Naso/To Lift Up
Numbers 4:21-7:89
Judges 13:2-26
Acts 21:17-26

     This parsha begins with the duties and census of the Gershonites, the Merarites and the numbering of the Levitical Clans. Numbers 5 has the instructions for the purity of the camp, the restitution of wrongs and the test for the unfaithful wife. Chapter 6 contains the Nazarite vow and the priestly blessing. Naso ends with the twelve offerings of the twelve tribes. 
     There are many important concepts in this Torah portion, but two stand out regarding us today and the kahal -the congregation of His people. 
    Numbers 5 begins with instructions for the unclean, ‘…Command the children of Israel that they put out of the camp every leper, everyone who has a discharge, and whoever becomes defiled by a corpse. You shall put out both male and female; you shall put them outside the camp, that they may not defile their camps in the midst of which I dwell.” And the children of Israel did so, and put them outside the camp; as the Lord spoke to Moses, so the children of Israel did.’ Numbers 5:2-4.
     The camp of today are the synagogues. We know that affliction of the skin, tzaraat, (often mistranslated as leprosy) is synonymous to gossip and unclean speech. We learn through Parsha Behaalotecha in Numbers 12 that this specific type of skin disease is the consequence of lashon hara. God strikes Miriam with tzaraat because she gossiped about Moses’ Kushite wife. Gossip affects the person who spreads it, making them unclean, is easily passed on, highly contagious, and affects everyone who comes into contact with it in anyway. This skin disease is a physical manifestation of a spiritual disease that is expressed through the mouth based on jealous thoughts. Jealousy easily adds to degrading thoughts and then crosses over into unclean speech. One must choose to open the gate of jealousy, or to not. 
     Numbers 5:11-31 is all about the spirit of jealousy. This spirit can cause unrelenting accusations like the case of the woman caught in adultery, John 8:1-11.
    Proverbs 14:30 ‘A tranquil heart gives life to the flesh, but envy makes the bones rot.’
    Proverbs 19:5 ‘A false witness will not go unpunished, and he who breathes out lies will not escape.’
    James 3:14-16 ‘But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice.’
     1 Corinthians 13:4-5 ‘Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful…’
      Touching the dead is likened to the death realm of an unclean spiritual walk. Our spiritual death began in the Garden of Eden, ‘…but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Genesis 2:17. We are admonished to choose rightly, ‘I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live…’ Deuteronomy 30:19.
     Numbers 7 contains the offerings of the leaders, Numbers 7:1-88. What is so interesting about these passages and offerings is that they are the exact same offerings.  Even though the offerings are brought by different men from the twelve tribes, the offerings are exactly the same and stranger yet, recorded for all twelve offerings. Why not record it once with an explanation at the end of each additional accounting of each tribe: ‘and they brought the same offering as_____?’   
     One thought is because of the unity of each tribe. Each person, each tribe has a different connection with God just as we do.  Each person, each family will identify with God in different and unique ways. However, within each person there is a coworking structure that of the synagogue where one are many and many are one. 
     Each offering was the same, ‘His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 14 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 15 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 16 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 17 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year.’ This detailed explanation of the offering is listed twelve times. 
     The offerings represented two opposite but complementary aspects of our relationship with God. First and foremost, they expressed the unity relationship between God and the people as a whole, the common denominator shared by everyone walking in His ways, in the Synagogues.  The essence of the soul, the nefesh, the experience of serving God as an Ivrit. All of this they shared, and because of this the offerings they brought were all the same.  No one was better than the other; there was no jealousy, nor envy.  Every offering was the same, but every Hebrew bringing the offering for their clan expressed their own relationship with Adonai. 
    For those that are in a community, a synagogue, this is a huge lesson for us today. Individually, we come before the Lord with our private praises and love. Collectively, we offer for the synagogue, the ‘camp’. 
     A synagogue has individual aspects, but we must coincide and work as a whole. A synagogue will not sustain itself if it is just for one individual or one family because there are many souls that contribute. Therefore, even though our personal offerings will differ, our communal offering, the wellbeing of the place that we worship, is collective. We are a whole. 
     1 Corinthians 12:12-13 ‘For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Messiah. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.’
     John 17:21 ‘That they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me.’
     Ephesians 4:3 ‘…being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.’
     Acts 4:32 ‘And the congregation of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them claimed that anything belonging to him was his own, but all things were common property to them.’
    The final paragraph of Naso ends with a beautiful stance: ‘Now when Moses went into the tabernacle of meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice of One speaking to him from above the mercy seat that was on the ark of the Testimony, from between the two cherubim; thus He spoke to him.’ Numbers 7:89.
     He speaks to us; we just have to listen.

‎ Naso / To Elevate
Numbers 4:21-7:89
HafTorah Portion Judges 13:2-25
Acts 21:17-26

      The Blessing of Being….
           Naso is a word of many meanings: to lift, to carry, and to forgive. Here though, and elsewhere in the wilderness years, it is used, with the phrase et rosh (“the head”) to mean “to count.” This is interesting because Hebrew has many words that mean to count: limnotlisporlifkod, and lachshov. Why then not use one of these words? Why not simply say “count” instead of “lift the head”?
     The sages teach that if we are each made in the image of God, then every one of us has infinite value. We are each unique. None of us can take the place of another. We are one, in God, made in the image and the likeness of God. "You are children to The Lord” Deuteronomy 14:1, was said to Klal Yisrael, all of Israel. Every person is dear to God.
     This parsha continues with what seems to be a collection of unrelated items. First there is the account of the Levitical families of Gershon and Merari and their tasks in carrying parts of the Tabernacle when the Israelites journeyed. Then, after two brief laws about removing unclean people from the camp and about restitution, there comes the strange ordeal of the Sotah, the woman suspected by her husband of adultery.
     Next comes the law of the Nazirite, the person who voluntarily and usually for a fixed period took on himself special holiness restrictions, among them the renunciation of wine and grape products, of haircuts, and of defilement by contact with a dead body.
     This is followed, again seemingly with no connection, by one of the oldest prayers in the world still in continuous use: the priestly blessings. Then, with inexplicable repetitiousness, comes the account of the gifts brought by the princes of each tribe at the dedication of the Tabernacle, a series of long paragraphs repeated no less than twelve times, since each prince brought an identical offering.
     How can we tie this all together? Looking closely at all of the encounters in Naso, we see a connection. Starting with the Aaronic Blessing, which is a gift of peace. A gift to all people, a gift that contains the very essence of God – shalom. It is a petition to God ‘…may The Lord bless you and keep you…and give you peace/shalom.’ It is a universal desire – to have peace granted from the very God we serve. Unfortunately, when we don’t acknowledge Him, or connect with Him, we lack the shalom that sustains us in all things.  We try to achieve peace ourselves, which may be for a moment, but the level of peace that He bestows upon us sees us through all journeys. 2 Thessalonians 3:16 ‘Now may the Lord of peace Himself give you peace always in every way. The Lord be with you all.’
     One way that we lack peace is when we transgress another. By transgressing one another we forfeit the very thinking that we are all made in the image of God. Numbers 5:6-7 states “Speak to the children of Israel: ‘When a man or woman commits any sin that men commit in unfaithfulness against the Lord, and that person is guilty, then he shall confess the sin which he has committed. He shall make restitution for his trespass in full, plus one-fifth of it, and give it to the one he has wronged.”  This implies that when we sin against another, we actually sin against God.  We also learn that there is no atonement for sin unless we confess our sins, 1 John 1:8-10 '
If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make Him out to be a liar and His word is not in us.' When we have injured another, we need to repent/return teshuva to the path that we wondered from.  
     Naso closes with the detailed offerings of the tribes; ‘Then the leaders of Israel, the heads of their fathers’ houses, who were the leaders of the tribes and over those who were numbered, made an offering. And they brought their offering before the Lord, six covered carts and twelve oxen, a cart for every two of the leaders, and for each one an ox; and they presented them before the tabernacle.’ Numbers 7:2-3.
     This continues with the detailed accounting of the offering of the twelve tribes, each offering identical.  Why not just state once that every leader of the tribes brought the same offering that we read in Numbers 7:13-17.‘… His offering was one silver platter, the weight of which was one hundred and thirty shekels, and one silver bowl of seventy shekels, according to the shekel of the sanctuary, both of them full of fine flour mixed with oil as a grain offering; 14 one gold pan of ten shekels, full of incense; 15 one young bull, one ram, and one male lamb in its first year, as a burnt offering; 16 one kid of the goats as a sin offering; 17 and for the sacrifice of peace offerings: two oxen, five rams, five male goats, and five male lambs in their first year.’
     As in Naso, to lift up or to elevate, it was the purpose of the repetitious listing of the identical offerings to bring honor to each tribe.  Pirki Avos, Ethics of the Fathers state in 4:1 “Who is honored?” asked Ben Zoma “One who honors others.”  Philippians 2:3-4 ‘Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.’
    Each tribe was bringing their offering to God, showing honor to Him.  Revelation 4:11 “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for You created all things, and by Your will they existed and were created.” Psalm 22:23 ‘You who fear the Lord, praise Him; all you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, and stand in awe of Him, all you descendants of Israel.’