Weekly Parsha Review Laced with Humor and Sarcasm from The Oisvorfer Ruv

Nosi 2015 – Marriage, Love & Broken Trust

1stRaboyseyee and ladies:

Marriage, love and broken trust

Though parshas Nosi and its 176 pisukim, is easily the longest in the gantze (entire) heylige Toirah and contains several very interesting subjects, yearly as this parsha approaches, a few  will ask that we again cover the very hot and controversial  topic of the Soita,  the suspected wayward or unfaithful wife. We remain fascinated that the soita test as described in the heylige Toirah, though in our times extinct, was ever sanctioned and it’s a subject that continues to amaze.  The Oisvorfer has previously covered the uncovered soita on more than one occasion and avada you should feel free to check out the archives at www.oisvorfer.com for the scintillating details.

Not just is the parsha long but even longer is the Medrish Rabbah on Sefer Bamidbar which, in the edition the Oisvorfer has at home,  dedicates 300 of its 600 pages  to a review of this week’s parsha.  Though Bamdbar has 10  parshas, half the pages in this medrish are on parshas Nosi which we will read this coming shabbis. The smorgasbord of topics which include the famous soita, impure discharges, birchas kohanim (priestly blessings) and the korbanos (sacrifices) and gifts the nisi’im brought for the inauguration of the mishkan, seemingly got them thinking. And when all said and done, there is more medrish on this parsha than on parshas Bereishis which only discusses such topics like creation.  Moreover, the soita chapter of Bamidbar Rabbah contains no fewer than 49 different midroshim on this hot topic and some say that 49 is indeed a symbolic number. Was this deliberate? Woman has always fascinated man! Interestingly, the heylige Gemora (tractate) Soita also has 49 pages. We have previously mentioned the 49 gates or levels of impurity, and their connection to the 49 days between Pesach and Shovuis that we just finished counting last week. Seemingly, the Yiddin had sunk down to level 49, whatever that means, and needed to climb their way back to a state of purity which they achieved on Shovuis.

Bikitzur (in short), back in the day, if a husband suspected that his wife may have chapped from another man (been sexually active), he could/would bring her to the koihen (priest), who after a few procedural prerequisites, would administer some form of magic water, a test that helped determine the innocence or guilt of the suspected wife. She drank the concoction and if taka guilty of chapping outside the marriage, among a few other things, her innards would explode, and she would die almost immediately. But, if innocent of the charges, she would be blessed with fertility and bear children. We assume these children would be fathered by the husband who schlepped his poor wife to the koihen, embarrassed her by putting her through the ritual and then, once found innocent, took her home, loved her and impregnated her. Shoin, which wife in today’s times and even back then, would agree to go back home to her husband, get passionate and have a child, ver veyst?

somewhereThis year we will just touch upon the soita, not literally you chazir, but will focus instead on the role of two men: the husband and a fellow by the name of Rebbe Yoichonon Ben Zakkai.  Who was he and why is he a critical player in the gantze soita story? We will read about him shortly ober lommer unfangin with the husband. Were his hands clean? Was he a good boy? Did he efsher drive his wife to her wayward behavior? Avada we can’t answer all those questions but we can focus on a few very interesting words that the heylige Toirah itself uses.

Ober ershtens, this mamish gishmake medirsh which tells us that  one who commits adultery violates each one of the Aseres Hadibrois (all Ten Commandments), mamish. Ober how can one act of fornication mamish break all Ten Commandments? The medrish knows. Shoin, not necessarily in the order given just a few days back, let’s count them. 1 and 2 are combined: by illegally chapping outside her marriage in secret, she implicitly denies the RBSO’s omniscience (I am the Lord) and  denies the zealous G-d (you shall have no other gods…); 3- causes her lover to take a false oath; 4- confutes the honor due to parents by bearing a mamzer (bastard) who won’t know who his real father is; 5- possibly causes murder as the adulterer is prepared to “kill or be killed” if caught in flagrente delicto (a Latin phrase meaning chapped in the act); 6- commits the act of adultery itself; 7- is guilty of theft, by giving another man that which rightly belongs to her husband alone. As an aside, illicit relations are metaphorically called stolen. And taka says the Novee (Proverbs 9:17) azoy: stolen waters are sweet; 8 –  she bears false witness; 9- the adulterer, by coveting his neighbor’s wife, comes to covet all that is his. And the 10th? She somehow violates the heylige shabbis. How could she possibly violate the shabbis if she chapped only during the week? Shoin, the medrish has an answer ober it’s too long; besides you should chap the point. Moreover, just because the medrish may not be entirely correct, this zicher does not give you license to violate the other 9, chazir that you are.

Says the heylige Toirah in the final posik of the entire soita chapter (Bamidbar 5:31), azoy: “And the man shall be clean of iniquity” and vus meynt dos (what do these words mean)? What sin is the Toirah speaking about? Throughout the entire soita chapter, the Toirah has been talking about the woman’s sin, and the soita procedure should the husband have gotten into a jealous rage and suspected her of wrongdoing. What does the man’s iniquity have to do with her sinning? And what difference does it make if the husband had clean or dirty hands? Taka an excellent kasha and one that did not escape the medirsh which considers a few possibilities. Shoin, as it turns out, this last posik about clean hands or lack of iniquity in the husband, will be revisited a bit later; stay tuned!

Efsher you recall that although the soita test is really more of an ordeal and not a very pleasant one, there is some good news – maybe even givaldig- for the test taker. The bitter water ordeal doesn’t test the wife of a philandering husband! Taka a sigh of relief to most women. Moreover, according to some, though of course not all, any man who has ever in his life engaged in unlawful intercourse, even long before his marriage, and avada after, is considered to have dirty hands and mistama also dirty elsewhere, if you chap, and when that was/is the case- and when wasn’t/isn’t it,  the magic waters became neutralized and the suspected wife, even if taka guilty of cheating on her husband, came away clean and blessed. Gishmak!

The heylige Toirah is telling us that purity is demanded of all. In other words: though the heylige Toirah put the wife through some humiliation and more, only the very pure and innocent man could demand and expect purity. The potion simply did not work if the man had also chapped anyplace, from anyone at any time when he shouldn’t have. And with those few words about man’s inequity, that last sentence to the entire chapter, “And the man shall be clean of iniquity,” the heylige Toirah is telling us that If the man is clean of iniquity, the woman shall bear her sin, but if the man is not clean of iniquity, the woman does not bear her iniquity, for the water does not test her. These words closed the loophole and were efsher intended to make the man think before dragging his eishes chayil for a water test.  Magic waters that rely on an act of Divine intervention, as does the soita drink, only work when both marriage partners are pure and holy. Did such partnerships ever exist?

Ober what happened in a case where the man was still chapping at home with his wife though he suspected her but did not yet decide, or, couldn’t get an appointment with the koihen because he, the koihen, was already booked with many other soita procedures all day and night for weeks? Ober, why was he taka still chapping from the very wife he suspected of cheating on him? Because he’s a man, case closed! Ober our sages will teach us that the soita story revolved around an insanely jealous husband that still loved his wife. He was still very attracted to her and in the mood for sure, ober was he allowed to be chapping from her while already suspecting that she was maybe epes chapping elsewhere? In plain English: was, or is the husband allowed to chap at home when he suspects but is not certain that his eishes chayil did, or, is still chapping elsewhere? Avada we know that the adulterous wife, if confirmed, is prohibited both to her husband and to her lover.  And according to the strict halocho (rules) – not that many follow-  if there really was an act of unfaithfulness, there is no option but divorce. But….if he did chap some intimacy, if you chap, would this maybe illegal chapping affect the outcome of the magic drink? Would his hands, or other parts of the husband, still be considered clean, if he himself was efsher having illicit relations because his own wife was maybe forbidding to him?

Though this topic is taka debated, it appears that men who typically decide these things, also decided that the husband can still enjoy the fruits at home though he suspected his wife of chapping elsewhere. In other words: until he is certain that she acted improperly, he can still chap at home. And his chapping will not be held against him. Ober taka why? Seemingly, though very suspicious, maybe out of jealousy, the man is not 100% certain, and until he is, his wife is still in play. There is no penalty or accountability for unwitting home-chapping. In other words: though we cannot classify this as an accidental encounter, or even many of them, and  though we have a concept elsewhere in Judaism that would allow one a free pass if he sinned  b’shoigeg (accidentally), he seemingly does not need the pass. Moreover, though intimacy with his wife was certainly intentional, he seemingly still gets a free pass. Veyst zich ois (it does appear) that our chacohim (sages) determined that men have needs and if they have to resort to chapping from their own wives whom they suspect of acting like whores, until they know with certainty, all is good –maybe better- and kosher. Shoin!

Let’s say hello to Reb Yochonon ben Zakkai and learn a shtikel Jewish history. According to most, he was the youngest and most distinguished disciple of Hillel. He has been called the “father of wisdom and the father of generations (of scholars)” because he ensured the continuation of Jewish scholarship after Yirusholayim fell to the Romans  in 70 C.E.  According to tradition, ben Zakkai, as he was sometimes refereed to, was a pacifist living in Jerusalem in 68 C.E. when the city was under siege by General Vespasian. Jerusalem was controlled by the Zealots, people who would rather die than surrender to Rome (these are the same people who controlled Masada). Ben Zakkai urged surrender, but the Zealots would not hear of it, so ben Zakkai faked his own death and had his disciples smuggle him out of the city in a coffin. They carried the coffin to Vespasian’s tent, where ben Zakkai emerged from the coffin. He told Vespasian that he had had a vision (some would say, a shrewd political insight) that Vespasian would soon be emperor, and he asked Vespasian to set aside a place in Yavneh (a city near modern day Rechovot) where he could start a small school and study the heylige Toirah in peace. Vespasian promised that if the prophesy came true, he would grant ben Zakkai’s request. Shoin: Vespasian became Emperor within a year, and kept his word, allowing the school to be established after the war was over. Ben Zakkai established a new yeshiva in Yavneh which became the center of Jewish learning for centuries and replaced Yirusholayim as the seat of the Sanhedrin. Reb Yoichonon was quite the doer and in or around the year 50CE, according to many, he made yet another bold move. Says the Mishne,  it was he, that abolished, the soita procedure and ceremony! Indeed, the trial by ordeal of the suspected adulteress was eradicated from Jewish life nearly two thousand years ago. Ober why? And the short  answer is azoy: The number of male adulterers increased dramatically. The magic waters had no chance. Shoin, let’s learn more.

Just a few days ago we learned that Boaz, changed Toirah law and gave himself permission to convert and marry Rus the Moabite and this week, along comes Reb Yoichonon who changed another Toirah law? Is this allowed? What gave Reb Yoichonon grounds to abolish the soita procedure and was he on firm ground? Moreover, some say, he made this move while the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) was still standing, at a time when the mitzva was still operational. What’s taka pshat here? Nu, lommer lernin some Mishne (Soita 9:9) which tells us azoy: Rebbe Yoichonon was forced to abolish the soita ceremony. Why? Because Jewish men — not women — had begun to behave like the chazerishe Romans, abandoning Toirah values for public orgies and other lewd public activities. Think Caligula.

Still, we can ask azoy: Why and how could rebbe Yoichonon take it upon himself and be allowed to decide which of the  RBSO’s mitzvois are to be applied just because of prevailing shrekliche conditions? Is that all it takes to change the RBSO’s commands? What right did Rebbe Yoichonon have to abolish one of the 613 mitzvois? What right did Rebbe Yoichonon have to abolish one of the 613 mitzvois based on the prophecy (see below) of a 7th century B.C.E. minor prophet?

Ober the Mishna tells explicitly that Rebbe Yoichonon, who was the acknowledged rabbinic leader at the time of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash was mamish forced into action and that he abolished the rite “when (male) adulterers increased in number”.  We are taught that Rebbe Yoichonon based his abolition on the scriptural authority of  Hosea (4,14) wherein the Novee wrote azoy: “I shall not punish your daughters when they play the harlot, nor your brides when they commit adultery [for they {the men} themselves go aside with harlots, and sacrifice with {cult} prostitutes, and a people that does not understand shall come to ruin”. In plain English: since you (the men) pursue whoredom, the waters shall not test your wives. Therefore it says; “And that man shall be clean of iniquity, and that woman shall bear her iniquity.” And Rebbe  Yoichonon, based on the prophecy of Hoishaya (Hosea) taught that the bad behavior of men would cause the RBSO to refuse to judge the actions of women in cases where courts could not act without the testimony of witnesses. Seemingly all the witnesses were busy at orgies!

And said Rebbe Chanina of Sura azoy: since a man is forbidden to have relations with his wife if he suspects her of adultery, he may no longer suspect her, because the Trial by
Ordeal no longer exists to prove her innocent or guilty and he would remain forbidden to her forever. Another sage put it more bluntly. “It is forbidden to suspect one’s wife”.

And we close with this thought. It so happens that over the years, and for reasons that remain inexplicable, more than a few have stopped by to discuss their marriages and at times their marriage woes. Few are without issues. And this week, because we once again jumped into soita discussions, the Oisviorfer has decided to share some wisdom he has gleaned from the many he has spoken to on this topic. What can we taka take away from the now extinct soita laws? At least according to some, if not many, our sages never saw the law as applying to a woman who was mamish guilty. Instead, they preferred to apply it to a woman who may have been innocent, but for whom trust had broken down. Her husband, be it out of jealousy or because he knew something, lost trust in his wife. That happens daily as it does in reverse. In order for marriages to survive, trust needs to be reintroduced and rebuilt.

lastEfsher we can kler that the real purpose of the law was to rebuild trust between a husband and a wife. A marriage where trust has broken down is not a healthy marriage for either partner. It was the breakdown of trust between a husband and his wife that led to the appointment with the koihen who was seemingly a very busy man. When trust has broken down, it does not matter how much a couple loves one another. Love does not conquer all.  Suspicion and discomfort would prevent them from staying in the marriage, at least happily. And while fidelity is a fundamental ingredient of any marriage, and a philandering husband or unfaithful wife could destroy a marriage, broken trust may be worse and is rooted even deeper. Trust is the ability to open up to one’s partner, knowing that he or she will not hurt you. Trust means one forgives, moves on or past what’s been on his/her mind. Trust means feeling safe with one’s partner. And when that sense of safety disappears, when one fears that he or she will be hurt by the partner, the marriage is in deep trouble, maybe irreparable.

Says the medrish (Bamidbar Rabbah 9:36) so gishmak azoy: “For the sake of peace between husband and wife, God has ordered the divine Name be blotted out.”  If the RBSO allowed His name to be blotted out for the sake of trust rebuilding, shouldn’t people give trust a second chance? Efsher the soita story was told and the procedure enacted so that in the end, when the woman was cleared – either because she was taka innocent or because the man himself had unclean hands, that trust could be rebuilt. If the RBSO allowed His name to be blotted out during the ceremony so that it may facilitate trust rebuilding, efsher we can kler that trust rebuilding trumps love in any relationship. Something to think about.

A gittin shabbis

Yitz Grossman

The Oisvorfer Ruv

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