The Sotah, a
woman suspected of adultery, is a topic in this week's Parsha.
A Sotah must either confess her guilt, or suffer public
humiliation. The Sotah, upon denying her guilt, would be
forced to drink waters, in which G-d's name was placed. If she were
truly guilty, her stomach would expand and burst.
(Nazarite) is discussed immediately following Sotah. Nazir
is a voluntary status that one pursues to attain greater levels
of holiness. A Nazir is forbidden to drink wine or eat
grapes, cut his hair, or become defiled by a human corpse.
Rashi, quoting the Talmud,
"What is the connection
between these two topics?"
(A connection exists when the Torah
places two topics sequentially.)
The Talmud answers
that one who sees the humiliation of the Sotah
should abstain from wine, etc., and become a Nazir.
If one sees a Sotah, a woman who fell victim to her desires,
it may influence him to sin as well. In order to protect himself
against the type of evil inclination that corrupted the Sotah,
he should become a Nazir.
Why would witnessing the humiliation
of a Sotah influence one to sin?
that the exact opposite should occur! Onlookers should be fearful
when witnessing the consequences of the averah (the sin).
To answer this
question, we must first examine a difficult passage Sefer D'varim
(12,17) in prohibiting the eating of maaser sheni (the
second tithe) outside Jerusalem. The verse uses the curious terminology
"you are not able to eat." It would appear to make more
sense had the Torah said "You should not eat forbidden
food." One is certainly able to eat forbidden food;
it is among his physical capabilities.
Rosh Yeshiva Reb Eliyahu Meir Bloch zt"l
explains that the Torah here teaches us that sin should be viewed
as something unimaginable and far removed from the realm of possibility.
To illustrate the point, consider this example: A man on a roof
who is ordered to jump is likely to respond "I can't."
Of course, he is physically able, but in his mind it is utterly
unimaginable and psychologically impossible.
Based on this explanation,
we can now proceed to our original question. When one witnesses
the humiliation of the Sotah, he realizes that the
averah he once thought to be unimaginable is now a distinct
possibility. In order to protect himself, the witness must therefore
become a Nazir and thereby elevate himself to his former
This idea parallels the concept of Chilul
Hashem (a disgrace to G-d) expressed by Tosafos Yom Tov,
in Yoma 8:8. "Anyone who does an averah (a
sin) and others are influenced thereby to take the matter lightly
and to act likewise is committing the sin of Chilul Hashem."
This week's Parsha takes the Tosafos Yom Tov idea
one step further. Not only witnessing the actual criminal act, but
even witnessing the punishment and humiliation of the crime can
have a deleterious influence on the viewer.
From this we can
derive a practical halacha (law) regarding the law of lashon
harah (talebearing and gossiping). Lashon harah is a serious
averah, but can one speak lashon harah about himself?
The Chafetz Chaim addresses self-abasing lashon harah
in two places. First, he warns that one cannot absolve himself from
the guilt of lashon harah by including himself in the story
about a friend. One may speak unfavorable about himself,
but not about a friend.
In another instance, the Chafetz Chaim
writers that if upon hearing lashon harah, it is forbidden
to believe it. However, if the talebearer mentions himself in the
story, it is permissible to accept his story as true . . . but only
about himself. It is forbidden to believe what he says about his
From these two places one could possibly deduce
that it is permitted to speak lashon harah about oneself.
*According to the lessons of Parshas Naso, even though one
may not be violating the laws of lashon harah, it is forbidden
to tell others of one's own sins, because by doing so, one is violating
the law of chilul Hashem. If one repeats tales
of his own sins, he may entice a friend to sin. It will show him
that it is possible to commit the sin.
May we be only good, positive influences on each other and all of
*Based on the above we can have a better understanding of the ruling
of the Rema (Orach Chaim 607) that one is not allowed to confess
one's private sins in public.
- Rabbi Eliezer Irons
©1997 by the Chicago Community Kollel
Published Tuesday June 13, 1997