Saturday, May 26, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Naso ("mmm... that's good adultery...")

-random Apu quote from the Simpsons

Naso is the longest parasha in the entire Torah. It says so in the very first commentary on the portion in the Etz Chaim chumash. Though it is the longest portion, I have the shortest time so I will continue it, bli neder, after Shabbat.

Last year I discussed the threefold priestly benediction. This year, as promised, I will discuss the Sotah.

The Torah takes a hardline stance against adultery. You Ten Commandment buffs will note that it made the top ten at #7. The penalty is harsh for all parties involved. We arrive at one of the strangest rituals in the Torah. A potion is brewed for a woman suspected by her husband of adultery, spring water which contains the ink of a written formula, a curse, that was inscribed on parchment. It is possibly the only occasion God's name is ever erased (more on this later), as it is rubbed off into the phial of stupefaction (probably not a phial of stupefaction, but I want to use that phrase whenever I can), it is rubbed off into the vial and she is forced to drink it. If she is guilty of adultery, horrible things happen to her (complicated Hebrew involving distended bowels and sagging thighs, possibly meaning miscarriage) and if she is not, then nothing will happen and the husband, in punishment for falsely accusing her, will never be able to divorce her.

The Rabbis later comment on this account saying that even if she had committed adultery, the hocus pocus never worked (whereas so much of the other Temple magic did work, like the red fillet turning white on Yom Kippur). The reason is that God was more concerned with the holiness and stability of marriage than severe retribution. God allowed His Name to be erased for the sake of family togetherness. Women who actually committed adultery would realize they had been given another chance and would be straight arrows from now on and husbands would think their wives were innocent, thus while living a lie they would never separate, under penalty of catapult.

Okay, that last part was from the Simpsons too.


PS (Post-Shabbos): I was sitting next to my Rabbi in davening on Shabbos morning (we were running services) and he noticed that the story of the events leading up to the birth of Samson should actually belong to an absent story of the birth of Saul and that the birth of Samuel belongs here in the story of Samson. Check out the language of the births themselves compared to the preceding story as well as what the reasons for their names (Samson because God heard my prayer or something? That is Shmuel not Shimshon!) Anyway, off too bed, but checkitout! checkitout!

1 comment:

Barbara said...

f she is not, then nothing will happen and the husband, in punishment for falsely accusing her, will never be able to divorce her

Somehow, this sounds worse than distended bowels... ;)