Weekly Reading Insights: 



From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


"..The Eternal Blesses you, and keeps you.." [6:24]

By way of the Truth, [the mystic teachings of the Kabbalah], the meaning of this is because "the blessing" comes from on High [downward], and the meaning of shmirah ["keeping" - and He 'keeps' you] is that you should 'keep' it, like [the secret of] Remember [the Shabbat day] and 'Shamor' (Keep) the Shabbat-day. Furthermore, the Great Name will make His countenance that watches over you shine [upon you]. And so did the Rabbis say in the Sifre: "Rabbi Nathan says: [The Eternal makes His countenance shine upon you] This is a reference to the light of the Divine Presence, "And He is gracious to you", that you may find favor in His sight, similar to that which the Rabbis have said [that when G-d completed the creation of the world He said]: "My world! My world! Would that you will find favor in My sight all the time [as at this moment]!" Furthermore, the Eternal lifts up His countenance to the heavens above and gives you peace - all in your house. And so the Rabbis said in the Sifre: "[And He gave you peace.] Rabbi Nathan said: This is a reference to the peace of the kingdom of David." So shall they put My Great Name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them, for it is I that speaks, behold, here I am, and peace."


Rabbeinu Bachya

"..he must abstain from wine and alcoholic drink." [6:3]

A kabbalistic approach: in connection with the words ish ki yafli, I have already explained on Leviticus 21:10 what the High Priest represented. Here the Torah teaches that the Nazir is on a spiritually higher level even than the High Priest. The High Priest's dominating attitude (emanation) is that of chesed, whereas the predominant attribute of the Nazir is bina, which is ranked higher than chesed in the list of emanations. Seeing he is "crowned" with this attribute the Torah calls such a person Nazir, a reference to the nezer, crown, which is worn by the High Priest. This is the meaning of the words "the crown of his G-d is on his head" (verse 7). Because of all this "a razor shall not cross his head" (verse 5), "the growth of his hair on his head shall continue growing" (verse 5), "his head shall be sanctified" (verse 11). All of this is subsumed under the heading ki yafli, "a display of superior wisdom." Converting such wisdom into something concrete requires the attribute bina and this is described in the Torah by the words lindor neder. The part of the brain in which vows originate is the part where the attribute bina is located.



"If someone makes a vow of abstinence" [6:2]

The Torah has described degrees of sanctity among the Jewish people, such as the High Priest and the Levites, all of which were attained through birth. It would be easy for the ordinary Israelite to assume that he could not aspire to a higher degree of sanctity than what he had been born with. The Torah therefore describes that by making a vow and assuming additional obligations, every Jew can raise the level of his sanctity. In fact, he can attain a measure of sanctity comparable to that of the High Priest, in that he may not defile himself by participating in the burial rites of his closest relatives. Whereas the High Priest attains such sanctity only through appointment by others, i.e., the High Court selecting him, the Nazir can achieve this by his own efforts, independent of anyone else's input. To this end, the highest placed persons among the Israelites are urged to add to their sanctity by denying themselves items which are permitted per se.

The reason the Torah has not forbidden wine or alcohol, but, on the contrary, has arranged for many commandments to be performed by means of drinking wine, using it to sanctify the mitzvah, is to teach us the proper use of wine. The Torah, at the end of our passage, actually exhorts the erstwhile Nazirite to drink wine upon completion of the period of his vow (verse 20).
Objectively speaking, wine is a blessing, a successful grape harvest is a sign of G-d's blessing (Deut.7:13). However, the Torah addresses a person who wishes to counter the urge he has to indulge in drink to the point of drunkenness. This is the person whom the Torah describes as ish ki yafli, the man who wants to distinguish himself by denying himself pleasure inducing indulgences. Certainly, the Torah does not approve of people, who make a vow of abstinence because of anger, or to show off their self control. The reason the Talmud cited seeing a sotah woman in disgrace as the catalyst that prompted a person to make a vow of abstinence, is to show that only when a person's motivation is the avoidance of becoming involved in sin, infidelity etc. does the Torah approve, or even counsel temporary abstention from wine and alcoholic drink.


Ohr HaChayim

"…This man has to bring his wife to the priest…." [5:15]

The objective for the whole Sotah legislation is for the husband (priest) to examine his wife in a place where G-d resides.
I have already explained elsewhere that this place is called the "higher" earth, on account of G-d having His residence there. It is not included in the part of the earth which had been subjected to G-d's curse as a result of man's sin.

Also any of the waters in that area are not subject to "tears," i.e. have not been afflicted by said curse. This is why G-d commanded that "holy waters" be taken for this procedure. Waters which are found in the sacred precincts of the Temple are sacred by definition. This does not contradict the halachah that these waters be taken from the copper basin which serves the priests to wash their hands and feet.

The Torah also commanded the priest to use earth from the floor of the Holy Temple precisely because it is the closest to G-d's residence. The reason that this earth should not now be dug up is also because if it were already at hand it is closer to the site where G-d resides. The closer the earth is to the place where the Shechinah resides, the more its awareness of its proximity to its Creator. Earth from outside the precincts of the Temple would not be as aware of the nearness of G-d. The earth is better able to fulfill what the Creator demands of it once it has "tasted" the proximity of the Lawgiver.

The reason that G-d commanded for the earth to be added to the water and not vice versa is based on the waters having been created before the earth during the process of creation. When our sages decided that if the earth had been in the vessel before the water the whole procedure is null and void, they did not nullify the procedure in the event that both water and earth had been poured into the vessel simultaneously.
The reason is that such a procedure still resembles the order of creation when water and solid particles were thoroughly mixed up before G-d created the light. We do not find that earth is ever at the bottom of the source of springwater (mayim chaim) however.

Rabbi Shimon (Sotah 16) held that it does not matter whether the earth had been placed in the vessel first as long as the water is holy water. He obviously felt that this suffices for both the waters and the earth to be imbued with the appropriate awareness for both elements to perform the task G-d allocated to them as part for the whole procedure.

The Torah commanded to write the portion of the Sotah including the holy name of G-d where it appears in it and to allow the bitter waters to erase these holy names of G-d due to the nature of the water and the earth it contains.
The residue of the names of G-d provided the water with the power to produce the desired effect in the woman who drank this water.

The Torah also commanded for the meal-offering of the woman in question to consist primarily of barley, i.e. a reminder of the offering Cain had brought, who had offered something of inferior value. This inferior offering was also an indirect result of the sin committed by Adam and Eve.

This is what the Torah means when it speaks of mazkeret avon "a reminder of sin," i.e. the original sin. It was this original sin which had led to the weeping of the waters and the curse which rests on Earth.

When the Sotah drinks this mixture of water, earth and the residue of the holy name of G-d which dissolved in that water, the name of the meal-offering as "reminder of sin" is most appropriate is she has indeed been guilty of marital infidelity. It will recall also earlier sins.

When the waters become aware of this they will turn bitter reflecting on their own sorry fate, as we described earlier. These waters will then take revenge on this woman who has caused them all these tears and they will ruin the woman's intestines. All of this will be accomplished by the power of the holy name of G-d which has been dissolved in these waters.



Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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