It’s been a while, but I’m back...
In today’s sugya (9a) the story of David and Batshevah is hinted at. The gemarah is trying to ascertain what kind of proof is necessary to accuse a woman of adultery and thereby make her forbidden to both her husband and the man with who she had the affair.
The gemarah is all tied up in knots trying to prevent any woman from slipping through the cracks. Specifically, the beginning of Ketuboth is interested in the case of a woman whose husband claims she was not a virgin on their first night together. But is his subjective experience enough to prove that she slept with someone of her own free will during the time of their official engagement, meaning that she cheated?
In comparison to the flimsy claim, “I found her opening opened,” the gemarah cites the case of sotah, a system that demands several objective proofs in order to convict. A man who is jealous of his wife, must warn her about a specific man with whom she then secludes herself in front of witnesses. He then takes her to the temple for a miraculous test, which proves her innocence or guilt.
The story of King David and his lover Batsheva is brought as the source of the requirement for warning and witnesses. But anyone who remembers this story knows that Uriah, Batsheva’s husband, was not jealous of his wife, nor did he warn her about sleeping with the King, nor were there any witnesses. Why in the world is their story brought as the source?
“Ahh…” the gemarah replies, true, in the case of David and Batsheva, there were no witnesses and no warning and therefore after the act of adultery Batsheva was indeed allowed to return to her husband (David tried to bring her husband home from war in time so that he will think her pregnancy was due Uriah himself) and she is allowed to marry David after the affair. The absence of witnesses and warning is the reason they were allowed to stay together, and proves that these missing elements are essential in prosecution.
This sounds like a modern soap opera, or a how -to book on how to have an affair and not get caught. Why does the gemarah invoke this story, which only might teach about proof though its absence? Not very convincing.
The gemarah secretly is dying to tell this story, despite it’s inappropriateness, and at the same time it can’t. While it is obvious from the context and from later commentators that the gemarah is referring to David and Batsheva, the gemarah simply refers to “Maashe Sheaya,” a story that once happened. Why the secrecy?
I’m leaving you with questions today: Why does the Talmud want to tell the story of David and Batsheva so badly that it brings it here as very weak proof? And if it wanted to tell their tale so badly, why disguise it as “a story that once happened"? Maybe I’ll think of an answer tomorrow.