I don't know how many of you actually follow the Parshah, but if you do, this past one is for sure one of the most fascinating ones in the Torah. It's so rich with ideas that are unique to the way of thinking that the Torah fosters. You have the idea of the finalization of the census and the laws concerning the unique position of the Levities (how non politically correct- a member of tribe being put in a superior position from) the age of thirty days, to the laws of maintaining spiritual purity within our collective lives. The story of the sota (soon to be discussed), the nazir (ditto) and finally the repetition of the way the princes of the twelve tribes each brought the same offering.
The idea of living up to who you are is the pivot of the Parshah in many ways. G-d gives you the components of your core personality, your background, and your family. It is up to you to do something with it. The Levities were in many ways the ones who gave each of the very diverse tribes a collective identity. Their name, Levi, literally means "the one who accompanies" and was lived out by them in act after act that showed their intense loyalty to Hashem, and their commitment to never abandoning Him. This is intrinsic; for that reason as soon as a Levite is clearly a viable human, he is already a Levi. This isnt' the result of any sort of whim from the higher ups, it is G-d Himself telling them that this is their core. You are Jewish; You didn't necessarily make a choice to be one of the Tribe. IT's as much part of you as your mind or your heart. Nurturing this aspect of your identity requires a rather elusive quality called "purity". If I were to tell you that I am selling "pure" honey what I'd be saying is that it is just honey, with nothing added or removed. In the same sense, spiritually the word purity means undefiled by desire, ego, or any of the other traits that can hide your soul so completely that you barely can "see" it or feel it's presence. One of the ways in which this happens is narrated in the story of the Sota.
A couple is married. Let's call them Bill and Michelle. Bill notices that Michelle is spending an awful lot of time with Harry, and cautions her against secluding herself with him. At least two valid witnesses testify that Harry and Michelle were in total seclusion. Bill confronts Michelle, who denies that anything forbidden had taken place (we were playing chess, and I need absolute silence when thinking about the next play…). He doesn’t trust this explanation, and offers her a peaceful divorce. She refuses and maintains her claim of innocence. She is taken to Yerushalaim near the main entrance to the Bais HaMikdash. A screen is erected, and behind it the Kohanim uncover her hair (more on that soon), and if she still doesn’t' want to just accept a divorce, a Divine name is written on parchment, burned, and dissolved in water taken from the special laver (a fancy word for Big Basin) used in the Bais HaMikdash (more on that too). She is forced (if necessary) to drink it. If she was guilty both she and her lover would suffer a terrifying death in which their reproductive organs would swell and rupture causing their death. If she was innocent, she would be blessed by the Kohanim, and continue her marriage. The fate of the adulteress and her lover doesn't concern me as much as the blessing given to the "innocent" woman. The reason that it bothers me is that although she was innocent of adultery, she had defiled the very core of her marriage. Why does she deserve a blessing?
To answer that, let's go back to the laver (kiyor in Hebrew). It was copper, and made out of mirrors that the Jewish women made for themselves in Egypt. They believed profoundly in Hashem, and had faith in life itself being His gift. They knew that whatever they suffered, the end wasn't there yet; they wanted children who would potentially live to see the redemption. They would fashion the mirrors out of copper and polish them until they could see themselves. When their husbands returned from the brutal slavery that both they and their wives had to live with day after day, they would pretty themselves up, and awaken their husband's desire for them. All this after a day of slavery. The mirrors were so precious to Hashem, that He used them as the means of achieving purity in the Bais HaMikdash. The sota was living on opposite terms; she defiled her marriage. The reason she did (even if she didn't commit adultery) is attributed to a cause that is hinted at in the name used to describe her. The word sota has the same root as the word "shtus" which means nonsense or foolishness. The sages say that no one sins unless the spirit of folly enters them. They need to hear enough to deafen them to their souls longing for goodness and purity. In the ritual, one of the things done is uncovering her hair. In MIshneh Brurah, unlike his usual style, the Chofetz Chaim gives us insight into what a married woman's covering her hair says about her, and her marriage. He quotes the Zohar in which several verses of Tehillim are explained. Here is the first one.
"Your wife is a fruitful vine in the corners of your house" Unlike other fruits, grapes can't be grafted with other fruits. In this sense, an ideal wife is dedicated only to her husband, and doesn't display her hair (which is the only part of the body that exists primarily for attraction and is both beautiful and sensual (t.h.)., to the market place of the world. If she does this she draws down all of the blessings from above and below. Her husband will be one of the significant people in his times.
It gives the marriage a dimension of purity that reflects the purity of the women in Egypt. It puts you in touch with your soul.
You aren't married
And Let' Say
You don't know
DON'T KNOW DON'T KNOW DON'T KNOW
Where your place of purity is.
It's inside you, in your speech and in your heart and in the way you identitfy yourself to the "shuk" of the world through the clothes you wear and the way you let your inner place remain your own.