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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Parashat Nasso

Parasha: Nasso – Numbers 4:21 – 7:89
Haftara: Judges 13:2-25
Reading Date: 7st June 2008 – 4th Sivan 5768

4:23 ‘To do or to work’ - Part of the responsibility of sons of Gershon was to participate in the musical accompaniment of some of the communal offerings (Bamidbar Rabbah 6:5) a duty that the Talmud characterizes as work (Arachin 11a).
The sages tell us that the priest should say seven penitential prayers (slichot) with joyful chants in his throat. He shall raise them by the six rings of the windpipe which are the six rungs of the throne of ‘chochmah’ or knowledge. The authors of the Mishnah wrote that the heart has understanding. During the time of the counting of the Omer we have been looking at the different types of relationships we have according to the attributes we have as human beings ( and here again we see them; Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod and Yesod. For those of you do not know these terms, please refer to the link above, it will be a tremendous help in your daily lives. (Naso – idra raba)

4:28 Some translations use ‘the work of the sons…’ others use ‘the charge of the…’ – the word used in Hebrew is ‘mishmeret’ which is best translated like a work day or shift.

4:34-48 This marks the completion of the census of the three Levitical families: viz., 2750 Kohathites, 2630 Gershonites, and 3200 Merarites - in all, 8580 Levites fit for service: a number which bears a just proportion to the total number of male Levites of a month old and upwards, viz., 22,000.

In chapter five we see the outward organization of the tribes of Israel as the army of YHVH. Torah then proceeds to their internal, moral and spiritual order for the purpose of giving an inward support to their outward or social and political unity. This is the object of the directions concerning the removal of unclean persons from the camp.

5:3 The camp is being made worthy of the indwelling of the Shekinah.

5: 11-31 The woman in the passage behaved in a way to give her husband reason to suspect her of adultery, but there is no proof of guilt or innocence. The Torah prescribes a miraculous process that will prove her guilt or innocence and thereby restore trust and love to her marriage. If her fear of imminent death induces her to confess, the marriage would end in divorce, but without any penalty for her. The use of super natural intervention in the case of the bitter water is what convinces the husband. No court or testimony what convince him otherwise.

This passage serves to explain not only the introduction of the law respecting the jealousy-offering in this place, but also the general importance of the subject, and the reason for its being so elaborately described.

5:18 Rather than actual bitter water it should rather be the waters of her bitterness.

5:19 Rashi tells us that the verse starts with the alternative of innocence as in capital cases the court must always start with arguments for acquittal.

Repentance: The sages wondered why if someone’s sins actually harmed the whole universe, his act of repentance should help to restore this damage. Rabbi Yitzchak replied than when one repents (chozer b’tshuva) no matter what was done, repentance can restore, including the personal as well as in the heavens. Although YHVH has steeped the world with Judgement, He wishes us to repent in order to better our position in this world and in the World to Come.

6:2 The Nazarite. - The legal regulations concerning the vow of the Nazarite are appropriate to the laws intended to promote the spiritual order of the congregation of Israel. For the Nazarite brings to light the priestly character of the Covenant Nation in a peculiar form, which has necessarily to be incorporated into the spiritual organization of the community, so that it might become a means of furthering the sanctification of the people in covenant with YHVH. (Talmud. Nasir)

6:21-27 The Priestly or Aaronic Blessing. - The spiritual character of the congregation of Israel culminated in the blessing with which the priests were to bless the people. The directions as to this blessing, therefore, impressed the seal of perfection upon the whole order and organization of the people of YHVH, inasmuch as Israel was first truly formed into a congregation of YHVH by the fact that He not only bestowed His blessing upon it, but placed the communication of this blessing in the hands of the priests, the chosen and constant mediators of the blessings of His grace, and imposed it upon them as one portion of their official duty. The blessing which the priests were to impart to the people, consisted of a triple blessing of two members each, which stood related to each other thus: The second in each case contained a special application of the first to the people, and the three gradations unfolded the substance of the blessing step by step with ever increasing emphasis. - The first, “YHVH bless you and keep you safe,” conveyed the blessing in the most general form, merely describing it as coming from YHVH, and setting forth preservation from the evil of the world as His work. “The blessing of YHVH is His goodness in action, by which a supply of all good pours down to us from His good favor; then follows, secondly, the prayer that He would keep the people. - The second, “YHVH make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you,” defines the blessing more closely as the manifestation of the favor and grace of YHVH. The face of YHVH is His personality as turned towards man. If “the light of the sun is sweet, and pleasant for the eyes to behold” (Ecc_11:7), “the light of the divine countenance, the everlasting light (Psa_36:10), is the sum of all delight” . This light sends rays of mercy into a heart in need of salvation, and makes it the recipient of grace. - The third, “YHVH lift up His face to you, and give you peace”, sets forth the blessing of YHVH as a manifestation of power, or a work of power upon man, the end of which is peace (shalom), the sum of all the good which YHVH sets, prepares, or establishes for His people.

6:27 The priests do not have any independent or special power to confer or withhold the blessing. They are the conduit through which YHVH bestows His blessings upon the people.

7:10-11 All heads of the Tribes presented the same gift. The reason for this regulation was not to make a greater display or to avoid cutting short the important ceremony of consecration, but was involved in the very nature of the gifts presented.
Each tribe offered;
- (1) A Silver Dish (kearah, Exo_25:29) of 130 shekels, i.e., about 4 1/2 lbs.
- (2) A Silver Bowl (mizrak, a sacrificial bowl, not a wine container, as in Exo.27:3 of 70 shekels, both filled with fine flour mixed with oil for a meat-offering;
- (3) A golden Spoon (caph, Exo.25:29) filled with incense for an incense-offering;
- (4) A bullock, a ram, and a sheep of a year old for a burnt-offering;
- (5) A goat for a sin-offering;
- (6) Two oxen, five rams, five he-goats, and five sheep a year old for a peace-offering. Out of these gifts the fine flour, the incense, and the sacrificial animals were intended for sacrificing upon the altar, and that not as a provision for a lengthened period, but for immediate use in the way prescribed. This could not have been carried out if more than one tribe had presented it’s gifts, and brought them to be sacrificed on any one day. For the limited space in the court of the tabernacle would not have allowed of 252 animals being received, slaughtered, and prepared for sacrificing all at once, or on the same day; and it would have been also impossible to burn 36 whole animals (oxen, rams, and sheep), and the fat portions of 216 animals.

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