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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Naso 5767

The major part of the sedra speaks of the dedication of the Mishkan and the offerings of the twelve tribes. Before that there are separate sections about the laws of the tithing which are given to the priest; the law of the Sota (suspected wife); the law of the Nazir (abstainer from wine) and the Priestly Blessing.

Numbers 5:12

Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: If any man's wife goes astray and acts treacherously toward him.


If any man's wife goes astray: Rashi : What is written immediately above this ? "A man's sacred objects (tithing) shall be his." The lesson is: If you withhold the priest's gifts, By your life! You will find it necessary to visit him to bring the Sota to him.


Rashi connects the two apparently unrelated sections - the priest's tithing and the laws of the Sota - to teach us a lesson. If a man doesn't give the priest the tithing that is coming to him, he will be punished and find it necessary to come to the priest in any event - to bring his wife the Sota!

What would you ask on this lesson?

Your Question:


A Question: Is this fair? The man sins (for not bringing the tithing to the priest) and his wife gets punished (for being a Sota)?!

Can you see any fairness in this?

Your Answer:


An Answer: Some answer that as the Talmud says a wife is less generous, more frugal, with guests than her husband. So maybe it was her penny pinching that influenced the man not to pay his priestly tax, and therefore she was punished by becoming a Sota. But I would say the Talmud's maxim about woman may have been true in their days because woman were more dependent on men for their financial security. They were concerned that whatever he gave away would lesson the money left for her. But today women are much more independent, more secure and less fearful that they will be left with no way to take care of themselves. So the assumption of a woman's frugalness is less relevant.

I would suggest the following reason that Rashi connects the two: The law of the Sota is quite unusual. The Torah is consistent that no one can be punished for a transgression unless there are witnesses to the crime. But in the case of Sota she is being punished with no witnesses!

We can understand this by realizing that the woman -guilty or innocent - is brought to the priest because - and only because - the husband is suspicious. If he weren't suspicious she would never undergo this ordeal. Or if, on the other hand, she was clearly guilty, witnesses having seen her sin, then she wouldn't go to the priest either because the courts would sentence her. So she only goes to the priest because her husband is nervous and suspicious -maybe for no good reason! But with no good evidence to convict her. The woman may be absolutely innocent of the accusation.

So it is the man who gets punished - he didn't want to go to the priest with his tithings, now he must go with his wife whom he suspects of infidelity. Of course if the woman had been modest and careful in her behavior her husband might never have suspected her. But given the uncertainty here, it is the husband's suspiciousness that is crucial. He is plagued by doubt and has to go to the priest now - after having avoided him by withholding his tithing.

Perhaps you have a better answer !

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

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