Berachos 31b:

״אִם רָאֹה תִרְאֶה״, אָמַר רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר: אָמְרָה חַנָּה לִפְנֵי הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא: רִבּוֹנוֹ שֶׁל עוֹלָם, ״אִם רָאֹה״ — מוּטָב, וְאִם לָאו — ״תִּרְאֶה״ אֵלֵךְ וְאֶסְתַּתֵּר בִּפְנֵי אֶלְקָנָה בַּעֲלִי, וְכֵיוָן דְּמִסְתַּתַּרְנָא מַשְׁקוּ לִי מֵי סוֹטָה, וְאִי אַתָּה עוֹשֶׂה תּוֹרָתְךָ פְּלַסְתֵּר, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר ״וְנִקְּתָה וְנִזְרְעָה זָרַע״.‏

"If You see, You will see" – R' Elazar said: Chanah said before Hashem, "Master of the world! 'If You see,' good, and if not, 'You will see' – I will go and seclude myself before my husband Elkanah, and since I'm secluded they will have me drink the Sotah waters, and You will not make Your Torah a forgery, as it says, 'She will be clean and will bear children.'"

(This story also appears very similarly in Pesikta Rabbasi §43.)

The way Chanah phrases her claim seems to indicate that she's not planning on letting Elkanah know what she's planning and why; the idea is simply that Elkanah will warn her and have her drink.

Suppose Chanah were to tell Elkanah ahead of time that she plans to seclude herself and not sin such that she will drink and receive the berachos of the Sotah waters. If Elkanah were to warn her, knowing her plan and knowing that she's not sinning, would they still have her drink?

  • Isn't this story also in Masechet Sotah? Perhaps that version sheds light on Elkanah's knowledge of the process.
    – Ze'ev
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 18:52
  • @Ze'ev The passuk of אם ראה תראה isn't cited anywhere in the Masechta according to my Mikra'os Gedolos, nor is Chanah mentioned in the Masechta according to a quick Sefaria search.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 18:54
  • I went for Sefaria links between Shmuel Aleph & Masechet Sotah. It isn't there, as first few chapter links from Shmuel to Sotah don't get me the story.
    – Ze'ev
    Commented Jan 30, 2020 at 19:00
  • How do "they" know whether or not Elkanah knows?
    – Alex
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 0:56
  • @DoubleAA That’s an excellent question, one I plan on asking separately. I’m not sure how that bears any impact on the question at hand, however.
    – DonielF
    Commented Jan 31, 2020 at 4:24

2 Answers 2


The answer lies within Alex's comment above. The 'warning' given by a husband to his wife not to be secluded is more than lip service. The Torah explicitly describes it as a result of 'a spirit of kinah (jealousy or zeal).' However, if the husband gives this warning and claims that he never really meant it, he will not be believed (devarim shebelev - see Kiddushin 49b). If, on the other hand, he announces publicly beforehand that he doesn't really mean to give this kind of 'warning', she certainly would not drink. This is what Chazal call giving a "moda'ah" to invalidate a subsequent action (see for example Bava Basra 40a).

  • So if the husband makes no such declaration that it would be invalid, then it should be binding according to your logic, right? Even if he shouldn’t do it ahead of time, you agree that after the fact it works. This is certainly a good start, but I think there might be more going on here, though; as that very Gemara says, it’s not a problem of דברים שבלב if we know without his saying so what his intention was. Maybe we wouldn’t make her drink because it’s obvious that she only did it for the Beracha – compare R’ Akiva’s arguing opinion in the Gemara I cited in my question.
    – DonielF
    Commented Feb 5, 2020 at 18:48
  • It is true that if we know without saying what his intention was, we would not make her drink. However, short of רוח הקודש, I'm not sure how possible it is for us to know without the husband saying.
    – tcdw
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 20:29
  • Are you familiar with the concept of אנן סהדי? There are certain things where even if we don’t know for certain that our presumption is accurate, we can be reasonably sure to the point of straight-up paskening that this is his intention. For example, one class of exceptions to דברים שבלב אינם דברים is a person who doesn’t want to do one of certain Mitzvos (particularly bringing a Karban Chiyuv or give his wife a get when he should) - in these cases we say כופין אותו עד שיאמר רוצה אני because even if he protests we know that deep down he wants to do the right thing.
    – DonielF
    Commented Feb 6, 2020 at 20:32
  • Of course some things we know without explicit speech, however in this case I'm not sure how practical this is. If the husband warned her with a huge smile on his face and winked strongly at the same time, there might be an argument to say that this would not constitute a warning.
    – tcdw
    Commented Feb 8, 2020 at 17:32

As pointed out by double AA, there is an issur yichud even is she is planning not to sin in the extreme sense. And it isn't possible to know what will happen behind closed doors. So let's say that Elkana knows her plan. He will still tell her not to be secluded with the man, and when she does against his consent he will not know if the most inappropriate happened. (Remember, while Chana is alive we can't know that she is a historic tzadekes.) So I don't think her reveling the plan would prevent it from working.

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