D'var Torah on the ritual of the Sotah (for my Bat Mitzvah)

The verses of Numbers 5:11-31 are by far the most disturbing of Parsha Naso. They contain descriptions of a ritual which humiliates women and highlights their relative lack of agency in the ancient world. Nonetheless, I believe that it is our duty as Jews to wrestle with all that we have inherited and not pretend away the complexities in our sacred texts. Perhaps we can learn something from its shortcomings. You can read them here, if you like, but my d'var Torah, below, probably makes enough sense even if you can't.
During the Israelites’ last few months in Egypt, they knew something had to change. 
They feared for their wellbeing, for their lives, for their children, and they called out to God to save them. Then they brought chaos into the streets. They destroyed the businesses and looted the homes of their oppressors before fleeing with Moses, out of bondage and subjugation, into an unknown wilderness. 
Much of what we read in Torah post-exodus is their work of scrambling to rebuild society, to create a ‘new normal.’ The Israelites had to develop routines which fit this new and unfamiliar way of life, had to agree upon and record laws and rules and expectations, social roles and power structures. They tried to improve upon what they experienced in Egypt, though they were still limited by their imaginations.
This is the context of our parsha. 
The census helped clarify everyone’s roles and positions in this new society, and the Sotah ritual was likely meant to protect a wife from her husband. In a place and time where women were almost universally at the mercy of men, a jealous husband might have had free reign to see his wife punished —stoned— whether or not she had committed adultery. By that measure, this ritual, while humiliating, might seem almost humane in comparison. The husband’s power to judge his wife is limited and she is handed over to God, the True Judge. 

Sure, it’s debasing to have her hair let down in public, and the Divine name itself is rubbed out when the curse against her is dissolved in the waters she‘s forced, but ...It’s better than stoning? 

Maybe, but it’s also a far cry from anything that feels to me like justice. 

Even while our ancestors tried to create a society better than they’d come from, their improvement was incremental. Each generation since has been charged to do better than the last. We’ve had something like 5,000 years to learn and grow, but we’re certainly not finished. 
Today, we still have to argue about whether property is more precious than life, 
whether the construction of monuments to the gods of the oppressors—
to capitalism, nationalism, white supremacy—
is worth the cost to our health, our bodies, our souls. 
We still see women treated as less worthy of human dignity than men, 
children as less worthy than adults, 
the disabled as worth less than the able-bodied. 
We argue about whether, in fact, Black lives matter. 
These groups of humans perceived as ‘less than’ are often subjected to debasing, humiliating rituals whether or not any crime has been committed. Often, these rituals end in death. 

Have we really come so far since the book of Numbers? 

Like our ancestors, we too are living in a time of uncertainty and fear. 
In light of COVID, we have fled the danger that lurks in public spaces, the routines we knew. White supremacy is being unveiled and made more apparent to those who have benefitted from it for centuries, and society as we know it is teetering. 

It’s time to make a new way forward. 

Even now, with the ways global quarantine has laid bare the limitations of the lives we were living before, there is a temptation to believe that someone has to be ‘in charge,’ someone has to be responsible for deciding who is innocent and who is guilty and to absolve or punish them. 
Even now, some hold fast to an artificial hierarchy of humanness. 
But I hope that this text and our rightful objections to it help us recognize that the work of doing better is never finished. While blazing a new way forward into the unknown can be terrifying, that is the tradition we have inherited, and it’s our mandate as Jews. 
The kabbalists say that God creates the world anew every day, using Torah as the blueprint. But Torah is more than a scroll on the bimah, more than what was written down millennia ago. 

We create Torah in our living, our learning, our deciding and changing. 

As we do the work of rebuilding society, we are teaching God about the world we want to live in, and asking her to partner with us in its creation. 
May we never stop improving upon what has come before, and may we have the imagination to create true justice.