סדר נשא

דבר אל בני ישראל איש איש כי תשטה אשתו

If any man’s wife goes astray, and commits a trespass against him 

Numbers 5:12

Rashi comments: What is written before this topic? “’ואיש את קדשיו לו יהיו איש אשר יתן לכהן לו יהי” (And every man’s consecrated things shall be his; whatever any man gives the priest, it shall be his) (Numbers 5:10). If you withhold from the priest what belongs to him, by your life you will require him when you suspect your wife of having been adulterous.

But one may inquire why Rashi himself did not comment on the verse above that if one withholds from the priest what rightfully belongs to him, then, as the Sages deduced, his fields will yield only a tenth of their normal harvest. Moreover, why does the Scripture use the formulation “איש איש” (any man)?

It appears to our master that in the verse above, the Scripture was addressing two different men. First it says “every man’s consecrated things shall be his.” From here the Sages deduced that one who withholds his consecrated things from the priest will become impoverished. Second, it says “whatever any man gives the priest shall be his.” This verse implies that one who does give to the priest will become wealthy.

Now a woman may be unfaithful to her husband for two reasons. First, because her husband is too poor to provide, as he is supposed, material things, like clothing and jewelry. As a result, she says (Hosea 2:7): “אלכה אחרי מאהבי נותן לחמי מימי צמרי ופשתי שמני ושקוקי” (I will pursue my lovers who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink). Alternatively, her husband may be unfaithful to her, so that she will be unfaithful to him and give herself to another as the Talmud says (Sotah 10a) a husband’s unfaithfulness is the cause of his wife’s unfaithfulness. Now the wealthy, comfortable, constantly merry man is the one who will follow the desire of his heart to love many women, because wine and spirit will lead him astray. The Talmud therefore teaches us that one who sees a suspected wife in her disgrace should refrain from drinking wine, because he should learn a lesson from her that only a fool yearns for wine, and one who goes astray because of it will not be forgiven.

That is why the chapter concerning the suspected wife is juxtaposed with the verse mentioned above, which addresses to two types of men: those who withhold what belongs to the priest who, because they have not given to the priest, become poor, and those who give to the priest because they wish to become wealthy. Both types of men (איש איש) will eventually suspect their wives of faithlessness, because their wives will be unfaithful, in the case of one because of poverty and in the other because of wealth. The Scripture therefore says “ומעלה בו מעל” (she will act unfaithfully against him), for in both cases the fault is his. He must therefore bring an offering consisting of “the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon,” for it is “מנחת עני” (a meal-offering of poverty). The absence of oil and frankincense also demonstrates the lessening of pleasure, which is a reminder of the guilt that the husband bears for either of the two above reasons. (שביבי אש)

ואם לא נטמאה האשה וטהורה היא ונקתה ונזרעה זרע

And if the woman is not defiled, but is clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. 

Numbers 5:28

Rashi comments: If she did not defile herself during her seclusion (לא נטמאה), and she is untainted by any other incident (וטהורה), then she will be unharmed by the waters of bitterness. Moreover, she will conceive children, so that if she had previously borne children in pain, she will now give birth easily.

These are the words of R.Yishmael (Sotah 26a), but R. Akiva says there that if she was barren, she will be remembered and will conceive. And R. Ishmael asked, then let all the barren women be suspected by their husbands and in this way conceive children. R. Akiva offered no reply to this question, and our master explains that they were both following opinions that they maintained elsewhere, because one could ask why, if the wife aroused her husband’s suspicion, but did not defile herself, she should be rewarded by conceiving a child. Did she not behave immodestly by secluding herself with another man, arousing contempt and anger? How could  such a sinner be rewarded? It therefore seems that R. Akiva believes that only if the wife was unwittingly secluded with another man against her will, would the Eternal reward her by enabling her to give birth to sons and daughters. But if she secluded herself intentionally, which may not be done, the Eternal would not reward her with children. Thus, according to R. Akiva, the verse must be read “if she did not defile herself deliberately and she is untainted by the prohibition of seclusion, because she secluded herself unintentionally, then she will be unharmed by the bitter waters and the Eternal will open up her womb so that she may give birth.” However, if she is not untainted by the prohibition of seclusion, even though she did not defile herself, the Eternal will not reward her with offspring.

However, R. Ishmael believes that the seclusion alone was not sinful if she knows in her soul that she would not allow another man to touch her indecently. And R. Ishmael also conducted himself accordingly, because the Sages taught in the text of the Mishnah that one may not read on the Sabbath by the light of an oil-burning lamp, because one might forget while reading and tilt the lamp to increase its light. But R. Ishmael said, I will read and I will not tilt the lamp, because he believes that if one knows in his soul that he will not commit the transgression that one may rely on that knowledge. R. Ishmael therefore interprets the word “וטהורה היא” (she is untainted) just as Rashi did, to mean that she is untainted by any other incident. R. Ishmael therefore responded appropriately to R. Akiva by asking why, if a barren woman would be rewarded by conceiving, would not all barren women seclude themselves in order to arouse the suspicion of their husbands thereby enabling themselves to give birth. R. Akiva, however, believes that one may not rely on one’s own knowledge that one will not commit a transgression in a situation in which there is an increased likelihood of committing a transgression.

Indeed, consider what happened to R. Ishmael who said I will read and I will not tilt the lamp. For he read and did tilt the lamp. It may therefore be asked, let all the barren women seclude themselves in order to arouse the suspicion of their husbands so that they might be rewarded by being enabled to conceive, because a woman is considered untainted if she deliberately secludes herself. So it seems that Rashi explains the entire verse according to the opinion of R. Ishmael, but, according to what has been said, this is in correct inasmuch as the opinion of R. Akiva is authoritative. (שביבי אש)

כה תברכו את בני ישראל אמור להם

Thus shall you bless the children of Israel: to say to them 

Numbers 6:23

Rashi comments: “אָמוֹר” (to say) like “זָכוֹר” (to remember), “שָמוֹר” (to observe).

By this Rashi means to say that “אָמוֹר” is in the infinitive, not the imperative, form. And one may ask what is the connection between the two examples “אָמוֹר” to say the priestly blessings and “זָכוֹר” and “שָמוֹר” to remember and to observe the Sabbath day? For remembering and observing the Sabbath day require a mental state, concerning which the imperative form is not relevant, as the commentators have discussed at length. The Scripture therefore used an infinitive form in referring to the commandment of remembering and observing the Sabbath day, from which the Sages deduced that one must facilitate remembrance by reciting the sanctification of the Sabbath over wine. And although we remember the Sabbath by means of an oral statement, and we are Biblically obligated to recite prayers, we nevertheless recite the sanctification only because we are enjoined to perform an action through which we do remember. However, the priestly blessing is itself recited orally, so why did the Scripture use an infinitive form rather than the imperative form to command its recitation?

Our master answers this question by referring to Isaac’s request that Esau prepare a meal for him so that he would bless Esau. The commentators explain that Isaac made this request because a blessing does enter the mind of the one giving the blessing unless he is inspired by a great love for the one receiving that blessing whereupon the blessing flows from a willing heart and soul like waters flowing from a spring. The Scripture hints at that requirement by saying “כה תברכו את בני ישראל” (thus shall you bless the children of Israel). The blessing will be complete if you will bless them out of a great longing within you to bless them. And this is the meaning of the infinitive form “אָמוֹר להם” – that the blessing should come willingly from your mouths. But if you bless them only out of duty, the blessing will not devolve upon them. (שביבי אש)

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