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Parashat Naso: Learning From Our Forebears

The Torah in Parashat Naso outlines the procedure to be followed in the unfortunate case of a Sota – a woman whose husband suspects her of infidelity, and was seen going into seclusion with the man in question. The wife must be brought to the Bet Ha’mikdash, where she drinks special water, which would cause her to die if she was guilty of adultery. If she survived, this would prove her innocence, thus allowing her and her husband to remain together.

The Torah (5:17) specifies that the water taken for this purpose was "Mayim Kedoshim" ("sacred water"), which the Sages understood to mean that the water was drawn from the Kiyor – the faucet in the Temple courtyard. This is the faucet where the Kohanim would wash before serving in the Bet Ha’mikdash.

The Midrash explains the significance of taking water for the Sota specifically from the Kiyor. The Kiyor was made from mirrors which were donated by the women of Beneh Yisrael. Moshe initially refused to accept these mirrors, which the women had used for the seemingly vain purpose of making them appear attractive. But G-d told Moshe that to the contrary – the women’s mirrors were the most cherished of all the materials donated for the Mishkan. The women used these mirrors in Egypt in order to entice their husbands to intimacy, thereby ensuring Beneh Yisrael’s continued growth. These mirrors were used not for sinful purposes, but for the holy purpose of strengthening the marital bond and building families. The Sota is shown these mirrors as a reminder of how her righteous forebears maintained their standards of purity despite living in the decadent society of ancient Egypt. The surrounding culture championed immorality, but these women courageously resisted this influence, and remained committed to upholding our nation’s standards of purity. The Sota is reprimanded for failing to do the same despite living in a more moral society.

Today, too, we live in a society that glorifies permissiveness, and shuns self-restraint and discipline. The surrounding culture encourages promiscuity and immodesty. We must draw strength and inspiration from our righteous ancestors in Egypt, who were submerged in an even more decadent society, and yet heroically adhered to proper standards of morality. Rather than fall prey to the permissiveness championed by the people around them, they worked to reinforce the marital bond and build strong, happy marriages and families, remaining loyal to each other and to G-d. We must follow their example, and look to them as a source of encouragement in confronting the difficult spiritual challenges that we face in today’s day and age.

It is no coincidence that the section which discusses the law of Sota appears in Parashat Naso, the longest Parasha in the Torah. The Rambam writes that the way to resist temptation is by engaging our minds in the study of Torah; it is when one’s mind is empty, and not being filled with Torah, that sinful passions set in. The section of Sota, which warns us to resist temptation, is presented in the longest Parasha to instruct that in order to avoid these kinds of spiritual pitfalls, we must devote time and energy to the study of Torah, engrossing our minds in its sacred teachings, whereby we help protect ourselves from sinful impulses.

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