1) THE CORRECT FRAME OF MIND FOR PRAYER
QUESTION: The Mishnah (30b) states that one should pray Shemoneh Esreh only with "Koved Rosh" (humility). The first Beraisa in the Gemara (31a) states that one should pray only after studying a "Halachah Pesukah" (a Halachah that does not require deep thought, which may cause a person to be distracted from proper concentration on his prayers, as Rashi explains). The second Beraisa states that one should pray only with "Simchah Shel Mitzvah," the joy that comes from performing a Mitzvah.
Are the two Beraisos and the Mishnah arguing with one another? Are these three different opinions?
ANSWER: The VILNA GA'ON explains that these three sources do not disagree. Rather, they complement each other.
(a) If one was learning Torah when the time for prayer arrived, he should learn a Halachah Pesukah before he prays, rather than begin his prayers with the complicated Halachos that he was just learning on his mind. This is the intention of the first Beraisa.
(b) If one was not learning when the time for prayer arrived, then there is a difference between Shemoneh Esreh and Keri'as Shema. Keri'as Shema should be recited following "Simchah Shel Mitzvah," because the Shema is an expression of the love of Hash-m, and thus it should be said with Simchah.
(c) Shemoneh Esreh should be said with Koved Rosh, because in Shemoneh Esreh we express our fear of Hash-m, and thus humility, not joy, is appropriate. The Mishnah is referring to Shemoneh Esreh, and the second Beraisa is referring to the Shema. (Rav Ashi, who "followed the ruling of the Beraisa," was reciting the Shema.)
2) CHANAH'S THREAT
QUESTIONS: Chanah threatened to seclude herself with another man so that her husband would accuse her of infidelity and require her to drink the Sotah waters. Since she would be innocent of wrongdoing, she would merit to have children.
We may ask two obvious questions.
(a) It is forbidden by the laws of Yichud for a woman to seclude herself with a man other than her husband. How could Chanah transgress the prohibition of Yichud?
(b) The process of drinking the Sotah waters requires in part that the name of Hash-m be written on a piece of parchment and then placed into the water to be erased. To cause the name of Hash-m to be erased is a severe transgression. The only time that it is ever permitted is in the case of the Sotah waters. How could Chanah threaten to cause the name of Hash-m to be erased?
(a) The Acharonim suggest a number of ways to resolve the first question.
1. The CHASAM SOFER (EH 1:102) answers the first question by citing the opinion of the RAMBAM. The Rambam maintains that although it is permitted under the laws of Yichud for one woman to be secluded with two men, nevertheless she can become a Sotah for doing so. Chanah threatened to seclude herself with two men, which would not be a transgression of Yichud but would still be grounds for her husband to accuse her of infidelity and require her to drink the Sotah waters.
2. The TERUMAS HA'DESHEN (#244) says that if the door to the area where the woman and the man are secluded is open, there is no prohibition of Yichud. However, in such a situation the husband still has the right to accuse his wife of infidelity and to require her to drink the Sotah waters. Thus, Chanah would not transgress the prohibition of Yichud, because the door would be kept open.
(b) The SHEMEN ROKE'ACH answers the second question. He explains that according to the Gemara in Nedarim (66b), the reason that the name of Hash-m may be erased for the Sotah waters is because these waters restore peace to the family. When the husband sees that his wife is innocent and is truly loyal to him, harmony is restored.
Chanah's intention was to restore peace between herself and her husband. A man is permitted to divorce his wife if they have been married for ten years and have not had children. Chanah and Elkanah were married for ten years and had not been blessed with children. Chanah wanted to have a child and to avoid divorce. By drinking the Sotah waters (and causing the name of Hash-m to be erased) she would be blessed with a child and would restore peace to her relationship with her husband.
The MAGID TA'ALUMAH adds that when the verse says that Chanah "prayed 'on' Hash-m" ("va'Tispalel Al Hash-m"), it means that she prayed for the sake of the name of Hash-m. She did not want Hash-m's name to be erased, and so she begged Hash-m to listen to her request and grant her a child without any reliance on the Sotah waters.