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The Sotah: A Woman Accused

In Parashat Nasso (Num. 4:21-7:89) there are seemingly unrelated and disconnected lessons taught: The problem of tza’arat, the ordeal of the Sotah, and the concept of the Nazir. In Nasso, the Torah instructs Israel to ban from the tabernacle, anyone who has a skin condition called tza’arat—the result of slander. The Nazir takes a vow to abstain from wine or cutting their hair. In the ordeal of the Sotah, a wife is accused of breaking her wedding vow, a situation which holds potential for slandering a faithful wife. The wife is offered vindication by drinking water mixed with dust from the floor of the tabernacle, a ritual is conducted by a kohen:

"Once he has made her drink the water—if she has defiled herself by breaking faith with her husband, the spell-inducing water shall enter into her to bring on bitterness, so that her belly shall distend and her thigh shall sag; and the wife shall become a curse among her people. But if the woman has not defiled herself and is pure, she shall be unharmed and able to retain seed." - Numbers 5:27-28

It is common practice by some religious leaders to slander the Jewish people, denying that they are the nation chosen by HaShem to receive His Torah at Sinai, or worse, those who acknowledge Israel’s acceptance of Torah yet somehow believe G-d no longer honors His covenant with Israel, even comparing to a marriage. The prophets make it clear that HaShem has been long suffering towards His people and has never rejected them:

"And it shall come to pass on that day, says the Lord, you shall call me Husband, and you shall no longer call Me." - Hosea 2:18

And now, the situation has been ratcheted up against Israel because it simply defends itself against an enemy filled with bloodlust. But God 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.”

The law of the Sota is unique because it is the only mitzvah involving a miracle. The Torah likens adultery to idolatry and the Sota experience shares certain aspects of the sin of the golden calf. The people were forced to drink water mixed with gold dust from the remains of the broken idol.

Finally, the lesson of the Sotah seems to hint that God will bring a miracle to demonstrate, to the nations, that Israel is truly His bride who He has never forsaken. . In Nasso we're told that the accused woman is vindicated and "brings forth seed," could this mean that the slander against Israel will be wiped away with the coming of a son out of Israel we will recognize as Moshiach?


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