Parasha Naso

by Rabbi Wayland

I’ve got 3 minutes, or 180 seconds, which is just enough time to tell you about the 176 verses in Parshat Naso – the longest sedra in the Torah. Interestingly, the longest Psalm also has 176verses, and Naso has the longest chapters in the Zohar and Midrash. The Chiddushei HaRim, a Chasidic Rebbe, said that as all the letters of the Torah contain mystical and spiritual energy, it is fitting we get more of this energy in the Torah reading that immediately follows Shavuot. This also ties in with the meaning of the word ‘Naso’ – which means to elevate and raise up – the energy and holiness from Shavuot lifts us and carries us through the year.

After completing the head-count of the Tribe of Levy, the Parsha discusses three fascinating mitzvot. We learn about the mitzvah of Sotah, in which a woman, suspected of adultery, could be taken to the Temple, and follow a procedure to prove her innocence or otherwise, in which she brought a sacrifice and drank some bitter waters. There are two remarkable facts about this Mitzvah: firstly, a parchment with God’s Name on it would be erased into the bitter waters, and secondly, a miracle would prove her guilt or innocence. God is literally willing to put his Name on the line to return this woman her good name.

The next Mitzvah is that of Nazir – taking an oath to abstain from wine, grow one’s hair, and avoid contact with the dead. Some commentaries say that one who sees the Sotah should take the oath to become a Nazir. If you have been exposed to impurity, you may need to take extra steps to be holy. For a short time, the Nazir becomes holy like the High Priest – yet our Sages did not look favourably upon those who cut themselves off from others, and avoided the healthy pleasures of the world, without a valid reason.

Having learnt two quite dramatic mitzvot, we learn about the Birkat Kohanim – the priestly blessing – with the famous words, “ה יְבָרֶכְךָ”, that Hashem should bless us, guard us, shine the Light of His Face upon us and grant us peace. Peace and harmony is a prime value in Judaism, and this mitzvah is an appropriate counterbalance to Sotah and Nazir.

The Parsha concludes with a fascinating passage in which the 12 tribal princes bring offerings on the inauguration of the Mishkan. They all brought exactly the same gift, but so as not to diminish the worth of any of them, the Torah, in 89 verses, lists them all: sometimes it’s worth listening to the same story again and again if it is important to you.

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