Parshas Nasso discusses a difficult situation: a wife who is suspected of cheating her husband. She is put through the rather humiliating experience of having to strip naked and drink the ‘Sotah’ waters, special water containing the full name of G-D (which is a lesson in and of itself, as it goes to show just how much holiness there is in a good marriage). If she is guilty, she simply explodes. If she is found to be innocent, she is promised to have beautiful children.
Even if the woman is found to be innocent, she will find the experience to be rather humiliating. Couldn’t the Torah have found a more dignified way to judge her?
The answer is a lesson in Hashem’s belief in us.
Any woman could avoid that situation by ‘owning up’, even if she never sinned. She could have solved the problem more respectably by other means. The fact that she agreed to undergo such humiliation bears testimony to her willingness to be raw and truthful for the sake of her marriage. And G-D knows that he is able to expect that of his Jewish daughters.
It shows the confidence that Hashem has in His People. He knows that Jews have the strength to go through any difficult situation to serve Him.
G-D has rules. But those rules are meant not to punish us, but to strengthen us. He sets the bar high. But never high enough that we can’t jump over it, albeit with some difficulty.
I have in my inbox a ‘letter’ penned by none other than the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) that expresses this point
(If anyone knows the identity of the real author, please let me know. I, for one, owe him a debt of gratitude!):
To my star pupil,
I am writing this letter to let you know what I think of you. Up here in Heaven, things are not like they are down on Earth. Over there, people only know what they can see. If they see a person is “successful”, they think that he is the greatest guy. When they see somebody struggling, they think he might be one of the weaker elements.
Let me tell you something. Hashem gives every person certain abilities that nobody knows about down where you live. Some people are capable of tremendous things, while others were put there for much smaller purposes. Only Hashem in His infinite wisdom is able to give every person exactly what he needs, to reach his potential.
I am very misunderstood. Most people hate me, and I don’t really blame them. Most people think that my job is to make sure that they fail in all aspects of Mitzvos, and that I rejoice every time they sin. This is the furthest thing from the truth. Did you ever watch a boxing coach train his student? It is really a funny sight. The coach will put on gloves, and fight against his student. At first, he won’t hit him so hard or throw his best punches. But, as the student gets better and better, the coach will start to fight him harder and harder. He does this so that the student will improve his skills and become the best boxer he can be.
This is where it gets strange. Every time the coach knocks down the student, the student gets yelled at!! But finally, when the coach threw everything he has at his student, and not only does he withstand the beating, but he knocks the coach down, there is nobody in the world happier than the coach himself! This is exactly how I feel. If you fail right away, and don’t even try to fight back, I see that there is not much talent to work with, and so I take it easy on you. But if you get back up swinging, I realise that I may have a real winner here, and so I start to intensify the beating. With every level that you go up, I increase the intensity of the fight. If you finally deal me a blow that knocks me out, I will get up and embrace you and rejoice in your success.
Sometimes my job is very disappointing I see a person with lots of potential, and I start right in on him. He fights back for a while, but when the fight gets too tough, he quits and just remains on whatever level he was on. (And he usually ends up going down!) I feel like yelling at him, “Get up you fool! Do you have any idea how much more you could be accomplishing?!” But I am not allowed to do so. I just leave him alone and go try to find another promising candidate. If I have chosen you to be the target of my more fierce battles, it was not for no reason! You have tremendous abilities! You were born into a very special family, you have Rabbeim (teachers) who really care about you, and parents who would help you grow in Torah and Mitzvos. You are a very respectful and kind person.
I am writing to you now because I have a very serious request to ask of you. Please don’t stop fighting! Don’t give up! I have been beating too many people lately, and I am losing patience, Believe in yourself, because I would not be involved with you as much as I am if I didn’t think you could beat me. Know what your strengths are! A great Rabbi once said: “Woe is to he who doesn’t know his weaknesses. But, ‘Oy Vavoy’ to him who doesn’t know his strengths – for he will not have anything with which to fight.”
Always remember one thing: you have a secret weapon at your disposal. I shouldn’t really be telling you – but I will anyway. Hashem himself is watching our “training” sessions very closely. I’m pleased to inform you that He’s rooting for you! If things should ever get tough, almost too tough to bear, just call out to Him with a prayer, and He will immediately come to your aid. I wish you the best of luck, and I hope that after 120 years when your time is up in that world of falsehood, you will come up here to the world of truth. There I will be waiting for you with open arms to congratulate you on your victory and personally escort you to your place next to the Kisey HaKavod (throne of glory).
Sincerely, and with great admiration, I remain,
Your Yetzer Hara