Simcha Feuerman
Psychology, Torah and the Daf Yomi

Boundaries Before Marriage Sotah 44 Take Your Measurements as a Leader Sotah 45

Build Your Boundaries Before Marriage Sotah 44

Our Gemara on Amud Aleph discusses the appropriate order of development to prepare for marriage:

תָּנוּ רַבָּנַן אֲשֶׁר בָּנָה אֲשֶׁר נָטַע אֲשֶׁר אֵרַשׂ לִימְּדָה תּוֹרָה דֶּרֶךְ אֶרֶץ שֶׁיִּבְנֶה אָדָם בַּיִת וְיִטַּע כֶּרֶם וְאַחַר כָּךְ יִשָּׂא אִשָּׁה וְאַף שְׁלֹמֹה אָמַר בְּחׇכְמָתוֹ הָכֵן בַּחוּץ מְלַאכְתֶּךָ וְעַתְּדָהּ בַּשָּׂדֶה לָךְ אַחַר וּבָנִיתָ בֵיתֶךָ הָכֵן בַּחוּץ מְלַאכְתֶּךָ זֶה בַּיִת וְעַתְּדָהּ בַּשָּׂדֶה לָךְ זֶה כֶּרֶם אַחַר וּבָנִיתָ בֵיתֶךָ זוֹ אִשָּׁה

The Sages taught (Tosefta 7:20-21): The Torah states: “What man is there that has built” (Deuteronomy 20:5), and then “that has planted” (Deuteronomy 20:6), and finally “that has betrothed” (Deuteronomy 20:7). The Torah has taught a person the desired mode of behavior: A person should build a house, then plant a vineyard, and afterward marry a woman. And even King Solomon said in his wisdom: “Prepare your work outside, and make it fit for yourself in the field; and afterward build your house” (Proverbs 24:27). The Sages explained: “Prepare your work outside”; this is a house. “And make it fit for yourself in the field”; this is a vineyard. “And afterward you shall build your house”; this is a wife.

Akeidas Yitschok (22) notes that even in the creation story, man and wife come last because there must be a fully developed framework to support a healthy marriage and family life.

The Gemara goes onto offer more symbolic interpretations:

דָּבָר אַחֵר הָכֵן בַּחוּץ מְלַאכְתֶּךָ זֶה מִקְרָא וְעַתְּדָהּ בַּשָּׂדֶה לָךְ זֶה מִשְׁנָה אַחַר וּבָנִיתָ בֵיתֶךָ זֶה גְּמָרָא דָּבָר אַחֵר הָכֵן בַּחוּץ מְלַאכְתֶּךָ זֶה מִקְרָא וּמִשְׁנָה וְעַתְּדָהּ בַּשָּׂדֶה לָךְ זֶה גְּמָרָא אַחַר וּבָנִית בֵיתֶךָ אֵלּוּ מַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים רַבִּי אֱלִיעֶזֶר בְּנוֹ שֶׁל רַבִּי יוֹסֵי הַגְּלִילִי אוֹמֵר הָכֵן בַּחוּץ מְלַאכְתֶּךָ זֶה מִקְרָא וּמִשְׁנָה וּגְמָרָא וְעַתְּדָהּ בַּשָּׂדֶה לָךְ אֵלּוּ מַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִים אַחַר וּבָנִיתָ בֵיתֶךָ דְּרוֹשׁ וְקַבֵּל שָׂכָר

Alternatively, this verse may be understood as relating to Torah study: “Prepare your work outside”; this is the study of Bible. “And make it fit for yourself in the field”; this is the study of Mishna. “Afterward you shall build your house”; this is the study of Gemara, the analysis of and deliberation over the statements of the Sages. Alternatively: “Prepare your work outside”; this is the study of Bible and Mishna. “And make it fit for yourself in the field”; this is the study of Gemara. “Afterward you shall build your house”; these are good deeds. Rabbi Eliezer, son of Rabbi Yosei HaGelili, says: “Prepare your work outside”; this is the study of Bible, and Mishna, and Gemara. “And make it fit for yourself in the field”; these are good deeds. “Afterward you shall build your house”; expound upon new understandings of Torah and receive reward, which is possible only after the initial background development.

Since the Gemara has opened the door for symbolic interpretations, I will offer my own ideas about marriage preparation hinted in this order.  One must first build their house, that is one must establish sufficient personal boundaries, awareness and confidence.  He must have a solid place in the world.  Then he can plant a vineyard, that is begin to produce his own wisdom and chiddushim through his study and creativity (wine from the vineyard).  Once those developmental tasks have been accomplished in that order, he is now ready for the responsibilities and privileges of marriage and family.

Taking Your Measurements as a Leader Sotah 45 Psychology of the Daf Yomi

Our Gemara on Amud aleph  discusses the ritual of the unsolved murder. The verses state in the beginning of Devarim 21:

כִּי־יִמָּצֵ֣א חָלָ֗ל בָּאֲדָמָה֙ אֲשֶׁר֩ ה׳ אלקיך  נֹתֵ֤ן לְךָ֙ לְרִשְׁתָּ֔הּ נֹפֵ֖ל בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה לֹ֥א נוֹדַ֖ע מִ֥י הִכָּֽהוּ׃

If, in the land that your God gives you as an inheritance a fallen corpse shall be found in a field, with the assailant unknown

 וְיָצְא֥וּ זְקֵנֶ֖יךָ וְשֹׁפְטֶ֑יךָ וּמָדְדוּ֙ אֶל־הֶ֣עָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֖ר סְבִיבֹ֥ת הֶחָלָֽל׃

your elders and magistrates shall go out and measure the distances from the corpse to the nearby towns.

וְהָיָ֣ה הָעִ֔יר הַקְּרֹבָ֖ה אֶל־הֶחָלָ֑ל וְלָֽקְח֡וּ זִקְנֵי֩ הָעִ֨יר הַהִ֜וא עֶגְלַ֣ת בָּקָ֗ר אֲשֶׁ֤ר לֹֽא־עֻבַּד֙ בָּ֔הּ אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹא־מָשְׁכָ֖ה בְּעֹֽל׃

The elders of the town nearest to the corpse shall then take a heifer which has never been worked, which has never pulled in a yoke;

וְהוֹרִ֡דוּ זִקְנֵי֩ הָעִ֨יר הַהִ֤וא אֶת־הָֽעֶגְלָה֙ אֶל־נַ֣חַל אֵיתָ֔ן אֲשֶׁ֛ר לֹא־יֵעָבֵ֥ד בּ֖וֹ וְלֹ֣א יִזָּרֵ֑עַ וְעָֽרְפוּ־שָׁ֥ם אֶת־הָעֶגְלָ֖ה בַּנָּֽחַל׃

and the elders of that town shall bring the heifer down to an everflowing wadi, which is not tilled or sown. There, in the wadi, they shall break the heifer’s neck.

וְכֹ֗ל זִקְנֵי֙ הָעִ֣יר הַהִ֔וא הַקְּרֹבִ֖ים אֶל־הֶחָלָ֑ל יִרְחֲצוּ֙ אֶת־יְדֵיהֶ֔ם עַל־הָעֶגְלָ֖ה הָעֲרוּפָ֥ה בַנָּֽחַל׃

Then all the elders of the town nearest to the corpse shall wash their hands over the heifer whose neck was broken in the wadi.

וְעָנ֖וּ וְאָמְר֑וּ יָדֵ֗ינוּ לֹ֤א (שפכה) [שָֽׁפְכוּ֙] אֶת־הַדָּ֣ם הַזֶּ֔ה וְעֵינֵ֖ינוּ לֹ֥א רָאֽוּ׃

And they shall make this declaration: “Our hands did

not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see it done

כַּפֵּר֩ לְעַמְּךָ֨ יִשְׂרָאֵ֤ל אֲשֶׁר־פָּדִ֙יתָ֙ ה׳ וְאַל־תִּתֵּן֙ דָּ֣ם נָקִ֔י בְּקֶ֖רֶב עַמְּךָ֣ יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וְנִכַּפֵּ֥ר לָהֶ֖ם הַדָּֽם׃

Absolve HashemYour people Israel whom You redeemed, and do not let guilt for the blood of the innocent remain among Your people Israel.” And they will be absolved of bloodguilt.

The act of measurement was not merely for fact finding, but also a ritual unto itself. This is evidenced by the fact that the elders must do it personally and not rely on agents, and also that even if it is obvious which city is closest, the measuring still must be performed, which we learn on today’s daf.

This supports the Rambam’s interpretation (Guide for the Perplexed III:40) that the ritual is designed to cause a newsworthy event, leading to more investigation and witnesses to come forward to solve the murder. Even if the murder is not solved, it will spur the authorities to take steps to protect the population from a suspected murderer even if he cannot be convicted beyond a shadow of a doubt.

However, Ibn Ezra (Devarim 21:7) has a different idea for this ritual:

ועינינו לא ראו. ויתכן שהשם צוה לעשות כן העיר הקרובה כי לולי שעשו עבירה כדומה לה לא נזדמן להם שיהרג אדם קרוב מהם ומחשבות השם עמקו וגבהו לאין קץ אצלנו:

NEITHER HAVE OUR EYES SEEN IT. It is possible that God commanded the city closest to the slain to perform this because if the city had not committed a similar deed, then the murder of a person near their city would not have occurred. God’s thoughts are deep and infinitely beyond our comprehension.

According to Ibn Ezra, the fact that such a tragedy occurs is an indication of moral decline in the nearest city. If not actual murder, other kinds of social and moral breaches led to a lack of protective providence.

Ibn Ezra’s idea is supported by the request for atonement that is part of the ritual. Surely we are not asking to forgive a murderer who has not even been prosecuted! The elders also cannot be asking forgiveness for a crime they did not commit. Thus, they must be atoning for indifference and lack of moral leadership. Furthermore, I believe the ritual of measurement itself is symbolically reminiscent of self-assessment. As they measure to see if their city is the closest, they are inspired to take stock and measure their attitudes and proximity to sin.

About the Author
Rabbi, Psychotherapist with 30 years experience specializing in high conflict couples and families.