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Prevention or Cure

By Rabbi Yehonatan Salem
June 12, 2019

In our parasha we find two important, yet seemingly unrelated topics, sotah and nazir, mentioned next to each other. A sotah is a woman whose husband suspects her of being disloyal. If she does not confess her guilt, she is given sanctified water to drink by the kohen in the Bet Hamikdash. This acts as a divinely-ordained indicator as to whether or not she has betrayed her husband. If she has committed adultery, she will die a bizarre death. However, if she is innocent, the water she has drunk will become a source of blessing in her bearing of children. A nazir is a person who takes upon himself to refrain for at least thirty days from drinking wine, and other restrictions. When done with the correct motives, a nazir elevates himself spiritually by placing restrictions on his lifestyle.

Our Sages teach us the message behind the juxtaposition of these two topics, as follows: If a person were to witness the demise of a sotah, seeing the tragic outcome of a person who followed their base desires, they should internalise the message and take the necessary precautions to prevent such an occurrence from  happening  to them.  Sin is caused by a lack of self-control which leads a person to fall prey to base desires. The nazir is a person, who upon seeing  this,  takes  an extra  dimension of responsibility upon himself to prevent the onset of temptation. Refraining from wine is a stepping stone in that direction.

Similarly, in our daily lives, when we observe someone fall to bad ways, we must strengthen ourselves not to follow suit, as temptation may catch one unwittingly. Additionally, we may be confronted ourselves with situations that tempt us to act in a wrong way. What is the correct approach to take in such situations? May we expose ourselves to temptation in the hope that it won’t pull us in, or, must we proactively avoid the whole scenario? The answer is that to trust ourselves to stand up against induced temptation is wrong, e.g. we may not go too close to some establishment that sells non-kosher food which appeals to us. We are not allowed to put ourselves in front of temptation and hope  that we will come out unscathed. Our Sages teach us that in order to fight our evil inclination we need divine help. We will not merit this assistance however, if we induce temptation. Hence, not only should we not test ourselves in front of temptation, but we should also take positive steps to avoid such situations. Moreover, once a person falls to sin, it may be extremely difficult to put the pieces back together. Prevention is certainly better than cure!

If we were advised to abstain from a certain food, due to a slight chance of getting poisoned from it, we would certainly adhere to this warning. No-one would take the chance of eating the food, however tempting it may seem, thereby risking the consequences of poisoning.  In our generation we have the facility of internet, with its communicative advantages. However, its addictive nature and its lewd undertones require self-control and a filter as an adequate protection to save us from its destructive influence.

Our holy Torah prescribes a healthy path in life, both physically and spiritually. If one follows it, one is guaranteed a meaningful life in this world and eternal ecstasy in the next. In situations where there is peer or parental pressure to indulge in lust or desire, one may easily get drawn to incorrect ways of behaviour. By circumventing such situations and placing safeguards and boundaries for ourselves, we guarantee ourselves an elevated meaning in life. We should not worry about ridicule from others, as ultimately they will honour us for our strength and perseverance in doing what is right.

Let us build for ourselves boundaries and safeguards from sin, so that

we can remain faithful to Hashem, His Torah, and to our people.

Shabbat shalom

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