Weekly Reading Insights Naso


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Naso
To be read on the Shabbat of 7 Sivan, 5762 (May 18)

Shavuot festival, go to holidays and kabbala.]

Torah: Numbers 4:21-7:89
Haftorah: Judges 13:2-25
Pirkei Avot: Chapter One

Stats: Naso contains 7 positive mitzvot and 11 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the Weekly Readings,
ranks 1 out of 54 in number of verses, 1 in number of words, and 1 in number of letters

Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) opens with tallying the three Levite families and defining their specific services in the dismantling, carrying, and assembly of the Tabernacle throughout the Jews' desert journeys. Next, Jews with various types of impurities are forbidden to enter different sections of the camp. Then, G-d commands the Jews about the restitution for sinning against a fellow Jew. Also discussed is the command to bring 'trumah'-crop-gifts to the priests. Next, the Torah speaks about the suspected adulteress, the test of her fidelity, and the consequences of her guilt or innocence. The parsha continues to discuss the vows, laws and scarifices of Nazirites. The following verses are the priestly blessing to the Jews (which are recited daily). The parsha concludes by listing the donations and sacrifices that each tribal prince brought to the Tabernacle.



"Israel encamped there opposite the mountain." (Ex. 19:2)

Why was the Torah given on a mountain? The difference between level ground and a mountain is not qualitative; both are made of dust and earth. A mountain is just more of that earth collected and heaped up into a larger mass. The fact that the Torah was given on a mountain teaches us that a Jew's purpose in life is to take that earth-- physical matter and corporeality-- elevate it, and transform it into holiness.

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)


"This is the service of the families of the sons of Gershon... their charge shall be under the supervision of Itamar, son of Aaron the priest."

The name "Gershon" is derived from the word meaning "to expel," alluding to the expulsion of evil. "Itamar" is related to the word for speech, alluding to words of Torah. The juxtaposition of the two names teaches that speaking words of Torah severs evil from good and expels it.

(Ohr HaTorah

"When a man or woman utters a Nazarite vow... he shall abstain from new and old wine... grape beverages, grapes and raisins." (Numbers 6:2-3)

The laws of a Nazarite teach us a most significant principle about our belief in the coming of Moshiach: Torah law decrees that if one declares on a weekday, "I undertake to become a Nazarite on the day that Moshiach will come," he is bound by it from that very moment.
(If, however, he made his vow on a Shabbat or festival, it becomes operative on the next day, as it is uncertain whether Moshiach will or will not arrive on a Shabbat or yom tov.)
This clearly shows that Moshiach can arrive at any moment, as we say in our daily prayers, "Every day we hope for Your salvation."

(Peninei HaGeula)



Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

"…This man has to bring his wife to the priest…." [5:15]

The objective for the whole Sotah legislation is for the husband (priest) to examine his wife in a place where G-d resides.
I have already explained elsewhere that this place is called the "higher" earth, on account of G-d having His residence there. It is not included in the part of the earth which had been subjected to G-d's curse as a result of man's sin.

Also any of the waters in that area are not subject to "tears," i.e. have not been afflicted by said curse. This is why G-d commanded that "holy waters" be taken for this procedure. Waters which are found in the sacred precincts of the Temple are sacred by definition. This does not contradict the halachah that these waters be taken from the copper basin which serves the priests to wash their hands and feet.

The Torah also commanded the priest to use earth from the floor of the Holy Temple precisely because it is the closest to G-d's residence. The reason that this earth should not now be dug up is also because if it were already at hand it is closer to the site where G-d resides. The closer the earth is to the place where the Shechinah resides, the more its awareness of its proximity to its Creator. Earth from outside the precincts of the Temple would not be as aware of the nearness of G-d. The earth is better able to fulfill what the Creator demands of it once it has "tasted" the proximity of the Lawgiver.

The reason that G-d commanded for the earth to be added to the water and not vice versa is based on the waters having been created before the earth during the process of creation. When our sages decided that if the earth had been in the vessel before the water the whole procedure is null and void, they did not nullify the procedure in the event that both water and earth had been poured into the vessel simultaneously.
The reason is that such a procedure still resembles the order of creation when water and solid particles were thoroughly mixed up before G-d created the light. We do not find that earth is ever at the bottom of the source of springwater (mayim chaim) however.

Rabbi Shimon (Sotah 16) held that it does not matter whether the earth had been placed in the vessel first as long as the water is holy water. He obviously felt that this suffices for both the waters and the earth to be imbued with the appropriate awareness for both elements to perform the task G-d allocated to them as part for the whole procedure.

The Torah commanded to write the portion of the Sotah including the holy name of G-d where it appears in it and to allow the bitter waters to erase these holy names of G-d due to the nature of the water and the earth it contains.
The residue of the names of G-d provided the water with the power to produce the desired effect in the woman who drank this water.

The Torah also commanded for the meal-offering of the woman in question to consist primarily of barley, i.e. a reminder of the offering Cain had brought, who had offered something of inferior value. This inferior offering was also an indirect result of the sin committed by Adam and Eve.

This is what the Torah means when it speaks of mazkeret avo" "a reminder of sin," i.e. the original sin. It was this original sin which had led to the weeping of the waters and the curse which rests on Earth.

When the Sotah drinks this mixture of water, earth and the residue of the holy name of G-d which dissolved in that water, the name of the meal-offering as "reminder of sin" is most appropriate is she has indeed been guilty of marital infidelity. It will recall also earlier sins.

When the waters become aware of this they will turn bitter reflecting on their own sorry fate, as we described earlier. These waters will then take revenge on this woman who has caused them all these tears and they will ruin the woman's intestines. All of this will be accomplished by the power of the holy name of G-d which has been dissolved in these waters.

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter


This Thursday evening and Friday (and outside of Israel, Shabbat also) is Shavuot, the holiday celebrating receiving the Torah from G-d on Mt. Sinai. Holidays are not just commemorations of historic occurrences; they are actual milestones, step-ups, in our annual spiritual growth. Being that Shavuot is celebrated only for a day (or two), we must understand how to fully prepare for the holiday, how to act during it, and what results we can expect to achieve from it. While the actual receiving of the Torah is dependent on G-d's giving it, the preparations to receive the Torah are totally dependent on the actions and efforts of the Jewish people.

Thursday night, the night of Shavuot, is particularly crucial because it is connected to the single most important preparatory jump of consciousness required to receive the Torah. This marks the time when the Jewish nation declared that we will first accept and do the commandments, before understanding them-'naaseh v'nishma'. Each minute of Shavuot increases our strength and elevates us to a higher level, first in our ability to "do" the commandments, then in our ability to "understand" them, and finally in our ability to precede the doing before the understanding. The degree to which we are prepared to fulfill the 'doing' before the 'hearing' indicates how well we will receive the Torah with joy and with inwardness.

Many communities have the custom of learning Torah the entire night of Shavuot (1st night only). Don't just stay up. Maximize the time. Make certain in advance you have the right classes or individuals to learn with, and the texts you need, to help you make the appropriate preparations for Shavuot. The actual moment of revelation occurs when the ten commandments are read Friday morning. It is important that everyone-men, women, and children-come to synagogue and hear them read.

* * *

This year (in Israel only), Shabbat Naso follows immediately the holiday of Shavuot, the reliving of the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people. Rabbi Avraham Sebba points out that there are also a number of hints to receiving the Torah in Naso. It begins, "Also raise up the head of the Gershon clan." The Midrash explains that 'also' means in addition to the prior discussion of the Kehos clan (in last week's portion) who came first because their service was to carry the holy Ark, which contained the Torah scroll and the tablets of the covenant.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe adds that the last verse says, "And Moshe came to the tent of meeting to speak to G-d . ..." Why did Moshe enter the tent? In order to learn Torah directly from G-d. Even the name of the portion hints to Torah. Naso means to raise up. Torah also elevates the person who learns it, raising him above the limitations of the world.

Naso teaches us that every Jew has to be 'raised up' in a positive way. Rather than becoming haughty, each of us has to proactively affect others, not just to be a reactive recipient. Contrary to common perception, every person has an area in which they shine and where they are capable of influencing others for the good. Just as a poor person is also commanded to give tzedaka, so also a spiritually poor person has an obligation to affect others for good. Moreover, Jews must realize that they is in a state of naso, elevated above the world and its obstacles. And when they decide to do something good, they will succeed.

The reading continues with a discussion of the procedure followed when a woman is suspected by her husband of having committed adultery. This section begins with the verse (5:12), "When a man's wife turns away..." The word "turns" in Hebrew derives from the same root as the word for "foolish." The Talmud (Sotah 3) sees in this verse a hint that no one transgresses unless a 'spirit of foolishness' enters them. Otherwise, no Jew would ever turn away from G-d.
In fact, on a certain level, we are incapable of separating from Him. We can see this historically. Jews have chosen to give up their lives rather than deny the existence of G-d and the Torah.
Nevertheless, every single negative act we do creates a separation between us and G-d, distancing us from Him. One would think that this knowledge alone would be enough to dissuade us from transgressing. Obviously, this is not the case.
So what is going on? The reason is that a person catches a "spirit of folly", meaning such a strong desire to be involved in the world that it overrules all other considerations, and this cools a person from his natural desire not to be separated from G-d. He may not regret his transgression because he believes that he is still totally connected. Unfortunately, the illusion is a lot like a virus. To be immune, you have to be healthy, with all systems working properly. Regular daily periods for studying Torah, praying with a minyan, and thinking Torah thoughts when out and about are especially potent for clearing the air of any "unhealthy" spirits.

Rebbe Yechiel Michal of Zlotshuv refers to another verse in this week's portion to support this idea. "A man, when he gives to the priest, it will be his" (5:10). Why doesn't the verse state what is being given? And since the Torah is eternal, how does this verse apply to us now? The simple answer is that we have to always be involved in doing teshuva.
We see sometimes, however, that although a person does make an effort-he learns and he prays-it seems not to help; he is still drawn into negative actions. A person has to use his brains so that when he learns Torah, prays and even when he eats, he is always questioning whether his behavior is effective in serving G-d. So this is what the verse is telling us. "A man when he gives", i.e. his full attention, "to the priest," 'l'Kohein' can also be translated as 'to serve' i.e., serving G-d, "it will be his", he will succeed.

The reading ends with a description of the gifts that the princes of the twelve tribes gave to the Tabernacle. There is an interesting detail here: altogether, they gave six wagons-that is, each prince only gave half of a wagon. The various components of the Tabernacle were very heavy and large. Why did each prince only donate half a wagon? The Tabernacle, the place of the Divine Presence resided while the Jewish people were traveling in the desert, was meticulously constructed, without neglecting any detail. Similarly, there was nothing superfluous. Every item served a purpose. Therefore, the wagons used to transport the tabernacle were provided in exactly the right number, size and shape to fulfill the precise need. It was forbidden that there should be more than was required.

Similarly, the Talmud says that everything that G-d created was created with a purpose. Just as the Tabernacle was constructed precisely, with nothing extra and nothing lacking, so each person, who is a miniature Tabernacle for
G-d, has to make a special effort to utilize all of his strengths.
Nothing is to go to waste. Even time is an aspect of our lives that has to be utilized to the fullest. Even if we have used 23 hours and 59 minutes wisely, we still have to try and use that last minute effectively.

Chag Samayach and Shabbat Shalom!


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