Torah Weekly - Parshat Naso

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Parshat Naso

For the week ending 12 Sivan5761 / June 1 & 2, 2001

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    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, after having sworn in court to the contrary, confesses that he wrongfully retained his neighbor’s property, 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.




    "May Hashem illuminate His countenance..."(6:26)

    It’s interesting the perspective that time grants. Nearly four years ago, I wrote the following:
    "When tragedy comes to the Jewish People, we could think that Hashem has abandoned us to our enemies. When we are beset by those who wish to destroy us and they seem to be unstoppable and we are powerless, and they kill us from morning till evening, let us remember this verse: "I will surely hide My face." (Devarim 2:18)
    "Hashem will never abandon us; rather, we feel that He has forsaken us because He has hidden His face. When Hashem hides ‘His face’ it means that we cannot see Him controlling events. It seems to us that chaos rules.
    "Nothing happens that He does not decree. The decree for every event that has happened this year was sealed last Yom Kippur: ‘Who will live and who will die...’ "
    "He is always with us. And if we look carefully at events, even though we cannot see Hashem’s ‘face,’ we can, at least, discern His ‘back’, we can see the telltale footprints in the snow of history….
    "However, when we feel depressed because we have failed G-d so totally and we feel that there is no way we can find our way back to Him, we should remember that He is always there behind the mask of the world, waiting for us to return through prayer and teshuva (repentance)."

    Four years later, these words seem as apt as when I wrote them. As the French say, "plus ca change... the more things change, the more they stay the same."

    "I will surely hide My face."

    In the Hebrew language, the emphatic "to surely do" something is expressed by the repetition of the verb. That is, the literal translation of the phrase "I will surely hide My face" is "Hide — I will hide My face." The very structure of the Hebrew language gives us an insight into this "hiding." There are two kinds of concealment: A concealment where you know that someone is there but you just can’t see them, and a concealment where you don’t even know if they are there at all. In other words the very fact of their hiddeness is concealed. This is the ultimate hiding — where the very hiding is hidden.
    When we are aware that G-d has hidden from us, He is not really concealed, because we realize that our hiding from Him has been reciprocated by His hiding from us. It’s like any relationship: When you act coldly towards your friend or spouse, they lose confidence in your friendship and they retreat. But if you honestly ask for forgiveness and promise that you really want to renew the relationship, they will take you back.

    However, there’s a deeper hiding of the "Face." In this hiding, the hiding is itself hidden. Then we don’t see that we have a relationship with G-d at all. We think that this is the way the world is supposed to be. Then we are in big trouble, because nothing awakens us to return to Him. We think to ourselves: "This is the way things are supposed to be. Isn’t it?"

    One of the blessings that the kohen bestows on the Jewish People is that Hashem should "illuminate His countenance for you..." Obviously, G-d does not have a countenance, a face, in the physical sense. The meaning of this blessing is that we should see everything that happens in the world as directly coming from G-d, that there’s no such thing as "natural causes." The blessing of the kohen is that we see "His face" in the world — that His presence be clear to all who choose to see it. Then we can shake ourselves from the bonds of our illusions, re-establish our relationship with Him and return to the Torah.



    Judges 13:2-25



    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 about the child, and G-d answers his prayer. Following his reappearance, the angel departs in flame.

    Proper Education

    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?

    Education begins before a child is born. A baby is influenced from the earliest stages of his existence as a scion of his parent. Just as an embryo is poisoned by a mother who smokes, so 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.

    Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
    General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
    Production Design: Michael Treblow

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