Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Parashah Nasso - Make an accounting Bamidbar (Numbers) 4:21 - 7:89


The tabernacle and its articles have been created.  The tabernacle itself is about to be assembled, and there are numerous details that need to be delineated to the Levites regarding the preparations for the erection and taking down of the tabernacle.

There are numerous sections within this parashah as the time for the tabernacle’s construction is approaching.  In fact, by the time we complete the first verse of chapter 7 the Tabernacle is standing in its completed form.

However, prior to its final assembly it is necessary for the Levites to be assigned their responsibilities regarding the tabernacle.  While we are informed as to the duties of each of the families, we also discover that the men from the age of thirty through fifty were the ones that were to be assigned the work.

Chapter 5 reveals instructions regarding the camp - it must be purified for the Holy  One’s shechinah was about to dwell among them.  Within this portion we find instructions regarding those ritually unclean, thievery, and jealousy.

I find the law of jealousies to be riveting for four particular reasons.  First of all, the husband does not need to have any proof of any impropriety by his spouse in order to initiate this procedure.  Were there proof of any wrongdoing, the husband would not need to follow this instruction, for there is another process of redress when there are witnesses.

Secondly, it seems to me that for the most part, this directive is not given so that wives may be condemned in a willy-nilly fashion.  It is not for the man who is “tired” of his wife and wants to rid himself of her.  Rather, it is for the protection of wives so that this procedure is not invoked “just because.”

Thirdly, Yosef the betrothed husband of Miriam rejected this method of putting away his betrothed, the mother of Yeshua.  He, “being a just man”, a tzaddik, “and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily” - (Mt. 1:19 KJV).

Lastly, it seems to me that there is a record in the Scripture where this law was invoked.  It is found in Shemos (Exodus) 32.  There were people, who, while Moshe was on the mount receiving the tables of the law from the Lord, went seeking another god to worship and revere.  However, they were already espoused to the Lord, for they had accepted the covenant that He had put before them.

In his righteous anger, Moshe broke the tablets at the foot of the mount (vs. 19), ground the golden calf to powder, threw the powder into the flowing water, and he made the children of Yisra’el drink it (vs. 20).  Compare this to 5:23 - 24 of this week’s reading - “The Kohen shall inscribe these curses on a scroll and erase it into the bitter waters.  When he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter waters that cause curse, then the waters that cause curse shall come into her for bitterness.”  The previous verse, 22, states, “(t)hese waters that cause curse shall enter your innards to cause stomach to distend and thigh to collapse.”  Note that in the Stone Edition Chumash “your thigh to collapse” “refers to the womb which will be destroyed in retribution for its sinful activity (Chizkuni).”  The repetition of the curse given in verses 21 and 22 is also thought to teach that the same punishment would come upon the man with whom the woman had been in sin.

He then instructed the Levites to go forth and strike down the guilty (vs. 27).  Verse 28 tells us they slew about three thousand men.  How would they know who to slay?  I would like to submit that it is very likely that those men had swollen stomachs and collapsed thighs (see Bamidbar/Numbers 5:22).

The taking of a Nazirite vow is the major topic of chapter 6.  When the vow is completed the Nazirite  must bring the following as an offering to HaShem: one sheep in its first year as an elevation offering, one ewe in its first year as a sin offering, one unblemishe ram as a peace offering, a basket with unleavened loaves along with their meal oferings and libations.  This sounds to me like a rather expensive completion to the term of the vow.  I am struck mostly, however, when I consider Acts 5:23 - 24 and notice that
Sha’ul was directed by Ya’akov (James)  and the elders in Jerusalem to pay not only for his own completion of a Nazirite vow, but that of four others as well.

Let not our discussion of the Nazirite vow payment diminish the importance of the priestly blessing found at the end of chapter 6.  HaShem directed Moshe to instruct the Kohanim of their responsibility to pronounce this blessing over the people.  What a blessing and heavy responsibility that must have been.  This was the blessing that Zachariah would have said coming out of the Temple except for the fact that the angel struck him dumb.  The one chance he had to pronounce the blessing disappeared.

The final chapter of our reading this week reveals offerings that were made by the twelve tribal leaders.  At the beginning of the chapter we are told that Moshe had finished erecting the Tabernacle and had anointed it and all its individual parts.  We are then told about two sets of offerings that came from the tribal leaders.  The first offerings were wagons and oxen that were to be used by the Levites in the transport of the Tabernacle.  Pairing up with each other, there were a total of 6 wagons and 12 oxen that were presented.  These were then distributed to the sons of Gershon and the sons of Merari as they had need of them.

Next we read about the leaders each bringing offerings for the dedication of the Altar on the day it was anointed.  However, per guidelines from the Holy One, there was only one offering brought per day, so it took twelve days for all these offerings to be presented.

God had promised that He would dwell/tabernacle among His people.  The final verse of our selection demonstrates that He has indeed taken up residence within the Holy of Holies, for Moshe hears his voice from atop the cover that was upon the ark of the Testimony.  Though I concentrated my writing on the law of jealousy, I, in no way, wished to diminish the importance of this verse, for here is the completion of the construction of the Tabernacle, and now, with a purified camp, it will begin to fulfill its purpose.

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