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Babylonian Talmud: Tractate Sotah

Folio 4a

And how long is the duration in the matter of seclusion? Sufficient for misconduct, i.e., sufficient for coition, i.e., sufficient for sexual contact, i.e., sufficient for a person to walk round a date-palm. Such is the view of R. Ishmael; R. Eliezer says: Sufficient for preparing a cup of wine;1  R. Joshua says: Sufficient to drink it; Ben Azzai says: Sufficient to roast an egg; R. Akiba says: Sufficient to swallow it; R. Judah b. Bathyra says: Sufficient to swallow three eggs one after the other; R. Eleazar b. Jeremiah says: Sufficient for a weaver to knot a thread; Hanin b. Phineas says: Sufficient for a woman to extend her hand to her mouth to remove a chip of wood [from between the teeth]; Pelemo says: Sufficient for her to extend her hand to a basket and take a loaf therefrom. Although there is no proof for this [last opinion] there is an indication, viz., For on account of a harlot, to a loaf of bread.2  What is the purpose of all these definitions? — They are necessary; because if we were only taught sufficient for misconduct, I would have thought that it meant sufficient time for her misconduct and her submission;3  therefore it is defined as sufficient for coition.4  If, however, it were only taught sufficient for coition, I would have thought that it meant sufficient time for completed coition; therefore it is defined as sufficient for sexual contact. If, further, we had only been taught sufficient for sexual contact, I would have thought that it meant sufficient time for sexual contact and her submission; therefore it is defined as sufficient for misconduct. And how much is the time sufficient for sexual contact? Sufficient for a person to walk round a date-palm.

In contradiction of the above [I quote the following]: And be kept close5  — but how long is the duration in the matter of seclusion we have not heard. Since, however, it states 'and she be defiled', deduce that it is time sufficient for misconduct, i.e., sufficient for coition, i.e., sufficient for sexual contact, i.e., sufficient for a date-palm to rebound.6  Such is the view of R. Eliezer; R. Joshua says: Sufficient for preparing a cup of wine; Ben Azzai says: Sufficient to drink it; R. Akiba says: Sufficient to roast an egg; R. Judah b. Bathyra says: Sufficient to swallow it.7  Now it is assumed that walking round a date-palm and the rebound of a date-palm are identical [in length of time, and the question thus arises:] R. Ishmael said above, 'Sufficient for a person to walk round a date-palm', and R. Eliezer disagreed with him; and here R. Eliezer says: 'Sufficient for a date-palm to rebound'! — Abaye said: 'Walking round' means on foot, and 'rebound' means by the force of the wind. R. Ashi asked: How is 'rebound' to be understood? Does it mean that the palm is blown in one direction and then in its opposite, or perhaps that it is blown in one direction and then in its opposite and finally returns to its original position? — The question remains unanswered.

R. Eliezer said above: 'Sufficient for preparing a cup of wine', and here he says: 'Sufficient for a date-palm to rebound'! — They are alike in duration. R. Joshua said above, 'Sufficient to drink it', and here he says: 'Sufficient for preparing a cup of wine'! — Say [that the correct version is], Sufficient for preparing a cup of wine and drinking it. But why not say rather that they are alike in duration? — If so, he would agree with R. Eliezer's view.8  Ben Azzai said above 'Sufficient to roast an egg', and here he says: 'Sufficient to drink [a cup of wine]'! — They are alike in duration. R. Akiba said above, 'Sufficient to swallow [a roasted egg]', and here he says: 'Sufficient to roast an egg'! — Say [that the correct version is], Sufficient to roast an egg and swallow it. But why not say rather that they are alike in duration? — If so, he would agree with Ben Azzai's view. R. Judah b. Bathyra said above, 'Sufficient to swallow three eggs one after the other', and here he says: 'Sufficient to swallow [one roasted egg]'! — He spoke in accordance with the view of R. Akiba who said that we fix as the duration a length of time sufficient to roast and swallow an egg, [and with reference to this he said,] 'speak rather only of the duration of swallowing', that is 'sufficient time to swallow three eggs one after the other', for that is the same as roasting and swallowing [one egg].9

'R. Eleazar b. Jeremiah says: Sufficient for a weaver to knot a thread'. R. Ashi asked: Does this mean two ends which are distant or near?10  — The question remains unanswered.

'Hanin b. Phineas said: Sufficient for a woman to extend her hand to her mouth to remove a chip of wood'. R. Ashi asked: Does this mean wedged tightly [between the teeth] or not? — The question remains unanswered.

'Pelemo said: Sufficient for her to extend her hand to a basket and take a loaf therefrom'. R. Ashi asked: Is it [a loaf] which is wedged in tightly or not, a new or old [basket],11  a hot or cold [loaf],12

To Part b

Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. By diluting it with water.
  2. Prov. VI, 26. This is the literal rendering of the Hebrew.
  3. I.e., that he should make improper advances and induce her to submit.
  4. Consequently she must have secluded herself with the intention of committing misconduct.
  5. Num. V, 13.
  6. After having been bent by the wind.
  7. Tosef. Sot. I, 2.
  8. That cannot be, because he gives a different definition, and so it is impossible to think them alike in duration.
  9. [Why introduce at all the act of roasting, seeing that the act of swallowing by itself can afford a suitable standard for defining the duration?]
  10. I.e., does it include the time spent in bringing the threads together as well as tying them?
  11. In a new basket the ends of straws protrude and catch in the loaves, so that it takes longer to get one out.
  12. A warm loaf has to be drawn out with greater care and therefore takes longer.
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Sotah 4b

wheaten or of barley,1  soft or hard-baked? — The question remains unanswered.

R. Isaac son of R. Joseph said in the name of R. Johanan: Each of the teachers defined the duration [of coition] from his own experience. But they included Ben Azzai who was unmarried! — If you wish I can say that he had married and separated [from his wife],2  or that he had heard it from his master, or that The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him.3

R. 'Awira expounded sometimes in the name of R. Ammi and at other times in the name of R. Assi: Whoever eats bread without previously washing the hands is as though he had intercourse with a harlot; as it is said, For on account of a harlot, to a loaf of bread.4  Raba said: [On that interpretation] the verse, ­For on account of a harlot, to a loaf of bread' should have read: 'On account of a loaf of bread, to a harlot'! But, said Raba, [the meaning is:] Whoever has intercourse with a harlot will in the end go seeking a loaf of bread.

R. Zerika said in the name of R. Eleazar: Whoever makes light of washing the hands [before and after a meal] will be uprooted from the world. R. Hiyya b. Ashi said in the name of Rab: With the first washing [before the meal] it is necessary to lift the hands up; with the latter washing [after the meal] it is necessary to lower the hands. There is a similar teaching: Who washes his hands [before the meal] must lift them up lest the water pass beyond the joint,5  flow back and render them unclean. R. Abbahu says: Whoever eats bread without first wiping his hands is as though he eats unclean food; as it is stated: And the Lord said: Even thus shall the children of Israel eat their bread unclean.6

And7  what means, And the adulteress hunteth for the precious life? — R. Hiyya b. Abba said in the name of R. Johanan: Every man in whom is haughtiness of spirit will in the end stumble through an [unfaithful] married woman; as it is said: 'And the adulteress hunteth for the precious life'. Raba said: [On that interpretation] the word 'precious' should have been 'haughty'! Furthermore the verse should have read, [The haughty soul] hunteth [the adulteress]! But, said Raba, [the meaning is:] Whoever has intercourse with a married woman, even though he had studied Torah, of which it is written: It is more precious than rubies,8  i.e., above a High Priest who enters into the innermost part of the Sanctuary, she will hunt him to the judgment of Gehinnom.9

R. Johanan said in the name of R. Simeon b. Yohai: Every man in whom is haughtiness of spirit is as though he worships idols; it is written here, Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord,10  and it is written elsewhere, Thou shalt not bring an abomination into thine house.11  R. Johanan himself said: He is as though he had denied the fundamental principle;12  as it is said: Thine heart be lifted up and thou forget the Lord thy God, etc.13  R. Hama b. Hanina said: He is as though he had broken all the laws of sexual morality;14  it is written here, Every one that is proud in heart is an abomination to the Lord, and it is written elsewhere, For all these abominations, etc.15  'Ulla said: He is as though he had erected an idolatrous altar; as it is said: Cease ye from man whose breath is in his nostrils;16  for wherein [bammeh] is he to be accounted of?17  — read not bammeh but bamah [an idolatrous altar].

What means, Hand to hand, he shall not escape punishment?18  Rab said: Whoever has intercourse with a married woman, though he proclaim the Holy One, blessed be He, to be Possessor of heaven and earth as did our father Abraham, of whom it is written: I have lift up mine hand unto the Lord, God Most High, Possessor of heaven and earth,19  he will not escape the punishment of Gehinnom. The students of the School of R. Shila objected: [On that interpretation] the phrase 'Hand to hand etc.' should have read: 'Of my [God's] hand will not escape punishment'! But, said they of the School of R. Shila, [the meaning is:] Though he received the Torah as did our teacher Moses, of whom it is written: At his right hand was a fiery law unto them,20  he will not escape the punishment of Gehinnom. R. Johanan objected: [On that interpretation] the phrase 'Hand to hand' should have read 'Hand from hand'!21  But, said R. Johanan,

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Original footnotes renumbered.
  1. A wheaten loaf is smoother and has to be grasped more firmly; and similarly with one which is soft-baked.
  2. The passage in Yeb. 63b does not make it clear whether Ben Azzai was censured for remaining a bachelor or for having married and not begetting children.
  3. Ps. XXV, 14. The knowledge was revealed to him.
  4. Prov. VI, 26. (E.V. 'For on account of a harlot a man is brought to a loaf of bread'). [As much as to say that the disregard of one Rabbinic precept leads to the disregard of another.]
  5. When washing the hands for a meal, the water should reach the second joint of the fingers; Hul. 106a. The hands beyond the joint having been left unwashed are deemed unclean.
  6. Ezek. IV, 13.
  7. The Gemara now continues the discussion of prov. VI, 26 quoted above.
  8. Prov. III, 15. [H]
  9. [H], a play upon the word [H] v. n. 4.
  10. Prov. XVI, 5.
  11. Deut. VII, 26, the reference being to an idolatrous image.
  12. Viz., the existence of God.
  13. lbid. VIII, 14.
  14. Enumerated in Lev. XVIII.
  15. Lev. XVIII, 27.
  16. Understood in the sense: who is proud.
  17. Isa. II, 22.
  18. Prov. XVI, 5.
  19. Gen. XIV, 22.
  20. Deut. XXXIII, 2.
  21. Since the interpretation implies that the adulterer receives from, and does not give to.
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