Our Parshah begins with the different roles of Kehas, Gershon, and Merari. It then goes into the Parsha of Sotah and Nazir and concludes with the קרבנות brought by the נשיאים during the חנוכת המשכן. The question is what do all these things have to do with each other?
Rashi brings the Gemara in סוטה ב. That says למה נסמכה פרשת נזיר לפרשת סוטה לומר לך שכל הרואה סוטה בקלקולה יזיר עצמו מן היין. The question is that איפבא מסתברא, that a person who witnessed crime and punishment, and saw how low and disgusting a person could become should not need to prohibit himself from wine and someone who did not witness a Sotah should need to make boundaries?
The Baal Shem Tov says that when you witness something negative in ruchniyus and you see it, it’s a reflection of something within you and therefore one must take action to correct it. One time, the Baal Shem Tov saw Chilul Shabbos and he understood that there must be something wrong within him in the area of Chilul Shabbos. He realized that he one time was משתמש with a Talmid Chacham and he connected it to Chilul Shabbos. Because in the Zohar it says that a Talmid Chacham is the Bechina of Shabbos that just like there is a Shabbos in space, the Mikdash, Shabbos in time, the seventh day of the week, there is also a Shabbos in nefashos which is the Talmid Chacham. To correct this, he traveled far away to the Pnei Yehoshua and he waited for an opportunity to serve him. When the Pnei Yehoshua was about to light his pipe, the Baal Shem Tov went ahead and lit it for him.
According to this we can understand that a הרואה סוטה בקלקולה needs to understand that there must be something wrong with him if he has seen this and therefore it should bring him to take something upon himself and therefore he is יזיר עצמו מן היין.
Another explanation as to why specifically the one who saw the Sotah requires special restriction is the following said by Reb Yerucham in Parshas Nitzavim. When it comes to exposure, a person has to create גדרים. Once a person is exposed, he becomes desensitized and callous and therefore even though he sees clearly that ramifications of such actions, he specifically must create boundaries for himself more than a person that was not exposed. Like it says in Parshas Nitzavim, that Hashem warns us against following after עבודה זרה which are described as שקוציהם and גלליהם. One would think that to stay away from such disgusting things does not require boundary and warning, but it is on the contrary that since there is exposure, we becomes desensitized and theretofore it is that person specifically that witnessed the lowliness who needs to set up the boundaries.
Another answer is from Reb Menachen M’Vitebsk in his sefer Pri HaAretz. He explains based on the idea חכמה מרובה ממעשיו that having more חכמה can sometimes be more detrimental. In order to harness the intellect and prevent it from leading to עבירה, a person must act and make boundaries. Chazal in Avos say a Mashel for this to a tree that has more branches than roots, all it takes is a simple wind to uproot the tree. The Branches are the Chachma and unless it has more roots, the מעשה, to ground it, then a simple wind will topple the tree. Having tremendous intellect and knowledge will do nothing, and on the contrary be dangerous, if we do not put it into action.
In the sefer אמונה ובטחון פרק יט which is מיוחס להרמב"ן on the Pasuk in Shir HaShirimאם תעירו ואם תעוררו את האהבה עד שתחפץ (ב,ז) explains that תעירו means to break, to say that the התעוררות a person can have, עד שתחפץ, until its put into a חפץ, it’s breakable. Only once the התעוררות is actualized and put into a חפץ, then it becomes unbreakable and is long lasting.
Similarly, the Noam Elimelech in Parshas Ki Seitzei on the Pasuk כי תבא בכרם רעך ואכלת ענבים כנפשך שבעך ואל כליך לא תתן (כג,כה) explains that כרם רעך is the כרם of the רבונו של עולם as the Pasuk in Mishlei says ריעך וריע אביך אל תעזוב (פרק כז) referring to הקב"ה. So a person can take as much as he wants and he can climb as high as he wants in terms of his hasagos but one condition is ואל כליך לא תתן that you can’t put your hasagos away because a person is only allowed to have such hasagos in Torah if he is ready now to take them on, but not if he is going to put them away for another day. The last answer is as follows. This lady did a מעשה בהמה and that’s why her korban is with שעורים which is מאכל בהמה. We see from the Sotah that a person could fall below sub-human. Therefore, if a person could become sub-human, than a person can also become super human. From seeing a Sotah, a person can recognize that there are no parameters to בחירה and if a person could sink to the level of a בהמה, than they could rise to super human levels of a Nazir who is נזר אלקיו על ראשו. He becomes on the level of a Kohen that he is אסור to be מטמא to the שבעה קרובים. Not only does he become on the level of a Kohen, but there is an indication from a Gemara in Nazir that he is on a higher level than the Kohen Gadol. There is an opinion in the Gemara that says if a Nazir and Kohen Gadol are deciding who should be מטמא למת מצוה, the Kohen Gadol should be מטמא. We see the super human levels a person can reach by becoming a Nazir.
This last answer gives an explanation to the idea that the Parshah seems to have many levels of hierarchy like the נשיאים, לויים etc. and one might think that stages of greatness are predetermined and set and he can’t do anything to affect them. But the Sotah and the Nazir prove this notion wrong and come to express the message that there are no parameters to בחירה and in as much as a person could fall below sub-human, he could rise above to the super human because it’s זה לעומת זה.
The הגהות רד"ל in the back of the Gemara in Chulin 11a asks the following question. The Gemara in Chulin is discussing from where we know the Halacha that we go בתר רוב. The Gemara attempts to bring a proof from the fact that מכה אביו ואמו מות יומת because maybe the people he is cursing aren’t his parents, to which the Gemara answers because רוב בעילות אחר הבעל, we can assume that they are his parents. The הגהות רד"ל asks that maybe the mother was a Sotah and before she drinks the water, she says אמן ואמן to the שבועה, one אמן that nothing happened with the accused man and אמן that nothing happened with any other man. If this would be the case, then we would know that this child is for sure from these parents and deserving of the death penalty if he curses them. Therefore there is no proof that we go בתר רוב in order to kill such a child.
A suggestion brought that really it could still be a proof because we still need to rely on this רוב in order for the Kohen who is giving her the drink to really be a Kohen otherwise, the water won’t have an effect. So the only way we know he really is a Kohen is because of רוב בעילות אחר הבעל.
But it could be it’s not a proof because maybe that Kohen who is providing the drink is a Kohen not because of the רוב but because his mother was a Sotah who drank and was proven innocent so maybe that’s how we know he is a Kohen. But eventually it will go back to the first Kohen which we will only know is a legitimate Kohen because of רוב so this explanation could be a correct proof.
Does the woman make a Brachah on the מי סוטה? The Pasuk refers to it as מי המרים. Rashi explains the reason it’s called bitter is because the water is going to make her life bitter but not because it actually tastes bitter.
However, there is a drashah that something bitter was put into the water.
The Gemara in the beginning of Keitzad Mvarchim says you don’t make a Brachah on something that is אזוקי מזיק. Therefore only if she knows she sinned and is going to die should she not make a Brachah because it will be מזיק her. But if she knows she is innocent, then she should make a Brachah because she knows nothing is going to happen to her. But that only works according to Rashi that it wasn’t really bitter, rather it just would make her life bitter. However, according to the drashah that something bitter was actually put inside the water, then she still wouldn’t make a Brachah because it’s not ראוי לשתיה.
In the Parshah that discusses גזל, the Pasuk says למעל מעל בה'. But by Sotah, the Pasuk says ומעלה בו מעל. The Torah is emphasizing what one might not think because a person might assume that זנות the dominant factor is really בין אדם למקום so the Pasuk emphasizes ומעלה בו to show that it’s even בין אדם לחבירו. But by theft, it’s the opposite that a person might think its all בין אדם לחבירו therefore the Pasuk specifically says למעל מעל בה' to show that it’s even בין אדם למקום.
The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim writes the whole process by a Sotah was necessary because the nature of a man is that he would never be able to calm down and let it go unless he knows for sure with absolute certainty that nothing happened with his wife.
The Rav added that nonetheless there are so many loopholes and exceptions that could cause the water not to check. Therefore one can learn two lessons out from this. One being that even if you can’t put all fears to rest, you should still try to deal with what you could deal with. Secondly, that if you really want to be suspicious, then nothing is ever going to help.
The Parshah describes all the details of which children of Levi carried what regarding the Mishkan and its keilim and all there various position and roles while they were in the Midbar, and how things were set up when they camped and traveled and everything was determined and perfectly calculated. But if one thinks about it, at this point, it was only a few days (11 days says Rashi in Bhaloscha) until they entered Eretz Yisrael and then there wouldn’t be a need for all the carrying and specific jobs of the sons of Levi. It was only because of the subsequent events that were to happen that caused the Jews to remain in the Midbar for another 40 years.
A lesson that could be learned is no matter what situation a person may be in, whether it be temporary or long term, he must set himself up with a set program, a routine, even if the plan is for it to change, in order to attain a level of ישוב הדעת-peace of mind. As we see in this Parshah that sometimes what we consider short-term actually becomes the long term and so it is in life and every moment counts, even if it’s short-term. It happens to be such a mindset can be beneficial because then if things don’t end up being temporary (like we initially thought) and turn permanent, you will be much better off on the inside because you reached a point of peace of mind and now you can deal accordingly with the new reality.