Hanoch Shalev
Former Shaliach in Melbourne


Our Parasha, takes a chronological pause in describing the erecting of the Mishkan, to discuss a few issues apparently strongly related. Amongst these is parashat Sotah, the matter of a wayward woman.

Interestingly, three out of the four anciently believed, fundamental elements participate here helping one another to clarify this woman’s status and future. They are: water, earth and ruach (wind/spirit).

Ruach Ha’kin’a – the spirit of jealousy that passes over the husband – is the activator, initiating the whole scene. It could be a foul and hallucinating ruach of a jealous husband to start off with, one who was just looking for evidence or incidence to express his jealousy out in the open. But just the same, it could be an inevitable route he must take after nights over nights of trying to turn a blind eye to the situation he so much wanted to avoid.

Now that the ruach has completed its job and brought together the husband, the suspected wife and the cohen, in what seems (our days, just another) a well publicized sexual/betrayal affair, it is time to summon the water and earth to pitch in and help.

But these are not your common tap water and the playground’s earth. These are special participants. The earth is to be taken from the Mishkan’s floor and the water is sacred. In order to understand these special qualities let us follow a path lit by Ohr Hachaim. He explains that ever since creation, every part of existence yearns to return and come closer to Hashem, even the inanimate.

Both the water and the earth were distanced from Hashem during the six days of creation and yearn so to return. The water was split in to two – the higher waters close to the heavens and the lower waters close to the earth. The earth failed to grow the fruitful trees producing fruit as it had been commanded and therefore was cursed together with adam (mother and child together – Adam min ha’adama) later after the sin of Etz Ha’daat. It should be emphasized here that according to some commentaries, the sin of Etz Ha’daat, involving the snake’s venom rendering Chava impure (thus hinting Chava might have been herself the first wayward woman in history) is the original source of any distance between Hashem and his creation.

In our case, special water and earth had been chosen. These pariticipants have already acquired their closeness to Hashem. The earth is of the Mishkan’s floor and the water is sacred from the Mishkan’s kiyor, the copper laver. It is therefore understandable that they would be cross with this woman who causes them again to distance from Hashem. They are angry at her for repeating what her ancient mother brought upon and therefore revenge is inevitable. Hashem’s name erased off the scroll into the waters, gives the water and/or the earth the ability to carry out their revenge, in what seems a blood vengeance (geulat dam) of the inanimate.

Ohr Hachaim teaches us how the Sotah has aroused, in her waywardness playing with fire of passion and jealousy, the fundamental elements of creation, confusing the boundaries and frameworks of family, society and nature and thus raising the question of her future worthiness to contribute to society and history baring children.

May we all merit true closeness to Hashem and his healthy laws and frameworks. Water and earth, man and nature and society.

Shabbat Shalom