But if the woman had not become defiled and she is innocent, she shall bear seed. (Bamidbar 5/28)
Basically the laws of Sotah are as follows:
A man warns his wife not to seclude herself with a certain man and she ignores the warning and secludes herself with that man in front of two witnesses. She must then bring a certain korbon and drink water in which the Name of Hashem was dissolved in it. If she was not faithful to her husband she swells from the water that she drank until she dies. However, if she was actually faithful to her husband and is innocent she will bear seed.
There are two opinions in the Gemorro exactly what does “and she will bear seed” mean.
Rebbi Akiva holds that if she was infertile she will give birth.
Rebbi Yishmael argues that this cannot be. His reasoning: If infertile women would give birth then they would deceitfully provoke their husbands to warn them not to seclude themselves (with another man) in order to bring on herself the laws of Sotah. When she will be found innocent she will then bear children!
Therefore, argues Rebbi Yishmael, “and she will bear seed” means that if she had difficult births she will now have easy ones… if she gave birth to short children she will give birth to tall ones etc.
Tosfos asks that Rebbi Yishmael seemingly can ask the same question that he asks on Rebbi Akiva on himself: A woman who has difficult births will deceitfully provoke her husband to warn her not to seclude herself with a certain man…. When she will be found innocent she will then have easy births and tall children! How, then, can Rebbi Yishmael reject Rebbi Akiva’s position with a question that seems to be just as difficult on his own position?
Zera Shimshon quotes meforshim who explain that in the times of the Gemoro there was a big difference between a couple who was childless and a couple who had children because being childless was a valid reason for a divorce. According to this, these meforshim explain, Rebbi Yishmael held that a lady who had children but had difficult births would never attempt to do such a ploy because it could backfire! Her husband might opt to divorce her straight away and not have her go through the whole ritual.
However, a childless lady has nothing to loss by going through with such a plan. If her husband really wanted to divorce her, since they are childless, he can do it without this whole scheme. Since she has nothing to gain only to lose, Rebbi Yishmael held that the Torah would not allow such a ploy to happen and therefore he argued that “she will bear seed” does not mean to beget children but rather that she will have an easier birth.
Zera Shimshon initially rejects this explanation because it is very unlikely that the plan of the lady with children will backfire. A husband will not divorce his wife on the far chance that she was unfaithful without being one hundred percent sure that this is really true. The reason for this is that if he does divorce her, then people will gossip and say there must be a good reason for the divorce and they will speak maliciously about the lineage of her children (who are also HIS children).
Zera Shimshon, however, eventually does uphold these meforshim’s explanation. True, if he divorces his wife, people might slander the lineage of his children and this is a strong reason not to divorce her. However, if he doesn’t immediately divorce her then she will suffer tremendous embarrassment going through the sotah ritual. A man would rather divorce his wife and risk slight slander of his children than making her go through the whole sotah ritual and embarrass her.
This being so, concludes Zera Shimshon, we can understand why Rebbi Yishmael held that a childless lady could attempt a ploy in order to give birth but a lady with children wouldn’t do something like this in order to have easier childbirths!
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