Parshas Nasso contains some of the highest and lowest points of spiritual episodes in Jewish life. On one hand, it contains the famous “Parshas Hanesi’im”, the account of the gifts each Nasi brought in celebration of the opening of the Mishkan. It also contains the story of the Sotah, a woman suspected of adultery, with strong but circumstantial evidence behind the accusation. There are several tragic elements to this story, the obvious one being that a Jewish woman could even be suspected of such an act and the discord in her relationship that led to this possibility. From a different perspective, the fact that we erase Hashem’s name in the water she drinks from (and is ‘judged’ by) is also something we do not take lightly. In fact, the administering Kohen reminds her again and again of the ramifications of doing so, only in order to avoid erasing the Name.
The Ramban points out a unique element in the case of Sotah. The basic process of the Sotah drinking is simple, she drinks the water containing the pesukim detailing the laws of Sotah erased in it. If she is guilty, the second the water touches her lips, her body immediately begins to warp and deform until she passes away very shortly after. Furthermore, Chazal learn out from the pesukim that the guilty man, even though he isn’t in the Beis Hamikdash or required to drink from the water, will suffer the same fate at the same exact time as the woman!
While there are many instances where the Torah requires us to live based on the principle that Hashem will provide whatever we need, never are we promised there would be a supernatural occurrence derived directly from a physical action. In fact, says the Ramban, this is the only time in the entire Torah where a law is upheld based on an open miracle! This is in accordance with what Chazal teach us about Hashem and Creation; He set up a natural order for the word to run and He prefers for it to operate in that fashion. It’s rare that an open miracle occurs, which is why we make a big deal in every instance they do. And open miracles are always to reward, punish, or make a statement; never just to uphold the laws of the Torah. That is the responsibility of Beis Din. So how come Hashem made this one exception by Sotah?
He explains that our principle still holds; the primary reason for the miracle of the Sotah water was not to punish, but for effect. In order to impress upon the nation the degree of severity with which He treats acts of lewdness, Hashem was willing to change the laws of nature and create a unique punishment for this circumstance. In order to maintain the holy stature of Bnei Yisrael, Hashem will change the entire world.
However, this concept only existed as long as Bnei Yisrael held themselves to a higher standard. The Sotah water was only used if we weren’t sure of the woman’s guilt. If it was proven she (or the man) was guilty, the Sotah water was not used. Similarly, Chazal teach us that when the episodes of Sotah became more frequent, they stopped using the Sotah water. When the level of holiness is clearly not there, then the miracle of the water is not only not necessary, but not applicable. With average spiritual levels comes the natural order of the world.
While this concept is illustrated by Sotah, the idea is true in all aspects of life. As long as we hold ourselves to a higher spiritual standard, Hashem will continue to design the world around that standard; which means less nature and more open exposure of Hashem. Hashem can operate the world any way He wants, He chose to design nature as it is because it made the most sense for the world. However, the more we expose ourselves to Him, the more He can expose of Himself to us. Therefore, the more breakoffs from nature, the more Hashem is showing Himself in this world. As we reach higher levels of kedushah, we will begin to see Hashem more clearly, not only in a case of Sotah, but in all corners of reality.
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