This week’s Sedra contains the Parsha of Sota. The term ‘Sota’ refers to a married woman who secludes herself with another man despite her husband’s warning not to do so. The seclusion in question may involve being intimate with the other man, and her husband, in bringing the charge, indeed suspects her of having committed adultery. All that is known for a fact, however, is that she was alone with that other man long enough for adultery to have occurred. It is also possible that the woman in question did not commit any act beyond being alone with the other man. Since what transpired cannot be proven either way, the Torah provides us with a litmus test. The Torah prescribes that a particular potion be prepared and given to the woman to drink. One of two things would then happen: 1) if she was guilty then she would die soon after drinking the potion a terrible death, or 2) if she wasn’t guilty of adultery, she would conceive from her husband and they would have beautiful and special children from that conception.
It is interesting (and many of the classical Darshonim discuss this point) that if she is “innocent” she is seemingly rewarded – one cannot forget that no matter how innocent she might be, she did behave inappropriately by secluding herself with another man even after being warned. This being the case, it would seem that she is nonetheless deserving of some sort of punishment – why is she being rewarded?
The Rambam, towards the end of Hilchos Sota, says that since nowadays we do not have the Torah’s solution for the Sota one should be careful not to reproach one’s wife in a manner that would render her Halachically a Sota. He then states that a husband should nonetheless still warn his wife not to seclude herself with other men. The Rambam maintains that it is important to do so even if she has never secluded herself with another man.
This Rambam is perplexing: if one’s wife has never acted even slightly inappropriately why is it a good idea to warn one’s wife not to?
The Chazon Ish in his published letters writes that perhaps the most important element in Shalom Bayis is for the husband to show the wife that he values her.
The truth is that this is a basic secret to having good relationship with anyone. When a husband explains to his wife that it is important for her not to seclude herself with another man, or that she shouldn’t allow any personal relationship with an unrelated man to form he is basically transmitting to his wife that he values their intimate relationship. The husband is telling the wife ‘I love you so much and I love our relationship so much that I don’t want anything ever to come between us’.
Often people feel that giving such a warning to a spouse is tantamount to conveying a certain level of distrust, but the Rambam is indicating that quite the opposite is true. The Rambam is telling us that we are showing esteem and cherishing our spouse by communicating that our relationship is important.
Perhaps this is the lesson the Torah is teaching us by the “innocent” Sota being rewarded. While it may be unfair to reward her, the Torah is telling us that the husband’s act of emphasizing the importance of one’s marriage is not detrimental, but is rather the secret to preserving and creating the best marriage.
Nowadays we are exposed to an outside world that defies so often this principle of the exclusive intimacy of marriage. It is thus our duty to strengthen its importance.
A very warm Good Shabbos, Rabbi Y. Dov Krakowski