Out Of Control
"...Any man whose wife goes astray..." (5:12)
From the juxtaposition of the section discussing the Priestly
gifts to the laws of the Sotah, a woman suspected of infidelity, the Talmud
derives the following: The consequence of a person refusing to give the
Kohein his tithes is that his wife will be suspected of infidelity. He will,
thereby, be forced to turn to the Kohein to perform the procedure of the
"bitter waters", which will clarify whether he may resume relations with his
The Maharal asks: If the message is that one who does not appreciate the
Kohein, apparent in the fact that he does not give him his tithes, will
eventually need his services, why does this have to manifest itself through
the law of Sotah? The same message could be conveyed by any number of
services requiring a Kohein.2 Furthermore, why do his actions
result in his wife being suspected of indiscretion?
We are not discussing an individual who does not keep the tithing laws. The
Talmud does not say that he does not separate the tithes, rather that he
holds back from giving them to the Kohein. What could be the motivation of
one who separates the tithes, but holds back from giving them to the Kohein?
If a person does tithe, but refuses to give it to the Kohein, what he is
doing is exerting his control over the Kohein. The Torah is teaching us that
a person who feels the need to exert his control over others probably
relates to his spouse in the same manner. It is this domination over his
wife which either causes her to rebel or results in his uncontrollable
jealousy, which makes it necessary for her to drink the "bitter waters". His
own wife, over whom he exerts control, becomes prohibited and the only one
who can permit him to resume relations with her is the Kohein. He now faces
the realization that he has no control over either party.
1. Berochos 63a
2. Gur Aryeh 5:12
An Act Of Intent
"One leader each day, one leader each day..." (7:11)
The leaders of the twelve tribes brought identical offerings
for the dedication of the altar. Nevertheless, the Torah records each
leader's offering individually, expending seventy-two verses in the process.
The Talmud and the various Midrashim go to great lengths, expounding upon
the different names of the leaders, to show how each leader's motivation
reflected his own unique abilities.1 Although this teaches that each leader
had his own individual motivation for the offerings he brought, would the
same conclusion not have been derived had the Torah recorded the offerings
only once, mentioning that all twelve leaders brought the same offering?
Two individuals can give charity with very different motivations; one person
can give charity because he finds fulfillment in performing a benevolent
act, and the other can give charity because of his concern for the
recipient. In such a case, it is not the same act with two divergent
motivations which is being performed, rather two completely different acts
of charity. A person's motivation gives new definition to, and is therefore
apparent in the very act itself. Whether it involves a change in the
inflection of the benefactor's voice or the actual manner in which he gives
the charity, even the recipient can sense a difference in the act depending
upon the motivation involved. It is this very message that the Torah is
impressing upon us. The reason for the repetition of each leader's offering
is that since they had different motivations, each offering was unique, and
therefore, worthy of being recorded.
1.Bamidbar Rabbah 13:17 see Ramban 7:2
Half Way There
"from new or aged wine shall he abstain..." (6:3)
The Talmud deduces from the juxtaposition of the laws
concerning the Sotah to the Nazarite law, that a person who sees a Sotah in
her demise should abstain from wine.,sup>1 The expression used to
define this abstinence is "yazir" - "to separate". On other occasions the
Torah uses more common terminology to express the concept of separating. Why
does the Torah use such an uncommon expression?
The commentaries explain the derivation from the juxtaposition in the
following manner: Nothing a person sees should be viewed as coincidental.
Therefore, upon witnessing the fate of a Sotah, a person should realize that
he has a susceptibility to the same vices which led her astray. Since
alcohol is generally used as the instrument to weaken a person's
inhibitions, the Torah mandates that this individual abstain from wine for
thirty days.2 If a person suffers from a condition which requires
such drastic measures to alert him of it, how does thirty days of abstinence
remedy the situation?
In many cases, the most difficult obstacle in addressing a problem is
overcoming denial of the problem's existence. The thirty-day period of
abstinence mandated by the Torah is not the solution to the person's
condition, rather, it is a period of time which allows for introspection and
acknowledgement that the problem exists. Internalizing the notion that the
problem exists facilitates the individual's seeking assistance and
ultimately coping with his condition.
The main concern that prompts a person's denial is the fear of being
stigmatized amongst his peers. The Torah addresses this concern by referring
to him as a Nazir. The term "Nazir" is not derived only from the verb
"yazir", but also stems from the word "nezer" - "crown". The message that
the Torah is imparting is that a person who acknowledges a deficiency in
himself and works to overcome it, will be crowned by his peers as a role
model. Not only will he not be viewed with disdain by his peers, but on the
contrary, he will be elevated in their eyes.
2.See Rabbeinu Bechaya 6:3, Moshav Zekeinim ibid.