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Slandering Israel

Parashat Nasso (Num. 4:21-7:89)is read outside of eretz Israel this week, so it has special significance for the Jewish community around the world. Within this narrative, three seemingly unrelated matters are taught—the problem of tza’arat, the ordeal of the Sotah, and the concept of the Nazir. But these three ideas can be linked.

In Nasso, the Torah instructs Israel to ban from the tabernacle, anyone who has a skin condition called tza’arat—a result of slander. Then there is the Nazir who takes a vow to abstain from wine (even grapes) or cutting their hair. In the ordeal of the Sotah, a wife is suspected of breaking her wedding vow, a situation which holds potential for slandering a faithful wife. As a sidebar, the ordeal of the Sotah recalls the sin of the Golden Calf at Sinai in which the idolaters having broken their vow to "do and to hear" the words of Torah are forced to drink bitter water mixed with the powdered remains of the idol, the Sotah drinks bitter water, mixed with dust from the floor of the Mishkan as test of her faithfulness to her marriage vow. It's called an "ordeal" for a reason. In the Mishnah we are told that the Sanhedrin would counsel the accused wife to admit her guilt rather than suffer the consequences, possibly death, if she is found guilty. However, if she is innocent, she will have a child.

There is a remarkable story in the Talmud (Berachot 31b)about Hannah's fervent desire for a child, so much that, according to Rabbi Elazar: Hannah said before the Holy One,"Master of the Universe, if You take note of my suffering and grant me a child, great. But if not, then You will see! I will go and seclude myself with another man in front of my husband Elkanah. And when I seclude myself, they will give me to drink the water of the sotah. And You will not belie Your Torah, for it is stated [with regard to an innocent woman who drinks the sotah waters]: then she shall be proven innocent and she shall bear seed"

Torah and the prophets liken Am Israel to a wife. Today, it's common practice for the nations and even some religions to slander modern Israel claiming the nation has no connection to ancient Israel, or worse, are those who practice Replacement Theology which acknowledges Israel’s acceptance of Torah but teaches the slander that God no longer considers the Jewish People His bride. This denies God's promise: He will never abandon His people. As stated in Deuteronomy 4:31, "For the Lord your God is a merciful God; he will not abandon or destroy you or forget the covenant with your ancestors, which He confirmed to them by oath."

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