Thursday, June 1, 2017

Parashat Naso (נָשֹׂא "Lift up!") Numbers 4:21-7:89 by Jon Eaton

Parashat Naso (נָשֹׂא "Lift up!")   Numbers 4:21-7:89  by Jon Eaton
Today’s parashat begins with the Lord directing Moses to take a census of the Levites who were responsible for transporting the Mishkan (Tabernacle).

“The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers' houses and by their clans””. (Numbers 4:21-22).  These Levites were responsible for carrying the “tent of meeting”.

Earlier in Exodus chapter 13:2, we learn that the firstborn son of each Hebrew family was consecrated to the Lord on behalf the family, “Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether human or animal.”    But after the sin of the golden calf, the role of the firstborn was handed over to the Levites. It should have been the firstborn sons who would perform the sacrifices, carry the sacred objects and also carry the weight of the Tabernacle in the household but these duties were assigned as follows:

Gershonites, descendants of Levi's firstborn son Gershon, were responsible for caring for the Mishkan's woven articles. They were placed on the West side of the Mishkan.
Kohathites, descendants of Levi's middle son Kohath, carried the sacred objects of the Mishkan. They were placed on the South side of the Mishkan.
Merarites, descendants of Levi's youngest son Merari carried the wooden parts of the Mishkan as well as the ropes and sockets used for the curtain of the courtyard.  They were placed on the North side of the Mishkan.
Kohanim, descendants of Levi's great grandson Aaron were responsible for performing all of the korbonot (sacrifices) and other rituals on behalf of all of Israel.  They were positioned on the East side of the Mishkan.     

Some commentators have noted that the outlay of the tribes made a large cross figure.

 But I would rather go to the 4th Aliya about Sotah; "if she has strayed" (verb:שטה satah) in Numbers 5:12.

I’m not choosing this particular Aliya as a sexist statement, but from what I have read, it has been often called the most misunderstood passage in all scripture. 

The Sotah is a woman who has been warned in advance by her husband not to seclude herself with a particular man.  Interestingly, the Lord also warned Israel (His betrothed) not to become curious of other gods in Deuteronomy 12:30  “do not inquire after their gods, saying, ‘How did these nations serve their gods? I also will do likewise.’”

Numbers 5:19 states, “Then the priest shall put the woman under oath and say to her, ‘If no other man has had sexual relations with you and you have not gone astray and become impure while married to your husband, may this bitter water that brings a curse not harm you”.

But where is the male counterpart in the adultery?? !!!!  Well, tradition states that the bitter waters affected BOTH parties.

“While it is the accused woman who must actually drink the bitter waters, the waters affect her male partner in adultery identically. Just as the waters examine her, they also examine him”. (Talmud, Sotah 27b)  Tough ey..   Not sure how the waters affected his thigh and belly but that conversation is up for another day.   I wonder if the woman was the one to drink the waters because the guys are often emotional wimps and wouldn’t show up for the test.  Haha.
But regardless of that, we should remember that this test is completely self-administered.   

You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.  Not that I am comparing a woman to a horse but if the wife has been adulterous, than she can simply avoid the test by admitting to adultery and accept a divorce.   Also, it states clearly here that this test occurs when there are NO witnesses, so in ways she doesn't even have to admit to anything.     She could avoid the test by feigning anxiety etc.

Maybe HaShem was explaining how Israel would be punished when they too became adulterous and forget their first love – Him.  When they ignored his warning of following other gods and became Sotah.  They would be cursed and ashamed;  in need of redemption.  In-fact we read of the curse that would come upon Israel, due to their disobedience in Hosea 9:11, “No birth, no pregnancy, and no conception!”

So why take the test?   Possibly to humble an overbearing husband.  In fact the Hebrew states clearly that, “if a man, a man (
אִישׁ אִישׁ ish ish ) whose wife goes astray….” (Numbers 5:12)..  The double wording implies a man’s man (too much of a man);   Maybe a controlling, obsessive jealous type man.  Still, the drinking of bitter waters would be a real test of fire.  Very scary indeed.

Charles Spurgeon stated, “It looks very hard to believe that a child of God should be tried by the loss of his Father’s presence, and yet should come forth uninjured by the trial. Yet no gold is ever injured in the fire. Stoke the furnace as much as you may, let the blast be as strong as you will, thrust the ingot into the very center of the white heat, let it lie in the very heart of the flame; pile on more fuel, let another blast torment the coals till they become most vehement with heat, yet the gold is losing nothing, it may even be gaining.”

If she is innocent, the woman is physically and legally protected. The ceremony removes the judgment from society, the gossiping tongues, the overbearing husband and puts it all in the hands of the Creator.   It has been stated that this is the only test and command that HaShem is personally co-involved in.  It literally takes a visit from the devine.  Which means the wife is placed in a uniquely intimate relationship with the Lord.   Walking away from this test of fire would bring honor to her life, joy to her heart and a special encounter with Heaven that few have enjoyed.

Don’t let the tests of this life overwhelm us.   Our King will always use it to be glorified and to honor His name in our lives.

The Talmud comments that "goes astray" (i.e., tisteh: תִשְׂטֶה) is written so it can be read as "goes insane" (i.e., tishteh: תִשְׁטֶה).   Haha….  I like that.


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