nesinah is prohibited mid'Oraisa. According to the Ritva, we must say that the Gemara in Yevamos (76a) could have rejected the first version of Rava's statement based on our Mishnah, but it had a more explicit question with which to reject his statement.

(c) TOSFOS YESHANIM in Yevamos (44a) writes that according to Rebbi Akiva, a Chalutzah to a Kohen is Asurah mid'Oraisa and not just mid'Rabanan, since she is considered like a woman who is divorced. He explains that the Mishnah in Makos (13a) is following the opinion of Rebbi Akiva. The same can be said about our Mishnah -- that Rebbi Yosi holds like Rebbi Akiva with regard to Chalutzah being considered an Isur d'Oraisa.

Regarding Nesinah, Tosfos Yeshanim must have understood the same way that the Ritva understood the Isur, as we explained above in answer (b).


QUESTION: The Mishnah states that when there is a Milchemes Mitzvah, everyone goes out to war, "even the Chasan from his room and the Kalah from her Chupah."

How can a woman be obligated to participate in a war? The Gemara in Nazir (59a) teaches that it is prohibited for a woman to even carry a weapon, and it is certainly prohibited for her to go out to war (see Kidushin 2b, "It is not the manner of a woman to wage war"). (RASHASH)


(a) This question is discussed by the Rishonim. The RADVAZ (Hilchos Melachim 7:4) suggests in his first answer that the Mishnah does not mean that the Kalah leaves the Chupah to go to the battlefront. Rather, it means that since the Chasan must leave and is no longer with the Kalah, the Kalah leaves her Chupah (that is, she does not celebrate the rest of the seven days of festivity).

(b) The RADVAZ suggests further that although the women do not actually go to the battlefront, they supply the soldiers with food and drink (or they help fixed the roads), just like those who do not participate in a Milchemes ha'Reshus (43a). The BEN YEHOYADA, TIFERES YISRA'EL, and RASHASH give a similar answer. The SEFER HA'CHINUCH (Mitzvah 603) writes that the Mitzvah of Zechiras Amalek does not apply to women, because the purpose of Zechiras Amalek is to remind us to wage war with Amalek until no one from Amalek remains, and women do not participate in war. The MINCHAS CHINUCH challenges the Chinuch's ruling from our Mishnah which says that in the case of a Milchemes Mitzvah, even a Kalah leaves her Chupah.

Perhaps the argument between the Chinuch and the Minchas Chinuch revolves around the two answers of the Radvaz. The Minchas Chinuch holds like the second answer of the Radvaz, that a Kalah also participates in the war by helping the soldiers who are fighting. The Chinuch might hold like the first answer of the Radvaz, that a woman does not participate in the war at all, and therefore he says that a woman has no Mitzvah of Zechiras Amalek.

Alternatively, even if the Chinuch also agrees to the second answer of the Radvaz, he might hold that it is not necessary for women to fulfill the Mitzvah of Zechiras Amalek in order to remember to help the men fight, because their role in the war is not considered part of the Mitzvah of destroying Amalek; they are only "Mesayei'a" -- they assist in the Mitzvah of the war, but they do not actually fulfill the Mitzvah

QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that members of the army must excel in their observance of the Mitzvah of Tefilin. If one speaks after donning Tefilin on the arm, but before completing the Mitzvah by putting on the second Tefilin on the forehead, it is considered a sin. One who has sinned in such a manner may not join the ranks of the Jewish army, for he will have no assurance of Divine protection.

The connection between Tefilin and victory in war is reiterated in a number of sources:

1. "Not one of the warriors who fought against Midyan (Bamidbar 31) put on their forehead-Tefilin before their arm-Tefilin. Had they done so, Moshe would not have praised them and they would not have all returned home safely" (Midrash Shir ha'Shirim Rabah to verse 4:4).

2. "Why did Elisha (a righteous man who wore his Tefilin in defiance of the Roman decree against wearing them) refer to his Tefilin as 'dove's wings'? ... Just as a dove's wings afford it protection (a dove wards off enemies with its wings, -Rashi), so, too, the Mitzvos (that is, particularly the Mitzvah of Tefilin) protect the Jewish people" (Shabbos 130a).

3. "It is through keeping the Mitzvah of Tefilin properly (on the arm and forehead) that Hashem grants the Jewish armies the blessing of Moshe Rabeinu (Devarim 33:20), 'He shall smite the enemy's arms and foreheads' (they would sever the head and arm of the enemy with one blow, -Rashi)" (Rosh, Hilchos Tefilin 15; see also Kol Eliyahu #132)

4. The complementary theme, that lack of attention for the Mitzvah of Tefilin can cause the fall of the Jewish army, is implicit in the Gemara that describes the fall of Bar Kochba's Jewish army in Beitar (circa 135 CE): "Forty baskets of Tefilin were found on the heads of those who were killed in Beitar." The warriors of Beitar fell wearing their Tefilin in order to show that because they mishandled their Tefilin, the Tefilin lost its power to protect them in war.

What is it about Tefilin that affords protection to one who wears them during times of war? Why is it so important not to don them in reverse order and not to interrupt the process by speaking?

ANSWER: The Gemara in Berachos (6a) teaches that Hashem, too, wears Tefilin. The Gemara asks what is written on the parchment enclosed in Hashem's Tefilin, and it answers that the verse, "Who is like Your nation, Israel, a unique nation on earth!" (Divrei ha'Yamim I 17:21) is written in His Tefilin. The Gemara continues and says that Hashem says, "You, Israel, have proclaimed Me unique, as it is written, 'Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One' (Devarim 6:4), and I, too, shall proclaim you unique, as it is written, 'Who is like Your nation Israel, a unique nation on earth!'"

Although the "Tefilin of Hashem" is obviously a metaphor, the Gemara's theme is clear. Tefilin represent the reciprocal relationship between the Jews and our Creator. The passages enclosed in our Tefilin proclaim, "Hear O Israel...," while those enclosed in His proclaim, "Who is like Your nation Israel...."

A survey of the four passages written on the parchment enclosed in our Tefilin reveals the same theme. The first two, Shema (Devarim 6:4 ) and v'Hayah Im Shamo'a (Devarim 11:13), announce our commitment to Hashem and His Mitzvos (see Mishnah, Berachos 13a), while the second set of passages, Kadesh and v'Hayah Ki Yevi'acha (Shemos 13:1), remind us of the wonders that Hashem did for us when He freed us from the Egyptian bondage. Through our commitment to Hashem, we merit Hashem's protection.

The reciprocal relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people is likewise apparent in the two parts that make up a set of Tefilin: the arm-Tefilin and forehead-Tefilin. The arm-Tefilin is worn parallel to the heart (Menachos 37b), representing our love for Hashem. It is worn on the weaker arm (ibid. 37a), to remind us that we are powerless before Hashem. The forehead-Tefilin, on the other hand, demonstrates Hashem's relationship to the Jewish People:

Where do we find that Tefilin are the strength of Israel? The verse states, "All the nations of the land will see that Hashem's name is upon you and they will fear you" (Devarim 28:10). The Gemara (Sotah 17a) says that this refers to "when they see the Tefilin that is on our heads."

The forehead-Tefilin is also termed "our glory" (Berachos 11a) -- it is the crown with which our Creator has crowned us. This is the secret of Tefilin. Through our faith in Hashem, we merit His protection from our enemies, and we are crowned as a nation above all others!

We can now understand why the arm-Tefilin must be donned first. Only after we demonstrate our commitment to Him through the arm-Tefilin does Hashem respond by crowning us with His glory, the forehead-Tefilin. One who reverses the order demonstrates that the chosenness of the Jewish People is not a direct result of their commitment to Hashem, and such a person is doomed to defeat. Similarly, if one dons his arm-Tefilin and then interrupts by speaking before donning his forehead-Tefilin, he does not recognize that his "crown of glory" is a direct result of the deference he pays to Hashem. He, too, shall fall.

This was indeed the cause of the downfall of the city of Beitar. The Yerushalmi (Gitin 4:5) tells us, "When Bar-Kochba would go to war [with his 400,000 mighty warriors] he would declare, "Master of the universe, I do not need your help; just do not hinder me!"

The downfall of Bar-Kochba's army stemmed from the fact that they did not put their faith in the Creator, but in their own physical prowess. Consequently, their Tefilin were unable to protect them and "forty basketfuls of Tefilin" were found on their dead bodies.

The Gemara in Gitin (58a) continues to describe exactly how many Tefilin were found on the dead warriors of Beitar. "Forty baskets of Tefilin were found on the heads of those who were killed in Beitar. Rebbi Yanai bar Rebbi Yishmael, said: 'Three containers, each containing forty basketfuls, were found....' The two opinions do not disagree; one refers to arm-Tefilin while the other refers to forehead-Tefilin."

The VILNA GA'ON (Kol Eliyahu #222) explains the conclusion of the Gemara as follows. The invading legions caught the Jews of Beitar just as they were praying. Some Jews were still putting on their Tefilin, others were already wearing them, and a third group had started to take them off. Since the arm-Tefilin is put on first and taken off last, the Jews in all three stages of Tefilin-dress wore arm-Tefilin, while only those in the middle stage (wearing both) had on forehead-Tefilin. This is why three times as many arm-Tefilin were found!

According to the Vilna Ga'on, it may be said that the sudden murder of the Jews of Beitar while praying reveals the sin that caused their deaths. Because they "interrupted between the two parts of Tefilin" -- that is, they did not attribute their physical prowess to Hashem -- a large number of them were killed while they were wearing the arm-Tefilin without the forehead-Tefilin.

This understanding of the connection between Tefilin and victory in war will help us understanding another Gemara.

When the king of Sedom came to thank Avraham for saving him upon Avraham's victorious return from the war with the four kings, he said to Avraham, "Return to me the captives and take the goods for yourself." Avraham replied, "I lift up my hand in an oath to Hashem... that I will take from the booty neither thread nor shoe-strap. I will not take anything that was yours" (Bereishis 14:11-23).

The Gemara (Sotah 17a) teaches that "in reward for Avraham's refusal to take 'neither thread nor shoe-strap,' his children were given two special Mitzvos: the Techeles worn in Tzitzis and the leather straps of Tefilin." Why was this Avraham's reward? Based on what we have explained above, we may explain this Gemara as follows.

Tefilin possess the ability to help us successfully defeat the enemy in war by acknowledging that we are powerless without Hashem's assistance. When this is our attitude, Hashem grants us strength in return.

The MESHECH CHOCHMAH explains that when Avraham "lifted his hand to Hashem...," he was showing that he attributed the strength of his hands in conquering the kings to Hashem. It was for this reason, he explains, that Avraham denied himself a portion in the booty. Since he did not consider the victory his own accomplishment, he did not feel that he deserved the booty. Hashem alone did all the fighting.

Avraham's refusal to take "neither thread nor shoe-strap," demonstrated that he attributed all of his military prowess to his Creator. Is it not appropriate, then, for his reward to be the Mitzvah of Tefilin? It is this Mitzvah which would constantly remind his children that they are powerless without the help of Hashem and lead them, too, to victory.

Next daf


For further information on
subscriptions, archives and sponsorships,
contact Kollel Iyun Hadaf,