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SOTAH 46 - Generously dedicated by Ha'Rav Aviezer Wolfson, an Ohev Torah and
Mokir Torah and the prime example of Torah u'Gedulah b'Makom Echad. May he
and his wife be blessed with much Nachas from all of their illustrious
1) THE DEFINITION OF "NACHAL EISAN"
OPINIONS: The Gemara cites verses to define what "Eisan" means in the
context of "Nachal Eisan," where the procedure of the Eglah Arufah is to be
performed. What does the word "Nachal" mean in this context, and how does
"Eisan" describe it?
(a) RASHI (46b, DH Eisan) implies that "Nachal Eisan" refers to a very hard,
dry land, which is as hard as rock. According to Rashi, the word "Nachal"
means "valley." This is supported by the verses which the Gemara quotes
which use the word "Eisan" when discussing rocks.
This also seems to be the opinion of the TARGUM (Devarim 21:4), who
translates "Eisan" as "Bayar," meaning untilled, unarable land.
The SHE'EILAS YA'AVETZ (#25) brings further support for this explanation
from the Gemara in Nidah (8b), which says that the term "Karka Besulah"
refers to land that was never worked, and that such land meets the
requirements of "Nachal Eisan" with regard to the Eglah Arufah.
However, if the verse is referring to such hard land, then why is it
necessary for the verse to prohibit tilling the land planting it? How can a
person plant such land such that the verse needs to prohibit it? The RITVA
in Makos (22a) answers that with much effort the hard land can be planted.
(b) The RAMBAM (Hilchos Rotze'ach 9:2) writes that the Nachal Eisan is "a
river that flows swiftly." (The word "Eisan" is also used with reference to
a river in various verses, such as in Parshas Beshalach (Shemos 14:27),
"Vayashav ha'Yam... l'Eisano," and "Naharos Eisan" in Tehilim 74:15, and
"k'Nachal Eisan" in Amos 5:24.) Strong support for this can be found in the
Parshah of Eglah Arufah where the Torah says says that the elders of the
city are to "wash their hands in the Nachal" (Devarim 21:6), which implies
that there is water there.
The ME'IRI cites support for the Rambam's view from the Gemara in Pesachim
(53a) that says that the presence of reeds indicates the type of Nachal that
is valid for Eglah Arufah. The reason the Gemara cites verses that use the
word "Eisan" with reference to rocks is in order to prove that the Nachal
must be strong in the force of its flow, rather than great in quantity.
If, however, the Nachal Eisan is a river like the Rambam says, then how can
one consider planting in it such that the verse needs to prohibit planting
there? ALso, why does the verse (according to Rebbi Yoshiyah) define it as a
place that has never been planted? A river cannot be planted!
The ME'IRI and the CHAFETZ CHAIM (Likutei Halachos) explain that the Eglah
Arufah is not killed inside the river, but on the banks of the river (where
the earth is hard and has not produced fruit). The earth on the river banks
is arable and can be planted. This might be the source for the opinion cited
by RABEINU BACHYE which says that Nachal Eisan is very productive and
fertile land, which the Torah prohibits using after the Eglah Arufah is
killed on it. (He explains that this will provide incentive for cities to
appoint guards along the highways in order to prevent an Eglah Arufah from
having to be brought.)
(c) Some suggest a compromise between the two opinions, pointing out that
both opinions mentioned above are correct and reconciling the apparently
contradictory sources regarding the definition of "Eisan." The verse is
referring to a wadi, or to the bed of a river that flows only in the rainy
season. If the corpse is found during the rainy season, there will be a
strong current flowing in the river, while if the corpse is found in the
summer, there will be no water in the river, but rather it will be a river
bed of hard-packed earth. This is consistent with the fact that strong
rivers which flow during both winter and summer are relatively rare in Eretz
Yisrael, while wadis may be found near almost every city. A source for this
definition of a Nachal can be found in Iyov (6:15-17; see Metzudas David
there, v. 17). (TORAH TEMIMAH to Devarim 21:4; CHIDUSHIM U'VI'URIM)
2) HALACHAH: THE MITZVAH OF ESCORTING A GUEST
OPINIONS: The Gemara teaches the importance of escorting a guest on his way
when he departs. If one escorts him even four Amos within the city, the
guest will be protected from all harm.
The obligation of Leviyah, though, is to escort one's guest even more than
that. A Rav must escort his student until the last house in the city. One
escorts a friend until the Techum Shabbos (2000 Amos outside of the city). A
student must escort his Rav one Parsah (4 kilometers) outside of the city,
and if the Rav is his Rav Muvhak, he must escort him three Parsa'os (12
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Avel 14:3) cites these Halachos of the Gemara. However,
the TUR and SHULCHAN ARUCH make no mention of the obligations of Leviyah. In
fact, we do not see this practiced today in the manner that the Gemara
requires. What is the reason for this?
(a) The BE'ER SHEVA explains that today, there is a greater danger to travel
on an inter-city road than there was in the times of the Gemara. Therefore,
a person is not obligated to put himself in danger in order to escort his
(b) The DARCHEI MOSHE (end of Choshen Mishpat) cites the MAHARASH who
explains that nowadays we assume that since most people forego having their
hosts escort them, the host may assume that his guest has been Mochel the
obligation of Leviyah and therefore the host does not have to escort him.
Nevertheless, the host should escort his guest to the gates of the city, or
at least four Amos (this is because the Gemara mentions that it is improper
for the guest to be Mochel the escort entirely, for if he does so it is like
he is Shofech Damim; see AHAVAS CHESED 3:2).
The CHAFETZ CHAIM (Likutei Halachos #300) adds that if the roads are
confusing and the guest might easily get lost, then it could be that the
host has not fulfilled his obligation b'Yidei Shamayim until he actually
escorts his guest and leads him on the proper road.
The EMEK BERACHAH (p. 135) writes that the four Amos which one escorts his
guest must be *outside* of his house, and not inside his house (since,
otherwise, one has not escorted the guest "on his way").
(c) The HE'OROS B'MASECHES SOTAH cites the SHEVUS YAKOV who writes that it
is not necessary to escort a guest today, since the purpose of escorting a
person is to show him the proper way (see MAHARSHA). Nowadays, road signs
(in most civilized countries) provide that service.
(d) The CHAZON ISH, cited by the Emek Berachah (ibid.), writes that the
purpose of Leviyah is to provide protection. Therefore, it applies only when
a guest departs by himself. Today, when a number of people usually travel
together, each person traveling provides escort for his fellow traveler.
(The Emek Berachah adds that if the host is a Talmid Chacham, he would be
exempt from Leviyah, since it is a Mitzvah that can be fulfilled by someone
else, and one is not obligated to be Mevatel Torah to fulfill such a
Mitzvah. See Moed Katan 9a.)