Parashat Naso: When Sin is Glorified
The Torah in Parashat Naso outlines the procedure required in the case of a "Sota," a woman whose husband has reason to suspect her of infidelity. The husband would bring the wife to the Bet Ha’mikdash, where the Kohen would prepare special water for her to drink. If the woman was guilty of betraying her husband, then the water would kill her.
This section is followed by the laws of the Nazir – somebody who voluntarily accepts upon himself certain measures, including abstaining from wine. The Sages explain that the laws of Nazir are presented after the laws of Sota because a person who witnesses the spectacle of a Sota, and sees how her body is torn apart as a result of her sin, should take the Nazirite vow to abstain from wine. The woman’s illicit relationship, in all likelihood, began with some innocent socializing over some drinks, and thus the Nazir, who is frightened by the sight of the Sota, should abstain from wine as a safeguard against this kind of sin.
The obvious question arises, why does such a person, of all people, need a safeguard against sin? He saw with his own eyes the dreadful consequences of sinful behavior. He is shaken to his core. Why should specifically he require the drastic measure of the Nazirite vow in order to avoid the lure of sin?
The answer, apparently, is that such a person is desensitized, to one degree or another, to the gravity of sin. Although he saw the woman being punished, he also saw that a woman committed adultery. When we see or hear of somebody who committed a sin, that act becomes less severe in our minds. In our perception, the act gains some level of acceptability. The awareness that the act has been committed brings it closer to the realm of normal, acceptable conduct, and therefore specifically one who sees the Sota must undertake special measures to distance himself from sin.
If this is true if one sees somebody being punished for sinful behavior, then this applies many times over when we see sin being glorified and celebrated. If sins are not only being committed, but are being championed as the best lifestyle to embrace, then certainly we need to work especially hard to protect ourselves, resist societal influences, and maintain our fealty to Torah.
In today’s day and age, unfortunately, society celebrates sinful lifestyles. Television programs and movies encourage unrestrained promiscuity, and consider anything else to be primitive and repressive. Living in modern society, we do not see the "Sota" being punished – we see the "Sota" being congratulated and admired. And our response must be "Yazir Asmo Min Ha’yayin" – not necessarily to abstain from wine, but to make a special effort and take special precautions to reinforce our commitment to Hashem’s laws. We need to be especially vigilant and resolute in recognizing the clear boundaries between acceptable and unacceptable behavior, and in committing ourselves to remaining faithful to G-d’s eternal Torah, despite the lifestyle embraced by the society around us.