The Real Royalty
What is the significance of the coarse barley flour that is brought in the sota offering? The Kalever Rebbe explains how this offering guides us today.
Then the man shall bring his wife to the kohen and bring her offering for her, one tenth of an ephah of barley flour. (Bamidbar 5:15)
The Best Girl
Reb Shem Kleinberg from Saloshitz, zt”l, adopted a boy who was orphaned at a young age. The Rebbe raised and cared for the boy as if he was his own son. As he got older, the boy emerged as a true Torah scholar, a young man of pure virtue. The Rebbe personally began the search to find an appropriate shidduch, spouse, for his adopted son. Offers and suggestions began to flow in. However, the Rebbe was not satisfied with any of the prospects.
One day, a poor widow came to see the Rebbe. As she told her story, tears began to flow down her cheeks. She had a daughter who had reached an appropriate age for marriage, and no one was trying to match her with eligible young men. The widow was in pain and worried about her daughter’s future. She asked the Rebbe to please daven, pray, for her daughter that she should find a fine, kind, and respectable partner.
The Rebbe asked the widow to describe her daughter’s character in detail. The Rebbe listened intently to every word of the widow. When she finished, the Rebbe said, “Is that everything or is there something else you would like to add?”
The widow thought for a few moments and said, “I really can’t think of any other special thing. However, since the Rebbe is asking, I can share with the Rebbe one more little thing. On Shabbat afternoon, all the young girls in our town get together. Even though I encouraged my daughter to join them and make friends, she continued to refuse. She explained her reasoning: the party takes place during the time when men are walking back to shul and, therefore, if she were to join the other girls, she would have to walk through town when nearly every man was walking to shul! She didn’t feel that was appropriate, so she stayed home.”
The Rebbe rose from his chair excitedly and declared, “This is the woman that Hashem has sent into this world to be my son’s wife! It says in Tehillim (45:14), “All honor [awaits] the King’s daughter who is within the house” The respect, the beauty of the bat Melech, the King’s daughter, is in her modesty, her tzniyut. Your daughter is a true bat Melech, and who wouldn’t want their son to marry a royal daughter!”
The Royal Family Scandal
This story illustrates the importance and honor of tzniyut. The way a woman carries herself, how she dresses and behaves is critical. Only a Jewish woman who is modest and reserved in dress and behavior can be described as a bat Melech, the daughter of the King.
Immodest and ostentatious clothes and behaviors are meant for one thing: to draw attention to yourself. A woman who dresses and behaves immodestly will attract the attention of men, and it may draw others to her, as it says in Succah (26a) that promiscuity welcomes the thief. This attention-grabbing lifestyle can create a wedge between a husband and wife, weakening their commitment to one another and damaging the trust that their relationship was built upon. Eventually, this lifestyle can lead to divorce, as we have seen so many times, may Hashem help us.
There was a time in history when even the non-Jews appreciated the value in living a subdued, modest lifestyle in dress and behavior. The culture respected modesty. And, the political families, the leaders, the royal families and dignitaries were even more meticulous to remain modest. They had a degree of self-control and self-awareness, realizing that their decisions and behaviors impacted the perception of their families and people. They represented something and, therefore, strived to remain dignified. Roughly 50 years ago, while I was living in London, there was a tremendous uproar when one of the British royals started dressing less conservatively. Their simple change in dress caused quite a scandal.
Every yid is the member of Hashem’s “royal family.” A yid has a neshama, a soul, which is a part of Hashem, literally. However, that soul is housed in a corporal physical body with simple, instinctual desires. A yid must constantly remain focused, working to ensure that his mind, his neshama, rules over the unbridled desires of his heart, his animalistic instincts. A yid must behave with the dignity of a ben Melech. As Chazal reminds us in Shabbos (111a) that all Jews are sons of kings.
Man Versus Animal
The Yitav Lev (Parshas Emor) in the name of R’ Tvi Hirsh from Ziditchov, zt”l, explained the sentence in the morning prayer that says, “”מותר האדם מן הבהמה אין” – man is no different than an animal. However, literally the words can mean: the difference, superiority, of a man over an animal is the ability to say “no”.
A person can control his instincts, can choose between behaviors, and can decide to say “no” to their animal instincts. An animal is driven by its instincts. It cannot break its nature, change its behavior, act against its instincts. A person, however, has the intellectual capability to make decisions and say “no” – overcoming their instinct or desire at any given moment.
Therefore, a man is created upright, with his head above his body. A person needs to ensure that their intellect rules the will of the body. An animal, on the other hand, walks on all four legs with their head facing down.
Proud, Jewish Women
This is possibly the explanation of the pasuk we find in this week’s parsha. (Bamidbar 5:1213), “Should any man’s wife go astray” -when a woman starts behaving immodestly, this will lead to ” … and a man lies with her carnally, but it was hidden from her husband’s eyes, but she was secluded [with the suspected adulterer] and there was no witness against her, and she was not seized….
And, the pasukim continues, “Then the man shall bring his wife to the Kohen and bring her offering for her, one tenth of an ephah of barley flour.” Rashi explains that she brings barley and not flour because she acted like an animal and therefore must use animal feed.
May the Jewish women and girls strengthen their efforts to dress and behave modestly, to live a life of a true princess, a bat Melech, and in doing so only merit good things, blessings and success.
The Kalever Rebbe is the seventh Rebbe of the Kaalov Chasidic dynasty, begun by his ancestor who was born to his previously childless parents after receiving a blessing from the Baal Shem Tov zy”a, and later learned under the Maggid of Mezeritch zt”l. The Rebbe has been involved in outreach for more than 30 years, and writes weekly emails on understanding current issues through the Torah. You can sign up at www.kaalov.org.