Parasha Inspiration – Nasso

וְעָבַ֨ר עָלָ֧יו רֽוּחַ־קִנְאָ֛ה וְקִנֵּ֥א אֶת־אִשְׁתּ֖וֹ וְהִ֣וא נִטְמָ֑אָה אֽוֹ־עָבַ֨ר עָלָ֤יו רֽוּחַ־קִנְאָה֙ וְקִנֵּ֣א אֶת־אִשְׁתּ֔וֹ וְהִ֖יא לֹ֥א נִטְמָֽאָה: וְהֵבִ֨יא הָאִ֣ישׁ אֶת־אִשְׁתּוֹ֘ אֶל־הַכֹּהֵן֒ וְהֵבִ֤יא אֶת־קָרְבָּנָהּ֙ עָלֶ֔יהָ עֲשִׂירִ֥ת הָֽאֵיפָ֖ה קֶ֣מַח שְׂעֹרִ֑ים לֹֽא־יִצֹ֨ק עָלָ֜יו שֶׁ֗מֶן וְלֹֽא־יִתֵּ֤ן עָלָיו֙ לְבֹנָ֔ה כִּֽי־מִנְחַ֤ת קְנָאֹת֙ ה֔וּא מִנְחַ֥ת זִכָּר֖וֹן מַזְכֶּ֥רֶת עָוֹֽן: וְהִקְרִ֥יב אֹתָ֖הּ הַכֹּהֵ֑ן וְהֶֽעֱמִדָ֖הּ לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָֹֽה: וְהִקְרִ֥יב אֹתָ֖הּ הַכֹּהֵ֑ן וְהֶֽעֱמִדָ֖הּ לִפְנֵ֥י יְהוָֹֽה: וְלָקַ֧ח הַכֹּהֵ֛ן מַ֥יִם קְדשִׁ֖ים בִּכְלִי־חָ֑רֶשׂ וּמִן־הֶֽעָפָ֗ר אֲשֶׁ֤ר יִֽהְיֶה֙ בְּקַרְקַ֣ע הַמִּשְׁכָּ֔ן יִקַּ֥ח הַכֹּהֵ֖ן וְנָתַ֥ן אֶל־הַמָּֽיִם: וְהֶֽעֱמִ֨יד הַכֹּהֵ֥ן אֶֽת־הָֽאִשָּׁה֘ לִפְנֵ֣י יְהוָֹה֒ וּפָרַע֙ אֶת־רֹ֣אשׁ הָֽאִשָּׁ֔ה וְנָתַ֣ן עַל־כַּפֶּ֗יהָ אֵ֚ת מִנְחַ֣ת הַזִּכָּר֔וֹן מִנְחַ֥ת קְנָאֹ֖ת הִ֑וא וּבְיַ֤ד הַכֹּהֵן֙ יִֽהְי֔וּ מֵ֥י הַמָּרִ֖ים הַֽמְאָֽרְרִֽים: וְהִשְׁבִּ֨יעַ אֹתָ֜הּ הַכֹּהֵ֗ן וְאָמַ֤ר אֶל־הָֽאִשָּׁה֙ אִם־לֹ֨א שָׁכַ֥ב אִישׁ֙ אֹתָ֔ךְ וְאִם־לֹ֥א שָׂטִ֛ית טֻמְאָ֖ה תַּ֣חַת אִישֵׁ֑ךְ הִנָּקִ֕י מִמֵּ֛י הַמָּרִ֥ים הַֽמְאָֽרְרִ֖ים הָאֵֽלֶּה: וְאַ֗תְּ כִּ֥י שָׂטִ֛ית תַּ֥חַת אִישֵׁ֖ךְ וְכִ֣י נִטְמֵ֑את וַיִּתֵּ֨ן אִ֥ישׁ בָּךְ֙ אֶת־שְׁכָבְתּ֔וֹ מִבַּלְעֲדֵ֖י אִישֵֽׁךְ:

But a spirit of jealousy had come upon him and he became jealous of his wife, and she was defiled, or, a spirit of jealousy had come upon him and he was jealous of his wife, and she was not defiled. Then the man shall bring his wife to the kohen and bring her offering for her, one tenth of an ephah of barley flour. He shall neither pour oil over it nor put frankincense on it, for it is a meal offering of jealousies, a meal offering of remembrance, recalling iniquity. The kohen shall bring her forth and present her before the Lord. The kohen shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and some earth from the Mishkan floor, the kohen shall take and put it into the water. Then the kohen shall stand the woman up before the Lord and expose the [hair on the] head of the woman; he shall place into her hands the remembrance meal offering, which is a meal offering of jealousies, while the bitter curse bearing waters are in the kohen’s hand. The kohen shall then place her under oath, and say to the woman, “If no man has lain with you and you have not gone astray to become defiled [to another] in place of your husband, then [you will] be absolved through these bitter waters which cause the curse. But as for you, if you have gone astray [to another] instead of your husband and have become defiled, and another man besides your husband has lain with you…”

Numbers 5:14-20

This week’s Torah portion contains the commandment of the Sotah, the wife accused of adultery. There is a rather involved ceremony that is performed when a husband who suspects a wife of adultery formally accuses her before the Kohayn.

The Rishonim explain to us that the ceremony of the Sotah is designed by Hashem to never be performed. An entire tractate of Talmud is dedicated to the ceremony of the Sotah. The problem is that the ceremony of the Sotah is so harsh that there cannot be a good conclusion if the ceremony is performed.

If a husband is so jealous that he would risk his wife’s death by invoking the ceremony, then, regardless of the outcome, the marriage is over. Conversely, a wife who has committed adultery is facing certain death with the ceremony, so if she has engaged in adultery, the marriage is over. If the wife has, in fact, not engaged in adultery, the jealousy of the husband is so great that in reality, the marriage is over. There is no good possible outcome from the ceremony. If it is invoked the marriage is over.

It is actually the duty of the Sage, Rabbi, or Kohayn, to talk the husband out of invoking the ceremony. If there is any hope of reconciling marriage, neither of the parties can insist on the ceremony of the Sotah. Reconciliation of the marriage is the ultimate goal. Bearing this in mind, both parties must agree to not invoke the ceremony of the Sotah. This agreement can be a first step towards reconciliation. Shabbat shalom.

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Rabbi Steven Bernstein

Steve was born on Lag B’Omer in Ann Arbor, MI but was raised in Gainesville, FL. The son of two University of Florida professors, he excelled in the sciences in school. In addition to his normal academic studies, he pursued his Jewish education studying with many Rabbis and professors of Judaic Studies from the University including visiting Rabbis such as Abraham Joshua Heschel and Shlomo Carlebach.