The first is a Machlokes regarding whether or not food that is Chulin can
become Shelishi l'Tum'ah.
The second is a Machlokes regarding whether or not the Isur of Techumin is
The third is a Machlokes regarding how the Jewish people sang the Shirah at
the splitting of the Sea.
The fourth is a Machlokes regarding whether Iyov served Hashem out of love
or out of fear.
None of these discussions, though, seem to be related to each other, nor do
they seem to have anything to do with the beginning of the Mishnah which
discusses the prohibition of the Sotah to both her husband and to the
Why, though, does the Mishnah choose these specific discussions? There is an
entire Masechta that discusses the Halachic discussions which occurred on
the day that Rebbi Elazar ben Azaryah became Nasi -- Maseches Eduyos, and
the Mishnah could have cited any of the Mishnayos in Eduyos simply because
the discussions took place on the same day! Apparently, the Mishnah here
decided to record only a certain type of Halachah that was discussed on the
day -- a Halachah which in some way is similar to the discussion of the
prohibition to the adulterer (the subject of Maseches Sotah). In what way
are these four specific discussions related to the discussion concerning the
Sotah's prohibition to the adulterer?
(a) The Machlokes concerning the source for the Sotah's prohibition to the
adulterer was discussed on that day in order to strengthen the people's
caution in observing the dictum of not coveting another person's wife.
The Gemara in Berachos (35b) says that the expressions "father" and "mother"
are appropriate references to the relationship between Hashem ("Father") and
Klal Yisrael ("Kneses Yisrael"). We know that the Nasi serves in lieu of a
king in times when the Jewish people have no king (like the Gemara in
Sanhedrin 5a says regarding the verse, "Lo Yasur Shevet mi'Yehudah"
(Bereishis 49:10)). The king, in turn, reflects the power of Hashem's
dominion (Berachos 58a). The people's willingness to subject themselves to
the Nasi represents their willingness to subjugate themselves to Hashem.
There was a fear that when the people saw that the Nasi could simply be
deposed and someone else appointed to rule in his place, this might result
in an increased frequency of disloyalty to husbands. Therefore, they needed
to strengthen the people's awareness of the Isur by impressing upon them the
consequences of the sin.
We find a precedent for this reaction in Korach's revolt. The Gemara (Moed
Katan 18b) tells us that all the members of Korach's group were Mekanei
their wives not to seclude themselves with Moshe Rabeinu. Why should they
suspect Moshe Rabeinu of being an adulterer? Their claim was that every
member of the Jewish people has a direct relationship with Hashem because of
each individual's lofty level (Bamidbar 16:3), and therefore they do not
need Moshe Rabeinu to be their leader, their Nasi. They claimed that by
trying to rule over the Jewish people, Moshe Rabeinu was committing an act
of "adultery," so to speak, by taking Kneses Yisrael away from Hashem to be
a wife for himself. That is what they were implying when they told their
wives not to seclude themselves with Moshe.
(b) The Mishnah then records Rebbi Akiva's rulings that Chulin can become a
Shelishi l'Tum'ah, and that the law of Techumin is mid'Oraisa. Rebbi Akiva
always attempted to strengthen the authority of the Chachamim in order to
refute the Tzedukim. To this end, we find in Eruvin (21b) that Rebbi Akiva
risked his life in order to strengthen the enactments of the Rabanan (such
as the Takanah of Netilas Yadayim, which is -- together with the Takanah of
Eruvei Techumin -- one of the earliest and most original enactments of the
Rabanan, instituted by Shlomo ha'Melech).
Now that the authority of the Rabanan, as represented by the Nasi, was
weakened, Rebbi Akiva was afraid that the people would treat lightly the
Takanos d'Rabanan that they found difficult to accept. This fear was
especially well-founded because of the change of policy in the Beis
ha'Midrash (Berachos 28a). In the times of Raban Gamliel, only proven Torah
scholars were allowed to enter and rule on Halachic matters. When Raban
Gamliel was deposed, the policy was changed to permit anyone to join the
discussion in the Beis ha'Midrash (potentially even Tzedukim). As our
Mishnah says, Raban Yochanan ben Zakai already announced that he was afraid
that a later generation would rescind his ruling that Terumah becomes Pasul
as a Shelishi, because it was so difficult for the people to observe and his
proof (the Kal v'Chomer) was tenuous. In order to prevent this from
occurring, Rebbi Akiva pronounced that not only does Terumah become Tamei as
a Shelishi, but even Chulin can become a Shelishi mid'Oraisa. In this way,
he assured that no one would have the temerity to argue that a Shelishi is
Tahor even with regard to Terumah.
(c) As we learned, Rebbi Akiva saw it necessary to strengthen the authority
of the Chachamim regarding Netilas Yadayim (Eruvin 21b). When the Nasi's
authority was challenged, rabbinical authority in general was challenged,
and Rebbi Akiva was afraid that the people would challenge the Isur of
Techumin, and, therefore, in order to strengthen its significance in their
eyes, he asserted that the Isur of Techumin is not merely a Takanah
d'Rabanan, but rather it is an Isur mid'Oraisa. (According to Rebbi Akiva,
when the Gemara in Eruvin says that Shlomo ha'Melech was "Tiken"
(instituted) the laws of Techumin, it means that he was "Darash v'Hiskin"
the Isur, teaching the Isur d'Oraisa; see Rosh Hashanah 30b.)
(d) Rebbi Akiva was afraid that the ousting of Raban Gamliel would prompt a
Korach-type rebellion against the Nesi'us in general, with the people saying
that they are great enough to lead themselves and they have no need for a
Nasi to rule over them. Therefore, Rebbi Akiva taught that even when Moshe
Rabeinu and the Jewish people sang the Shirah at Keri'as Yam Suf, the Jewish
people followed Moshe's lead and merely answered after Moshe Rabeinu. They
let him lead them even though every one of them was elevated to the level of
a Navi; they nevertheless realized the necessity of having a leader. Rebbi
Nechemyah went even further and said that although the Jewish people were
elevated to the same level of prophecy as Moshe Rabeinu when it came to
choosing the words of the Shirah (see Rashi 30b, DH k'Sofer), nevertheless
they did not feel that it was proper to begin the Shirah until Moshe Rabeinu
led them and started the Shirah. (See YOSEF DA'AS in the name of the SHEM
MI'SHMUEL, Parshas Beha'aloscha.)
(e) The goal of Rebbi Yehoshua ben Hurkenos' statement in the Mishnah was to
strengthen the attitude of Rebbi Yehoshua and of the new Nasi, Rebbi Elazar
ben Azaryah, towards Yir'as Shamayim and Avodas Hashem, in contrast to the
attitude of Raban Gamliel towards those things. Why did Raban Gamliel not
admit to the Beis ha'Midrash any person who was not a proven Talmid Chacham?
The Acharonim explain that Raban Gamliel was a student of Beis Shamai in
several matters (see Beitzah 22b). Shamai was of the view that a person
should serve Hashem only with pure intentions. For this reason, he refused
to accept the potential Gerim who wanted to convert for ulterior motives
(Shabbos 31a). Because of this, though, he had less students than Hillel
had, who accepted everyone. Nevertheless, Shamai's students, because of
their purity, were on a higher level of understanding Torah (see Yevamos 14a
and Tosfos there, DH Rebbi Yehoshua). Rebbi Yehoshua, who was the Tana who
argued with Raban Gamliel in Berachos, was a follower of Hillel's policy
that everyone should be allowed into the Beis ha'Midrash. That is why --
after Raban Gamliel was dismissed -- they allowed everyone in. The
difference in attitude towards learning reflected a difference in attitude
towards serving Hashem. Shamai's approach was to serve Hashem through
Yir'ah, and not to approach Hashem until one is certain that he has purified
himself from any impurities. Hillel's attitude was to serve Hashem through
love, and because of that he also encouraged an attitude of Ahavah and
warmth between the Nasi and the people, as opposed to the approach of Raban
Gamliel who encouraged an attitude of distance between the Nasi and the
people. (See Avos 1:12, where Hillel says, "Be of the Talmidim of Aharon --
love peace and pursue peace.") Rebbi Yehoshua ben Hurkenos, in the Mishnah,
announced that serving Hashem out of love is a much higher level than
serving Hashem out of fear, and that the reason why Iyov received such great
reward was because he served Hashem out of love in order to show his
approval for the new Nesi'us.