When the accused Sotah woman is brought before the Kohen her husband brings a korban on behalf of his wife composed from coarse barley flour without the usual additions of oil and frankincense. Rashi explains why her meal-offering is different than the regular one. It is composed of coarse barley, not the normal fine flour for she acted coarsely. The flour is from barley which is animal feed and not from wheat the norm because she acted like an animal. It is missing the oil and spice which adds to its offering’s beauty because incense recalls the behavior of the Imahos and she failed to follow in their footsteps of tznius. She acted in the dark to conceal her aveirah and therefore her offering lacks the normal addition of oil which brings light.
Why did the Torah require a korban to chastise the Sotah’s wayward behavior which contains such detailed subliminal messages? Would it not have been more powerful and impactful for the woman and those around her to hear a live “fire and brimstone” mussar outcry heard directly from the Kohen describing passionately the same message of this symbolic korban, of how she acted like an animal with darkness and distanced herself from our Imahos?
This Torah ritual of Sotah teaches us a tremendous lesson as to what is the ultimate method of how to infuse an impactful message in order to cause lasting changes in one’s behavior. As the Rabbeinu Yonah writes in Shaarei Teshuvah that Hillel would say אין אני לי מי לי אם If Man does not arouse himself from within by utilizing his inner resources, what will it help if he hears mussar from someone else. The rebuke enters his heart on that one day and by the next day, the yetzer hara has already removed it.
“כסף נבחר לשון צדיק לב רשעים כמעט” (משלי י כ) פירוש מוסר הצדיק זך בלי סיג ולשונו נבחר אבל לב הרשעים השומעים מוסרו רגע אחד הוא אכן צריך האדם בשמעו המוסר, לעורר נפשו ולשים הדברים אל לבו ולחשוב בהם תמיד ועליהם יוסיף לקח ומלבו יוציא מילין ויתבודד בחדרי רוחו ולא יסמוך על תוכחת המוכיח לבדו.
The Rabbeinu Yonah writes that even if the tzaddik who delivers mussar in an eloquent, charismatic, and passionate manner, the heart of the wicked still holds on to his inspirational message כמעט, for only a short amount of time. Therefore when a person hears mussar he must arouse his nefesh and place the message on his heart, ponder upon it always, make one’s own additions of insight, seclude himself in the chambers of his spirit, and don’t rely on the mere chastisement of the rebuke alone.
אם אין אני לי מי לי is the gematriah of כרגע in the passuk ואכלה אותם כרגע (Bamidbar 17,10). One must become adept in the birthing process that is a product of spiritual incubation. Just like a bird must incubate the egg and nurture its development in order for a chick to hatch, so too one must incubate his new inspiration in order for it to cause a new spiritual birth within himself.
The Torah demands from the Sotah to draw upon her כבוד, her internal resources, to enable her to realize her wayward behavior by interpreting the subliminal messages that lie in her Korban. For only then the imperative to correct her decadent conduct will become internalized.
The use of one’s inner resources and processing to bring about a change in behavior activates the kovid of a person. Dovid Hamelech says (Tehillim 57,9) עורה כבודי my spirit should awaken. The neshama is called kovod because it is the honor of the body (Metzudos). Hearing a passionate shmuz is an outside influence which will primarily affect the body and therefore will not be lasting. However, hearing that same shmuz that one gives to himself because it emanates from one’s Inner self recognition of the neshama, carries more weight and effect. This can be seen from the two words כבוד (honor) and כבד (heavy) which share the same root.
A similar concept can be gleaned from the Nazir which is also in this week’s parsha. The Ibn Ezra says on the words אדם כי יפליא לנדור נדר להזיר. If an individual makes a vow to become a Nazir the Torah describes him as a פלא a wonder. When the whole world drinks wine and follows after their lusts, there exists an individual who voluntarily separates himself from the herd conformity thereby becoming a living wonder, a kadosh, and in some respects equal to the level of a Kohen Gadol. This Nazir is not duplicating a Rebbe or Tzaddik, or what’s in style. Nor did he hear an inspirational derasha. He was self-inspired and his inner kovid led him to this resolve of Nezirus. His פלא title came about from a source that is מופלא hidden, his neshama.
The ultimate Nazir is described in Nedarim 9b. Rabbe Shimon praised the Nazir who took upon himself the vow of Nezirus because of a personal episode he related to him. One day when he was taking care of the sheep he saw the beautiful image of his hair reflected in the water and he felt that his yetzer hara was out to destroy him. “I said to myself you Rasha why are you haughty in a world that is not yours. Your body will eventually be full of worms. I then vowed to become a Nazir and shave off my hair to Hashem after the termination of my Nezirus as prescribed by the Torah.
This individual took upon himself Nazir only because he inspired himself without any outside coercion or directives. That is why the Torah writes that when the Nazir finishes his Neziros יביא אותו פתח אוהל מועד he should bring himself to the Ohel Moed. The Seforno writes why didn’t the Torah just write simply יבוא פתח אוהל מועד he should come, and not he should bring himself? He answers normally it is expected for someone to accompany the Nazir to the Kohen just as we find by the Metzorah that he is escorted when he goes to the Kohen to be cleansed from his tzaraas and by the Sotah who is brought by her husband to the Kohen. Presumably, the escort is someone who is more worthy than the Metzorah על ידי נכבד ממנו. But by the Nazir who can you find that would be worthier than the Nazir who successfully completed a voluntary period of sanctification. No one! Therefore the Torah says he should bring himself אין נכבד ממנו שיביאהו. No one is more honorable than the one who arouses himself to become inspired a”k. He is on the highest level of kovod because his vow to Nezirus and his constant stamina to overcome temptation for a period of time came about through his kovod his neshama decision.
A third example in the parsha of a kovod based commitment concerns the korbanos of the Neseeim. The Torah goes into lengthy detail the duplication of the twelve offerings with all the identical components. This is to let us know that each one used his own resources and irrespective of the other eleven Nesseim, he unknowingly chose to bring the exact korban. The external details were the same however the intentions and kavanos of each Nasi was unique. To put it in the words of the Ramban the Torah’s lengthy repetition of all identical Korbanos was because Hashem gives kovod to those who honor Him as the passuk says (Shmuel 1,2,30) that כי מכבדי אכבד a”k. The Kovod that they gave to Hashem was that their decision to bring korbanos emanated from accessing their כבוד the inner resources of neshama and therefore Hashem reciprocated with His inner kovod which are the letters of the Torah קב”ה ואורייתא חד הוא.
We see from all of the three above, from סוטה נזיר ונשיאים that they all share the quality of kovod which manifests the utilization of one’s inner sources and sensitivities without relying on outside help. Even if one was inspired from an outside source, nevertheless, one must take that inspiration and incubate it for the purpose of inspiring himself and spiritual growth.
The Shabbos is a time of self-inspiration because we are given a neshemah yesairah augmenting our accessibility to a deeper inner relationship with Hashem. Shabbos is a day of Kovod Hashem as we say in Birkas Shmah ביום השביעי נתעלה וישב על כסא כבודו. What does it mean that on Shabbos Hashem sits on the כסא הכבוד? According to our explanation above it means that Shabbos manifests a unique kedusha in the world which allows one to see everything in the creation as a vehicle of Kovod Hashem. The Zohar writes that the perek Tehillim 19 השמים מספרים כבוד אל , which is the first extra perek added to Pesukai D’zimra on Shabbos, is referring to Shabbos. That on Shabbos we reframe the same creation that we saw the entire week and now we see it as השמים מספרים that the heavens illuminate with the כבוד אל. During the week Hashem sits on כסא מלכותו as we say in the Shira of the sixth day ה’ מלך נכון כסאך מאז and ה’ בשמים הכין כסאו ומלכותו בכל משלה. This Throne of Hashem’s Kingship brings to us the availability to see Hashem through the lens of His goodness, chesed, and awesomeness. In contrast, on Shabbos we see Hashem as Himself which is related to the Kisay Hakavod (see Ben Melech Shabbos 72-75).
We can understand this concept of כסא הכבוד with our previous interpretation of Kovid found in these three parshiyos of סוטה נזיר נשיאים. Kovod means the independent arousal of one’s inner self without any support from outside influences. On Shabbos Hashem makes accessible for Am Yisrael to realize that He alone is the source of all kovod in the creation מלא כל הארץ כבודו. Sitting of the Kisayh Hakavod on Shabbos conveys that Hashem Himself without any other forces or support created and recreates the entire universe from nothingness, and sustains it constantly.
It is incredible that the gematriah of these three parshiyos of סוטה נזיר נשיאים is ביום שבת. On Shabbos we are enabled to attain such recognition from our double dose of neshama without the external influences that we receive during the week.
Covid 19. Why is it that the medical, technological, and scientific world combined, continue to know very little about this virus that has brought havoc to every continent? Do you think that we have already exhausted all the interpretations and allusions that are contained in the name of this horrendous plague? I don’t. As long as it still is around, we as Klal Yisrael, have not yet achieved the internalization that Hashem desires from us. For sure, one basic realization that Hashem wants from Man is to recognize that he needs Hashem for everything. Or in the terms used in this mamar, it is incumbent for us to recognize clearly that only Hashem sits on the Kisay Hakavod of the universe.
Here is my new interpretive take on Kovid 19. The number 19 alludes to the 19thperek of Tehillim השמים מספרים כבודאל. This perek tells us that the Kovid belongs to Hashem. The heavens and earth recognize and acknowledge this that Hashem is independent of everyone and everything, and it is the universe and Man who are the ones that are totally dependent upon Him. It is our mission to act and live daily with this absolute truth.
Just around the time that the restrictions of the Covid 19 were about to be relaxed, Hashem saw that we needed more incubation time to internalize its message. Hashem brought to the United States another plague of destruction and devastation. Riots, fear, looting, fires, destruction of properties, injuring of hundreds of police personnel, and rampant carnage are only a few facets of this present “human” plague. The similarity between Kovid 19 and the current insurrection of the country are revealing. One person being the carrier of the virus, crippled the entire world. One death of a person ignited this entire Wild West uprising. Some blame it on anarchists such as ANTIFA. It’s all irrelevant. We still remain helpless and dumbfounded not knowing how to stop both out of control plagues. This paralysis of both mind and body have been brought upon us in order to understand clearly that the events of this new crisis are orchestrated by no other but Hashem who is is hoping to drive home the Mishnah at the end of Sotah ואין אנו להושיען אלא על אבינו שבשמים that in the days before Moshiach we must come to the realization that we must reach the point of total surrendering of ourselves to our Master with no ifs, buts, and conditions. There is no other answer or hopeful solution. When we arrive at that level it is then that we will understand why parshas Naso coincides with these world-altering plagues.
על פי שנים עדים יקום דבר (Devarim 19,15). A matter is confirmed by two witnesses. Hashem has already sent us two testimonies and directives to align ourselves with the recognition of אין עוד מלבדו. The word דבר besides meaning matter also can be read as dever a plague. We are now in the midst of two plagues, one a virus and the other human. Once we come to the correct conclusion, then there is no more need for these testimonies, the tzaros will stop, and we will be finally ready to greet Moshiach and be מקבל שבת .
We would be amiss if we would not also connect the third spectacular current event of NASA sending two astronauts to the international space station, with this week’s Parshas of NASA (in Eretz Yisrael the launch into space was on Shabbos נשא). נשא את ראש בני גרשון Lift up the heads of גרשון. The name hints to גירושין, those people who divorced Hashem by not acknowledging Hashem’s constant Hashgacha in their lives and in the world at large. Is this just a coincidence that this event is happening together with the other two? I believe that it too is a calling from above to help us refocus our sights and thoughts towards Shamayim and Hashem instead of the focus on ourselves, materialism, and earthliness. Hashem is telling us that the refuah of all problems is to look upwards to Me Hashem. אתה רב להושיע Only Hashem can bring to the world the great salvation that is needed at this time. Fight Covid 19 with the Kovid of the 19thperek of Tehillim with the recognition of כבוד קל.
The Spaceshipx took 19 hours on its journey to reach the international space station. Do you actually believe that another 19 at this time is just another coincidence? I agree that its success was a big kovod to the United States. However, let us not forget that this kovid of 19 was also only made possible by the רבונו של עולם in order for us to keep the focus on shamayim at these trying times.