The Final Moments
I envy her final few seconds: She was not an especially religious woman. She did not believe in God or His Torah. She was warned by her husband to stay away from a certain man. She knew that she was being watched, but she did not care. She slipped into a home with the man and stepped out a few hours later.
Her husband brought her to the Beit Hamikdash. A Cohen spoke to her and explained the process of Sotah. She would be publicly shamed. She did not care. God’s Name would be erased. She laughed. She was warned that she would die a horrible death if she was guilty. She didn’t believe it. She confidently drank the water and everyone waited to see what would happen.
All of a sudden, she experienced the strangest sensations inside her body. Something was happening. The Sotah Waters were real. God was real. In the final seconds before she exploded, she realized that she had been wrong about God, about His Torah and about life. In her final seconds she physically experienced Truth. In her final seconds of life, she was granted a gift: absolute clarity that God exists and is directly involved. She exploded and she died in that state of clarity.
No one who watched her die could deny the Hand of God. Even the holy Cohanim were moved, shaken, and inspired. They witnessed a tragedy and a miracle. Her final actions and her death served to sanctify God’s Name.
The woman who rejected God ended her life proving His existence to all who witnessed her story.
I envy her final seconds of absolute clarity. I envy her “accomplishment,” her influence on so many people, proving God’s existence.
The Children of Israel were defeated in their battle with the city of Ai. (Joshua, Chapter 7) A man, Achan had sinned against God and brought tragedy to the entire nation. Joshua pinpointed the culprit through a lottery. He confronted Achan and pleaded with him to acknowledge his guilt. If Achan denied his guilt and laughed at the lottery’s accuracy, Joshua would never be able to use the lottery to divide the Land of Israel between the Tribes and their families. The future of Israel was in the hands of this terrible, blatant sinner. If he denied his guilt, he would damage the future, but he would live. If he acknowledged his guilt, he would sanctify God’s Name and the lottery, but he would die.
Achan, the sinner, chose to save Israel’s future and sanctify God’s Name, knowing that he would die. In the final moments of his life, Achan the sinner, became a person who sanctified God’s Name. We honor his choice with the second paragraph of Aleinu: Al Kein Nikaveh,” – Therefore we hope – the first letters of the three words spell out Achan.
His example of being able to repair a lifetime in the final moments of life is the reason that all of us, whether an Achan, a Sotah, or a person distant from God, always hope that we will be able to achieve the gift of Achan and the Sotah. We don’t have to wait until the final moments. We do not have to drink the Bitter Waters. We do not have to be willing, as was Achan, to die. In fact, we only have to be willing to live.
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