Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Metaphorical Meaning of Parshat Sotah

Today as I was learning Parshat Naso as I was coming home from work on the train. I was thinking about the connection between the halakhot of Sotah and Nazir that appear one after the other. I was suddenly thunderstruck with yet another brilliant insight into the deeper, if not the deepest, meanings of the Torah. Naturally, when this happens to me I try and add my insight to the blogosphere. Fortunately for the blogosphere - my children are taking along time to fall asleep and I am afforded the opportunity to write a blog post as I dutifully sit outside their doorway.

It is practically a literary fact that the Sotah ritual is also a metaphor for the relationship between HaShem and B'nei Israel. For example, after the חטא עגל, Moshe Rabbeinu ground up the עגל הזהב into water and forced B'nei Israel to drink the mixture. This mixture reminds us of the Sotah potion which contains water, dirt from the floor of the Ohel Moed, and ink from the Sotah שבועה. When B'nei Israel worshipped the עגל הזהב they were unfaithful to HaShem they were being compared to a Sotah and her husband. There are numerous imageries in the Tanakh comparing B'nei Israel to an unfaithful wife because they have abandoned HaShem and the Torah u'Mitzvot. (Sefer Hoshea leaps to mind and I am sure that there are other examples.)

This comparison between the Sotah ritual and the Egel is the basis for my brilliant insight into Parshat Naso - the burning question on everyone's mind is: Why is the Sotah ritual located in Parshat Naso?! It would make much more sense if it was found in Parshat Ki Tisa after the עגל הזהב! The answer to this burning question is: B'nei Israel are being warned at the beginning of their journey to conquer Eretz Yisrael. This is going to be a difficult and challenging journey and they will need every bit of emunah that they can muster so that they can succeed. The Sotah ritual is a warning to B'nei Israel of what might happen to them if the do not follow HaShem and Torah u'Mitzvot.

Unfortunately, we all know that this journey was actually a disaster and that the vast majority of this generation of B'nei Israel were not allowed to enter Eretz Yisrael. In fact, the ten bad spies die in a horrible plague (another support for my brilliant insight) similar to the punishment for the Sotah. However, in Parshat Naso everything is still going well and B'nei Israel are dutifuly following HaShem's commands (see BaMidbar 5:4). And we can clearly see that the halakhot of the Sotah were taught to B'nei Israel at the beginning of their journey to Eretz Israel to warn them not to stray from HaShem's commands.

Photo Credit - Ron Almog http://www.flickr.com/photos/ronalmog/302026953

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