Do not be influenced by the society around us, where there are no longer any rules. Instead,  hold true you your bible-based values and traditions.

This week’s Torah portion is “Nasso” (Numbers 4:21 – 7:89), and it is the longest portion in the Torah. In it, we read about what is to be done with a woman suspected of adultery, who is referred to as a “Sotah.”

To make a very long story (and procedure) short, the Torah says that a husband who suspects his wife of adultery must bring her to the Holy Temple where the Kohen, the priest, would make her drink a special potion. If she was guilty of adultery she and the adulterer wherever he happened to be at that time, would die a gruesome death.

Immediately following the episode of the Sotah, we read about the rules concerning the “Nazir,” a person who takes upon himself a vow of piety. One of the rules for becoming a Nazir is a ban on drinking wine.

The question is asked: Why does the section of the Nazir immediately follow the section of the Sotah? Is there a connection between the two episodes?

The answer is yes, very much so. One explanation for the juxtaposition of these two sections is that one who witnesses the death of a Sotah should take the Nazir vow and abstain from wine. This is based on the teaching that wine is often “the drink of sin.” Indeed, wine and alcohol have been known to lead to trouble from biblical times until now. An adulterous couple, too, may have begun their sinful behavior with one ‘innocent drink.’

But here’s a question on that answer:  A person who had the misfortune to witness the gruesome death of the adulteress woman would likely be the last person to sin with a married woman! Why should he be the one to become a Nazir in order to ensure that he doesn’t sin? By seeing the procedure, one would assume, he got the best vaccine against such behavior and would be less in need of any vows of piety.

A Lesson in Psychology

The response to this new question is a unique lesson in psychology. Unfortunately, people who find themselves in the presence of sin often become immune to the severity of the sin. For example, in this generation, when so many more children are disrespectful to parents, we’ve come to tolerate disrespect. We begin to think that violating commandment number 5 of 10, the commandment to “honor thy mother and father,” is not such a big deal. So, too, we see people who live “alternative lifestyles” commanding more and more respect and recognition in society, and then we are made to feel that there is something wrong with us if we choose not to accept it. We have also become desensitized to “sins” such as speeding on the road because we see it done so often.

This is why we encourage a person who was exposed to the world of adultery to take the Nazirite vow and abstain from wine. We are worried that when he sees that there are real people in this world performing these types of abominations, he could be tempted to try it himself. The Nazirite vow reminds him that the world has gone crazy.

This is the lesson for us. We have to hold strong to our bible-based values and Jewish traditions. We must always remain confident and inspired that our way is the right way. We live in a society where there are no longer any rules; everything goes. Do not be influenced by the society around us. Remember – it’s they who have gone crazy…not you!

By: Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel

For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.


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