Ershtens (first of all), the Oisvorfer wishes a big hearty mazel tov to his eishes chayil, his other kinder (children) and avada to himself upon the celebration this past Sunday of his youngest daughter’s bat Mitzvah. To mark the event, my little tuchter (daughter) decided to schlep us and 65 of her closest friends up to Honesdale, PA where we got a decent deal in the Shver’s camp. Taka it was a shtikel schlep for the girls and immediate family members, but who could say no to a party in camp if the bas zikunim asks? And who would say no if the machatunim insist on hosting (and hopefully) also being mishtateif (partnering) in the expenses? Zicher not the Oisvorfer.
Nu, it’s Monday night, we just got back and immediately my mind, like a laser beam, is sharply focused on this week’s heylige Parsha of Nosoy? Oy vey- now it’s Wednesday evening and it’s time to hit the panic button and start preparing for real. If you enjoy talking in shul, this is your parsha, if you typically come somewhat late and find yourself playing catch-up, this is your parsha too but if it happens to be your son’s upcoming bar mitzvah parsha, it’s avada givist (surely) , not your parsha and change it immediately. With its 176 pisukim, it’s the longest in the gantze heylige toira, bar none. And I don’t want to hear from any oisvorf suggesting otherwise; It’s les man di’polig (no one would argue differently).
The emes is that it’s not all a difficult parsha as it repeats shaivet by shaivet (tribe by tribe) each Nasi’s (Prince) korban and if you study one, you basically know them all. But Raboyseyee, there are other topics in the parsha, too many in fact, that require our attention, some elucidation and illumination, especially, the heylige thoughts from the Oisvorfer himself, so let’s get started. But where? So much to cover- so much going on and your attention span is oh so little.
Welcome to Parshas Nosoy where the first 28 pisukim are devoted to the sacrifices that were brought by the Nissim (Princes of the Tribes). Each Nasi brought a single young bull (par echad), a single ram (ayil echad) and a single sheep (keves echad). Are you asleep yet?
As an aside: complainers are complainers. A few chevra, even good chaverim, admitted that they can’t finish the toirah weekly and when I questioned as to why, they said azoy. It’s too long!! But I teach with humor, with sarcasm, and from time to time with a few innuendos and make it eminently more entertaining. Nu, they admitted that even with all those ingredients, their attention spans remains limited; they are mamish incapable of chapping more than a few pages. Can you just be masig (begin to understand) how little they would chap without all the extra effort? The answer is kimat gornisht (just about nothing) and I’m beginning to think that efsher not everything was the Rebbe’s fault. Still it’s no excuse for the Rebbe to play hide the salami with his bochurim ober (but) es ken zeyn (it’s entirely possible) that efsher the task was too daunting even for the Rebbe. Perhaps, some of you are mamish lost causes, Oy vey- I see the introduction already took up half a page, some of you may be getting ready to tune out: ginig shoin (enough already)- let’s learn Nosoy.
Hey weren’t we taught that the heylige toirah doesn’t have extra words- not even one? Our first question might be why does the toirah, use 28 pisukim to tell us about each Nossi’s korban? Why not just tell us what the offering was and that each Prince brought the same one? Nu, if we have time, we’ll address this later, zicher you want to hear about the people who were sent out of the camp due to their impurities.
And taka immediately after, we’re taught that the RBSO gave specific instructions to banish from the camp those yiddin that were afflicted with Tzoras, those with male discharges and I’m not referring to an army discharge and those that came into contact with the dead. We are taught that there were 3 levels of impurity and depending which level you attained, that would correspond to the camp you were asked to exit. As you can only imagine, those with male discharges made up the great majority of those being banished.
And while you’re klerring this over, let’s move on to the major new story of this week’s parsha- the wife suspected by her husband of having an illicit relationship. Avada you were disappointed by the lack of sex related matters in last week’s parsha but fear not: the toirah does not disappoint. Just one week later and we’re about to be introduced to one of the more amazing subjects in the gantze toirah- namely that of the Soitah. Most Rebbes and Rabbis choose to skip this topic and discuss other more acceptable matters like the “nazir” (the Nazarite) and birchas kohanim (Priestly blessing), both also found in this week’s parsha, ober not the Oisvorfer who will touch upon…err I mean discuss anything. But, of course, no topic in the Toirah is irrelevant — and certainly not ethically or morally distasteful.
Who was she, what if anything did she do, and a whole lot more we shall now learn. In fact, a gantze tractate of the heylige gemora is dedicated to this topic of Soitah and as you can only imagine when it comes to illicit relations; there are more midroshim than you can shake a stick at. In fact, stick shaking seems to be at the root of the entire problem, if you chap. And it’s mamish impossible to condense this topic into a few pages but here then, a few highlights.
Bikitzer- here is what a Soitah is and the procedure to root one out. A wife suspected (for good reason) of adultery, chas v’sholom – loi olaynu (say it’s not so please) was brought to the Kohein. Lemoshol, (by way of example only), he has pictures of his wife and best friend entering a motel room and they were there long enough to have engaged in the act of zenus. Grada and surprisingly, this by itself is not enough but I figured I’d get your imaginations going, not that you need my help, if you chap.
Nu, you needn’t sit home and be worried that your husband is coming home and after you refuse his advances or have some other fight, that he’s going to schlepp you to the koihain and level Soitah accusations; he must avada follow procedure and protocol. A whole series of events must occur for a woman to become a Soitah. First, your husband must suspect you of having a relationship with another man. He must have been so suspicious that he warned you in the presence of two witnesses not to be in private with that specific man (seemingly- unwarned, other men are ok for seclusion) ever again. Then, two people must witness you going into private seclusion with that same man and staying there for a certain period of time (how much time, I guess depends on the man). Only then can you be forced to the koihen and given the option of admitting, or denying and downing the special Soitah drink. In other words: don’t get caught by more than one person! As an aside, should you find yourself in a motel room and even one witness barges in while you’re in the middle of the act, chas v’sholom, the marriage could be dissolved legally. However, this is not the case of Soitah which requires 2 witnesses. Ok- you chap all that? Let’s go veyter.
Grada, the suspected adulteress chapter continues to generate controversy and is often misunderstood both for the seemingly disproportionate treatment of the eishes chayil (wife) and for its apparent “trial by ordeal” method.
Why the focus on the eishes chayil and not the husband? After all isn’t it typically the man that’s out and about creating Soitahs in his wake? Ober the answer is that min hatoirah (Biblical law) a man may marry more than one woman at a time, as evidenced by the many that our forefathers and other luminaries in Tanach wed. Can we deduce from this that having a few girlfriends on the side is also ok? Ver veyst? The reverse is nebech not true of the veyber: mistama in order to avoid patrimonial doubts. Shoin ginig. Flash forward to the parsha: The woman in our story, while not necessarily guilty of adultery, is not one of high moral caliber either. Her flirtatious behavior has already led her husband to formally warn her not to seclude herself with a certain man (in any event forbidden as yichud). Disregarding his warning, these scoundrels again secluded themselves and there is now a halachic presumption that relations have taken place.
Anyway, assuming he has valid cause to summon her to the koihain….here’s what happens next. If she confesses that she’s been shtupping the husband’s best friend or anyone else for that matter – no punishment is meted out and the marriage ends in divorce. You hear this? A simple confession and she’s off the hook. If however she’s of the ‘deny deny deny’ school of thought (and avada most are) – then, she underwent the Soitah process in which, after being warned, she drank “bitter waters”. What’s that you ask? Vitamin water it seemingly isn’t! This drink was a special concoction not typically found at your local watering hole and consisted of a mixture of holy water from the laver and dust from the Mishkon floor. Next: she had to swear to the Kohain that if she was guilty, she would suffer harmful effects after downing the drink. The words of the oath were written on a scroll and were blotted out in the water, which she then drank. If she was taka guilty, the physical deformities that resulted bore witness to her faithlessness, and she was accursed among her people and died. If she was innocent, no injuries resulted and she was rewarded with the blessings of motherhood. So cool is this unusual procedure, it behooves us to learn the two key pesukim.
(27) And [the koihen] shall make her drink the water, and it shall be that if she became defiled and betrayed her husband, then the water that brings a curse shall enter her and become bitter, and her stomach will swell and her thigh will fall away, and the woman shall become a curse among her people.
(28) And if the woman was not defiled and she is pure, then she shall be free, and she shall conceive seed.
And listen to how brilliant our Rabonim (Rabbi’s) and Yiddin are. Just before the drink was administered, the Soitah’s hair was uncovered as a reflection of her immodest behavior. According to the heylige gemorah, her dress too was loosened at the neck. This was a visual expression of her “immodest” behavior. And from these few words the entire Sheitel industry sprang forth as some Rabbi, followed by a few others and followed by an entrepreneur who chapped (understood) p’shat, deduced that other than the Soitah, a woman’s hair should be covered: an industry is born-gevaldig mamish. Why the hair on the head was uncovered is a shtikel shver to chap (grasp). I’m guessing it would have made more sense to uncover other parts of her body, the parts that may have been uncovered by her lover, if you chap.
And as to how much hair needs to be covered and where, of course that’s another machloikes, one that’s been raging ever since but all that for another day, efsher next year. Again bikitzur (in short), completely covered, according to the Chasam Soifer, who bases his views on the mystical Zoihar who came up with this chumra while in a cave for 13 years; nu- are you surprised? Anyway back to the suspected adulteress…
The Koihain encourages her to admit her culpability (if she is guilty). If she does, and as we said just above, she will need to divorce, but no other penalty will be applied. Taka why? Because there is no independent testimony that she actually committed adultery. Who says two people secluded in a motel room which they rented by the hour, necessarily dictates (pun intended) that they were engaged in illicit relations? Maybe they were just talking. Nu if you believe that, I can also sell you shares in a Madoff fund, even now. Anyway, if she insists upon her innocence, she drinks water from the laver (remember way back in Bereishis we learned that the teyerer Neshay Chayil (the more than fantastic wives) happily donated their mirrors which were used to make the sinks and from which a few more Rabbis learned that because of this connection, the women accepted the laws of Soitah upon themselves)? Wow- what imagination!
Says the Ramban: this procedure – the examination of the suspected woman with water is unlike any other in the entire Toirah. Nowhere else is there something that depends on a miracle except for this matter, which is a fixed wonder and miracle that is performed for Israel.
While it’s true that if she’s guilty she dies a supernatural death, this is hardly trial by ordeal, in which a suspected witch was bound and thrown into the water. The assumption in such a case was that if she were innocent, the RBSO would perform a miracle to save her and she would die naturally at her designated time. Our situation is entirely different. Firstly, it is the woman who opts to drink the water despite encouragement not to do so. Secondly, the water is not poisonous, so it requires a miracle by the RBSO for her to be punished. Al pi derech hatevah (naturally), nothing would happen to her. If she drinks and is found innocent, not only will she not die, but also she and her husband will be blessed with a child. So powerful was this idea, that the childless Chana “threatened” the RBSO saying that if she did not naturally conceive she would become a Soitah and “force His Hand”!
Bazman hazeh (in our days) what happens next has nothing to do with the koihen or special water. Today, if the husband chaps the eishes chayil or of she fesses up, the following options are presented. (a) they continue with an unhappy marriage of “convenience” so that they can do good shiduchim with the kinderlach and not disrupt their lives, sleep in separate bedrooms and maintain a “cold war” truce; or b) the husband finds yet another Soitah candidate, to even the score, if you chap; or (c) they kiss and make up; or (d) they get divorced after years of fighting over assets and name calling. The heylige toirah does not provide these choices and none were acceptable alternatives.
Interestingly, the Toirah awards the power of decision to the eishes chayil (woman) rather than to the man who must share her fate. She is not forced to drink the bitter waters at all. She can admit to adultery and accept a divorce. The truth is she doesn’t even have to admit to anything. She just has to refuse to drink the bitter waters on any grounds at all, mamish like pleading the 5th . She can say she has too much anxiety; she can say she would rather lose money than cause the holy name of the RBSO to be rubbed out; she can say she can’t live with such a suspicious husband anyway etc. All she loses if she chooses not to drink is her kesubah (her marriage contract), merely a monetary loss. She is free to marry anyone, and walk away from the entire mess totally unencumbered.
Ober listen to this most amazing Rambam in Hilchos Sotah (3:17) where he tells us that when the Soitah drinks the water not only is she put to the test but her partner in crime is also on trial even though he’s not necessarily physically in attendance. In general Jewish law treats both parties to adultery in precisely the same fashion. Whatever is a punishable offense for the female is the same for the male. If the wife is guilty of having illicit relations, both she and her Bo’el (the fellow who did her) will die from the Mei Soitah no matter where he is at the time, even if he’s shokeling in Shul with his tallis over his head. Moreover, Chazal also teach us that even if the Soitah is innocent at the time that she was secluded with the man that she was warned about (in other words: they were mamish but talking), but was guilty of a previous affair (where the husband never found out, nor suspected), she will still die from this Mei Sotah (special drink) and that’s what I call magic water.
And the news doesn’t get any better for you chazerrim (swine). Says the Mishneh l’Melech who infers from the Yerushalmi – that not only will she die from this Mei Soita if she had a previous affair with a different man, but that man will die as well. In other words, just because you weren’t chapped back then, you can still die an ugly death, days, weeks and even years later – you and your lover- if there was a previous fling. Mistama there are lessons to be learned here and you can easily figure them out but one thing’s for sure: if your hands and other parts of your body aren’t clean and even if you’re thirsty and dying for a drink- stay away from Soitah Water- it’s deadly!
There is however one piece of more than givaldige news for the vilde veyber (wild wives) who need action on the side and it’s big- really big. Nu halt kup as this can be a life saver for the suspected Soitahs, even the guilty ones. Says the Rambam mamish something moiredick (amazing): The magic Soitah water loses its power and does not affect the sinning woman if by chance her husband does not have clean hands and not because he didn’t shpritz Purell: I’m talking that he had an affair of his own. And I ask you, are not most women safe? Moreover isn’t it safe to further assume that no woman ever died during the Soitah trial? And I leave you with this. The Sanhedrin understood only too well the nature of both men and women and during their time, mamish when the second Beis Hamikdash was still standing, seemingly so were many men and also many women and they cancelled the entire Mei Soitah water ritual. We need to reestablish the Sanhedrin as they seemingly chapped human nature and worked with it.
A gitten Shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv