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PARASHAH: Naso (Take)
ADDRESS: B'midbar (Numbers) 4:21-7:89

READING DATE: Shabbat
AUTHOR: Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy
 
 
(Note: all quotations are taken from the Complete Jewish Bible, translation by David H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Publications, Inc., unless otherwise noted)


Let’s begin with the opening blessing for the Torah: 

"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,

asher bachar banu m’kol ha-amim,

v’natan lanu eht Torah-to.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you, O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have selected us from among all the peoples,

and have given us your Torah.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)


This is Parashat Naso. The census of the first few chapters of B'midbar continues into chapter four of this portion. HaShem was masterfully preparing an army that would go into the Promised Land and take possession of it for him—and for themselves. The census also regulates certain chosen individuals who would be needed to disassemble, transport, and then reassemble the portable House of God, the Mishkan (Tabernacle). The Gershon and M’rari families were singled-out for these purposes

 

The Sotah (the wife of suspect)

Chapter 5 spells out certain regulations concerning relationships between men and women, specifically between husband and wife. Interesting to note is the phenomenon of the "spirit of jealousy" that may come over the man (v. 14) in the event that his wife is unfaithful without his direct knowledge. What is this mysterious "jealousy" that the Torah mentions?

I believe that it testifies of the unique and mysterious "echad" (one-ness, unity) that even Rabbi Sha’ul spoke of in the Renewed Covenant. When HaShem joins husband and wife, they share the same "basar", that is "flesh". I believe that the Holy One, Blessed be He, preserves the holy union of two individuals made one, by giving them divine insight in matters of fidelity. That the union of husband and wife is of great sanction is evidenced from a general examination of the Talmud. What the Torah had to say about marriage and faithfulness left an indelible mark in the minds of the sages.

The idea of matrimony, which is inculcated by the Talmud, is of the highest. The ordinary term for marriage is "kiddushin" (a whole tractate of the Talmud), and denotes ‘sanctification’. It is so called because ‘the husband prohibits his wife to the whole world like an object which is dedicated to the Sanctuary’ (Kid. 2b). It implies the strictest chastity in both parties, hence the instructions in our current parashah. ‘Immorality in the house is like a worm on vegetables’ (Sot. 3b), and it holds good of the husband as well as the wife. ‘He among the full-grown pumpkins and she among the young ones’ (Ibid. 10a) ran a proverb, which indicates that infidelity on the husband’s part conduces to unfaithfulness in the wife.

What is the "jealousy" that comes over the partner of the unfaithful one? The Talmud goes on further to quote a clever saying:

When husband and wife are worthy (faithful to each other), the Sh’khinah (manifest Glory of God) is with them; when they are not worthy (unfaithful) fire (i.e., jealousy) consumes them’ (Sot. 17a).

Perhaps, it is supposed, that the single life is better than being consumed by a jealous fire over an unfaithful spouse. Concerning singleness, a reader once asked me the advantages. Here was my reply:

I want you to read 1 Corinthians Chapter 7. In it youll find some very good instructions given to the married and unmarried alike. It is true that the rabbis had, and still have, a high view of marriage. The Talmud stresses this view. The unmarried person lives without joy, without blessing, and without good’ (Jeb. 62b); An unmarried man is not a man in the full sense; as it is said, Male and female created He them, and blessed them and called their name man (Gen. 5:2) (Ibid. 63a). A wife meant a home; hence the saying, A mans home is his wife (Joma I.I), and R. Jose said, Never have I called my wife by that word, but always my home (Shab. 118b). But dont let all this scare you. Remember this is commentary on the Torah, not the authoritative Torah itself! These are men’s opinions. High remarks are made in the Torah, to the single individual who fully devotes himself to HaShem in his singleness! Pray about your potential mating. It is a very important decision to make! To be sure, the Torah designed it to be a lasting one.

Reading down into Numbers chapter 5 we see that the Sotah is required to bring a Minchah (Grain Offering) to the Cohen.

5:11ADONAI spoke to Moshe, saying,

5:12"Speak to the children of Yisra'el, and tell them: If any man's wife goes astray, and is unfaithful to him,

5:13and a man lies with her carnally, and it is hidden from the eyes of her husband, and is kept close, and she is defiled, and there is no witness against her, and she isn't taken in the act;

5:14and the spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife, and she is defiled: or if the spirit of jealousy comes on him, and he is jealous of his wife, and she isn't defiled:

5:15then the man shall bring his wife to the kohen, and shall bring her offering for her: the tenth part of an efah of barley meal. He shall pour no oil on it, nor put frankincense on it, for it is a meal offering of jealousy, a meal offering of memorial, bringing iniquity to memory.

5:16The kohen shall bring her near, and set her before ADONAI."

(Online Complete Tanakh)

And continuing with verses 25, 26:

5:25The kohen shall take the meal offering of jealousy out of the woman's hand, and shall wave the meal offering before ADONAI, and bring it to the altar.

5:26The kohen shall take a handful of the meal offering, as the memorial of it, and burn it on the altar, and afterward shall make the woman drink the water.

(Online Complete Tanakh)

We discussed the Minchah in detail in Parashat Acharei Mot. As a supplemental (no pun intended) teaching to the Minchah, allow me to present some details about the differences between the Minchah of Leviticus chapter 2 and our Sotah Minchah. First a briefer on the Minchah itself.

Minchah (Grain Offering)

The Minchah offering was an offering of flour, about 5 lbs. The flour was placed in a special pan into which some oil had been poured. More oil was poured over the flour and mixed with a sweet spice. The pan was then handed to the cohen who brought the pan to the altar where it was measured out, three hands full, which was burnt on the alter. The flour was not allowed to rise, could not be sweetened and must be salted. The person offering this sacrifice eats none of his offering. The priests do eat the leftovers. It was taught that when the priests eat of this sacrifice, God forgave the sins of Israel (YashaNet).

The grain or meal offering is sometimes referred to as the meat offering this comes from the King James Version of the Bible and is some what a misnomer as no meat is offered, in fact this is the offering of the five in which the flesh of an animal is not offered. The reason for using the word meat was that in the days of king James, a person would not be asked out for a meal, he would be asked to meat. Luther renders the term as food offering.

Minchah in the Talmud

Allow me to use the Talmud to provide very brief quotes concerning the Minchah. I shall give a brief excerpt followed immediately by the address of where that feature is found in the Talmud.

Another reader of mine asked, "Was the flour used in the grain offering always wheat, or did they use oat, barley, or some other grain. Was there a regulation on the type of flour?"

My answer:

"We find from study that only wheat semolina (the choicest flour substance) was used in the Minchah of the first few verses of Leviticus. By contrast, another grain, barley, was used in the offering where a woman was accused of adultery.

"This second Minchah was called the "Sotah", and although it was a Minchah, its ingredients differed from the earlier Levitical Minchah. Barley was also used in the Omer offering, but the Omer Minchah was more refined than the Sotah Minchah."

Now the Talmudic quotes:

"All of the meal offerings come from wheat [a food consumed by humans] but [the meal offering of the Sotah] comes from barley [consumed by animals]... (Sotah 14a).

The Grain

  • Whether the grain must be planted specifically for this Mitzvah: Makkot 8b
  • Source for using barley for the Omer: Menachot 68b
  • The only other flour offering which is barley is that of the Sotah, but that one is less refined: Sotah 14a
  • A messenger of the Court would bundle the sheaves, still connected to the ground, before the Holiday: Menachot 65a
  • Brought from near to Jerusalem, but default is anywhere: Menachot 64b
  • The nearby cities would come in for the harvesting: Menachot 65a
  • The Grain should be "Karmel" - soft and full: Menachot 64b, 66b
  • [Not] Brought from the valleys and irrigated fields, which produced poorer quality grain: Pesachim 11a, Menachot 68a
  • Soaked in water and drained, without fear that it may become leavened during the time used for the process: Pesachim 36a
  • A non-Jew's grain is discussed in this passage: Rosh HaShanah 13a

Making Flour Offerings

  • Whether half of a unit of flour can be brought, or whether a full unit is brought and then split: Menachot 52a
  • Using grain after an animal digested it: Flour Offerings 69a
  • Using grain replanted after an animal digested it: Flour Offerings 69a
  • Using grain which falls from the clouds: Flour Offerings 69b
  • Most Flour Offerings are supposed to be brought as Matzos: Pesachim 36a; Menachot 52b-53a
  • One may knead Flour Offerings in warm water, despite danger of leavening, because they are kneaded in the Outer Room of the Temple, where people are extra-careful: Pesachim 36a
  • One may not soak wheat of Flour Offerings in water, for fear of leavening: Pesachim 36a, 40a
  • Flour Offerings are constantly being kneaded and rubbed: Pesachim 37a
  • The Oven was always hot, with dry wood, a metal surface and constant use: Pesachim 37a
  • Leavening a flour offering further, after it is already leavened: Shabbat 111a
  • All flour offerings were brought with oil and frankincense, other than that of the Sotah: Sotah 14a
  • All flour offerings were brought from wheat, other than that of the Sotah, which is barley. The only other barley offering is the Omer Offering, which is more refined than that of the Sotah: Sotah 14a

A Sotah's Flour Offering

  • The Sotah's flour offering, unlike other flour offerings, did not have oil and frankincense: Sotah 14a
  • The vessel used to hold the offering; this differed from that of other flour offerings: Sotah 14a
  • The Sotah's flour offering is of barley, as opposed to other flour offerings, which are of wheat. The only other barley offering is the Omer Offering, which is more refined than that of the Sotah: Sotah 14a
  • Her (the adulterer’s) offering is brought from barley, which is considered animal fodder, to reflect the bestial nature of sin: Sotah 14a

 

Aharonic Benediction

Easily the most notable feature of this week’s portion is the "Aharonic Blessing" or "Priestly Benediction" of chapter six, verses 22-27. The blessing itself naturally falls into three parts: the first blessing (v. 24), the second blessing (v. 25), and the third blessing (v. 26). The ancients are not without their comments on this most beloved of Torah blessings. Quoting the Stone Edition TaNaKH:

"The First Blessing. May God give you the many blessings that are specified in the Torah (Sifre), and protect your newly gained blessing of prosperity so that bandits cannot take it away from you (Rashi).

The Second Blessing. May God enable you to perceive the wondrous wisdom of the Torah (Sforno).

The Third Blessing. One may have prosperity, health, food and drink, but if there is no peace it is all worthless (Sifra, Bechukosai).’ (p. 340)

I personally believe that our sages had some wise things to say about the Torah, considering the fact that they lived in an era when the knowledge of the Messiah was either suppressed or rejected. However, we who know the Blessed Name of the Messiah Yeshua, and the power of his fellowship, can add further insight to this ancient benediction.

'Y’varekh’kha ADONAI v’yishmerekha.

[May ADONAI bless you and keep you.]’

Before you found the Messiah, God sought for you! He sought to bless you, by bringing you into the fellowship of his beloved Son! When the time was right, and your heart was tender, he lovingly reached out to you and saved you from the death-grip that sin had you in! Once your tender heart accepted his covenant relationship, based on trusting faithfulness to his Only, Unique Son, his covenant love for you secured a place for you in his Kingdom to come! You were his for the keeping!

'Ya’er ADONAI panav eleikha vichunekka.

[May ADONAI make his face shine on you and show you his favor.]’

The Torah teaches us the wonderful, yet mysterious truth that the "saving" Name of ADONAI is Yeshua! The Mighty Name of Yeshua is the power of Salvation from the Father himself! When Yah’s Salvation walked the earth in bodily form, we beheld his k’vod (glory), and it was full of Grace and Truth! To attempt to look at the Eternal YHVH was to invite instantaneous death! To be sure, the Torah teaches us that no man has seen God and lived! Yet, Yeshua informed us that to look upon his face is to behold the face of the Father! The gracious expression of the Father’s favor was demonstrated most fully in his Son’s bloody sacrificial death, burial and miraculous resurrection! Through the sacrifice of the Son, the Father’s face shines down upon us!

'Yissa ADONAI panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom.

[May ADONAI lift up his face toward you and give you peace.]’

The Torah says, ‘yissa ADONAI’. What is the meaning of ‘yissa’? The root word is ‘naw-sah’, which means to lift, raise up, furnish, magnify, pardon.’ We gain the Hebrew word ‘nasi", which means ‘prince, exalted one, chief’ from this same root word. But we also get a little-known, more specialized meaning from the word ‘nasi’; this Hebrew word also means ‘rising wind, vapor’. Who is the magnificent Rising Wind which uplifts the Face of ADONAI? Who is that Exalted Vapor who testifies of all that Yeshua was and is and is to come, whose filling ushers in everlasting Shalom? Who is the Power of God to stand us on our feet and put a new song in our mouths? The Ruach HaKodesh is this person! He is the lifter of our souls! His miracle-working indwelling is the Power of God to lift up our countenance and usher in the genuine shalom that only comes from knowing the Messiah Yeshua in the pardon of our sins!

This blessing has many wonderful facets indeed! To be sure, HaShem says that the cohanim (priests) are to bless the people (read verse 22). Yet in verse 27 HaShem explicitly states:

"In this way they are to put my name on the people of Isra'el, so that I will bless them."

Who does the blessing? The priests are conduits. Only HaShem can truly provide the covenant power necessary to bring one into a right relationship with him, through his Son, bringing about a life that is changed as a result of the Spirit that comes to dwell within us!

This is true Shalom!


Nahar Deah
 
The Nazir
 
How can something God has commanded be a sin? Why in Heaven's name would God who apparently approves of the Nazirite vow, as it states "Throughout his term as nazirite he is consecrated to ADONAI" (Numbers 6:8), require the Nazirite to bring a sin offering at its conclusion? As it is written, "the priest shall present them before ADONAI and offer the sin offering and the burnt offering" (Numbers 6:16).
 
Two biblical exegetes of the Middle Ages Rambam or Maimonides and Ramban or Nachmanides offer two very opposite commentaries on this rather perplexing question. Simply put, Ramban answered by stating that the sin lies in the Nazir ending his vow of dedication to God, of his retreat from the world of Divine discipline and sinful re-entry to the material world. Rambam on the other hand, states that the sin of the Nazir lies in his taking up the vow in the first place. One says his sin is in ending his vow, the other in beginning it. I believe both Ramban and Rambam have something significant to teach us with regard to how we live our lives.
 
In affirming the concept of the Nazir, Ramban is teaching us that we should learn to live with less. We need to be disciplined in our material desires, lest we get trapped into thinking that more is always better. The Nazir as a concept rooted in our biblical tradition teaches us the importance of humility and the value of self-restraint. Everyday we are sucked unconsciously into the commercial, material world that surrounds us. We have fallen prey to a world without God-a secular, commercial world fueled by the fires of a voracious appetite for more and better things at any cost.
 
The Nazir then, in Ramban's view, serves as a warning reminding us to control our passions and desires. That is in order to overcome the temptations of a world without God, we need to discipline ourselves by regaining control over our desires.
 
Rambam on the other hand teaches an equally valuable lesson. By stating that the sin was in taking the vow in the first place, he teaches that we not only have a prerogative, but also a duty to enjoy the gifts of God's world. In other words, it is not only all right, but we are obliged to enjoy the physical pleasures of the material world. We should eat heartily, drink with gusto, and cohabit with our beloved. Judaism asks no one to take a vow of poverty, chastity or self-mortification. Living life to its fullest, benefiting from the natural pleasures God has granted us, exalting in our humanness, and elevating our self-esteem-these are the mandates implied by Rambam's response. A Chassidic tale illustrates this point.
 
Once a pious Jew applied for a teaching position at a yeshivah and without too much prodding revealed certain points about his character. Even in the coldest days of winter, he only dressed in the thinnest of white linen garments. Every Monday and Thursday, when the Torah was read, he fasted. And if lust tempted him, he rolled in the snow until he turned blue, freezing his desires in the ice.
 
The Rosh Yeshivah took him to the window and pointed out a white horse in the distance. "You wear a linen garment, but this animal doesn't even have that," he said. "Like you, it also rolls in the snow, and I wouldn't be surprised from the look of those ribs that this horse fasts more than twice a week. So should I hire the horse to teach in our yeshivah?"
 
The Rosh Yeshivah then mentioned a fascinating midrash which speaks of four questions God will put to each of us when we enter the hereafter. God will ask: Did you allocate time for the study of Torah? Did you deal in good faith with your fellow man? Did you anxiously await universal salvation? And did you enjoy the pleasures of My world?
 
"I know what you'll say to the first three," said the Rosh Yeshivah, "but what about the fourth?" The pious man was silent, dumbstruck. He could not answer.
 
And so, here we have two contradictory responses to the question of the sin offering-two different ways to live our lives. Which path shall we follow, the way of Ramban or the path of Rambam?
 
With all due respect, I personally choose to follow neither the Ramban nor the Rambam, but instead the way of the Nazarene named Yeshua!

The closing blessing is as follows:

"Baruch atah YHVH, Eloheynu, Melech ha-‘Olam,

asher natan lanu Toraht-emet,

v’chay-yeh o’lam nata-b’tochenu.

Baruch atah YHVH, noteyn ha-Torah.

Ameyn."

(Blessed are you O’ LORD, our God, King of the Universe,

you have given us your Torah of truth,

and have planted everlasting life within our midst.

Blessed are you, LORD, giver of the Torah.

Ameyn.)

 

"Shabbat Shalom!"

 

Torah Teacher Ariel ben-Lyman HaNaviy
yeshua613@hotmail.com

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