Question: My questions are: “Is the article below suppose to relate to now-modern times? Or is it just the biblical background on adultery? And most importantly to me as a woman, why isn’t there anything mentioned about adultery as it pertains to a married man committing it? Women are not the only sex that commits adultery; it seems to be a grossly one sided article, and it there is no reference as to how this ‘halacha’ pertains to present day, then to me it is just history.”
So what I would like to see or know is what is the halacha view on adultery for the present day as all the ‘sacrifice’ stuff really doesn’t apply today, and what is the present day view of a man committing adultery?
Adultery – Sotah
If a woman is deliberately unfaithful to her husband she becomes forbidden to him and he must divorce her, as it says “Her first husband… cannot take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled”[1,a]; and she is also forbidden to marry the man with whom she was unfaithful. If a man tells his wife before witnesses that she must not be alone with someone and she disobeys, she also becomes forbidden to both of them. When the Temple exists she can (if they wish) return to her husband by performing the ceremony of drinking the “bitter waters”, as it says “If a man’s wife strays… he shall bring his wife to the priest and bring her sacrifice with her, a tenth of an ephah of barley flour; he shall not pour oil on it nor put frankincense on it… and [the priest] shall make the woman drink the bitter water…”[2,b]. It is a man’s duty to be particular about the habits of the members of his household and to warn them against sin, as it says “And you shall know that your tent is at peace and you shall examine your habitation and not sin”[3,c].
1. Deut. 24:4
2. Num. 5:12-31
3. Job 5:24 a. Geirushin 11:14; Ishus 24:17
b. 1:1-2; 2:1,12; Ishus 24:24
Answer: I’ve been asked to respond your question. You wrote:
Is the article below suppose to relate to modern times?
Well, practically speaking, there is no modern correlation to the process of testing a Sotah because there is currently no Temple. Of course, the moral lessons taught by this particular mitzva (law) are universal and the primary underlying lesson – that God is aware of what happens in the human world and that He can and does interfere at will – will not be lost on mature and sensitive readers.
why isn’t there anything mentioned about adultery as it pertains to a married man committing it?
As a matter of fact there is. The Talmud (Sotah 27b) writes: “Just as the waters test the woman, they also test her partner (i.e., the man with whom she sinned).” Which clearly indicates that, assuming they had actually sinned together, both partners will die miraculous deaths.
and what is the present day view of a man committing adultery?
There is a subtle (and legally meaningless) difference between the adultery of some men and that of all women. Since Torah law allows a man to marry more than one wife – even if Ashkenazic Jews rejected polygamy 1,000 years ago and Sephardic more recently – while a woman may have only one husband, a married man engaging in a casual relationship with an unmarried woman is not liable for the death penalty (even when such penalties would have been imposed). However there is no instance in which partners in a forbidden relationship would be treated differently from each other (or at least no instance that comes to mind). What follows, therefore, is that both partners in an adulterous relationship involving a married woman have committed a capital offense. Both partners of an adulterous relationship in which the woman is not married have committed a serious (non-capital) crime, and, assuming they are both consenting participants, are considered equally perverse and reprehensible.
I hope this helps.
With my best regards,
Rabbi Boruch Clinton