Sotah, Chapter Three, Mishnah Eight



Yesterday’s mishnah dealt with the differences between males and females born into priestly families; today’s mishnah deals with general differences in law between men and women.  There are many differences in Jewish law between men and women that are not mentioned in this mishnah.  The reason why the mishnah mentions some and not others is not entirely clear.

Note that all of these rules have been taught elsewhere in the Mishnah.  Our mishnah gathers them all up into one succinct source.   


Mishnah Eight

What [differences are there in law] between a man and a woman?

1)      A man [who has leprosy] rends his clothes and loosens his hair, but a woman does not rend her clothes and loosen her hair.

2)      A man may vow that his son will become a nazirite, but a woman may not vow that her son will become a nazirite. 

3)      A man can shave [with offerings set aside for] his father’s naziriteship but a woman cannot shave [with offerings set aside for] her father’s naziriteship.

4)      A man may sell his daughter, but a woman may not sell her daughter.

5)      A man may give his daughter in betrothal, but a woman may not give her daughter in betrothal.

6)      A man is stoned naked, but a woman is not stoned naked.  

7)      A man is hanged [after being put to death], but a woman is not hanged.

8)      A man is sold for [to make restitution for] his theft, but a woman is not sold [to make restitution] for her theft.



Section one:  This refers to the laws of leprosy in Leviticus 13:44-45.  Verse 44 reads “ish”, or man.  From here the rabbis conclude that the laws that follow are only for the leprous man and not for the leprous woman.  However, the other laws for the leper are applicable to men and women equally.

Section two:  This law was already mentioned in Nazir 4:6.  There we learned that a father may take a nazirite vow on behalf of his minor son, but that a mother may not. 

Section three:  This law was mentioned in Nazir 4:7.   For details see there.

Section four:  Exodus 21:6 says, “If a man (ish) shall sell his daughter as a slave.”  As above, “ish” is interpreted to exclude females.

Section five:  Deuteronomy 22:16 states, “And the father of the girl shall say, ‘I gave my daughter to this man’”.  From here the mishnah learns that a father may betroth his daughter but not a mother.

Section six:  This issue was discussed in Sanhedrin 6:3-4.  In this case the reason for the difference between men and women is modesty and not an interpretation of a biblical verse.

Section seven:  This distinction between men and women was also taught in Sanhedrin 6:4.  The reason is either exegetical—Deuteronomy 21:22 states, “And you shall hang him upon a stake”.  Alternatively, it is also a matter of modesty.

Section eight:  Exodus 22:2 states “If he [the thief] lacks the means [to make restitution] he shall be sold for his theft.”  The rabbis understand “he” to exclude women.  This distinction may also be based on issues of modesty.  The rabbis did not allow for the existence of adult female Jewish slaves, for the assumption was that slave-women could not protect themselves from the sexual advances of their male owners or others.  Therefore, they do not allow a female thief to be sold to make restitution for her theft.