Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) & Sotah

Hi All,

A couple of weeks ago I said we'd be doing posts reflecting on the weekly Parashah. Alas we've got a bit sidetracked, so a few have been missed (well 2, 3 if you include this weeks as well!). Don't worry, we fully intend to keep these D'var Torahs going. So briefly, here is one about Naso (Numbers 4: 21-7:89), which was for the week ending 30th May 2014: 

What leaps out to me for this reading is the idea  of the Sotah (unfaithful or 'wayward'  wife) in Numbers 5, 11 to 31, which is a 'trial by ordeal' and to modern eyes can seem as primitive & barbaric  as the idea of drowning witches to see if they were witches; except in this case the trial was to ascertain suspected adultery. Furthermore this legislation is solely against women and not men or should it be said there is no mechanism for women to do the same against their husband, if he was suspected of adultery.  Whilst it is reassuring that, as the Talmud notes (there is an entire tractate  dedicated to this ritual, although the discussion lasts only  a couple of pages),  this practise was abolished in Judaism over 2,000 years ago and in any case would be unenforceable, like much Biblical legislation, due to the lack of a Temple and Sanhedrin , is there any reason for G-d to have put this into the Torah and what is the importance for it today? 

We can never fully know the mind of G-d, but clearly one of the themes that Numbers deals with is trust. Specifically the lack of it; both at the macro and micro level. Israel doesn't trust G-d. That's the macro. Among Israel people don't trust each other, indeed later on even Aaron and Miriam will turn against Moses, because they don't trust him and don't trust G-d; in Numbers 11 and then 16 to 17 there are accounts of similar jealousies, rivalries and claims of others to speak on behalf of G-d.  You will note that in all of these examples the jealous, distrusting parties are wrong .Within this theme then, perhaps, is a subtle criticism of the jealous husband, namely that if he is prepared to put his wife through such a bizarre ( & humiliating ritual), then that is a poor reflection on him and his lack of trust. Perhaps this connects to this overall theme of Numbers, namely that in any relationship, trust is the key and we need to be more trusting. Equally perhaps Israel should have been more trusting  of & therefore more faithful to  G-d.

As we should be today. 

Indeed in  Sotah, (49a and 49b)  the phrase (repeated 3 times) is used :

In whom can we trust? In our Father in Heaven!



  1. Hi Hannah,

    Wondered how you'd managed to comment on this passage. A good effort. I'm glad you tackled the Sotah. As I said when we discussed it, I think it was barbaric and never get why such stuff got put into the Bible. I like the way you managed to relate this to the overall theme of trust. How do we all trust one another better? Sometimes not being trusting comes out of fear- like you were fearful of coming out or telling us all you had a girlfriend, because you were afraid of what we'd all say (even though you never needed to be afraid). We're funny human beings aren't we ?

  2. Dominique Vasilkovsky12 June 2014 at 12:56

    Thanks for this; just what a commuter needs in terms of length! Not that I still get why we needed to have this ritual in the first place. I'm glad it isn't something we do nowadays & I like the idea of it being an allegory for the theme of Numbers. I hadn't thought about it like that before and just saw it as sexist crap.

  3. Hi Auntie Hannah,

    "In whom can we trust? In our Father in Heaven!"

    Cool and so right!

  4. Thanks Natasha, always like your inspirational support!

  5. Hi Dominique,

    Yeah, I try to keep my posts at a certain length as I'm aware that in today's society people like stuff in bite sized chunks. That's not to offend anyone. I'm glad you got something out of this.

  6. Hi Rach,

    Good points and the last sentence hit home. Funnily enough I was thinking about that when I was writing on this issue of trust.As you say people can be not trusting, even if they have good reasons and motivations.

  7. Good read Hannah. As Dominique says, just long enough to read and have a think about, without it being too long. Keep up the good work!


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