Dedicated Leilui Nishmat Yitzchak Ben Bahia, Billy Mizrahi A’H by His Family
Parashat Nasso Gifts to the Kohen This week’s Parashat Nasso happens to be the longest parasha in the Torah, with 176 pesukim. Similarly, the Bavli tractate Baba Batra has 176 pages, and the 119th perek of Tehilim has 176 pesukim as well. The gematria for 176 is leolam—forever. This is a sign that the Torah is forever! The parasha is most notably about the laws of Sotah. Sotah is the service the kohen performed when a man brought his wife whom he suspected of being unfaithful, to find out if she is indeed guilty. This married woman supposedly went into seclusion with another man. She would be brought to the kohen, he would write the name of Hashem on parchment, and then he would dip the parchment in water, which the woman would drink. If the woman was guilty of having relations with the man, she died an excruciating death on the spot. If, however, she did not commit adultery, she would not suffer any ill effects and she would even be blessed with fertility. Before the laws of Sotah are discussed, the Torah says, “Everyone’s holy things shall belong to him; whatever a man gives to the kohen shall be his (5:10).” This passuk is speaking about the gifts the Jewish people were obligated to give the kohen. Then two pesukim later, it introduces the idea of the Sotah ritual. Rashi comments on the juxtaposition of these two topics by stating that if a man is so mean-spirited that he tries to avoid giving gifts to the kohen, ultimately, he will bring his wife to the kohen because he suspected she was unfaithful to him. Is that really much of an answer? What is Rashi trying to say? Rabbi Pinchas Winston delved further into Rashi’s answer. The reason someone might deny giving the kohen, or in today’s case a poor person, his tithe, is because he attributes all of his financial success to himself and his own efforts. One who does not believe that Hashem is the source of his blessings will have trouble giving tzedakah. He thinks I did all the hard work, I’m not giving my money away, instead of this is not my money, but a gift from Hashem, and I am happy to share it with His children. The same attitude can develop in a husband towards his wife as well, who, the Talmud states, is the channel of blessing in the household (Baba Metzia 59b). It’s the woman who transforms a house into a home. It’s the mother that spends the most time with the children during the early years, while the father is often somewhere else, being “successful” either at work or in kollel. Hence, like the kohen, the work the wife performs is usually out of the eyes of her husband. The husband sees what he does and accomplishes, but unless he is a prophet, he will have difficulty knowing what his wife has done and achieved unless he takes the time to find out and appreciate it before it’s too late. The Torah may be teaching us here, through the juxtaposition of the laws of giving gifts to the kohen and the laws of the Sotah, that if one loses perspective of how Hashem is the source of one’s blessing, Rashi warns that one will also have difficulty recognizing the “invisible” efforts of his wife and deny her the respect and appreciation due to her. And when a husband ceases to show appreciation for his wife’s efforts and attributes his own success to himself only, what is his wife to do? Where is she to go to be appreciated and to have a sense of fulfillment? This, Rashi says, is a dangerous situation, one which can lead to the destruction of what should have been an eternal relationship. There is a hint to this in the passuk, “Ish ish ki tisteh ishto umaala bo maal — Any man whose wife shall go astray and commit treachery against him (5:12).” Why does the Torah repeat the word ish—man twice? We know that the Torah doesn’t waste a single letter, let alone an extra word! Rabbi Frand explains that this is because there tends to be a reason that the woman went into seclusion with another man. Maybe her husband harassed her to the point where he caused her great pain through verbal or physical abuse, or maybe, as we discussed, it was something more subtle where he didn’t appreciate her. There’s no question that what she did was very wrong, but the ish is not completely free of responsibility. Shalom Bayit, to What Degree? The main reason the ritual of Sotah is done is to alleviate a husband’s suspicions, to give him a sense of peace knowing his wife has remained faithful to him. As we mentioned, the kohen would write an oath on parchment as well as the name of Hashem, and he would submerge it in water, so the ink can flow freely and dissolve into the water. Hashem is willing to go so far as to erase His holy name for the sake of shalom bayit. We learn from this how important it is to have peace in the household, but to what degree? How far can one go to preserve the peace? There was once a man who called Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein with a question. He explained that his wife tends to do things with care, though very slowly, and when he gets back from kollel, he has to wait a long time for lunch. At times, the hunger is quite intense, and on this particular day, he was so hungry, that he went to a meat restaurant, simply unable to wait to eat. “Today, of all days, when I got home, my wife says to me, ‘Dear husband, I made a surprise for you,’ and on the table is a plate of cheese blintzes, which I love.” The man added he was not supposed to eat in a restaurant, knowing his wife was preparing him lunch, and on top of that, not eating the blintzes would lead to his wife being even more upset. He called Rav Zilberstein asking for a heter—halachic allowance to eat the dairy blintzes citing shalom bayit. The Rav responded, “For shalom bayit you could tell her that you ate meat at a Pidyon Haben, even though there was no Pidyon. However, permitting dairy after meat is out of the question. A small white lie for shalom bayit is okay, but transgressing other prohibitions is not acceptable.” Hashem may be willing to erase His name on behalf of shalom bayit, but we must be very careful not to take advantage and use “keeping the peace” as an excuse for serious transgressions. Don’t Be Stupid! Rashi comments on “ki tisteh ishto — if his wife will go astray.” The word tisteh is related to the word shtuyot—stupidity. Rashi says, “Adulterers do not commit adultery until a spirit of foolishness enters them.” Just look at what is going on in today’s society, where so-called intelligent people — politicians, famous newscasters, and top show-business personalities — are literally throwing their careers and their reputations away for a fling. It’s not only limited to famous people; we see it with all types of people from every different background. They become temporarily senseless and are irrationally willing to destroy their entire life for fleeting pleasure. Is it really worth it? Warren Buffett said, “It takes sixty years to build a good reputation, and just one minute to destroy it.” There’s a man I know who had a family, a good business, and beautiful children. He made an unwise move that ultimately cost him his marriage, his children, his house, and his business. Was it all worth it? That’s why Rashi says infidelity stems from stupidity. On the other hand, there’s a famous story of a man in our community who, when he was a young man in the army, was put in a very tempting situation with a beautiful woman. He responded by immediately running for his life like Yosef Hatzaddik. This man later became a pillar of our community. He left a legacy through his children and grandchildren who are all going in the way of the Torah, many of whom have become rabbis or are married to prominent rabbis in our community! This is also why the woman is blessed with a baby boy if she remained faithful. If she withstood the temptation and her yetzer hara, she was rewarded with a legacy! Nazir Right after discussing the Sotah, this week’s parasha explains the laws of the Nazir. A Nazir is someone who commits himself to serve Hashem, someone who abstains from things like drinking alcohol and cutting his hair. This week’s haftarah is about Shimshon, who was a Nazir. The Rabbis derive from the Sotah and the Nazir that “One who sees a Sotah in her state of degradation should prohibit wine to himself by taking a Nazirite vow,” as is indicated in Sotah 2a. The reason for this is that the woman succumbed to her sensual passions and let her body overpower her mind. Her experience was proof that we as people are easy prey to temptation, so when the yetzer hara gets hold of us, even adultery can look like an acceptable option. The Torah is saying to us clearly, that if we see something that’s improper, it will most definitely affect us. We should take the disturbing experience as a sign to do something that will take us in the extreme opposite direction so that we don’t dare drift anywhere near what we had witnessed. We are all exposed to the Internet these days, and it has taken hold of so many, causing them at times to lose their families and sometimes even their lives. We must know as Orthodox Jews that the only thing that we should attach ourselves to is Torah — as we just celebrated the giving of the Torah from Hashem on Har Sinai on the special holiday of Shavuot! May we all know what’s due to the kohen or, in our days, the poor person, and not hold back from giving what is due to him, because Hashem is the source of our blessings. May we appreciate our wives and all that they do for us and our homes. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Amram Sananes, written by Jack Rahmey
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