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Naso - The Miraculous Punishment of a Suspected Woman (Sotah)

She receives a miraculous punishment if she was guilty, or a miraculous reward if she was wrongfully suspected

Naso - The Miraculous Punishment of a Suspected Woman

The L-rd spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: Should any man's wife go astray and deal treacherously with him… and a spirit of jealousy came upon him… The kohen shall then place her under oath, and say to the woman, ‘If no man has lain with you and you have not gone astray to become defiled [to another] in place of your husband, then [you will] be absolved through these bitter waters which cause the curse. But if you have gone astray [to another] instead of your husband… these curse bearing waters shall enter your innards, causing the belly to swell and the thigh to rupture.’ He shall then give... the woman to drink… and it shall be that, if she had been defiled and was unfaithful to her husband, the curse bearing waters shall enter her to become bitter, and her belly will swell, and her thigh will rupture. The woman will be a curse among her people. But if the woman had not become defiled and she is clean, she shall be exempt and bear seed.” (Numbers 5:11-28)

A husband who suspects his wife because she had secluded herself with another man, is experiencing painful, mixed feelings. He doesn’t know if his wife is faithful to him, or maybe she had sinned with another man. It is unnecessary to mention the difficult atmosphere that would prevail in such a home for years to come.

The Author of the Torah informs us that for the sake of their domestic harmony, He will perform a supernatural miracle which will provide a quick and just solution, and give a suitable answer to all possibilities: she will drink from clear spring waters in which was erased the writing of several verses from this section in the Torah on a parchment (which were written with a plant-based ink). If the woman had sinned, she will die an unnatural death on the spot, in a fixed process spelled out in advance (her belly will swell and her thigh will rupture). And if she hadn’t sinned, she won’t just be sent home in peace. She had just gone through a humiliating procedure! The Torah’s Author therefore promises her compensation. She will merit to give birth to a child — even if she had previously been a barren woman! (See Sota 26a).

It is interesting to note that the fulfillment of the Torah’s promise in this section was so famous and clearcut to the Jewish people in the early generations, that women even used it as a means to cure themselves from barrenness.

Here is a section from the prayer of one of the most famous barren women in history, Channah the wife of Elkana:

Channah said to the Holy One: Master of the universe, if You see fit (to answer my prayer), good. And if not, You will see (in that case I will take things in my hands and force You to give me a child). I will go and seclude myself from my husband Elkana. And since I secluded myself, they will make me drink the waters of the suspected woman. You won’t allow Your Torah to be false, so You will fulfill what it says, “she shall be exempt and shall bear seed.” (Brachot 31b)

Other than the omnipotent One Who created the universe from nothing, is there anyone who would dare make such a promise to millions of people?!