If you still have kinderlach under bar mitzvah age and are planning ahead, be forewarned – you do not want your child reading Parshas Nosoy: plan accordingly, change the date now! With 176 pisukim, it’s the longest in the gantze heylige Toirah, bar none. On the other hand, if, like many loi olaynu (heaven forbid), you enjoy a little schmoozing in shul during laining, this is avada your Parsha. In fact, es iz azoy lang (it’s so long), there is a distinct danger mamish, though to date no such cases have been reported, that you may run out of loshoin horoh or rechilus to discuss with your chaverim during kriyas hatoirah, – mamish a broch- (a disaster). Taka why? It’s poshit (simple): loshoin horoh (badmouthing) and gossiping, like a few other items mentioned in the heylige siddur, including Peah, Bikurim and Gimilas Chasadim, has no limits. Shoin!
Welcome to Parshas Nosoy where after a quick count of the Leviim (Levites), the great majority of the parsha, excluding a few other topics we’ll skip but that you should zicher learn, is devoted to the sacrifices brought by the Nissim (Princes of the Tribes). Each Nosi brought a single young bull (par echad), a single ram (ayil echad) and a single sheep (keves echad) and if you study one, you basically know them all. Shoin 117 of the 176 covered on these two topics. A shtikel boring but it’s the Toirah and if the RBSO saw fit to delineate each Nosi’s korban, mistama He had good reasons. Why, is none of your business.
Ober Raboyseyee, there are other topics in the parsha, a few in fact, including the Soita, the Nozir and birchas koihanim. At least two highly unusual subject matters, one of a sexual nature, lots of material to cover- so much going on- and your attention span is nebech oh so short. Some require attention, illumination and further elucidation and who better than the heylige Oisvorfer to touch upon, if you chap, and shed some light on, especially the Soita (suspected adulteress). Nu, lommer unfangin, ober vi (but where)? And speaking of covering, ich bin zicher (I’m certain) that mistama you had no idea, not even a hava mina (first thought) that the primary source for the neshei chayil (married women) covering their hair (post marriage) with either a sheytil (wig), schmatta, kerchief, hat, fall, hat, beret and other such coverings, full or partial, comes from this Parsha. It does? Nu, lommer lerrnin (let’s learn), it won’t kill you. And before we begin, let me apologize but brevity is not in order this week and soon you’ll chap why. Avada you’ll want to soak up every word of this week’s toirah.
It all started right here in this week’s parsha with one innocuous possik, one of the procedural instructions the koihen has to follow before he administers the magical cocktail to the wife of the jealous husband who suspects her of having maybe found herself completely nakit (uncovered) with another man where she maybe also had epes a shtikel illicit relationship (sex) with that or another man, rachmono litzlon (heaven forbid). And if the RBSO decided to give Moishe such specific instructions, nu, nebech you can only imagine that such zenus (illicit relationships) did avada take place, mistama more than one. Oy vey!
Says the heylige Toirah: “The priest shall stand the woman before G-d and uncover her hair…”(BaMidbar 5:18).
And how was this possik spun? Women who are or have been married (including widows and divorcees) are required to cover their hair. There is some good news: At the moment at least, a woman who has never been married may still display her hair ober avada that could change any day now if (and when) a few right wing radical Rabbis may, after being pressured by a few enterprising chasiddim, soon decree that the sheytil (wig) market is too saturated and business can only be increased by opening new markets. The unmarried yet alluring woman with beautiful hair sounds epes like a prime suspect for this new chumrah to come. We call that chasiddishe shtick,- guerrilla marketing and avada such tactics have brought us Bodek lettuce, certified OU paper towels, tablecloths and soon, mistama other exciting and innovative kosher products at inflated prices. Nu, where was I? Exactly why hair is seemingly inert prior to marriage and considered erva (causing sexual excitement) post, this I never quite chapped. Ver veyst.
Nu, as we just learned and hard as it is to believe, the sole Toirah source for this requirement (hair covering), is from the above verse, which deals with the laws of the Soita – a suspected adulteress. What does the Soita’s suspected sexual escapade have to do with her hair (on the head, you chazir)? Says Rashi on the heylige Gemora (Kesuvois 72a) azoy: the Soita is punished midah keneged midah (measure for measure) for exposing her hair. Shoin! One is efsher left to wonder what would happen to her were she to be mezaneh (have illicit relations) with her hair already covered and mistama such sheaylois (questions) have come up or should, in certain neighborhoods. And says Rashi, we learn from this possik that a woman needs to have her hair covered. Matter settled. Moreover, from the fact that we expose her hair we seemingly understand that under normal conditions a Jewish woman’s hair should be covered. We expose her hair? Isn’t exposing her hair, if you chap, what got her into trouble to begin with? Is it the koihen’s turn now? Why the hair on the head is uncovered is a shtikel shver (challenging) 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 during her chazzerish behavior, if you chap.
And as to how much hair needs to be covered and where, of course that’s another machloikes (argument), one that’s been raging ever since, but all that for another day, efsher next year. 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…
Even more astounding is the fact that an entire multimillion dollar industry has sprung up from these few words in the heylige Toirah about a woman being suspected by her jealous husband of having an affair? But it’s emes: this is the entire and only real source and avada some enterprising people chapped, understood the opportunity, created a product, and the rest is, well…a cover-up. In fact, many other industries and professions have all come from the same, most amazing and ever-giving primary source: the heylige Toirah and avada that’s why people always say that Toirah is the beste schoira! Veyter. Nu, let’s find out what happens to the Soita suspect but first, who’s the guilty party?
Says the heylige Toirah (Bamidbar 5:11-15): “Speak to the Children of Israel, and tell them about when a man’s wife deceives him, and another man lies with her carnally and defiles her, out of sight of her husband and closed off somewhere, and no witnesses against her can be found. He must bring his wife to the priest (koihen).”
And generations before ’ temporary insanity’ was introduced and used by defense attorneys, along came Rashi quoting the Tanchuma and mamish so givaldig said azoy: adulterers may not be guilty. Why? Because they were temporarily insane! Shoin! Has the Oisvorfer himself gone insane by stating that the adulterer may not be guilty? Noch nisht (not yet) and let’s read the Rashi together.
|Should any man’s wife go astray: Our Sages teach (Tanchuma Naso 5): Adulterers do not commit adultery unless a spirit of folly (שְׁטוּת) enters them, as it is written [here],“should go astray” [תִשְׂטֶה, can also mean to become a שׁוֹטֶה, i.e., to become “foolish”], and it is written, “One who commits adultery with a woman is devoid of sense” (Prov. 6:32) (Tanchuma Naso 5). The simple meaning of the verse is: “Should [any man’s wife] go astray.” She deviates from modest ways, thus arousing his suspicion, as in [the verse],“turn away שְׂטֵה from it and pass” (Prov. 4:15), [and]“Let your heart not veer off יֵשְׂטְ into her ways” (Prov. 7:25).||
כי תשטה אשתו:שנו רבותינואין המנאפין נואפין עד שתכנס בהן רוח שטות, דכתיב כי תשטה, וכתוב בו נואף אשה חסרלב (משלי ו, לב). ופשוטו של מקרא כי תשטה – תט מדרכי צניעות ותחשד בעיניו, כמו שטהמעליו ועבור (שם ד, טו), אל ישט אל דרכיה לבך (שם ז,כה):
In other words: adulterers only commit adultery if a ruach shtus (they were temporarily insane) enters them.
Nu, if the RBSO found fit to discuss this topic, who are we to make short shrift of this more than amazing little ‘what if’ episode? Let’s get back to the hair. And why taka is the Soita and her hair so intertwined? Nu, we are taught that should such a case ever happen, the eishes chayil is brought to the Koihen who follows the procedures laid out in the pisukim to follow and as part of the ritual, he, just before she is given the magical cocktail, will uncover her hair.
What’s pshat here? Nu, we’re taught that as an integral part of the procedure which included humiliation (of the suspected Soita), the koihen got to uncover her hair. Seemingly, we are then left to assume that her hair was covered upon arrival and mistama that’s not a surprise: ober does wearing a sheytil really prevent a woman from illicit relations or with today’s magnificent sheytils, is it punkt farkert (opposite)? Ver veyst? Veyter.
Some say that hair covering predates the heylige Toirah and is rooted way back to Chava after she had some encounter with the snake. Some say that her snake encounter was an act of unfaithfulness toward her husband; the snake is seemingly always part of or the root of the trouble, if you chap. Said Rav Yitzchok bar Avdimi (Eiruvin 100b): “Chava was cursed with ten curses”. In addition to childbearing pangs and other pains, she is (says Rashi), ashamed to go about with her hair uncovered. From the movies and books the Oisvorfer used as study guides only, he seems to recall that both Odom and Chava did, post sinning, in fact cover their hair ober they weren’t holding fig leaves over their heads, if you chap. Avada the writings, laws and customs of hair covering cannot be adequately addressed by the Oisvorfer: Consult your local Rabbi and let’s then move on.
Mistama many of you are mamish flabbergasted with this entire Soita gisheft (topic). Efsher the Oisvorfer didn’t lay, if you chap, the foundation correctly; let’s then try to chap what took or didn’t take place here and why she had to undergo such giferlich humiliation including having the Koihen uncover her hair and also patchke (partially disrobe her) with her dress- oy vey, In fact, a gantze tractate of the heylige Gemora is dedicated to this topic of Soita 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 Soita 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 Koihen. Lemoshol, (by way of example only), he has pictures (provided by 2 witnesses who were also somehow just by chance at the same hotel, if you chap, at the same time-amazingly enough) 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, for the thousands of veyber and other female (married and single) readership, 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 koihen and level Soita accusations; he must avada follow procedure and protocol. A whole series of events must occur for you to become a Soita. Ershtens (firstly), 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 and maybe even that particular man, are okay 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 and if her hair is covered). Only then can you be forced to the koihen and given the option of admitting, or denying and downing the special Soita drink. In other words: Avada you should always remain faithful to your husband, even if he leaves the toilet seat up, is messy, and does other things that make you mishuggah. If however you can’t control your animal instincts, make sure not to 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 avayro (act), chas v’sholom, the marriage could be dissolved legally. However, this is not the case of Soita, 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 Soitas 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 choshovo forefathers and other luminaries in Tanach did regularly and often. Can we deduce from this that having a few girlfriends on the side is also ok? Ver veyst? Consult your local Rabbi. The reverse is nebech not true of the veyber: mistama at least partially, 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 under the laws of yichud (seclusion with another man). 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 koihen….here’s what happens next. If she confesses that she indeed had sexual relations with the husband’s best friend or anyone else for that matter – no punishment is meted out and the marriage ends in divorce. Maybe or not, the husband will give her a Get (a topic for another day). 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 continues the Soita process in which, after being warned, she drinks “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 (if previously barren) 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 Soita’s hair was uncovered as a reflection of her immodest behavior. According to the heylige Gemora, her dress too was loosened at the neck. How much? Ver veyst. This was a visual expression of her “immodest” behavior.
The Koihen 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.
Says the Ramban: this procedure – the examination of the suspected woman with magic water is unlike any other in the entire Toirah. Nowhere else is a punishment meted out that depends on a intervention from above except for this matter, which is a fixed wonder and miracle that is performed for the Yiddin.
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 Soita 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 Soita 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.
Ober listen to this most amazing Rambam in Hilchos Soita (3:17) where he tells us that when the Soita 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 Soita 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 Soita 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 Soita (special drink) and that’s what I call magic water.
Is there any good news? Seemingly not yet. Says the Mishneh liMelech 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 Soita Water- it’s deadly! Stick to bottled and sealed water please.
Is the news all bad? Seemingly not and says the Mishne: “If she (the accused woman) has zechusim (merits), those zechusim will cause the Soita water to suspend its effect upon her. In other words: despite her guilt on this issue, other merits can save her life. Certain zechusim suspend the effect for one year, another for two, and yet another, for three years. And said Ben Azzai: a man is under the obligation to teach the heylige Toirah to his tuchter (daughter), so that if she ever has to drink the special Soita cocktail, she can do so confidently knowing that the merit of her learning suspends its effect. Gishmak mamish and yet another compelling reason for Toirah learning..
There is, however, one piece of more than givaldige news for the vilde veyber (wild wives) who cannot control their chazerrish behavior and it’s big- really big. Nu halt kup as this can be a life saver for the suspected Soitas, even the guilty ones. Says the Rambam mamish something moiredick (amazing): The magic Soita 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 about the husband who also had an affair of his own. Taka a relief to many women. And given this information, isn’t it safe to further assume that no woman ever died during the Soita trial? And I leave you with this. The Sanhedrin understood only too well the nature of both men and women and during their time. And mamish when the second Beis Hamikdash was still standing, seemingly so were many men, if you chap, and they cancelled the entire Mei Soita water ritual. Efsher we need to reestablish the Sanhedrin as they seemingly chapped human nature and worked with it.
A gitten Shabbis-
The Oisvorfer Ruv