The Torah portion of Naso discusses the law of Sotah:1 When a husband warns his wife not to be alone with a certain man and she disobeys him, then even if she did not sin with that man, the very fact that she was alone with him causes her to become a sotah — a woman “straying from the path of modesty.”2

The relationship between husband and wife in this world is analogous to the relationship between the A-lmighty and the Jewish people, who are deemed “husband and wife.”3 Thus all the laws of sotah apply to the relationship between G‑d and the Jews.

The “warning” that G‑d issues to the Jewish people is the command: “You shall have no other gods before Me.”4 This is similar to the warning: “do not conceal yourself with a certain man.”

But how can G‑d warn a person not to conceal himself when He is omnipresent — “There is no place devoid of Him.”5 Wherever a person hides, he is still seen by G‑d. As the verse states:6 “Should a man hide himself in a concealed place, will I then not see him?”

How, then, can the Jewish people “hide” from G‑d?

We find that with regard to a conceited individual, G‑d says: “I and he cannot dwell together.”7 Conceit contradicts G‑dliness, and G‑d, as it were, does not find Himself within and so does not see the haughty individual. If a person is conceited he is thus able to “hide” from G‑d.

The Gemara states8 that even after a husband warns his wife not to conceal herself with a certain individual, he is still able to rescind the warning, and it is as if it had never been given. The Gemara concludes that this only applies if the husband’s warning is suspended before his wife concealed herself; once she has been alone with the forbidden man, the husband cannot set aside his warning.

The reason is as follows: As long as the woman has not concealed herself, all that exists is the husband’s warning. As a person is master over his warnings, he is able to rescind them at will. But once the woman has concealed herself, something has transpired that does not depend on the husband. He is therefore unable to suspend his warning.

In Talmud Yerushalmi,9 however, we find that as long as the special scroll made for a sotah has not been erased, a husband is still able to rescind his warning, even though his wife had concealed herself. Are we then to understand that there is a dispute between the Talmud Bavli and Yerushalmi?

The Rogatchover Gaon explains10 that there is no dispute. For the Yerushalmi speaks of an instance in which the “concealment” exists only because of the husband’s warning. For example, the husband could tell his wife not to conceal herself with her father, or with 100 people.

In the above instances, were it not for the husband’s warning there would be no “concealment” at all. Therefore, when the husband removes his objection, the concealment becomes null and void.

The same applies with regard to G‑d and the Jewish people. Since there is no place devoid of G‑d, it follows that there can never be a true case of concealment. The “concealment” merely comes about because G‑d finds conceit detestable. Since the concealment thus emanates from Him, it follows that He can rescind His warning even after the actual act.

Yet this is true only before the scroll has become erased, i.e., as long as the person is still one with the scroll of Torah. If, however, he and the Torah have become entirely sundered, the individual must abide by the laws of a sotah, and bring an offering of barley, which is usually fed to animals.

In a spiritual sense, this means that the sinner is to refine his animalistic traits, especially those that lead to arrogance. He will then attain humility — the trait that will permit him to once again dwell with G‑d.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, pp. 1032-1034.