1. The custom of studying one page of the tractate Sotah each day of Sefiras HaOmer is well known. The association of this tractate with Sefirah goes beyond the simple numerical correspondence that exists between the two — there being 49 days of Sefirah and 49 pages in the tractate of Sotah. Rather, there is an intrinsic connection between the spiritual service related to each one.

The Omer offering was brought from barley, animal fodder, to emphasize how the service associated with Sefirah is the refinement of the emotional qualities of the animal soul. The study of the tractate of Sotah has a similar goal. Since each and every day of Sefirah has its own task of refinement, there is a page of the tractate of Sotah to be studied each day.

This service has its roots in the very first counting of Sefiras HaOmer, when the Jews left Egypt and counted the days to the giving of the Torah. The Torah relates how the Jews “fled” out of Egypt and the Tanya explains that they fled because they realized that their evil traits were still strong. Nevertheless, through working on themselves and carrying out the service of refinement, they were able to reach a level that enabled them to camp before Mount Sinai “as one man, with one heart” and accept the Torah with the declaration Na’aseh V’Nishmah — prefacing the commitment “We will do” before “We will listen.”

The seven weeks of counting the Omer are described as temimos — perfect or complete. The service of counting the Omer is intended to bring each Jew to a level of perfection and completion. Reaching this level during the forty nine days of counting the Omer will bring about a) the revelation of the fiftieth day which is brought about by the service of the Jewish people who are commanded to “count fifty days”; b) a higher level, the revelation of the fiftieth day from above which is associated with the giving of the Torah.

We find a parallel to these two aspects in regard to the preparations for the giving of the Torah. Moshe “added another day on his own,” the service of the Jews, and “the Holy One, Blessed be He, agreed to his idea,” the revelation from above.

The above relates to the service of each day of Sefiras HaOmer. Each day of Sefirah contains two aspects: a) the individual service associated with that particular day; b) the aspect uniting that day with all the other days of Sefiras HaOmer.

Thus, we can appreciate the unique aspect of the present time when we have completed the service, not only of counting the 49th day, but of counting all the seven weeks of the Omer. Hence, this is an appropriate time to conclude the tractate of Sotah which, as mentioned above, is customarily studied during Sefirah.

[There are those who have not yet completed the study of the tractate, or have not reached the 49th page, or, because of whatever strange circumstances are not even aware of this custom. Nevertheless, there are those who have finished the tractate already. When they completed it, and when they learned it, they intended that their study be “temimos,” “perfect and complete,” which is achieved by associating it with the totality of the Jewish people. Therefore, everyone may participate in this siyum.]

The tractate concludes:

[The Mishnah relates:] When Rebbe [Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi] died [the qualities of] humility and fear of sin were nullified. Rav Yosef stated: “Don’t include in the Mishnah [the nullification of] humility, for I exist.” Rav Nachman stated: “Don’t include in the Mishnah [the nullification of] the fear of sin, for I exist.”

Here we see the uniqueness of a Jew. Once the Mishnah was completed, it became established as an integral part of Torah to the extent that “if a judge errs regarding a law stated in the mishnah, the case must be tried again.” Furthermore, the Torah governs and controls the nature of the existence of the world. Nevertheless, the study of the mishnah’s statement that these qualities were nullified was itself the spur which prompted Rav Yosef and Rav Nachman to protest that the virtues, in fact, existed.

Thus, we can see the uniqueness of a Jew; how in the midst of the darkness of exile — “`He has placed me in darkness’... this refers to the Babylonian Talmud” — he can reveal spiritual virtues that did not exist in previous generations. Furthermore, his possession of these virtues becomes recognized and included in Torah itself. This helps us realize how precious and dear each Jew is. This awareness, in turn, leads to Ahavas Yisrael and Achdus Yisrael.

These two qualities are unique. Generally, humility is identified with self-effacement, but the two are not necessarily identical qualities. Self-effacement comes about through the realization of one’s own lowliness, that he has no virtues, he is not a significant entity.

In contrast, a humble person looks as himself as a significant entity. Indeed, Rav Yosef himself declares: “I exist.” He appreciates all the positive qualities he possesses. Nevertheless, this awareness does not bring him to pride. Indeed, as the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya, the higher a person reaches, the greater his feelings of humility must become. Thus, though a humble person sees himself as an individual, this does not prevent him from “loving his fellow man as himself.”

Afterwards, from this rung of service, one proceeds to “the fear of sin.” Fear of sin does not mean fear of punishment, for when a person fears punishment what he thinks about is not receiving retribution. Were he to be assured that he would not receive any retribution, who knows what would happen?

In contrast, a person who fears sin does not think of his own personal reward at all, he is afraid of “the sin.” Cheit, the Hebrew for sin, can also mean “lack” as in I Kings 1:21: “Solomon, my son, and I will be lacking.” Such a person’s only goal is complete and total service of G‑d and he is afraid that there will be a lack in that service. Similarly, in the realm of Ahavas Yisrael, he is afraid that there will be something lacking regarding his unity with the totality of the Jewish people and this fear prompts him to carry out his service in a manner leading to perfection.

Some texts of the Talmud conclude the Mishnah with the Beraisa of Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair which outlines a pattern of spiritual progress until we reach “the resurrection of the dead” and concludes:

The resurrection of the dead will come about through Elijah the prophet, may he come speedily, in our days, and redeem us. So may it be His will. Amen.

Whether this concluding phrase is from the actual text of the Beraisa itself, or whether it is a later addition, it expresses the natural hope of all Jews. (See also Mishnah Torah, Hilchos Parah Adumah, conclusion of chapter 3.) Thus, when the concept of redemption is mentioned, immediately a Jew responds, “So may it be His will. Amen.” May we merit this blessing.

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2. The conclusion of the tractate of Sotah also mentions many matters in which G‑d’s blessings are not openly revealed. Nevertheless, we can comprehend that even these matters are, in truth, blessings. Just as the Tochechah in the portions of Bechukosai and Ki Savo are really blessings, indeed, greater blessings than those prophecies whose positive import is openly revealed, similarly, in the present instance, “they are all blessings.”

Similarly, just as the reading of the portion of Bechukosai serves as a preparation to receive the blessings of the Giving of the Torah, so, too, the study of these matters prepares us and makes us capable of receiving and internalizing the “Giving of the Torah.” Indeed, the seven weeks of Sefirah can be seen, as was the entire trial and offering of a Sotah in the Temple, as a process of refinement, purifying the Jews from the 49 levels of impurity and preparing them to receive the Torah.

The blessings given to a Sotah who was proved innocent are associated with the birth of children. This emphasizes how giving birth to children is a great blessing. Furthermore, it brings closer the coming of Mashiach, who will come when all the souls waiting in the spiritual realms will be born in this physical world.

The concept of blessing is emphasized by the opening verse of the portion of Bechukosai which places as a condition for receiving G‑d’s blessings: “If you walk in My ways.” Our Sages declared the Hebrew word Im, translated as “if,” implies “supplication.” G‑d asks and begs the Jews to follow His mitzvos so that He can give them all the blessings mentioned, including the blessing “I will lead you upright” to Eretz Yisrael in the Messianic redemption.

That redemption may be hastened in the following manner. One of the omens the conclusion of the tractate of Sotah mentions as heralding the coming of Mashiach is: “Chutzpah (arrogance) will increase.” This also has a positive dimension. We must demand the coming of Mashiach with chutzpah. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 105a) states that chutzpah directed toward G‑d has a positive effect. May our cries hasten the coming of Mashiach. In the spiritual realms, everything is prepared for the redemption. All that is necessary is that, now, immediately, it be revealed in our world.

3. Today’s portion of Chumash emphasizes the importance of Ahavas Yisrael and Achdus Yisrael. It relates how, as part of the dedication of the Sanctuary, the Nesi’im (princes) of each tribe approached Moshe together and brought presents. Among the presents they gave were six wagons and twelve oxen. The twelve oxen emphasize how each one of them is an individual entity. However, by bringing “six wagons,” they demonstrated how their individuality did not prevent them from coming together with another Jew. Indeed, by bringing one wagon for two tribes, they showed how they saw themselves as only half and only by uniting with another Jew could a whole by achieved.

A similar concept is explained regarding the half-shekel donated to the Sanctuary. It teaches each Jew how his fulfillment is dependent on his bond with another Jew.

This represents the advantage of Achdus Yisrael over Ahavas Yisrael. From the perspective of Ahavas Yisrael, a person may see himself as an individual entity who joins together with others. Achdus Yisrael emphasizes that uniting with others is not merely an additional service. It is the key to reaching one’s own fulfillment.