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His Fault, Her Fault?

17/05/13 10:53:00


R Pesach Siegel

His Fault, Her fault?

Parshas Naso 5773

The isha sotah is a woman who acts in a suspicious manner. She is warned by her husband not to be found alone with another man. She flouts his warning. From that moment on she is under a pall of suspicion. She is forbidden to be with her husband. He must bring her to the kohen.

She has acted in an unfaithful manner. The question remains whether she committed the ultimate act of infidelity.

Undergoing a degrading process which culminates with the name of G-d being dissolved in water and given to her to drink, the truth finally emerges. If she has been falsely accused, the waters enter her and bring her blessing. If she is indeed guilty, the waters spell a curse for her. She dies in a disgraceful manner.

The parsha of sotah follows directly after that of the matnos kehuna, the gifts one must bring to the kohen. Rashi comments on the proximity between the two topics.  One who refrains from giving a kohen what is due to him, the Torah invokes an oath. Upon his life he will be required to come to the kohen. He will come in order to bring his wife.[1]


Why would the punishment of withholding matnos kehuna be bringing one’s wife to the kohen to determine her immorality?

Wouldn’t a financial punishment be more in order?

Isn’t the offender’s wife a ba’alas bechira?

How would his failure to give the kohen his due, affect his wife’s decision making process?

If the husband is the offender, it would make sense for him to have to come to the kohen for his own tumah, e.g., tzara’as.[2]


The MaHaral explains the connection between matnos kehuna and an isha sotah. We are commanded to provide material support for kohanim. Why should we be required to do so? Why should we take our hard earned sustenance and give it away?

We are not giving it away out of kindness or compassion.

The kohen is the one entrusted with forging the connection between heaven and earth. The temple service serves to connect our lowly, limited, dependant world with the blessed life force of heaven.

Shamayim and aretz are two parts of a whole, one that gives and one that receives. One is obsolete without the other. The kohen brings them together in harmony. Through his avoda they form a davar shalem (totality). He brings shalom between heaven and earth.[3]

Hashem’s generous giving is compared to the graciousness of a chosson to his kallah.[4] The Bais HaMikdash is likened to the bed chamber of a bride and a groom.[5]

We are not supporting the kohanim. They are sustaining us. In order for them to do so, they must be free of the constraints of this world. By giving them matnos kehuna we are enabling them to link us up to the source of our sustenance.


One who refrains from giving the kohen his matanos is under the false pretense that he earns his own livelihood. He sees no need to share his earnings with the kohen.

He receives bounty from G-d, yet attributes it solely to himself. He turns his face from the one who provides for him.

Such a person has no concept of what a relationship is. He takes and does not acknowledge. He is a selfish ingrate. He is an unfaithful bride to G-d.

This will automatically reflect on his human relationships. If he knows not how to bond with a significant “other” who completes him, how can he possibly have a wholesome relationship with his human spouse?

Such a person will find himself married but not connected. His marriage will consist of two separate entities sharing the same abode.

Under such circumstances it is natural for the neglected one to feel no responsibility towards the non-existent bond of matrimony.

This serves as a catalyst for disaster, and all the offending spouse’s warnings will fall upon deaf ears.

The husband will be forced to bring his wife to the kohen.

It is not just a punishment. It is a reality.

[1] Parshas Naso, perek 5, posuk 12

[2] MaHaral, Gur Aryeh

[3] Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Rabbah, perek 31

[4] Shir HaShirim, perek 1, posuk 8

[5] Alshich, Shir HaShirim, perek 1, posuk 4

Mon, September 21 2020 3 Tishrei 5781