5000- A Reflection on Masechet Sotah
Updated: May 31
In the continuing cycle of Daf Yomi, on Sunday we will will hold a siyum for Masechet Sotah.
The initial focus and the title of this volume is on a woman who is suspected, warned and accused of committing adultery. After a complicated process, the suspected adulteress is ordered to drink a potion of water mixed with dust and the name of God written on a paper. If, after drinking, the woman is guilty it is said that her belly will drop and her thighs will sag. If she is innocent she can return to her husband. During the humiliating process the woman's head is uncovered and mussed. As always, the rabbis go into great detail about not only the ceremony, but they branch out into whether a woman can refuse to drink the waters (she can), what the penalties will be and from there onto many really interesting topics. I expected to be put off by this Masechet, but instead found it truly interesting.
Trust in a marriage is at the root of the the puzzling Sotah ritual and so I have written here about trust. A long standing relationship needs trust to hold it together. I'm including two poems in this post. The first is about a marriage, using the number 5000 as an organizing principal. The second is about suspicion and jealousy .
The Daf Yomi cycle continues onward, next with Masechet Gitin, which is about divorce.
Onward we go!
* One final note. I haven't posted anything on Parshat Bamidbar this week. I hope to have it out either later today or on Sunday. My apologies!
5000 cups of coffee
5000 opportunities to say I love you
5000 tiny moments
5000 missed opportunities
5000 nights of laying shoulder to shoulder on a warm bed
5000 sunrises together
5000 mundane conversations
5000 dreams of entwined futures
5000 moments behind closed doors
5000 tears streaming
5000 tossing and turnings
5000 fist poundings
5000 opening the doors
5000 small smiles
5000 opportunities for trust
5000 opportunities to keep clinging
5000 realizations that love is all we have
1 time never to drink bitter waters
suspicion crawls in under the door like a worm enters into the spaces between your fingernails suspicion an invisible poison not seen not heard but felt in each hair of your arms
each muscle twinge each spasm of anger in your belly
suspicion slips in and attaches itself like a tick that crawls on the ground and settles in sucking your blood one red drop at a time and then suspicion slowly spoils and begins to stink a smell so bad so strong
it won’t go away
it clings to you singes you strangles
suspicion causes your heart to shrivel your judgement to lapse your brain to swell and still it grows magnified until it is bigger than you it hovers
stronger than your happy home
stronger even than love
Suspicion stronger even than love stronger even than the fine dust ground into the water.
B'Midbar 12-24 Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: Any party whose wife has gone astray and broken faith with him, in that another man has had carnal relations with her unbeknown to her husband, and she keeps secret the fact that she has defiled herself without being forced, and there is no witness against her, but a fit of jealousy comes over him and he is wrought up about the wife who has defiled herself—or if a fit of jealousy comes over him and he is wrought up about his wife although she has not defiled herself— that party shall bring his wife to the priest. And he shall bring as an offering for her one-tenth of an ephah of barley flour. No oil shall be poured upon it and no frankincense shall be laid on it, for it is a meal offering of jealousy, a meal offering of remembrance which recalls wrongdoing. The priest shall bring her forward and have her stand before יהוה. The priest shall take sacral water in an earthen vessel and, taking some of the earth that is on the floor of the Tabernacle, the priest shall put it into the water. After he has made the woman stand before יהוה, the priest shall bare the woman’s head and place upon her hands the meal offering of remembrance, which is a meal offering of jealousy. And in the priest’s hands shall be the water of bitterness that induces the spell. The priest shall adjure the woman, saying to her, “If no other party has lain with you, if you have not gone astray in defilement while living in your husband’s household, be immune to harm from this water of bitterness that induces the spell. But if you have gone astray while living in your husband’s household and have defiled yourself, if any party other than your husband has had carnal relations with you”— here the priest shall administer the curse of adjuration to the woman, as the priest goes on to say to the woman—“may יהוה make you a curse and an imprecation among your people, as יהוה causes your thigh to sag and your belly to distend; may this water that induces the spell enter your body, causing the belly to distend and the thigh to sag.” And the woman shall say, “Amen, amen!” The priest shall put these curses down in writing and rub it off into the water of bitterness. He is to make the woman drink the water of bitterness that induces the spell, so that the spell-inducing water may enter into her to bring on bitterness.