by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS NOSSO 5773 BS"D
Ch. 5, v. 12: "Ish ish ki sisteh ishto" - Any man whose wife goes astray - Rashi connects this parsha with the previous one. There it discusses a person who does not give a Kohein his due apportionments. If he behaves this way he will instead bring his wife in front of the Kohein through the sotoh procedure. This can be explained as follows: When a person finds his wife behaving in such a despicable manner logic dictates that he simply divorce her. However, this entails his paying her her "kesuboh." Had he had sufficient funds he could do this. Since he held back what was due the Kohein, Hashem likewise held back the produce and he is reduced to penury. He therefore cannot pay her "kesuboh" and is reduced to bringing her to the Kohein. (Keser Torah)
A variation on this: Since he has not given the Kohein his due his fields no longer produce as much. The amount he was to give away is what his fields produce and he becomes very poor in a very short time. The gemara says that when there is no income the peace and harmony in the home are very disrupted. This is a step towards the wife not being as loyal to her husband and it begins with her socializing with another man and even going into seclusion with him, etc., etc. (n.l.)
Given that it is the stinginess of the husband that brings on the ensuing sotoh situation, what has she done wrong? The gemara says that if one tithes properly he will become wealthy. The gemara likewise says that one who treats his wife royally will become wealthy, his wife might tell him to forgo giving the Kohein his due and instead bedeck her with jewels, etc., and he will become wealthy through this conduit. This is why she is punished. (Chasam Sofer)
I heard as an addendum to this insight from a Sosnovitzer Talmid Chochom that this is the meaning of the verses in T'hilim 49:17,18, "Al tiro ki yaashir ish ki yirbeh k'vode beiso. Ki lo v'moso yikach hakole lo yeireid acharov k'vodo." Do not fear when you see a person becoming rich based on his greatly honouring his household (his wife). This will not last and he will eventually have to take her to the Kohein as a sotoh and both of them will suffer great humiliation. His honour will not follow him into the grave.
Ch. 5, v. 12: "Ish ish ki sisteh ishto umo'aloh vo mo'al" - Any man whose wife goes astray and acts unfaithfully to him - The double expression "ish ish" can be explained thus: A man, who only acts as a man should, taking control of the situation when his wife starts acting improperly even in a small measure, and yet he only becomes a man when she has gone into seclusion, "ish ki sisteh ishto," then not only is she guilty, "umo'aloh," but "vo mo'al," there is also guilt in him for sitting back earlier and not nipping it in the bud. (Luach Erez)
Ch. 6, v. 2: "Ki yaflee" - When he will elucidate - Ibn Ezra explains the choice of "yaflee" over other words (such as "y'ba'tei"). He says that "yaflee" contains a connotation of wonder. It is indeed a wonder that in a world where people seek more and more pleasure that someone would restrict himself to not partake of that which is permitted to him.
There is a title given some wonder workers who behave in a very holy manner and restrict their involvement in physicality, a "wunder Rebbe" or a "tchobba Rebbe." Based on the above Ibn Ezra it can well be that the title is based on the holy man's restricting his worldly pleasures, and this is the wonder, not that he does miraculous acts. (Hoshiatener Rebbe)
The story is told of an antagonist to Chasidus who came to a Rebbe and asked if the position of Rebbe isn't a worldly pleasure, and a coarse one as well, that of receiving much honour. The Rebbe answered that indeed it is, but it comes at the cost of forgoing all other worldly pleasures. In other circles one can be an honoured leader notwithstanding that he is as involved in "gashmios" as much as his followers are.
Ch. 5, v. 16: "V'he'emidoh lifnei Hashem" - And he should place her upright in front of Hashem - The Ibn Ezra says that the antecedent of the suffix of "v'he'emidoh" is the "minchoh" offering. Why doesn't he simply say that it refers to the sotoh? In verse 18 it says, "V'he'emid haKohein es ho'ishoh lifnei Hashem." The positioning of the sotoh is told to us there, so here, it must refer to the minchoh, which was just mentioned in the previous verse (see Rashi on our verse). (Rabbi Shmuel Alter)
Ch. 5, v. 28: "V'im lo nit'moh ho'ishoh ut'horoh hee v'niksoh v'nizroh zora" - And if she was not defiled and she is pure and she is cleared and she will bear seed - The Chizkuni, notwithstanding his mentioning that the gemara says that there is a blessing in her further having children, on a simple level explains that there is no blessing for her. She deserves no blessing since she behaved in a most unbecoming manner by going into seclusion with a man and repeating this after her husband warned her not to. Rather, the intention of these words is that her womb will not be destroyed by the sotoh water, but she receives no blessing. This is in keeping with his explanation of the words "es y'reicheich nofelles" in verse 21. He says that these words of warning mean that the waters will destroy her womb.
Others offer explanations for her receiving this blessing although she doesn't deserve one given her reprehensible behaviour. She really deserves some punishment, but if she were punished then people would incorrectly conclude that she committed adultery. (There are times when she is guilty and doesn't swell up and die right away, as related in the gemara Sotoh.) She is left alone, but "v'nizroh zora" so that Hashem can take out the punishment on her children, "Pokeid avone ovos al bonim." (Tiferes Y'honoson)
Alternatively, she is begrudgingly given a blessing because if she just walks away unharmed people might think that she committed adultery given here untoward behaviour and the reason she escaped Hashem's wrath is because her husband likewise has sinned in this realm, which negates the affect of the sotoh water. She must therefore have a blessing in her future children. (Ro'isi)
Ch. 5, v. 28: "V'nizroh zora" - And she will conceive - If this sotoh was a woman who was well beyond the age of conceiving would she experience the miracle of conceiving?
Ch. 5, v. 31: "Vnikoh ho'ish mei'ovone v'ho'ishoh hahee tiso es avonoh" - And the man will be cleansed of sin and the woman will bear her sin - Rashi says that in the event that she dies as a result of drinking the sotoh water her husband shall have no compunctions about bringing about her death. Rather, he did what was correct and the resultant death was totally her doing.
Sforno says that the verse refers to when she was unharmed by the sotoh water. Her husband might feel that he has done a terrible wrong to her, being "chosheid bich'sheirim," bringing her to terrible shame in a very public setting, etc. The verse therefore says that he has done nothing wrong. The woman has brought all the above upon herself with her wayward behaviour of going into seclusion with another man.
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