PARASHAT NASO 5776
Numbers 4:21 to 7:89
Haftorah Judges 13:2-25
Completing the headcount of the Children of Israel taken in the Sinai Desert, a total of 8,580 Levite men between the ages of 30 and 50 are counted in a tally of those who will be doing the actual work of transporting the Tabernacle.
Yahweh communicates to Moses the law of the sotah, the wayward wife suspected of unfaithfulness to her husband. Also given is the law of the nazir, who forswears wine, lets his or her hair grow long, and is forbidden to become contaminated through contact with a dead body. Aaron and his descendants, the Kohanim, are instructed on how to bless the people of Israel.
The leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel each bring their offerings for the inauguration of the altar. Although their gifts are identical, each is brought on a different day and is individually described by the Torah.
The reading starts with a continuation of the Levite census and a discussion regarding their Tabernacle duties. The laws of the sotah woman and the Nazirite follow. The portion concludes with the Priestly Blessing and the offerings which the Tribal leaders brought in honor of the Tabernacle inauguration.
Yahweh informs Moses of the Tabernacle duties of the Levite families of Gershon and Merari. When the Children of Israel journeyed, the Gershon family transported the Tabernacle tapestries, veils and coverings, while the Merari family carried its structural components, such as the beams, boards and pillars. A final count is given of the Levite Kehot family -- those between the ages of thirty and fifty, as per Yahweh's command mentioned towards the end of last week's reading: 2,750.
The total for the Gershon family: 2,630. The Merari family: 3,200. Thus the grand total of Levites eligible to transport the Tabernacle and its vessels: 8,580.
Now that Yahweh's presence graces the Tabernacle, Yahweh instructs the Children of Israel to banish certain ritually impure individuals from their encampments. Most of them were only barred from entering the Tabernacle area and its immediate environs. Only one who suffered from tzara'at ("leprosy") was sent out of the general encampment. This section then discusses the restitution and Temple sacrifice required of one who robs his fellow and then falsely swears to maintain his innocence. If one robs a convert who then dies without leaving any heirs, the restitution is made to a priest. Also included in this section is the mitzvah to verbally confess one's sins, and a person's right to select a priest of his liking to whom to give the various required priestly gifts.
This rather lengthy section contains three concepts: 1) The ceremony for the sotah, a suspected adulteress who was witnessed going into seclusion with another man--despite being warned not to associate with that individual. The woman is brought to the Temple. This section of the torah is written on parchment and then soaked in water until the ink dissolves. The woman drinks the water. If she indeed willingly committed adultery, her belly miraculously swells and she dies a gruesome death. If she is unharmed by the waters, she is cleared of any suspicion. 2) The laws of the individual who vows to be a Nazirite. Such a person must abstain from wine and grape products, allow his/her hair to grow, and may not come in contact with a human corpse. At the conclusion of the term of the vow, the Nazirite brings certain offerings in the Temple. 3) The priestly blessings.
On the day when the Tabernacle was inaugurated, the tribal leaders wished to bring inauguration gifts. Collectively they brought six covered wagons and twelve oxen to assist in transporting the Tabernacle when the Jews traveled. In addition, as representative of their respective tribes, they wished to offer individual gifts and offering. Yahweh instructed Moses to accept these gifts, and that on each the following twelve days one of the leaders should bring his individual gifts. Although each leader brought identical gifts, the Torah describes each one individually.
The gifts of all the leaders are added up and the totals given. The last verse describes how Yahweh would talk to Moses, His voice emanating from between the two Cherubs atop the Set-apart Ark.