A Language for Jealosy: Rethinking Sotah

In Nasso, this week’s Torah portion we read about the case of the Sotah. In the case in which a husband was suspicious of his wife’s fidelity the Torah outlines a process for determining her guilt. Evidently asking her was not a possibility.  If she was unfaithful the potion would do her in, and the other possibility was that she was innocent and he was just jealous and insecure . There we read:

 or if the spirit of jealousy come upon him, and he be jealous of his wife, and she be not defiled; then shall the man bring his wife unto the priest, and shall bring her offering for her, the tenth part of an ephah of barley meal; he shall pour no oil upon it, nor put frankincense thereon; for it is a meal-offering of jealousy, a meal-offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to remembrance. ( Numbers 5:14-15 )

While it clearly speaks to a patriarchal society, it also speaks to a society in which men and women do not know how to communicate. It seems so strange with all of these magic potions, but is it so different from our society?

It is hard to read this part of the Torah the same way after the events of the recent shootings in Isla Vista. A young man sat in his car and outlined his jealousy toward the women in his life and his plans to kill them. Unable to communicate in normal ways he put this video on YouTube and actually went through with the heinous crimes. I think we need to look in the mirror and realize that while killing is not normal, the inability for people to communicate might be the new normal.

How did we get here?  Clearly the use and abuse of technology, pornography, and social media has played a role, but how do we undo these things? What do we need to do get us out of this problem? We need to change our very language and how we talk about each other. The next generation needs us to do some hard work on this. We need to teach our sons and daughters how to see each other as people to communicate with and to be intimate with rather than simply seeing each other a sexual objects to own and use. We need a language to communicate jealousy.

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