The Gemara in Sotah 2a discusses that although a first marriage is predetermined, a second marriage is according to one’s status at the time (summary based on conclusion of Gemara there). Rashi there elaborates:

מזווגין אשה לפי מעשיו - צנועה לצדיק ופרוצה לרשע:

We pair for him a woman according to his actions - A modest woman for a righteous man and an immodest woman for a wicked man

Why does Rashi have to say this? Why can’t he say צדקת לצדיק ורשיעה לרשע - a righteous woman for a righteous man and a wicked woman for a wicked man?

Further, doesn’t a righteous woman automatically assume a modest one, and the opposite for a wicked woman? If that’s the case, then there’s no reason for Rashi to indicate the modesty of a woman when indicating her level of righteousness already tells us that.

  • Suggestion - I think there may be a better more accurate translation of the word פרוצה than "immodest". I can't think of the best word, offhand. But, I suggest retranslating b/c as it is, now. your suggestion a direct opposite, and I think Rashi's suggestion of using the term פרוצה conveys something more severe than just immodesty.
    – DanF
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 18:31
  • @DanF If you can come up with a better translation, I’m happy to change it, but that’s the best I can think of.
    – DonielF
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 18:32
  • I think that there may be something suggesting that the first wife may have enhanced the man's righteousness, already. If he needs to remarry, perhaps modesty may be sufficient.
    – DanF
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 18:33
  • 2
    Pretty sure "צדקת" isn't rabbinic nomenclature; def. not biblical. Female is מרשעת, not רשעה.
    – Oliver
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 18:36
  • @Oliver Just trying to come up with it off the top of my head - if you can find a more accurate word feel free to edit it in. Interesting - מרשעת more literally translates to a woman who makes wicked.
    – DonielF
    Commented Oct 4, 2017 at 18:38

3 Answers 3


It seems that Rashi is likely following Hazal who do sometimes refer to women as צדקניות (e.g. Sotah 11b, 12a, Bava Batra 119b), but nevertheless frequently use the term צנועות "modest" to refer to righteous women, even when seemingly not discussing matters of modesty. See Nidda (2:1) and Nidda (12a) which describes "tsnuot" who do extra bedikot. See also Ketubot (2b-3a, 3b), where is seems that tsnuot and p'rutsot are used to refer to righteous women, and those who are not righteous, respectively.

Importantly, although they use the plural term צדקניות, I am not aware of the singular ever being used anywhere in Hazal! It is unsurprising that Rashi doesn't make up a word to use in context.

Why the language may have developed this way is probably not knowable, but perhaps it has to do with a perception of the archetypal righteous female excelling at modesty. Indeed, Hazal frequently praise women for this trait (e.g. Megillah 10b, Sotah 10b, Bava Metsia 87a, B'reshit Rabba 18:2).

Importantly, as @ShmuelBrin notes, the term צנועים is also used to refer to righteous people outside of the context of modesty, even where there is no indication that they are female, as in Kilayim (9:5), who are careful not to wear a garment with kilayim even just to display it to customers. The Rishonim there explain the term in terms unrelated to modesty. For example, Ri ben Malkitsedek renders it כשרין; proper people, Rambam (old translation) renders it מדקדקין; those who are careful, Rash MiShants (followed by Rosh and Bartenura) renders it המחמירין; those who are stringent.

  • Why doesn't Rashi say tzanuim im tzanuot as tzniyut is a trait that both men and women have. As the passuk says end of Micha chapter 5 vehatznea lechet I'm elokecho
    – yosefkorn
    Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 11:50

Your summary is based on the conclusion of the gemara there, as you state. But it is not based on the immediate context of the gemara:

א"ר שמואל בר רב יצחק כי הוה פתח ריש לקיש בסוטה אמר הכי אין מזווגין לו לאדם אשה אלא לפי מעשיו שנא' (תהלים קכה, ג) כי לא ינוח שבט הרשע על גורל הצדיקים

Rav Shmuel bar Rav Yitzḥak says: When Reish Lakish would introduce his discussion of the Torah passage of sota he would say this: Heaven matches a woman to a man only according to his actions, as it is stated: “For the rod of wickedness shall not rest upon the lot of the righteous” (Psalms 125:3), indicating that if one has a wicked wife it is due to his own evil conduct.

That is, Resh Lakish would specifically open up a discussion of Sota with this. The implication is that he was saying, if one's wife was a sotah (or perhaps even a suspected one) who was hanging out with other men, it is the husband's own darn fault.

In this context, Rashi correctly writes:

מזווגין אשה לפי מעשיו - צנועה לצדיק ופרוצה לרשע:

"A man's wife is matched in accordance with his deeds" — A modest woman for a righteous man, a promiscuous woman for an evil man.

It is a promiscuous wife, vs. a non-promiscuous wife, that Resh Lakish was referring to by opening the discussion of Sotah with this. Wicked or righteous in general does not capture Resh Lakish's intent.

  • Interesting. Is this your own answer, or did you see this somewhere?
    – DonielF
    Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 16:53
  • it's my own answer. Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 18:08
  • 1
    Cf. Meiri: צנועה לצנוע ופרוצה לפרוץ.
    – wfb
    Commented Jul 29, 2018 at 18:35

Gemora in Gittin 45a answers your question, don't repeat this to your wife.

Shlomo hamelech married a 1000 wives and testified that he did not find even 1 of them a Tzadekes in Koheles 7,28.

בנתיה דרב נחמן בחשן קדרא בידייהו קשיא ליה לרב עיליש כתיב (קהלת ז, כח) אדם אחד מאלף מצאתי ואשה בכל אלה לא מצאתי הא איכא בנתיה דרב נחמן גרמא להו מילתא ואשתביין ואישתבאי איהו נמי בהדייהו § The Gemara relates that Rav Naḥman’s daughters would stir a boiling pot with their bare hands, and people thought that the heat did not harm them due to their righteousness. Rav Ilish had a difficulty with a verse, as it is written: “A man one of a thousand I have found, and a woman among all those have I not found” (Ecclesiastes 7:28). Aren’t there Rav Naḥman’s daughters, who were exceptionally righteous? These words caused them to be taken captive, due to the evil eye, and Rav Ilish was also taken captive with them.

He was about to escape and......

אמר איזיל אחזי בנתיה דרב נחמן אי קיימן בהימנותייהו אהדרינהו Rav Ilish said: Before I leave, I will go and I will see Rav Naḥman’s daughters. If they remained steadfast in their faith and are acting appropriately, then I will take them with me and I will return them to their home.

אמר נשי כל מילי דאית להו סדרן להדדי בבית הכסא שמעינהו דקאמרן עדי גוברין ונהרדעי גוברין לימא להו לשבוייהו דלירחקינהו מהכא דלא ליתו אינשין ולישמעי וליפרקינן He said: Women tell all of their secret matters to each other in the bathroom, so he went there to eavesdrop on them. He heard them saying: These captors are now our husbands, and the men of Neharde’a to whom we are married are our husbands. We should tell our captors to distance us from here so that our husbands should not come to this area and hear that we are here, and redeem us, and take us home. They preferred to remain with their captors.

קם ערק אתא איהו וההוא גברא לדידיה איתרחיש ליה ניסא עבר במברא וההוא גברא אשכחוה וקטלוה כי הדרן ואתן אמר הוו קא בחשן קידרא בכשפים: Upon hearing this Rav Ilish arose and escaped. He and that man who knew the language of the birds came to a river crossing. A miracle happened for him and he crossed the river on a ferry, and the captors found that man and killed him. When Rav Naḥman’s daughters were returned and they came back from their captivity, Rav Ilish said: They would stir the pot with witchcraft, and that is why they were not burned by the boiling pot, but it was not due to their righteousness.

Basically a man tzaddik is much more common than a woman tzaddik so rashi statistically cannot pair up every righeous man with a righeous woman so second best is a modest women.

  • 1
    First of all, not even close to being married yet. :) I’m not sure that I see how this answers the question. So we see that they were perutzos and reshaim, and they preferred to be with reshaim like themselves. So what?
    – DonielF
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 22:31
  • i don't want to say the anser so clearly for fear of backlash but the Posuk in Koheles(Ecclesiastes 7:28) answers the question on its own without the Gemoro, but the Gemora seems to prove that Rav Illish had to go through this episode to see the truth in the Posuk. I wish you hatzlocho in finding your Tzanua zivug and even though their might not be 1 in a 1000 there might be one in 2000 so i hope you get that one who is a Tzadeikes.
    – user15464
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 22:39
  • basically a man tzaddik is much more common than a woman tzaddik so rashi statistically cannot pair up every righeous man with a righeous woman so second best is a modest women
    – user15464
    Commented Dec 16, 2017 at 23:03
  • 1
    Granted that Rashi presumably agrees with his interpretation of that passuk which does take it literally, it’s worth mentioning that some don’t take it so literally. However, also see the next Rashi on that passuk - “One woman I have not found - therefore you must be careful with her.” In other words, he makes the opposite inference - not that you don’t stand a chance in finding a righteous wife, but that when - not if - you do, treasure her. To the contrary - this is a vort you should absolutely repeat to your wife.
    – DonielF
    Commented Dec 17, 2017 at 7:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .