Sotah 6:1 talks about when a man who hears about his wife violating his warning divorces her rather than invoking the sotah test:

Someone who warned his wife [against being secluded with a certain man] and then she secluded herself [with him], even if he [her husband] heard from a fluttering bird, he divorces her and gives her the Ketubah [monetary settlement payable to a married woman upon divorce or the death of her husband]. These are the words of Rabbi Eliezer. Rabbi Yehoshua says, only when the women who twist yarn by the moon talk of her.

From context it's pretty clear that Rabbi Yehoshua is talking about the rumor mill -- when people start talking about the incident he has to act, but before then he can divorce her instead. But what a strange description of the rumor mill!

Who are the "women who twist (spin) yarn by the moon (moonlight)"? Was spinning at night a special, social thing, unlike spinning by day? I wouldn't expect women to commonly be out of the home at night, especially if there are young children to tend? (I'm aware of the monthly exception; I'm not talking about that.)

I believe that at the time, spinning wool into yarn was done with a hand-held device -- we're not talking about spinning wheels, which come much later. So it's portable, but I would still expect "portable spinning" to happen mostly by day. Were the "women who spin by the moon" a common occurrence, or was this an activity that would raise eyebrows to begin with?

In addition to the historical/societal curiosity, the two might be different standards of rumor-mills -- when people who already violate social norms start to gossip might be different from when "ordinary" people do so. "Women who spin by the moon" could be a different standard than "people who talk in the marketplace", for example.

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    From here - daf-yomi.com/forums/Message.aspx?id=13411 - it sounds like the point is that these were women who did not have families they were attending to, so instead they would sit and spy on those coming and going at night.
    – Loewian
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 2:18
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    (My assumption is that these were women who would sit on their "front porches" ostensibly in order to spin to the light of the moon. Even if they had families to care for, they may have had time in the the evenings for spinning. Being outside, they would have both a chance to spy and/or gossip.)
    – Loewian
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 2:24
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    @Loewian You can turn it into an answer.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Apr 22, 2019 at 9:10
  • Could it be referring to witchcraft? Commented Apr 25, 2019 at 11:51

1 Answer 1


The Tosfos Yom Tov explains that the very fact that woman wouldn't go out at night on their own out of fear, led them to form groups in order to provide safety in numbers, where they would be able to spin flax at night at times of the month when the moon was bright enough to use it's light. Inevitably once together, any rumors about local bad behavior would have been shared even though there was no concrete testimonial of two eidim.

מוזרות בלבנה. פירש הר"ב נשים הטוות לאור הלבנה. שהואיל וטוות בלילה הנה מפחד בלילות מתקבצות לטוות בקיבוץ ומשיחות ביחד:

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