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The Mishna in Sotah 1:5 states

וְכֹהֵן אוֹחֵז בִּבְגָדֶיהָ, אִם נִקְרְעוּ נִקְרָעוּ, אִם נִפְרְמוּ נִפְרָמוּ, עַד שֶׁהוּא מְגַלֶּה אֶת לִבָּהּ, וְסוֹתֵר אֶת שְׂעָרָהּ. רַבִּי יְהוּדָה אוֹמֵר, אִם הָיָה לִבָּהּ נָאֶה, לֹא הָיָה מְגַלֵּהוּ. וְאִם הָיָה שְׂעָרָהּ נָאֶה, לֹא הָיָה סוֹתְרוֹ: And a priest grasps her garment--if it tears, it tears; if it unravels, it unravels--till he has bared her bosom, and he loosens her hair. Rabbi Yehudah says: if her bosom is beautiful, he does not bare it; if her hair is beautiful, he does not loosen it.

My question seems rather basic but I did not see any of the standard commentaries (Bartenura, Rambam, Tosfot Yom Tov) address it.

The question is according to R' Yehuda if her bosom is beautiful the Kohen doesn't reveal it. How does the Kohen determine this, especially if it needs to be determined before he rips her clothes and bares her bosom?

  • I realize the Kohen could tear the clothes, view the bosom and make a determination at that time, then cover the woman, but this doesn't seem to be the intent of the text, nor have I seen any commentary say so. I should also point out that according to some this embarrassment is done behind a curtain – rikitikitembo Feb 7 '18 at 19:03
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    I am not English speaker. But chest is not better than bosom? She needs not to be nacked to show her body shape – kouty Feb 7 '18 at 19:13
  • @kouty I used the term that was used by Sefaria in the hopes of being sensitive to modesty concerns. It is clear from the context that the discussion is about revealing her nakedness. – rikitikitembo Feb 7 '18 at 19:20
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    @kouty Agreed. A woman's breast can look attractive, even when covered. – ezra Feb 7 '18 at 19:27
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    @kouty - bosom=poitrine - a tzanu'a way to discuss a women's upper body area. – Danny Schoemann Feb 8 '18 at 14:38
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The kohen would start, and if he saw that it should not be revealed, he would stop. [.רד"ל סוטה ז printed in the ילקוט מפרשים in back of the גמרא]

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    Hmm, so it's an arbitrary call? – Oliver May 25 '18 at 1:08
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    I don't understand how this answers the question. how would he determine if "it [sic] should not be revealed"? – rikitikitembo May 25 '18 at 14:53
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    rikikitembo -The question assumed that " it needs to be determined before he rips her clothes". The רד"ל wrote that this is not true. Also, as Oliver pointed out, he says that it's an arbitrary call. – פרי זהב May 25 '18 at 20:12

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