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The Sotah - The Adultress

In Parshat Naso (in Chutz Laaretz read on Shabbat June 3, in Israel read on Shabbat May 27), we learn about the Sotah, the adultress, and the intriguing ritual of the drinking of the bitter waters.

If a husband, after warning his wife not to seclude herself with a certain man, suspects her of adultery with that man, then he brings her to the Bet HaMikdash to go through the whole ceremony of the bitter waters. Parshat Naso, together with Massechet Sotah, describes the ceremony in detail.

But to make a long story short, the woman is required to drink bitter waters, which include a piece of parchment with God’s name written on it inside the water. God’s name becomes erased by the water before the woman drinks it. If she is indeed guilty of adultery, then she dies a gruesome death. Simultaneously, the man she committed adultery dies the same gruesome death, regardless of where he is - he could be halfway around the world! And if she is innocent, and the suspicion is without merit, then she not only survives, but is blessed with the birth of a son. Her near immediate pregnancy becomes obvious to all, so that anyone who believed these suspicions of her adultery would be immediately proven wrong.

This whole process is unique in Torah Judaism. The average man and woman are relying on supernatural or divine intervention to adjudicate between the husband and wife. Nowhere else in Halacha do we see this - ever! But not only that, the Kohein, when performing this ritual on the woman, has to erase the name of God, something that is otherwise forbidden and even blasphemous!

This teaches us the importance of shalom bayit, peace in the home, and peace between a husband and wife. God personally intervenes, and even allows his name to be desecrated, for the sake of saving a marriage. Certainly, we as individual Jews should go to the same lengths to ensure that there is shalom bayit, and peace in our homes.

May all our families be blessed with love and companionship, peace, and friendshi​p.

אַהֲבָה וְאַחְוָה וְשָׁלוֹם וְרֵעוּת



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