Torah Weekly - Parshat Naso
Inside Israel for the week ending June 10, 2000 / 7 Sivan 5760
The Torah assigns the exact Mishkan-related tasks to be performed by the families of Gershon, Kehat, and Merari, the sons of Levi. A census reveals that over 8,000 men are ready for such service. All those ritually impure are to be sent out of the encampments. If a person confesses that he wrongfully retained his neighbor's property after having sworn in court to the contrary, he has to pay an additional fifth of the base-price of the object, and bring a guilt offering as atonement. If the claimant has already passed away without heirs, the payments are made to a kohen. In certain circumstances, a husband who suspects that 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 that was used for inscribing Hashem's Name on a piece of parchment. If she is innocent, the potion does not harm her; rather it brings a blessing of children. If she is guilty, she suffers a supernatural death. A nazir is one who vows to dedicate himself to Hashem for a specific period of time. He must abstain from all grape products, grow his hair and avoid contact with corpses. At the end of this period he shaves his head and brings special offerings. The kohanim are commanded to bless the people. The Mishkan is completed and dedicated on the first day of Nisan in the second year after the Exodus. The Prince of each tribe makes a communal gift to help transport the Mishkan, as well as donating identical individual gifts of gold, silver, animal and meal offerings.
"Raise up..." (4:21)
Rene Descartes, the French philosopher, said, "I think, therefore I am." Maybe we could extend his idea and say that most of us believe that "We think -- and therefore everything is." That is, we perceive the world's existence as predicated on our own existence. If I exist, the world also exists. If I don't exist, then maybe the world will vanish with me.
The Jewish idea is: "I exist, therefore I am obligated." This is where spirituality begins. Accepting G-d's authority means that the perception of my existence is identical to the knowledge that I start from a point of prior obligation.
The Torah portion Naso is the longest in the whole of the Torah. Naso also contains the greatest number of Midrashim, the homiletic expositions which contain the Torah's hidden mystical depths. And, Naso always follows the festival of Shavuot, the giving of the Torah at Sinai. What is the connection? Why is it that after the Jewish People accepted the Torah, the Torah itself seems to "blossom" and expand?
At Sinai, the Jewish People said, "We will do it and we will hear it." How can you do something that you haven't heard about? The answer is that Israel's acceptance of the Torah was not predicated on understanding it, "hearing" it. "We will do it" means "We understand that our very existence makes us obliged." They accepted the Torah, not because they thought it was a good idea or that it would be spiritually fulfilling; rather, they understood that their very existence obligated them.
We live in a generation which is on a very low spiritual level. People are more interested in feeling spiritual than being spiritual. We want a quick spiritual fix. We have been taught that fast is good, instant is better. Fast is what we want from our food, our cars, our computers. Instant is what we want for our gratification. Instant religion, instant feel-good spirituality. Instant Kabbala. Mail order mysticism.
What does it mean to be spiritual? It means to be in synch with reality. From the outside, Judaism may look like a life full of strictures: You can't do this. You can't do that. You can't eat this. You can't eat thatů.
In spite of its outside appearance, everything in Jewish life, each and every mitzvah, connects us to spirituality. Otherwise there would be no use for that particular mitzvah. But before we can connect to spirituality through the mitzvot, we must first align our thinking, re-orient ourselves. We do this twice a day by saying Shema, in which we accept upon ourselves the "yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven," in order to create in ourselves the perception, not "I think, therefore I am," but "I am, therefore I am obligated." This is the beginning of spirituality.
Shoftim 13:2 - 13:25
Parshat Naso features the laws of a nazir, and its haftara deals with the birth of Samson the nazir.
In a prophetic vision, an angel tells Manoach's wife that she will bear a child who will free the Jewish people from their current oppression at the hands of the Philistines. The angel instructs her that this child shall be a lifelong nazir, and that she herself must observe the laws of nazir until the baby is born.
The woman relates this to her husband, who prays for the angel to return and instruct them as to the child, and G-d answers his prayer. Following the encounter, the angel departs in a flame.
The angel instructs Samson's future mother to observe the laws of the nazerite vow, as her child is to be a nazir "from the womb" (13:5). Why must she observe the laws of nazir?
Education begins before a child is born. A baby is influenced from the earliest stages of his existence as a scion of his parents. Just as an embryo is poisoned by a mother who smokes, so too his character is influenced by her lifestyle and the moral traits she favors. Parents can't live without restrictions if they wish their child to be a good Jew; they can't expect him to lead a life that differs from their own.
Selections from classical Torah sources
which express the special relationship between
the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael
THE "DESIRABLE LAND"
"I gave you a desirable land" is how the Creator describes His gift of Eretz Yisrael to His chosen people. (Yirmiyahu 3:19)
The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni Tehillim 7:19) explains with a parable the manner in which this Divine gift was made: A king once made a great feast at which his most beloved friend was a guest. When the main course was served on a communal platter, the king signaled to this friend to take one portion which he knew to be the best. Since the friend failed to understand the hint, the king himself took the portion and handed it to him.
When the Creator divided all the lands of the world amongst the nations, each of them chose a portion at least twice the size of Eretz Yisrael. He signaled to the People of Israel to choose Eretz Yisrael. When they showed reluctance to do so because it was so small, He took the land and handed it to them.
A little land but a most "desirable" one.
Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
Production Design: Michael Treblow
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