Wednesday, June 17, 2009


(Posting some Divrei Torah from the past few weeks that I've been writing for a local Parashah sheet)

The placement of Parashas Sotah in Naso seems, at first glance, to be arbitrary. Therefore, Rashi explains the connections between it and the passages before and after it. In explaining why the sotah passage comes after the passage of terumah, Rashi says that someone who refuses to give a kohen the matnos kehunah will eventually have to go before a kohen for the sotah proceedings. However, it isn’t quite clear why these two laws are connected.

Click here to read morePerhaps we can suggest that it has to do with the role played by the kohen in ancient Jewish society. It used to be that the kohen’s position in the Jewish community was as the teacher of Torah. He was the rav, the rebbe and the posek. If someone had no kohen to whom to give terumah, it meant that he felt that he could learn Torah on his own and answer his own halakhic questions. This is an attitude of arrogance that is unacceptable.

The Mishnah in Avos (1:6) tells us to find a rav, a teacher. The Rambam says that if you must, you should use someone less knowledgeable than yourself because everyone needs the help of someone else in learning Torah. Someone with no kohen has the attitude that he knows what is best. He does not feel a need for anyone with whom to discuss his Torah questions.

The entire concept behind sotah has always puzzled me. If you think your wife is untrustworthy, then talk to her about it and try to resolve the problem. If you cannot reach a solution, then unfortunately the Torah has the institution of gittin. Why would anyone make a kinuy, the first step towards sotah, and run the risk of having to go through the whole sotah procedure with all of its attendant trouble and embarrassment? It seems like a kinuy would only further exacerbate any marital problems that already exist through intimidation and manipulation.

However, not everyone is rational. Someone who is arrogant and needs to always do things his way will be unable to resolve marital problems through discussion. He will instead decide on his own what is best, leading to potentially disastrous results. It seems that the parashah of sotah is meant for a person like him. Those same traits that cause someone to rely on himself and have no kohen are the characteristics that lead to a woman becoming a sotah. Perhaps that is what Rashi means in explaining the connection of these two passages.

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