I was wondering if there is a minimum amount of water a Sotah must drink in order for the water to take effect.

The closest I found to this being addressed was Rashi on Bamidbar 5:13 who quotes a Midrash Tanchuma (6:1):

There were two sisters who looked alike, and an accused Sotah (Rachel) convinced her innocent sister (Leah) to drink the water for her. Leah drank the water and was found clean. When Leah returned to meet Rachel, she embraced and kissed her on the mouth. As soon Leah kissed Rachel, she "smelt" the bitter water and immediately died.

... but

  • a) this is a midrash- can we bring a halachik proof from it?
  • b) it says Rachel "smelt" it-- NOTHING about drinking


Is there a minimum amount of water that a Sotah must drink?

  • 2
    Rachel also didn't bring the mincha or say amen to the curse, so it's not the standard procedure anyway. That said I don't know what's meakeiv.
    – Heshy
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 0:21
  • @Heshy right- agree that it's tough to bring a proof from that case
    – alicht
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 0:24
  • 1
    And also the water was pasul because it left the azara in Rachel's mouth, even if none of those other things are meakiev.
    – Heshy
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 0:28

2 Answers 2


With regards to your first question, there is an opinion quoted in Sefer Habatim (Mitzvah 224) that holds that poison was actually added to the water and the miracle was not regarding the guilty sotah, but rather a miracle for an innocent sotah. According to this opinion, the fact that the first sister drank and nothing happened was miraculous since she was pure, but her sister died from the poison naturally.

With regards to your second question there is a Tosfos in Avodah Zara (12a DH eleh) which also uses the expression "smelt" by yayin nesech. From this Tosfos we see that reiach (smelling) can sometimes be considered drinking in some instances. It may be possible to say that she smelled (drank) the poison and it entered her system. (from Otzar Palos HaTorah).

It seems from the Rambam (Sotah 3:9) that a half of a lug (2 reevis) of water is necessary, but does not say how much she actually drinks. One can say she drank the whole thing since that is what is subscribed, or one can say that the amount she drinks is not vital as long as she made contact with the water like the story you provided.

Sefer Habatim info:

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  • 2
    It should be noted that the shiur of the water is mentioned in the Mishna itself in Sotah 15b,but that does not tell us how much she needs to drink ,but rather how much water is necessary.
    – sam
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 1:05
  • 1
    Consider Rambam sotah 4:11 seems any remaining amount is sufficient, though see Yerushalmi about if she started to drink which may indicate she has to drink as much as possible
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 18:46

The answer is in the following Gemara: When more is not better, there is no need to discuss a quantity, minimum or maximum; it is irrelevant.

The Mishna says:

These are the commandments for which no definite quantity is prescribed [no minimum or maximum]:

-Peah [leaving some produce for the poor during harvest], -Bikkurim [first fruit brought to the Temple], -Visits [to the Temple on the festivals], -Performing acts of kindness, and -Studying Torah. [Also] Honoring father and mother… -And bringing peace between a man and his fellow. [Peah 1:1]

The Talmud says:

Rabbi Berechyah asked: There are many others. Why are they not mentioned? [For example:] -The Torah says: For the ceremony of Sotah, the wife suspected of adultery, The kohen shall take... dust from the floor of the Tabernacle and put it into the [bitter] water. [Num. 5:17] How much dust must be placed in the water? -The Torah says: The ashes of the red heifer must be mixed with spring water. [Num. 19:17] How much of the ashes is required? -The Torah says: If a man dies childless, his widow must marry his brother. If he refuses, he must submit to chalitzah: The woman takes off the man’s shoe and spits on the ground before him. [Deut. 25:9] How much spittle is required? -The Torah says: To purify someone afflicted with leprosy, the kohen kills a bird and puts some of its blood in water, then sprinkles it on the diseased person seven times. [Lev. 14:5] How much blood is required?

The rabbis answered: The Mishna lists only those commandments for which more is better -- increasing the amount increases the merit. Yours are not in that category. [Peah Y 2b]

This answers the question. More water is not needed because more water is not better.

  • This gemara just mentions how much dirt is needed, not how water much she needs to drink
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 13:28
  • 1
    You have misunderstood the Gemara. -1. The Gemara says that instances of Mitzvot without minima where more is not better were not listed. There is no rule that Mitzvot where more is not better don't have required minima. For instance, A mechitza that is 100 tefachim tall isn't better than one whose heigh is 11 tefachim. So according to you there should be no minimum. But there is: 10 tefachim.
    – Double AA
    Commented Jun 17, 2019 at 18:31
  • @DoubleAA I'm confused about what you mean with the Mechitza?
    – Yaabim
    Commented Oct 8, 2020 at 12:03

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