שביבי אש
לסדר 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? "And every man's consecrated things shall be his; whatever any man gives the priest, it shall be his" ( ואיש את קדשיו לו יהיו איש אשר יתן לכהן לו יהי') (Numbers 5:10). If you withhold from the priest that which belongs to him, by your life you will require him when you suspect your wife of having committed adultery.

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

And 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, it shall be his." This means that one who gives 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 material things, clothing and jewelry, as he is supposed to. As a result, she says (Hosea 2:7): "I will go after my lovers, who give me my bread and my water, my wool and my flax, my oil and my drink" (אלכה אחרי מאהבי נותן לחמי מימי צמרי ופשתי שמני ושקוקי). 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 one's heart astray. It is therefore written in the Talmud 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 jester yearns for wine and one who falls into error because of it will not be forgiven.

That is why the chapter concerning the suspected wife is juxtaposed with the verse mentioned above, which calls out to two types of men: those who withhold what belongs to the priest who, because they have not given to the priest, will become poor, and those who give to the priest because they wish to become wealthy. Both these types of men (ish ish) will eventually suspect their wives of faithlessness, because their wives will be unfaithful, in one case because of poverty and in the other case because of wealth. The Scripture therefore says that the wife "will act unfaithfully against him" (ומעלה בו מעל), for the fault in both cases 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 a meal-offering of poverty (מנחת עני). 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 aforementioned reasons.

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 it appears to our master 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 wrath aplenty. How is it that such a sinner would be rewarded? It appears therefore 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. However, 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. And see 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. There is therefore no reason to ask, 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 if a woman deliberately secludes herself, then she is not considered untainted by the prohibition of being secluded with another man. And Rashi explains the entire verse according to the opinion of R. Ishmael, but according to what has been said, this is not correct for the opinion of R. Akiva is authoritative.

כה תברכו את בני ישראל אָמוֹר 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 form, 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 even though our remembrance of the Sabbath is performed by means of an oral statement, and we are Biblically obligated to recite prayers, nevertheless we recite the sanctification only because we are enjoined to perform some action through which we will come to 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?

It appears to our master that the commentators have written that Isaac commanded Esau to bring him game so that he would bless Esau, because a blessing does not come into the mind of the one who gives the blessing unless he is inspired with a great love for the one receiving the blessing so that the blessing comes forth from a willing heart and soul like waters that flow from a spring. And the Scripture is hinting at that requirement here by saying "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 rest upon them.