The portion of Naso is always read just before or just after Shavuot. This is an indication that it holds lessons germane to our national mission, which began on Shavuot.

The portion contains the laws of the sotah, the suspected adulteress.

What lessons are we meant to learn from the sotah?

In a way, we are the sotah. Let me explain:

When a husband is overtaken by a feeling of jealousy and suspects his wife of straying, he then gives a warning and begins the sotah proceedings.

On Shavuot, we received the Ten Commandments—the marriage between G‑d and His people. Like the “jealous husband,” He warned us: “Don’t have other gods before Me.”

Although most of us have not done something this extreme, we have done this on a more subtle level. We live in a world filled with pleasures, which we tend to pursue instead of our service of G‑d. We stray from who we are to experience things that pull us away from our relationship with Him.

After the warning, she does it again. As a nation, this has been our historical record over and over: falling spiritually, despite the warnings.

The husband then brings her to the Temple, the holiest place. The Kohen writes a certain part of the Torah, our holiest writings, which contains G‑d’s sacred name, which is so holy that we may not erase it. However, in this case, G‑d instructs the Kohen to erase His holy name, indicating how important the husband-wife relationship is. He even allows His name to be erased to bring the couple back together. The grindings are placed in the holiest water, taken from the kiyor (laver), which was made from the copper mirrors of women who used them to be close to their husbands in Egypt. In the water was earth, taken from the floor of the Mishkan, the holiest ground.

Then she drinks it. If she is indeed guilty, this water will be bitter and fatal to her.

Because of this, the Kohen put her through a process that was exhausting in the hope that if she were indeed guilty, she would confess, and not have to drink the water and die. As a nation, we have experienced being thrown around from country to country, never resting too long in one place.

If, however, she maintains her innocence, the Kohen makes her take an oath that she did not defile herself. And that if she did, she would die a horrible death because of the water; if she did not, the water will prove her innocence.

After administering the oath, he would erase the words into the water, and she would drink it.

The Torah now tells us that if she were guilty, she would experience a horrible death. And if she was innocent, the water will cleanse her of all suspicion; even more, it will cause her to have better births. Rashi explains that if before her births were painful, now they would be relaxed.

When the Kohen administered the oath, he described in detail what would happen if she were guilty. However, if she was innocent, all it says is that the water will cleanse her of suspicion, with no mention of the blessings of having better births. Only after she was proven innocent does the Torah mention that, by the way, she will have better births. It is an outcome of drinking the water, but not mentioned as part of the process.

This is similar to a baal teshuvah, one who returns to Torah. We are taught that one who committed sins and then returned to G‑d wholeheartedly, his sins are turned into merits. Why? Because it was his sins that moved him to return. When he realized how far he had gone because of his transgressions, he became bitter, and this bitterness acted as a springboard to bring him back. This doesn’t work for someone who plans to sin and then to return; you can’t plan it. Only after a true return do his transgressions turn to merits.

In some way, each of us is a baal teshuvah. We all have an opportunity to get closer to G‑d. And when we do as a nation, He will forgive us, our past will be turned to merit, the bitter waters of this exile will turn sweet, and Moshiach will come, completing our national mission.

May he come soon.