My Chumash teacher says that the Talmud says Sotah never actually happened. Can anyone verify this?

  • 1
    Well sota does sound like sorer
    – user6591
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 3:25
  • I can confidently say that it never says this in Sotah.
    – Rentsy
    Commented Oct 6, 2014 at 5:01

3 Answers 3


The Gemara in Sanhedrin 71a lists 3 items that apparently never happened, according to Rabbi Shimon:

  1. Ben Sorer Umoreh
  2. Ir Hanidachas
  3. Tzora'at on a house

(As opposed to Rabban Yochanan who claimed to have sat on the ruins of an Ir Hanidachas, and on the grave of a Ben Sorer uMoreh, and אליעזר בר' צדוק and רבי שמעון איש כפר who knew of places with ruins of such a house.)

Since Sota is not mentioned there, it seems to have happened according to all opinions.

Furthermore, in the Gemara in Sota 47a-b there's a Mishna that says:

מִשֶּׁרַבּוּ הַמְנָאֲפִים, פָּסְקוּ הַמַּיִם הַמָּרִים, וְרַבָּן יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי הִפְסִיקָן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (הושע ד) לֹא אֶפְקוֹד עַל בְּנוֹתֵיכֶם כִּי תִזְנֶינָה וְעַל כַּלּוֹתֵיכֶם כִּי תְנָאַפְנָה כִּי הֵם וְגוֹ'.‏

In the days of רַבָּן יוֹחָנָן בֶּן זַכַּאי - close to the second Temple destruction - they stopped the Sota-drinking procedure, as it only works if the husband is faithful to his wife. Since many were not, the results of the Sota-drinking procedure were no longer reliable.

אמר רבי אלעזר אמר להם נביא לישראל אם אתם מקפידין על עצמכם מים בודקין נשותיכם ואם לאו אין המים בודקין נשותיכם.‏

So it seems it was in use - and not all that rare.

There's also a Mishna in Yoma 3:10 that states:

וְאַף הִיא עָשְׂתָה טַבְלָא שֶׁל זָהָב, שֶׁפָּרָשַׁת סוֹטָה כְתוּבָה עָלֶיהָ

She Queen Hilni made a golden tablet with the Parsha of Sota engraved on it so that - ולא יצטרך להביא תורה לכתוב ממנה פרשת סוטה - [as the Bartenuar explains] they wouldn't need to bring a Sefer Torah each time they had to copy the parsha (to erase it in the water that the Sota then drank).

Why would she do that unless Sota was relatively common?

As already mentioned, the מדרש תנחומא (for example) brings a story of an actual case happening:

מַעֲשֶׂה בִּשְׁתֵּי אֲחָיוֹת שֶׁהָיוּ דּוֹמוֹת זוֹ לְזוֹ. וְהָיְתָה אַחַת נְשׂוּאָה בְּעִיר אַחַת, וְאַחַת נְשׂוּאָה בְּעִיר אַחֶרֶת. בִּקֵּשׁ בַּעֲלָהּ שֶׁל אַחַת מֵהֶן לְקַנְּאוֹת לָהּ וּלְהַשְׁקוֹתָהּ מַיִם הַמָּרִים בִּירוּשָׁלַיִם. הָלְכָה לְאוֹתָהּ הָעִיר שֶׁהָיְתָה אֲחוֹתָהּ נְשׂוּאָה שָׁם. אָמְרָה לָהּ אֲחוֹתָהּ, מָה רָאִית לָבֹא לְכָאן. אָמְרָה לָהּ, בַּעֲלִי מְבַקֵּשׁ לְהַשְׁקוֹת אוֹתִי מַיִם הַמָּרִים. אָמְרָה לָהּ אֲחוֹתָהּ, אֲנִי הוֹלֶכֶת תַּחְתַּיִךְ וְשׁוֹתָה. אָמְרָה לָהּ לְכִי. לָבְשָׁה בִּגְדֵי אֲחוֹתָהּ וְהָלְכָה תַּחְתֶּיהָ וְשָׁתְתָה מֵי הַמָּרִים וְנִמְצֵאת טְהוֹרָה, וְחָזְרָה לְבֵית אֲחוֹתָהּ. יָצָאת שְׂמֵחָה לִקְרָאתָהּ, חִבְּקָה אוֹתָהּ וְנָשְׁקָה לָהּ בְּפִיהָ. כֵּיוָן שֶׁנָּשְׁקוּ זוֹ לְזוֹ, הֵרִיחָה בַּמַּיִם הַמָּרִים, וּמִיָּד מֵתָה, לְקַיֵּם מַה שֶּׁנֶּאֱמַר: אֵין אָדָם שַׁלִּיט בָּרוּחַ לִכְלֹא אֶת הָרוּחַ, וְאֵין שִׁלְטוֹן בְּיוֹם הַמָּוֶת, וְאֵין מִשְׁלַחַת בַּמִּלְחָמָה, וְלֹא יְמַלֵּט רֶשַׁע אֶת בְּעָלָיו (קהלת ח, ח). ‏


This statement is not from the Talmud ,but this idea is mentioned in Sefer Tziyoni(Rav Menachem Tziyoni - Mekubal 15th cent.) He does mention that a case of a sotah never happened(In public) ,and one should not ask about the case of two sitsers(Rashi 5:13) since that case is actually a proof to this idea since the isister died not from drinking the sotah water ,but rather from the neshika.

Text of the Tziyoni:

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Here is a specific example of a woman being fed the Sotah waters Mishna Eduyos 5:6 (also Brochos 19b):

מַעֲשֶׂה בְּכַרְכְּמִית, שִׁפְחָה מְשֻׁחְרֶרֶת שֶׁהָיְתָה בִירוּשָׁלַיִם, וְהִשְׁקוּהָ שְׁמַעְיָה וְאַבְטַלְיוֹן it happened in the case of Karkemith, a freed slave-woman who was in Jerusalem, that Shemaiah and Avtalion made her drink the waters of the Sotah.

Rav OvadiyaBar Tenurah says משקין. מי סוטה:

Though i do not know whether she blew up and died on the spot, it could be she had Zchus (merit) and lasted for a year or 2 or 3 before dying in private. So there is no evidence of direct punishment of the Sotah. This is probably what your teacher meant and is what Rav Menachem Tziyoni actually says quotedin Sams answer thank you @sam:

סוטה לא היה ולא נברא במעשה מפורסם...ומן הנשיקה מתה אחותה
The Sotah never happened in a public display (i.e she blew up on the spot in front of everyone) Rather it happened discreetly afterwords like with the two sisters that she only blew up kissing her sister long after exiting the public view in the Beis Hamikdash.

  • Just to point out Tosfos in brachos 19a brings 2 opinions, according to the second opinion (the Aruch) they did not give real sotah after but rather colored water to scare her.
    – sam
    Commented Jan 22, 2020 at 4:05

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