Nasso | ??? | “Take up ” / “Elevate”
– The Holy One, Blessed Be He….. ( HaKodesh Baruch Hu )
– Rejoice, Israel! The Shame of the Sotah is removed from your husband! For your Maker is your husband, HaShem of hosts is His Name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel
-You shall draw water with Joy from the wells of Salvation ( Yeshu’ah )
The Thirty-fifth reading from the Book of the Numbers of Torah is called Nasso (???), a word that literally means “lift up.” The portion name, “Nasso” comes from the first word in the phrase, “Naso et-rosh b’nei ger’shon ( Lift the head of the sons of Ger’shon) .” or “Make an accounting of the sons of Gershon.” This Torah portion describes up the census of the Levites it was their duty to carry the furniture of the Tabernacle. And it follows the purification of the camp, the ritual for a woman suspected of adultery, the laws of the Nazirite vow, the priestly benediction and the offerings the heads of the twelve tribes brought for the dedication of the altar.
Summary of this portion:
The Eternal One spoke to Moses: “Take a census of the Gershonites also, by their ancestral house and by their clans.” – Numbers 4:21-22
- Three Camps of the Levities: A census of the Gershonites, Merarites, and Koathites between the ages of thirty and fifty is conducted and their duties in the Tabernacle . ( Numbers 4:21-49 )
- G-d speaks to Moses concerning what to do with ritually unclean people, repentant individuals, and those who are suspected of adultery. ( Numbers 5:1-31)
- A nazirite vow are explained. ( Numbers 6:1-21)
- G-d tells Moses how to teach Aaron and his sons the Priestly Blessing. ( Numbers 6:22-27)
- Moses then speaks with G-d inside the Tent of Meeting. ( Numbers 7:1-89)
Three camps of the Levites:
The first one, continuing the census of the Levitical families, mentions the numbering of the Merari, while the second presents the laws regarding the sending out of the camp, of those people who became impure, ‘tamei’. There were three separate camps in the Mishkan; the camp of the Divine Presence, that of the Levites, and that of the People of Israel. In the same way there were the three camps of the Levites; the Family of Kehat, the Family of Gershon and the Family of the Merari. In the same way each of the families of the Levites had a special spiritual role, as we see in the tasks allotted to them regarding the transporting of the Mishkan.
A census of the Gershonites, Merarites, and Koathites between the ages of thirty and fifty is conducted and their duties in the Tabernacle are detailed. – Numbers 4:21-49
- Naming and duties for the sons of Ger’shon -Numbers 4:21-28
- Naming and duties for the sons of M’rari -Numbers 4:29-33
- Naming of the Levites -Numbers 4:34-49
Suspected of Adultery:
- Those who are tamei ( unclean ) should dwell -Numbers 5:1-4
- Confession of sin, and restitution – Numbers 5:5-10
- The test of the suspected sotah ( suspected wife ) – Numbers 5:11-31
G-d speaks to Moses concerning what to do with ritually unclean people, repentant individuals, and those who are suspected of adultery. -Numbers 5:1-31
The obligations of a nazirite vow are explained. They include abstaining from alcohol and not cutting one’s hair. – Numbers 6:1-21 ;
The offerings and dedication of the Mish’kan [Tabernacle] : Moses consecrates the Sanctuary, and the tribal chieftains bring offerings. Moses then speaks with G-d inside the Tent of Meeting. – Numbers 7:1-89
G-d tells Moses how to teach Aaron and his sons the Priestly Blessing. – Numbers 6:22-27
There are three types of berachot in the world. There is the brecha that Hashem grants to His creation, as “And Hashem blessed Avraham with everything” (Genesis. 24:1) and then there are the blessings and praises that we, so to speak, pay to Hashem as, “And David blessed Hashem‘” (1 Chronicles, 29:10). Yet there are the blessings that people bestow on each other. These are not the great bounty and plenty that G-d grants to us, neither are they praise and glorification like those that we, as it were give to Hashem. These are rather prayers and requests that Hashem should show mercy and success on the one we are blessing, as “And Yitschak was old … and he said to Eisav, ..that My soul may bless you ” (Ber. 27:1-4. That is why the Kohanim were told ” This is the way you shall bless Israel” (Bamidbar,6:23), so that they should know that this blessing was not from their own will or power, and not merely the hope for success, protection and wealth from one human to another, but rather the blessings that comes from Hashem and from Him alone ” Let them place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I shall bless them”.
Speak to Aharon and his sons, saying: So shall you bless the Children of Israel, saying to them: “May Hashem bless you and safeguard you. May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you, and be gracious to you. May Hashem lift His countenance to you and establish peace for you.” Let them place My Name upon the Children of Israel, and I shall bless them.
The blessings are as follows. “May HaShem bless you and protect you. May HaShem shine His Countenance upon you and favor you. May HaShem lift up His countenance to you and give you peace.” The following “three-fold” prayer is found in Numbers 6:24-26, “May the HaShem bless you and safeguard you. May the HaShem illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you. May the HaShem lift His countenance to you and establish peace for you.” Judaism holds great significance to the number three (i.e., Talmud Shabbos 88a, Avos 1:2). that being a “judgemental side” (in his “left hand”) mercy in His “right hand,” and compassion in the center . There are also three parts to creation, the physical realm we live in, the realm of souls and angels, and the realm of the heavenly throne room. We are protected with the “left side of judgement,” given grace from the “right side of mercy” and find peace in the harmony of their balance. We are blessed in the physical world, our souls receive his countenance in the next realm, and the peace “that passes all understanding” comes from His throne in the heavens. This prayer is thus a representation of Messiah who unites left and right as well as below and above realm.
Rashi states that the explanation of “May G-d bless you and protect you” is may He bless you financially and preserve your financial gift that it shouldn’t be lost. The Chofetz Chaim (early 20th cent. Poland) adds: ” However, wealth that comes through another means, which isn’t a blessing of G-d, is that which comes through dishonesty and the like…that kind of wealth does not have G-d’s protection over it, and in the end it will be lost from him, or he will be lost from it…or sometimes it will be lost through sickness or other troubles. This is what is stated in Proverbs (10:22) The blessings of G-d (truly) bring wealth and it will not bring sadness with it.” But wealth which comes through activities which G-d does not approve of does bring sadness in the end.
The Birkat Kohanim can have special significance to those who love Messiah and His Torah. The Birkat Kohanim merely the placing of a blessing on the people by an Aaronic priest. It is G-d, standing behind the kohen, placing His Name upon the people through the priest. The blessing… is His Name on us. The Birkat Kohanim is like saying, “These are My treasured possession. They are Mine. My Name is written on them.” It is why it is said with the kohen’s hands in the shape of the letter shin, which is symbolic for one of G-d’s Names, “El Shaddai.”
The Midrash compares this stance with a passage in the Song of Songs, which suggests that G-d’s Shekhinah (Divine Presence) stands behind the Kohanim who bless the people:
“… therefore the priests spread their palms, to say that the Holy One stands behind us. And so it is written: ‘There He stands behind our wall, gazing through the window, peering through the lattice.’ (Song of Songs 2:9) ‘Gazing through the window’ — through the fingers of the priests; ‘peering through the lattice’ — when they spread their palms, therefore it says ‘Thus shall you bless them.’”
We who know Yeshua have had our heads lifted. We have had Him speak His prophetic blessings upon us – writing His Torah ( i.e soul Torah/ Torah of Mashiach) upon our hearts and causing us to walk in His ways. He has given us His Name as our identity.
And He took the children in His arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.” -Mark 10:16
For we are His workmanship, created in Messiah Yeshua for good works, which G-d prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. -Ephesians 2:10
G-d also instructs Moses to teach Aaron a special three part blessing which Aaron and the priests are to use to bless the people of Israel.
The blessing : May Adonai bless you and keep you! May Adonai deal kindly and graciously with you! May Adonai bestow favor upon you and grant you peace! -Numbers 6:24-26
So they shall put My Name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them.
Naso means to “lift up,” and in this weekly portion the word is understood as “to take a count” or a “census.” In much the same way Moses is to lift up – identify and count – each member of the Gershonite and Merarite families. The Torah assigns the exact Mishkan-related tasks to be performed by the families of Gershon, Kehat, & Merari, the sons of Levi. A husband who suspects his wife had been unfaithful brings her to the Temple. A Kohen prepares a drink of water mixed with dust from the Temple floor and a special ink used for inscribing Hashem’s name on a piece of parchment. If she is innocent, the potion does not harm her; it brings a blessing of children.
Law of Jealousy or Sotah:
This is considered the “Law of Jealousy” or “sotah” in Hebrew. The Book of Numbers chapter five describes a ritual performed to test suspicions raised by a husband about his wife’s sexual fidelity. The jealous husband is required to bring his wife to the priest in the tabernacle where she is subjected to an ordeal whose character is unparalleled in law. The priest prepares a potion, consisting of “holy water,” dust from the tabernacle floor, and ink from an oath written on parchment. As the woman drinks the potion, the outcome of the trial manifests itself on her body, confirming or refuting her husband’s suspicions.
if a man suspects his wife of adultery, the Torah prescribes the following procedure:
‘If any man’s wife goes astray, and is unfaithful to him, and a man lies with her carnally . . . and there is no witness against her . . . The priest shall bring her near, and set her before HaShem; and the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, and of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle the priest shall take, and put it into the water. . . He shall make the woman drink the water of bitterness that causes the curse, and the water that causes the curse shall enter into her and become bitter.” -Numbers 5:12-24
“The Kohen shall have the woman stand before HaShem and uncover the woman’s head…” Numbers 5:18, -Sforno, Mesorah Publishers
If the woman is guilty, she has caused HaShem’s Divine Name to be erased into the bitter waters. – Rebbe Nachman’s Torah says,
“In the course of the sotah ceremony, which determines whether a woman was unfaithful to her husband, G-d’s Name is written on a shard of clay that is then dipped in water, causing the Name to be erased. It is as if G-d is saying, “My Name, which was written in holiness, may be erased in order to bring out peace between husband and wife.” Rebbe Nachman’s Torah, Parashat Naso, Breslov Research Institute, pg. 30, cf. Chullin 141a
The Talmud has a whole tractate dedicated to the Sotah, the woman suspected of adultery. Numbers 5:11-31, it tells about a seemingly odd ceremony, regarding a wife suspected of unfaithfulness, but where no witnesses were found.
Remember, adultery that is proven by two or more witnesses is grounds for stoning. The tractate of the Talmud deals with this, and is thus the tractate is named “Sotah” [one who goes astray].
In the Gemara commentary of the Mishnah, the Talmud asks the question, “why was the tractate Sotah placed immediately after the tractate Nazir.
From the Sages:
To tell you that whoever witnesses a suspected woman in her disgrace should withhold himself from wine. -b.Sotah 2a
“Witnesses”? I thought the Sotah was a woman who was suspected of adultery, but it could not be proven. Remember, it takes two or three witnesses to establish any fact. The Talmud goes into a lengthy discussion regarding the difference between one or two witnesses in the case of the Sotah, resolving that the charge of adultery may not be brought against the Sotah except by two or more witnesses.
One witness was enough for the process named in Numbers 5:11-31. In most cases, the “witness” is the husband who has found her to be unfaithful.
The priest makes the woman drink water that is mixed with dust from the Tabernacle/Temple floor, and a written passage of Scripture which contains HaShem’s Name. If she is truly guilty of unfaithfulness, a curse comes on her. It is the curse of the Sotah, and it is a curse of becoming barren.
She was found to have been unfaithful. She could not be rightly convicted of adultery, but her Husband, the One witness, still knows of her unfaithfulness. The bitter waters of the Sotah, from the dust of the Temple floor, made her unfruitful… It is the consolation that the barren one, the Sotah, will no longer be barren. Although Israel was guilty of unfaithfulness, and was found to be a Sotah, the curse is now reversed, and she is complete forgiven.
Sing, O barren, You who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,” says HaShem. “Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. -Isaiah 54:1-2
The shame of the Sotah is removed. Because the Sotah is removed from her husband, her hair cut off, she is as a widow.She is a Sotah no more.
Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, HaShem of hosts is His Name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the G-d of the whole earth. -Isaiah 54:4-5
For HaShem has called you like a woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, like a youthful wife when you were refused,” Says your G-d. “For a mere moment I have forsaken you, but with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; but with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,” Says HaShem, your Redeemer. -Isaiah 54:6-7
A very interesting connection is found to the Sotah the book of New Testament . It is found in John’s account:
Now early in the morning He came again into the Temple, and all the people came to Him; and He sat down and taught them. Then the scribes and Pharisees brought to Him a woman caught in adultery. And when they had set her in the midst, they said to Him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses, in the law, commanded us that such should be stoned. But what do You say?” This they said, testing Him, that they might have something of which to accuse Him.
But Yeshua stooped down and wrote on the ground with His finger, as though He did not hear. So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” And again He stooped down and wrote on the ground.
Yeshua appeals to Deuteronomy :
“The hands of the witnesses shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterward the hands of all the people. So thou shalt put the evil away from among you.” -Deuteronomy 17:7
The Talmud : “When adulterers multiplied the ceremony of the bitter water was discontinued and it was R’ Yochanan ben Zakkai who discontinued it, as it is said, ‘I will not punish your daughters when they commit whoredom, nor your brides when they commit adultery’ -Hosea 4:14
Yeshua fulfilled the words of Jeremiah: “HaShem, the hope of Israel, all who forsake you shall be disappointed. Those who depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken HaShem, the spring of living waters.” -Jeremiah 17:13
Then those who heard it, being convicted by their conscience, went out one by one, beginning with the oldest even to the last. And Yeshua was left alone, and the woman standing in the midst. When Yeshua had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers of yours? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, L-rd.” And Yeshua said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” –John 8:2-11
Notice that the accusers of the woman “caught in adultery” bring no witnesses.
Since there are no “accusers” – there can be no stoning. Notice how Yeshua writes in the dust of the Temple floor. May be it sound like in the chapter five of Number. Yes, this woman is an accused Sotah. Beloved, she is undoubtedly a Sotah, but there is no husband present to bring the accusation against her. The required two witnesses are not there to convict her of adultery, so Yeshua tells her to sin no more and sends her on her way.
Israel – Woman:
Many have looked at Israel over the past years and declared that Israel is the Sotah, the unfaithful wife. They have declared her to be cursed by G-d, and unfruitful. They have added to her shamed and shorn head, unrelenting persecution. Israel is about to enjoy the favor of HaShem her Husband and her shame will be forever forgotten.
Do not fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore. For your Maker is your husband, HaShem of hosts is His Name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the G-d of the whole earth. -Isaiah 54:4-5
Israel is like the woman of John 8:2-11. She has been found out. No witnesses can stand against her, since her true unfaithfulness is known only by her Husband. He brought her to the waters of bitterness. She was refused by her Husband. She was disgraced and barren. but her Husband has found a way to remove her disgrace and to take her back. She no longer will be known as the Sotah, but as “the Pure and Spotless Bride.” She will no longer be barren, but fruitful.
“For this is like the waters of Noah to Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noah would no longer cover the earth, So have I sworn that I would not be angry with you, nor rebuke you. For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” Says HaShem, who has mercy on you. -Isaiah 54:9-10
Like the waters of Noah, so the bitter waters of the Sotah are withdrawn. They were not only judgement, but also the stage whereby HaShem’s greatest act of covenant love is revealed: When all Israel is redeemed.
Talmud’s quote of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi:
To tell you that whoever witnesses a suspected woman in her disgrace should withhold himself from wine. b.Sotah 2a
The same which reflects about Yeshua’s last Seder meal with His disciples. After He drinks the wine of the third cup, He declares:
“But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” -Matthew 26:29
It appears that our Master, the One Witness of Israel’s unfaithfulness, is taking the Vow of a Nazir. He is the One Witness, and no other can be found. As the One Witness, He thus vows to remove her shame. Like the woman brought to Him in the Temple, it is as if He declares to His unfaithful wife, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”
Most High declares:
For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed,” Says HaShem, who has mercy on you. -Isaiah 54:10
Rejoice, Israel! The Shame of the Sotah is removed from your husband! For your Maker is your husband, HaShem of hosts is His Name; and your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel.
You shall draw water with joy from the wells of salvation (yeshu’ah).
From the book of John: “…Yeshua stooped down, and wrote on the ground with his finger.” -John 8:6
Yeshua says, “…if I by the finger of G-d cast out demons, then the Kingdom of G-d has come to you.” -Luke 11:20
The demonic powers of the Egyptians could not contend with the ‘Finger of G-d’. When HaShem delivered Israel, He brought the plagues upon Egypt via the “finger of G-d,” “Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of G-d” and Pharaoh’s heart was hardened . . .” -Exodus 8:19
It was the Finger of G-d that wrote the Ten Commandments,
“HaShem delivered to me the two tablets of stone written with the finger of G-d . . .”
As Yeshua’s finger writes in the dust, it echoes the Finger of G-d writing the commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” Like the marks written upon the dust upon floor of the Temple, the Torah also was trampled underfoot. As Yeshua wrote with his finger, so also did the priest write out the curse.
“It was the office of the priest, when he tried a suspected wife, to stoop down and gather the dust off the floor of the sanctuary; which when he had infused into the water, he was to give the woman to drink: he was to write also in a book the curses or adjurations that were to be pronounced upon her… In like manner our Saviour stoops down; and making the floor itself his book, he writes something in the dust, doubtless against these accusers whom he was resolved to try, in analogy to those curses and adjurations written in a book by the priest, against the woman that was to be tried.” J.B. Lightfoot
The Nazirite vow was often taken by men and women alike purely for personal reasons, such as thanksgiving for recovery from illness, or for the birth of a child. The minimum period of the vow was thirty days, but we have instances of Nazirite vows extending over repeated periods of seven years. Scripture records also life-long Nazirites, who, however, were not bound by all the regulations of the temporary Nazirite. Mention is also made of the Rechabites, who abstained from wine (Jer. xxxv).
As the Nazirite had during his vow worn his hair unshorn in honour of G-d, so when the time was complete it was natural that the hair, the symbol of his vow, should be cut off at the Sanctuary. In the times of the Mishnah, a special room was assigned to the Nazirites for that purpose in one of the Temple courts.
A Nazir is one who vows to dedicate himself to G-d for a period of time. He must abstain from all grape products, grow his hair & avoid contact with corpses. At the end of this period he shaves his head & brings special offerings.
Summary points – Abstain from:
- Anything made from grapes
- Cutting his hair
- Contact with a dead body
- Offer a year old male lamb for a burnt offering
- Offer a year old female lamb for a sin offering
- Offer one ram for peace offerings
- Offer a basket of unleavened bread, cakes of fine flour mingled with oil, and wafers of unleavened bread anointed with oil, and their meat offerings, and their drink offerings.
- Shave his head at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation and burn it under the peace offering.
The apostle Rabbi Shaly undertook two such vows in Acts 18:18 and Acts 21:20-28 .
And Rabbi Shaul after this tarried there yet a good while, and then took his leave of the brethren, and sailed thence into Syria, and with him Priscilla and Aquila; having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow.
“Having shorn his head in Cenchrea: for he had a vow” describes a Nazarite vow. In Acts 21:20-28 it is said that there was a report that Shaul was teaching the Jews living amongst the Gentiles to forsake Moshe and the Torah. Knowing this report to be false the Messianic Jews in Jerusalem told Shaul to take with him four men who had taken a Nazarite vow and to pay their expenses so they could fulfill their vows. At this point he could have disavowed having anything to do with Torah by refusing to do as they asked. But, he didn’t. He paid their expenses willingly in order to prove that the report had been false. Apparently, however, Shaul did not take a vow for himself but just paid their expenses which is no small matter for four men. Unfortunately, this process was interrupted when the other Jews rioted after recognizing him and having heard the same false report. He did however purify himself with them before going into the Temple which means that he baptized (immersed)himself in a Mikvah.
Shaul was accused of being against the Temple, the Torah, and the Jewish people. Even believers had begun to believe this false testimony regarding Shaul. Ya’akov an elder of the Jerusalem congregation suggested that Shaul prove his devotion to the Temple, the Torah and the Jewish people by fulfilling a Nazarite vow, and paying for others to fulfill their Nazarite vows.
When Paul came to Jerusalem, the elders of the congregation of believers in Jerusalem describe their pious congregation this way:
And they said to him , “You see, brother, how many myriads of Jews there are who have believed, and they are all zealous for the Torah.”
Therefore do what we tell you: We have four men who have taken a vow. Take them and be purified with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads, and that all may know that those things of which they were informed concerning you are nothing, but that you yourself also walk orderly and keep the Torah. -Acts 21:23-24
Then Shaul took the men, and the next day, having been purified with them, entered the Temple to announce the expiration of the days of purification, at which time an offering should be made for each one of them. -Acts 21:26
TORAH COMMENTARY ON NASO -By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
THE LONGEST PARSHAH
Parshas NASO, with 176 verses, is the longest parshah in the whole Torah, and the Midrashic commentaries, particularly the aggadic Midrash Rabbah, are also exceptionally lengthy. It is fitting that this parshah is usually read on the Shabbos immediately before or just after the festival of Shavuos celebrating the Giving of the Torah, when our love of the Torah is renewed and we receive new vigor and energy to devote ourselves to our studies. We are now enjoying the longest days of the year, and the long Summer Shabbos should give us plenty of time to explore the beautiful mysteries of this Parshah.
NO “BEFORE” AND “AFTER” IN THE TORAH
As noted in a number of previous commentaries, the sequence of parshahs and sections in the Torah is not always chronological, and Parshas NASO is one of the prime cases.
The opening of our parshah, dealing with the census of the Levitical families, is a direct continuation of the previous parshah, BAMIDBAR, the closing section of which started the narrative of the Levitical census. The command to Moses to conduct the census of the people was given “on the first day of the SECOND month” of the year after the Exodus (Numbers 1:1) and Moses did so forthwith. After completion in parshas NASO of the account of the census, the Torah JUMPS BACK chronologically to the first day of the FIRST month of the year after the Exodus — the day of the inauguration of the Sanctuary.
The chronological jump is not obvious immediately. However, the section after the Levitical census deals with commandments that relate to the newly inaugurated sanctuary: sending the ritually impure out of the camp, the sacrifices of the SOTAH (the wife suspected of infidelity), and the NAZIR (who vows not to drink wine, cut his/her hair or become defiled by the dead), the priestly blessing (which was given in the courtyard outside the Sanctuary, and was instituted by Aaron on the day of its inauguration). The lengthy closing section of NASO narrates in detail the dedications and sacrificial offerings of all the Princes of the Twelve Tribes of Israel on the twelve inaugural days of the Sanctuary, starting on the 1st Nissan. Although the date is not written explicitly in our parshah, it says: “It was on the day of the completion by Moses of the erection of the Sanctuary.” (Numbers 7:1). We are already familiar with this most auspicious day from our studies in Exodus and Leviticus.
The Torah continues dwelling on 1st Nissan and associated themes into the following parshah, BEHA’ALOSCHA, and there the date is given explicitly: “And G-d spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai in the second year after their going out from the Land of Egypt IN THE FIRST MONTH” (Numbers 9:1). Rashi (ad loc.) tells us that this verse indeed is the written proof that there is no “before” and “after” in the Torah.
In other words, the various parshahs and sections of the Torah are not necessarily arranged in chronological sequence but thematically. This indicates that adjacent passages in the Torah whose subjects may not on the surface appear to be interconnected do in fact have profound interconnections. This gives rise to the rabbinic method of interpreting passages in the Torah according to their SEMICHUS, “proximity” to one another. Our parshah contains a case in point in the rabbinic comment on why the section about the NAZIR, who vows to abstain from wine, comes directly after that about the SOTAH, the unfaithful wife. “Everybody who sees the damage done by and to the Sotah will want to abstain from wine, which is what brings to fornication” (Rashi on Numbers 6:2).
THE GIVING OF THE TORAH AND INAUGURATION OF THE SANCTUARY
As noted earlier, NASO is always read on the Shabbos after Shavuos, anniversary of the Giving of the Torah. Clearly there is a deep link between the Giving of the Torah and the Inauguration of the Sanctuary/Temple and its associated commandments, which is the theme of the greater part of NASO. On this, one of the longest Shabboses at the height of summer, when the world is in full bloom around us, the Torah keeps our minds focussed on the 1st of Nissan, the “New Year”, time of rebirth, the day of the Consecration of the Sanctuary.
On the day the Sanctuary was consecrated, the Torah descended from Sinai with its awe, thunder, lightning and earthquakes and was brought in the golden Ark of the Covenant, under the wings of the Cherubs, into the ultimate serene tranquillity of the Holy of Holies. This was the vision of Jacob, the founding father who built the House of Israel: that the Torah should come down from its lofty heights and dwell inside the Sanctuary — not only in the actual, external Sanctuary, but in the home of every Israelite and the heart of every Israelite. When we bring the Torah into our homes and our hearts, it becomes the vessel of peace and blessing that radiates light all around us, just as the blessing of the priests radiates from the Sanctuary (and today, during the priestly blessing in the synagogue, from before the Ark, housing the Torah scrolls): “May the Lord bless you and keep you.”. For the study of Torah itself confers blessing. For the entire Torah is woven of the names of G-d, and “in every place where I shall cause My name to be mentioned I will come to you and bless you” (Exodus20:21).
IN THE HOME AND IN THE HEART
At the center of parshas NASO are two lengthy sections that bring the Torah of the Sanctuary directly into our very homes and hearts: these are the sections dealing with the laws of the SOTAH, the wife suspected of infidelity, and the NAZIR, who vows to abstain from wine, cutting his/her hair and defilement from the dead.
At the very center of the true Torah home is the love between husband and wife, which is the very foundation of the BINYAN — the “building” or structure of the family. True love between husband and wife is very jealous: true love brooks no outsiders and third parties. The unity of husband and wife must be complete, face to face, without a trace of a shadow in between.
It is hard even to speak of the purity of love between husband and wife in a world in which third parties are accepted as a normal part of life. It is this rampant immorality that breeds broken homes, broken hearts, children who grow up between one home and another, knowing little or nothing of family, roots and kinship.
Completely opposite is the morality emanating from the Ark of the Covenant in the Holy Sanctuary: “This is the Torah of the Sotah.” Strange as it may seem ithe context of contemporary (im)morality, the ceremony of the Sotah, the wife suspected of marital infidelity, one of the most awesome rituals of the Temple, is intended as a bulwark of family purity.
In normal everyday life husbands and wives are constantly coming into contact with all kinds of other people in various different contexts, and it is only natural that relationships can form even in societies that are sexually segregated (as in Temple times) let alone in contemporary mixed society.
The Sotah ritual — administering the bitter waters to the wife even as she protests her innocence in the face of suspicions of infidelity — was intentionally very frightening to the woman involved and to all who saw it. Here we see the Temple, where the ritual would take place, as a kind of theatre where a spectacle is held up to the entire nation in order to teach a deep lesson.
The bitter waters are the truth-tester of the Torah (quite different from lie-detectors). Mixed with the water was earth from the floor of the Sanctuary (archetype of the Israelite home as it should be) and the dissolved ink of the letters of Torah verses and curses written on the scroll of the Sotah, including the holy name of G-d. What is the truth? Did she or didn’t she? Is she lying or is she telling the truth?
The actual Sotah test in Temple times only works when the husband himself is absolutely beyond reproach on any level in all of the commandments relating to sexuality — the foundation of the Covenant. On such an ideal level of purity, love is fierce and love is jealous. Suspicions may arise. The holy waters of the Sotah can dispel them. For this it is worth dissolving and washing off even the holy name of G-d: to make peace between man and his wife, or to make them separate.
Today, in the absence of the Temple, the Sotah waters take on a different significance, more allegorical. In actual life, without ideal levels of purity, suspicions and strange thoughts do often creep into the best of relationships. It is not infrequently through the bitter waters of suffering that the truth really comes out, one way or the other. And when the bitter waters prove that there was never any disloyalty at all, the resulting rebirth of love and vigor brings new, stronger children into the world, strengthening the home with the joyous mother of children at its center.
[In the Midrash, the Sotah is the Jewish nation, suspected of infidelity to G-d because of their dalliance with the nations, tested by the bitter waters of suffering.]
The Hebrew word NAZIR is today used for a monk, but the Torah has no place for such celibacy, and only the prophet Moses and certain true Tzaddikim were permitted to separate themselves from “the way of the world”. The Torah NAZIR was not one who separated himself from the world as a recluse from normal life. (On the contrary, the laws of NAZIR are bound up with family life: a man may make his son a NAZIR, he may invite his wife to take the vow of NAZIR, nullify her vow, etc.) The Nazirite vow is one that would in Temple times be taken on by a regular, normal person who did not want to separate himself from the entire world but did want to set extra limits on his own behavior over and above what the Torah requires of everyone.
Following on from the above-quoted Midrash — “Everybody who sees the damage done by and to the Sotah will want to abstain from wine, which is what brings to fornication” — the NAZIR living in the real world full of immorality wants to set for himself or herself extra personal boundaries against anything that may even lead to such immorality — wine and anything connected with wine, and even fancy hairstyles! The Nazirite may not defile himself with the dead, for while death exposes the folly of worship of the body, fears of aging and death often drive people to seek out the pleasures of the body compulsively.
The section dealing with the NAZIR sets forth the detailed laws of the Nazirite vow, yet implies that taking on specific vows is not encouraged by the Torah. Among his sacrifices the Nazirite has to bring a sin-offering for abstaining from permitted pleasures, as if what the Torah itself prohibits is not enough. When we take on vows, sometimes the tests become overwhelming, and may cause us to break them unwittingly (like the Nazirite who becomes unwittingly defiled by contact with the dead.).
What the Torah wants from us is the true labor of the heart: commitment. A vow is an explicit verbal commitment that we make, creating a Torah of our own, something that goes beyond the letter of the law. It may be in the form of a personal boundary. It may be in the form of a specific commitment. Jacob, the founding father of Israel, builder of the home, was the first one to make a vow. At Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount where Jacob dreamed of the ladder (SULAM = SINAI = Giving of the Torah), he woke up and set up the Temple foundation and vowed to give a tithe of all he received to G-d. The Torah that came forth from the Sanctuary (Leviticus 1:1) begins with a vow — that of a person who wants to offer a sacrifice in the Temple: “When a person would offer an offering” (Leviticus 1:2).
The Nazirite vow is much more demanding than a one-time sacrifice: it is a commitment to a very strict discipline — complete abstinence from grapes and wine, no haircutting to emphasize the opposite of body-oriented immorality, etc. In the present day world in which we lead our lives, the actual Nazirite vow is not a practical possibility, but we certainly all know ways in which it is desirable to hedge ourselves in with personal boundaries that help separate ourselves from that which is negative and evil in this world of Good and Evil.
What is asked of us is to make our personal boundaries and adhere to them without expressing them in the form of specific vows. The danger of the vow is that during the initial enthusiasm in which in which it is made, we may not see prospective difficulties that could make it impossible to adhere to it. What is asked of us is not to tie ourselves up in verbal commitments that we cannot keep, but rather, to make an inner commitment — the commitment of the heart — to what we know to be good, and then do everything in our power to adhere to our commitment.
The concluding section of NASO deals with the sacrifices of the Twelve Princes on the twelve inaugural days of the Sanctuary. It is striking that these were one-time sacrifices, yet we read these portions of the Torah several times during the year: they are publicly read in the Synagogue during Chanukah, and in some Synagogues they are read from a Torah scroll on the first twelve days of Nissan.
In last week’s commentary discussing the names of the Princes and numbers of the tribes of Israel in the Wilderness, I made reference to the fact that in the Hebrew Torah, all of these are ciphers, codes and letter-permutations that bring entire worlds upon worlds into being. The same is true of the portions dealing with the sacrifices of the Twelve Princes, each of whom brought identical offerings on twelve successive days.
One of the reasons why the Midrash Rabbah on NASO is so lengthy is because not only does it contain extensive drashos on the SOTAH and NAZIR, etc. It also contains very lengthy drashos showing that although each of the Twelve Princes brought identical offerings, in each case they had an entirely different meaning and intention, each wondrous, each amazing.
And so too each Israelite dons the same Tallis and Tefilin, abstains from the same forbidden labors on Shabbos, gives Tzedakah, does Chessed. But in each case the meaning and intention of each act is entirely different. The hidden intentions in the heart of each one. the hidden efforts.
And G-d has joy from them all. All are His children. All are members of the Twelve Tribes of Israel, the House of Jacob.
Shabbat Shalom!!! – Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
Haftarat Naso – ‘Lift’ – Judges 13:2-25
This week’s Torah portion includes the instructions in Numbers 6 regarding the Nazarite vow. Our haftarah reading from the Prophets includes the account of how Samson was promised, and the instructions about how he was to be a lifelong Nazarite.
The Nazarite decides to dedicate himself to HaShem for a period of time, determined within the vow.During the time of the vow, the Nazarite abstains from:
Any grape product; Cutting the hair on his head ;All contact with the dead; In addition to that, the Nazarite will on the day of the completion of his vow:
Bring the following offerings to the Mish’kan [Tabernacle]: Male lamb for a korban olah [burnt offering] ; Ewe lamb for a chatat [sin offering] ; Goat for a shalem [peace offering] ; Unleavened bread ; Grain offerings and drink offerings; Take his shaved hair and give it as an offering
Our haftarah deals with the calling of Samson as a Nazarite. Samson was a Nazarite from before his birth. He is a type (a foreshadowing) of messianic figure.
Our haftarah begins this way: Now there was a certain man from Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren and had no children. And the Angel of HaShem appeared to the woman and said to her, “Indeed now, you are barren and have borne no children, but you shall conceive and bear a son. Now therefore, please be careful not to drink wine or similar drink, and not to eat anything unclean. For behold, you shall conceive and bear a son. And no razor shall come upon his head, for the child shall be a Nazarite to G-d from the womb; and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistine.”
When Manoah later meets up with this mysterious “Angel of HaShem” he asks him his name.
Then Manoah said to the Angel of HaShem, “What is Your name, that when Your words come to pass we may honor You?” And the Angel of HaShem said to him, “Why do you ask My name, seeing it is wonderful?” –Judges 13:17-18
From the word of “Wonderful.” Notice the Scripture passage.
For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty G-d, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His Kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of HaShem of hosts will perform this. –-Isaiah 9:6-7
We are waiting for the day that We will see Messiah, standing at the door of the Temple, Jerusalem.
We will see that the children of Israel return to Most High and Torah of Mashiach, And will hug in the Holy Land, and by obeying and listening the “VOICE of Most Ancient Holy One of Israel”, will bring offerings in a righteous way on the holy mountain and also bring the Ark of the covenant with pure heart in the right place ( i.e In Har HaBayit, on the foundation Stone) .
We will Welcome the son of David on Mount Zion, Jerusalem.
[ Ha Khadosh Baruch Hu – Baruch HaBa B’Shem Adonai ] – Gaddi, President, BeitYaaqov International.
Gaddi – President