Friday, June 1, 2012

Dvar Torah for Parshas Nasso

I would like to thank my good friend, Lior Goldstein for filling in for me this week.  

I would like to thank Yosef Segal for the opportunity to contribute to his already amazing blog and to my chavrusa Jeffrey Mally for helping me come up with this Dvar Torah.

This week’s parsha, Parshas Nasso, deals with many exciting topics as it discusses Nazir, Sotah, the individual contributions of the Nesi'im to the Mishkan, as well as the story of Shimshon in the Haftorah. What I would like to focus on is the connection in this week’s parsha between a Nazir and a Sotah.

There are many life lessons that can be learned from the parshas of Sotah and Nazir but one I would like to highlight is the gemara in Sota (2A) which states "כל הרואה סוטה בקלקולה יזיר עצמו מן היין".” This translates as "anyone that sees a Sotah 'bekilkulah' should refrain from drinking wine." Rashi on the gemara defines "bekilkulah" as her public disgrace and embarrassment". What Rashi is referring to is the punishment of the Sotah as she is publicly undressed, her jewelry is removed, her hair is uncovered and she endures other humiliating punishments in front of the entire crowd in the Beis Hamikdash. The obvious question is that if you see this Sotah in her disgraceful state why does the gemara need to advise anyone who sees this to abstain from wine? Is the spectacle of seeing the Sotah disgraced not enough of a deterrent? Once you witness the woman’s embarrassment it is seemingly much less likely that you would ever commit such an act as you are well aware of the consequences.

The Benayahu writes three words that might offer an answer. He explains that anyone who sees the Sotah should refrain from drinking wine because it is "nogeah lo yoter", it concerns him more. Possibly the Benayahu is explaining that the gemara is trying to teach us an otherwise seemingly contradictory idea. For all the people seeing the Sotah in the Beis Hamikdash, it might have never even been a part of their reality. To them it might have seemed to be something so far-fetched that it was never a possibility. For example, when a child grows up with abusive parents, as much as they may hate their situation and their parents, statistics show that these kids are more likely to be abusive parents. The reason for that is because these children have already witnessed and experienced abusive behavior and now see that behavior as an option in dealing with situations. Kids who have not been exposed to it, however, don’t consider it an option at all. Just the same, once a person has been exposed to the Sotah, even if they witness the degrading consequences, it nonetheless becomes “nogeah lo yoter”, a part of their reality and is now more applicable to them.

The remaining question is that if this is true, why should we allow others to witness the disgrace of the Sotah? The reason why we allow them to see it in the first place is as a deterrent, so if according to the Benayahu it then becomes a part of their reality and is then more likely to occur, why would we allow people to come watch? Just the opposite, we should do it in private and avoid publicizing what occurred! In order to answer this question we must look at what the gemara advises us to refrain from. The gemara could have offered other ways to avoid ever committing this horrible act. So why then did the gemara choose wine? Possibly the gemara is teaching us that although the idea of Sotah entered your realm of possibility, the fact that you saw this woman humiliated still served more as a deterrent. On the other hand, drinking wine causes one to lose their inhibitions and it is at that time that those negative things that became a part of your reality are more likely to occur. In a sober state we can make rational decisions not to engage in negative behavior but these behaviors cannot be controlled when one is intoxicated. The gemara therefore warns that anyone who sees the Sotah "bekilkulah", "יזיר עצמו מן היין", should refrain from drinking wine. Once the behavior of the Sotah became a part of your reality, you must be extra careful to avoid wine so as to ensure that you are in control of your actions. 

Shabbat Shalom. 

Lior Goldstein lives in Boca Raton, Florida. He studied in Yeshivas Derech Etz Chaim in Jerusalem for two years and is currently studying in Lander College for Men in New York. He is a first time contributor to Ancient Ideas For the Modern Mind.  

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