Sotah, Chapter Four, Mishnah Five



The final mishnah in our chapter deals with a husband who is incapable of warning his wife not to be secluded with a certain man.  In these cases the mishnah teaches that the court warns the woman on behalf of the husband.  However, there is a debate about how effective this warning actually is. 


Mishnah Five

1)      In the following cases a court can give the warning [on behalf of the husband]:

a)      When the husband became a deaf-mute or an idiot, or was imprisoned.

2)      Not in order to make her drink did they say this, but to disqualify her from receiving her ketubah.

a)      Rabbi Yose says: also to make her drink; when her husband is released from prison he makes her drink.



Section one:  If the court sees that people are talking and rumors are spreading about a woman who is committing adultery with a certain man, but the husband does not have the ability to warn her, the court may warn her on the husband’s behalf.  The husband may not have this ability because he has lost his ability to hear and speak, he has lost his senses (an idiot) or he was imprisoned.

Section two: According to both opinions in this section if the court warns her not to be secluded with a certain person, and she is nevertheless secluded with him, she loses her ketubah.  She is also forbidden to her husband.  However, there is a debate regarding whether this warning is sufficient to cause her to drink the water. According to the first opinion it is not. Should the husband get out of prison, or regain his hearing or senses, and the woman has not yet been secluded with the other man, her husband will need to warn her himself in order for her to drink the water should she be secluded.  Rabbi Yose holds that the court’s warning is equivalent to the husband’s; therefore she drinks the water even if the court warns her and the husband does not.  However, the husband must get out of prison (or regain his hearing or senses) in order to bring her to the Temple to make her drink the water.