Posted on May 21, 2010 (5770) By Rabbi Yochanan Zweig | Series: | Level:


“…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 wife.[1]

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.[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” in addition to being derived from the verb “yazir” – “to separate”, 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.

1.Sotah 2b
2.See Rabbeinu Bechaya 6:3, Moshav Zekeinim ibid.