The Accused: Naso 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Has our society become more prone to accuse others of wrongdoing? If so, to what would you attribute this trend? How might we reverse such a trend?

One of the most challenging laws in the Torah involves the procedure involving a woman who has — or at least is suspected of — committing adultery:

The Pitch: “Speak to the Israelite people and say to them: If any man’s wife has gone astray and broken faith with him in that a 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 …” – Numbers 5:12-13

Swing #1: “The Torah sets down specific preconditions that entitle a suspicious husband to impose this ritual on his wife. The first is secrecy.” – Ellen Frankel, PhD, The Five Books of Miriam

Swing #2: “The text is often viewed as a compilation of two or more separate adultery laws. … The first two verses explicitly state that she has been unfaithful, but the next phrase attributes the husband’s charges to an unsubstantiated fit of jealousy.” – Rhonda Burnette-Bletsch, from Women in Scripture, Carol Meyers, ed.

Swing #3: “[What is the meaning] when the verse states ‘any man’s? [It serves] to include the wife of a deaf-mute, and the wife of a man with special needs, and the wife of an insane person, and [one] whose husband went overseas, and [one] whose [husband] was incarcerated in prison; [and it teaches] that the court issues a warning to [these women in order] to disqualify them from [receiving payment of] their marriage contract.” – BT Sotah 27a

Late-Inning Questions: Do the above comments seem to take into account the double standards faced by women in biblical society? How do we reconcile our modern desire for gender equality with ancient texts like this? Can Torah study remind us how far modern society has advanced?

On-Deck at TBT: In addition to tomorrow morning’s Shabbat service at the synagogue, a group of us will be at Camp Centerland in Getzville for a creative service and a Tot Shabbat program tomorrow from 10am-12 noon. We’d love to see you in the outdoors!

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of accusations of wrongdoing, Major League Baseball is trying to crack down on pitchers who scuff a baseball for their advantage. Given that such methods have existed, legally or not, since the beginning of baseball’s infancy, is this a quixotic quest?

Shabbat Shalom!