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Shabbat Parashat Naso 5773

Parashat Hashavua: Kinah Good or Bad?

Harav Yosef Carmel

In the section of the Torah on sota (a woman suspected of adultery), the Torah mentions several times the root kin’ah (Bamidbar 5: 11-31). This clearly refers to the preliminary reaction of the husband to his wife’s behavior. However, the exact meaning of the word is not fully clear and impacts the way we view the scenario that unfolds before beit din. Therefore, we will take a look at sources that can help determine exactly what this word means and what it indicates.

The gemara in Sota (2b) presents three opinions on the topic. Reish Lakish says that it is a matter of “placing jealousy between the woman and others.” Abaye is cited as saying that it places jealousy between the husband and wife. The gemara concludes that according to these exegetical opinions, it is forbidden for the husband to go through the process of kinuy. According to the opinion (Rav Nachman) that it is permitted to do kinuy, the word means a warning.

According to the first approach, then, the husband’s negative response to her perceived excessive connection with other men is indeed negative, as it creates a feeling of tension within the wife’s circle of interaction, without grounded suspicions. The “spirit of kin’ah” that the Torah refers to is thus a spirit of foolishness. Rashi explains it as a matter of anger. According to Rav Nachman, that it is permitted to give this warning, the kinuy is a result of a spirit of purity. 

The halacha is that the entire process of investigation, denial, and the drinking of the special, potentially lethal waters cannot commence unless the husband warns his wife and expresses to her his suspicions. This must be done in front of two witnesses. As Rashi on the Torah and the Rambam (Sota 1:1) say: “The kinuy that the Torah refers to is … that he will say to her in front of witnesses: ‘Do not be in a secluded place with Ploni (a specific, named person).’”

This root appears in other places, which strengthen respective explanations. “They have done kin’ah to me with a non-God, they have angered me in their vanities, and I have done kin’ah to them with a non-nation, with a disgusting nation I will upset them” (Devarim 32:21). This seems to follow the first approach, that kin’ah is a negative phenomenon, initiated by the sinful nation.

An indication to the second approach can be found in Yoel (2:18). “Hashem had kin’ah for His land, and He had mercy on His nation.” Rashi there explains (in his second explanation) that this is referring to a warning.

Let us point out that the Torah ends this section with a pronouncement: “The man will be clean of sin” (Bamidbar 5:31). The Rabbis explain that the reliability of the sacred waters to punish the women who sinned and denied it requires the husband to be totally clear of infringements in the matter of elicit relations (see Rabbeinu Bachyei ad loc.) About hypocritical people, the Rabbis said: “First adorn yourself; afterward, adorn others.”

Let us pray that whether in the individual or the public sphere, we in the State of Israel shall  be worthy of the blessing to the modest: “How good are your tents, Yaakov, your living places, Israel” (Bamidbar 24:5).

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