Susan Barth
Marriage Education, Enrichment / Enhancement & Advocacy

Marriage Lessons from the Sotah and Shavuot

The topic of marriage has become a dominant theme in this week’s holiday observance of Shavuot as well as this week’s Torah portion of Naso and has implications for the trials and tribulations that we as a nation are undergoing presently.


In reference to Shavuot which completed last night in Israel and tonight in the diaspora, the topic of marriage in a more generalized sense is depicted in an interesting article written by Marc Eichenbaum entitled After the Honeymoon: Why Shavuot is Compared to Marriage.” In the article, the author describes the parallel relationship between the Jewish people and G-d and to couples themselves with the concomitant highs and lows after the Honeymoon and Hollywood lights and cameras are removed. In summation he says that “Shavuot not only teaches us how to improve our relationship with God, but offers a roadmap as to enhance our relationship with our partners as well.” I highly recommend reading the original article!


Marriage is likewise given prominence in the story of Ruth read by Jewish tradition on Shavout. In the book, the lineage which gave ultimate birth to King David is depicted with the story of how the Moabite Princess Ruth was introduced by divine destiny to Boaz, considered the judge and prominent member of his generation. Although the circumstances of the marriage are not exactly a “shidduch date” and more of a result of Boaz picking up the concept of the yibbum (levirate) marriage mantel, none the less as a result of their union, they had a son named Obed, who became the father of Jesse and David was the great grandson destined to be the progenitor of the long awaited Moshiah!


Marriage is also given prominence in this week’s Torah reading of Naso. Ironically the subdivision of the parsha into daily portions features the “Sotah” as the dominant feature read on Shavuot.

As described in the talks detailed in Likkutei Sichot’s writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe z”l regarding the Sotah, the following details are provided:

Parshas Naso contains the laws governing a sotah, a woman suspected of immodest conduct. When a man issues a warning to his wife, forbidding her to be alone with a certain man, and she disobeys this warning, she is classified as a sotah.1 Even though she may not have committed adultery, the very fact that she was alone with that man after being warned obliges her to undergo the test described in this Torah reading.”

The tragedy of the Sotah is that it is predicated on a foundation of marital breakdown and lack of trust in the wife observing all the marital vows and obligations and the marriage being one of dedication and commitment. Regrettably the detailed description of the humiliating process of proving either the wife’s innocence or guilt demonstrates just how serious our religion places the institution of marriage as a fundamental to our heritage.


What can we learn from the episode of the Sotah? For one, marriages must be built on a foundation of trust and commitment and above suspicion. The fact that a husband should have to warn his wife already speaks to a dysfunctional marriage riddled by distrust and failures in communication.


The vehicle of marriage education is defined by its provision of tools and skills to combat such marital breakdown and to focus on preventative measures to restore and nurture harmony and shalom bayit.


As an example, in the I- PREP curriculum offered in workshops under the auspices of our amuta Together in Happiness, couples are made aware that there are communication danger signs which represent patterns of communication that are particularly destructive over time. These “dynamic risk factors” make the relationship feel unsafe and make it hard for partners to feel close to one another.

The danger signs presented in the curriculum include the following:

Escalation – when partners respond negatively back and forth

Invalidation – when partners put down or demean the thoughts, feelings or character of the other

Negative Interpretation – when partners make a negative and unfair assumption about what the other partner is thinking or what his/her actions signify

Withdrawal – an unwillingness on the part of the partner to get into or stay with important discussions

The curriculum is designed to teach skills for neutralizing the danger signs and hence focus on preserving the marital harmony and trust.


In the book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, the author John M. Gottman, PH.D provides another set of “danger related signs” derailing the marriage. [1] Dr. Gottman states that “Certain kinds of negativity if allowed to run rampant are so lethal to a relationship that I call them the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Usually these four horsemen clip -clop into the heart of a marriage in the following order:





The author provides a myriad of remedies to address the horsemen and prevent divorce to couples.


What is so significant this year as we continue to be daily faced with the horrendous toll from our war on so many fronts is the poignant focus on the families and their significance to our lives. For example, the range of emotions that we exhibited prior to Shavuoth starting with the incredible news of last Shabbat with the return of the 4 hostages to their families and yet the price paid with the loss of the hero IDF commander Arnon- is a reflection of our deep dedication and commitment to our nation and the souls which comprise our families.

One take away from the commemoration of the holiday Shavuot is that we have a Torah – a blueprint for how to conduct our lives and how critical it is to turn our hearts to our loved ones and share some Torah thoughts and recommit ourselves to unity starting with our homes and spreading out exponentially to all of AM YISRAEL. Becoming aware of danger signs in our marriages and seeking ways to avoid the tragedy of the Sotah is a commitment we can make to our loved ones. May our homes be places of security and love and may all of our loved ones be reunited and we truly experience shalom bayit and shalom for AM YISRAEL.

[1] John M. Gottman, PH.D, The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work (Seven Dials The Orion Publishing Group, Ltd.,London,2018). P32-39/

About the Author
Susan (Sarah) Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli and English speaking countries' societies. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
Related Topics
Related Posts