In this Torah portion, G‑d gives the laws of the suspected adulteress (called in Hebrew, "sotah"). The passage begins:

G‑d spoke to Moses, saying: "Speak to the Israelites and say to them: '[This is what should be done] should any man's wife stray and be unfaithful to him, and a man lie with her carnally unbeknownst to her husband, and she was secluded and defiled but there was no witness against her, and she was not seized. If a spirit of jealousy had come upon [the husband] and he had warned his wife, and she was defiled, or a spirit of jealousy had come upon him and he had warned his wife, and she was not defiled. Then the man shall bring his wife to the priest and bring her offering for her, one tenth of an ephah of barley flour. He shall neither pour oil over it nor put frankincense on it, for it is a grain-offering of jealousies, a grain-offering of remembrance, recalling iniquity. The priest shall bring her forth and present her before G‑d. The priest shall put holy water in an earthen vessel, and the priest shall take some earth from the Tabernacle floor and put it into the water….'" (Num. 5:11-17)

He may proceed with the ritual if he is sure that his motivations are pure….

The word translated above as "jealousy", "kinah" and the one translated as "had warned", "kinei", are from the same root. Thus, a more literal translation of the phrase in which these words occur would be: "If a spirit of jealousy had come upon him and he had expressed his jealousy to his wife [by warning her not to be secluded with the other man]…."

Our sages said, "A man only warns his wife if a spirit of purity enters into him [from heaven]." (Sotah 3a)

This is based on the idiom "a spirit of jealously had come upon him."

It is considered commendable for a man to warn his wife not be secluded with another man if he senses that she is becoming overly frivolous or flirtatious. The feminine principle of reality can "lose track" of its purpose and misdirect its energies in the course of going about the business of expressing divinity in the world, and it is the male principle's role to re-inspire her with the purity of intention his abstract orientation provides. The Sages disapprove of a husband who is uninterested in the moral purity of his family, beginning with his wife.

To be sure, a husband can delude himself into thinking an overbearing manner or unreasonable suspicion is a "spirit of purity". There is therefore an opinion in the Talmud that the spirit that enters into the husband, causing him to warn his wife, is in fact a spirit of impurity. The Sages therefore advise husbands to assume their wives are innocent of any wrongdoing unless they have clear justification to suspect otherwise. (Jerusalem Talmud Kidushin 4:4) Even if the husband is convinced that there is cause for concern, he must first appeal to his wife privately to improve her behavior. (Mishneh Torah, Sotah 4:19) If this does not work, he may proceed with the ritual if he is sure that his motivations are pure - he may not invoke the rite in jest, in anger, or in order to frighten her. (Ibid. 4:18) Furthermore, the rite only works if the husband himself is not guilty of adultery. (Sotah 47b)

The Arizal now discusses what this "spirit of jealousy" is in mystical terms.

Know that Joseph manifested the sefira of yesod, and that his numerical value is the same as that of "Zion" [in Hebrew, "Tzion" = 156], which signifies the yesod of malchut [the feminine], while Joseph manifest the yesod of the male principle, which enters this "Zion".

Joseph is associated with yesod because he exhibited sexual purity in the incident with Potiphar's wife (Gen. 39:7-20), and yesod is associated anatomically with the male sexual organ.

"Joseph" (in Hebrew, "Yosef") is spelled: yud-vav-samech-pei = 10 + 6 + 60 + 80 = 156.

"Zion" (in Hebrew, "Tzion") is spelled: tzadik-yud-vav-nun = 90 + 10 + 6 + 50 = 156.

Zion therefore specifically refers to…the womb of the world….

The word for "Zion" ("tzion") means "point", "sign", or "designation". It is also an appellation for the Holy Land, the location designated for the revelation of G‑d's presence. Specifically, "Zion" refers to the inner sanctum (the "Holy of Holies") of the Holy Temple. We have seen previously how the Holy of Holies is considered the "bridal chamber" where the marital union of G‑d and the Jewish people takes place. "Zion" therefore specifically refers to the female sexual organ, or the "womb" of the world, where reality is impregnated with divine consciousness and from which new divine consciousness is born and spreads throughout the world.

[156] is also three times the numerical value of the 52-Name [Ban] that are given from the yesod of Zeir Anpin to the yesod of Nukva. This is why the numerical value of both "Joseph" and ""Zion is three times 52, as is mentioned in connection with [our exposition of Psalm 25 (Shaar HaKavanot, Inyan Nefilat Apaim, 3rd discourse ), which begins,] "Unto You, O G‑d, I lift up my soul." As is explained there, [these three 52-Names] are manifestations of Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama.

Psalm 25 is recited in the daily liturgy as part of Tachanun, the penitential prayers recited after the climax of the prayers, the Standing Prayer. After achieving total self-effacement and union with G‑d in the Standing Prayer, we become acutely aware of our shortcomings, and for these we ask forgiveness in Tachanun. Psalm 25 expresses remorse for sin and rededication to G‑d. We rededicate ourselves, mystically, by elevating our consciousness out of the world of Asiya and up through the three worlds into the world of Atzilut. By doing this, we arouse G‑d to forgive us. Thus, the elevation of consciousness through these three worlds creates three forms of arousal, signified by the three 52-Names mentioned here. The three worlds of Beriya, Yetzira, and Asiya correlate to the three aspects of the soul, Nefesh, Ruach, and Neshama, which manifest the three "garments" of the soul - intellect, emotion, and action - respectively.

Significantly, the sin mentioned explicitly in Psalm 25 is in the verse "Recall not the sins and transgressions of my youth…," referring to sexual sins. Thus, the Psalm we recite in order to arouse G‑d to restore our sexual purity is connected with the theme of sexual purity alluded to in the names of Joseph and Zion.

The fact that the numerical value of "Joseph" is 156 alludes also the [following] mystical principle I have taught you:

When righteous people pass away, their souls ascend and enter malchut….

There are five states of chesed and five states of gevura [that descend from Imma into Zeir Anpin], which are manifest as ten names Havayah. The five states of gevura [descend] into malchut [of Zeir Anpin], while the five states of chesed [descend] into [the five sub-sefirot] from chesed to hod. All these five issue [to Nukva] via yesod [of Zeir Anpin]. [Yesod, however,] has its own Name Havayah. Thus, there are [in yesod] five name Havayah's [manifesting the five states of chesed that enter Zeir Anpin] and one of its own, giving six. Their combined numerical value is thus 156.

The numerical value of the name Havayah is 26, and 6 x 26 = 156.

[156] is also the numerical value of the word for "jealousy" [in Hebrew, "kinah"].

"Kinah" is spelled: kuf-nun-alef-hei = 100 + 50 + 1 + 5 = 156.

Hence, we have a direct connection between the sefira of yesod, i.e. sexuality, and the idea of righteous jealousy.

This explains what is written in the Zohar [about yesod]: "Then, a righteous one dons jealousy…." (Zohar II:211a )

This passage of the Zohar describes what happens when righteous people pass away. Their souls ascend and enter malchut, which adorns itself with the sparks of holiness these souls have elevated in their lifetime and brought with them. Yesod, seeing how beautiful malchut has become by adorning itself with these good deeds, is aroused to couple with it.

The term the Zohar uses for yesod in this context is "a righteous one" ("tzadik"). "Righteousness" is particularly associated with yesod because the main test of righteousness is in sexual behavior. Thus, Joseph, the archetype of sexual purity, is traditionally called "Yosef HaTzadik", "Joseph, the righteous".

The term the Zohar uses to describe yesod's arousal to couple with malchut is "donning jealousy". Jealousy is typically experienced physiologically by increased adrenalin flow and body heat, similar to sexual arousal. Until now, we have seen that the "jealousy" of yesod is its insistence on purity in sexual behavior. Beyond this, there is a deeper connection alluded to here between jealousy and sexuality. Let us note first that in English, "jealousy" implies "zealousness", and in fact, "zealous" could be a better translation of the root kinah than "jealous".

Holy sexuality is an expression of a person's passion for transmitting his personal vision of divine reality to the world….

We have defined the experience of yesod, as the drive for self-actualization and for the promulgation of the insight of divine consciousness to which one has been privy. In this light, holy sexuality is an expression of a person's passion for transmitting his personal vision of divine reality to the world (either in the form of children that will be imbued with his values, or metaphysical divine energy that will have a positive influence on reality, which, we are taught, is one result of marital relations conducted with love and proper intentions).

Thus, holy (as opposed to mere bestial) sexual passion is an expression of zeal and dedication. This perhaps explains why the Zohar here says that in order to couple with malchut, yesod "dons jealousy/zeal".

This, then, is the mystical meaning of the saying "A man only warns his wife if a spirit of purity enters into him", for this [spirit] originates from the [holy] side, that of the supernal [sefira of yesod, identified with] Joseph.

Thus, the "spirit of jealousy" is the ideal of pure sexuality, associated with Joseph and yesod. This spirit of Joseph is manifest as its numerical correlate, "kinah", the "jealousy" that inspires a husband to warn his flirtatious wife not seclude herself with her suspected paramour.

Interestingly, the essential episode of jealousy in the Torah is that of Pinchas, who was incensed over the sexual sins of Zimri and Kozbi; here, too, we find a link between "jealousy/zeal" and sexuality.

Translated and adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky from Likutei Torah and Sefer HaLikutim; subsequently published in "Apples From the Orchard."

Reprinted with permission from Chabad of California. Copyright 2004 by Chabad of California, Inc. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this work or portions thereof, in any form, without permission, in writing, from Chabad of California, Inc.