Aliya-by-Aliya Parashat Naso - Shavuot 5760

Don't be confused. Shabbat 7 Sivan (June 10) is Parshat Naso in Israel and the second day of Shavuot in Chutz La'Aretz. 14 Sivan (June 17) is B'ha'a'lo't'cha in Israel and Naso in Chu"l. 21 Sivan (June 24) is Sh'lach in Israel and B'ha'a'lo't'cha in Chu"l. 28 Sivan (July 1) is Korach in Israel and Sh'lach in Chu"l. 5 Tammuz (July 8) is Chukat in Israel and Korach in Chu"l. We're getting there. 12 Tammuz (July 15) is Balak in Israel and Chukat-Balak in Chu"l. We're there. 19 Tammuz (July 22) is Parshat Pinchas all over the world.

We read/learn the 1st perek of Avot this Shabbat. In Chutz LaAretz it's 2nd day Shavuot - No Perek. We in Israel will be a perek ahead of Chutz LaAretz until two Shabbatot before Rosh HaShana.

The situation of the weekly sedras described above occurs when Shavuot is Friday (and Shabbat). In such years, both 12-month and 13-month years, Chukat-Balak is the catch-up reading. Chukat and Balak are ALWAYS read separately in Israel.

Similar situations occur when Pesach is Shabbat to Friday (to Shabbat in Chu"l). In those years, the catch-up is either B'har-B'chukotai or Matot-Mas'ei, depending upon the year being P'shuta (12 months) or M'uberet (13 months).

Numbers in [square brackets] are the mitzva-count of the Sefer HaChinuch.

KOHEN - First Aliya - 17 p'sukim (4:21-37)

The second count of Levi continues with the family branch of Gershon. The first count was of males from 30 days old and up. This count is of males between 30 and 50 years of age only. That constitutes the work-force for the Mishkan. Note: The starting age for a Levi's service is 30. In the Beit HaMikdash, there is no maximum age. In the Mishkan, however, since a Levi's work required carrying Mishkan components in addition to singing and guarding, there was a mandatory retirement age of 50. Also note that the family-branch of K'hat was counted and their tasks were enumerated at the end of Bamidbar.

Gershon's tasks include: the three coverings of the Mishkan - the Mishkan (intricately woven, multi- colored, first layer), the Ohel (goat's hair, woven middle covering), and the Michseh (outer covering of skins); the curtain at the entrance of Ohel Moed (same weave as the Mishkan); the linen curtain material that surrounded the courtyard and the entrance curtain of the courtyard; the securing stakes and other related tools. Levi'im were to function only as instructed by the kohanim. The supervisor of family Gershon is Aharon's son Itamar.

Family-branch Merari was also counted - males between 30 and 50 years of age. They were in charge of the wall-boards of the Mishkan, beams, posts, and foundations. Similarly, the courtyard posts, stakes, foundation sockets, and related tools. Itamar was their supervisor too.

The counts of the work-forces of Levi came to: 2,750 for K'hat...

LEVI - Second Aliya - 12 p'sukim (4:38-49)

...2,630 for Gershon, and 3,200 for Merari. The total work-force of Levi in the Mishkan was 8,580. (The position of "Sheni" might vary in different editions of the Chumash.)

...LA'AVOD AVODAT AVODA VA'AVODAT MASA... Note the four words in a row with the same root. Rashi says the Avodat Avoda (kind of a strange phrase) refers to playing musical instruments. As far as Avodat Masa is concerned - the Gemara in Chulim comments that only when there is heavy manual labor involved, then there is an age limit for the Levi'im. (This was mentioned above.)

SHLISHI - 3rd Aliya - 10 p'sukim (5:1-10)

People who are ritually defiled from any of three specific causes, are to be excluded from the camp pending purification [362]. We are taught that the 3 have different restrictions, as follows: A "m'tzora" is excluded from the entire camp of Israel and must remain in isolation until purification. The "zav" and "zava" are permitted in the camp of Israel, but are banned from the Levite camp (and, of course, from the Temple area). [Har HaBayit today, outside the area where the Temple and its courtyard stood, has the sanctity of the Levite camp.] A person who came into contact with a dead body is banned only from the "Camp of the Divine Presence" (Temple and its courtyard) [363].

A person who sins is required to verbally confess (when repenting) [364]. He/she must also make restitution (if money was involved) and pay a penalty to the victim.

SDT - Take a close look at the portion in the sedra dealing with repentance. It speaks of a man or a woman sinning and of THEIR (not his) requirement to confess and do T'shuva. It is often the case that when an individual sins, others are somewhat responsible. Perhaps a parent who did not educate the sinner properly. Maybe someone who made stealing (for example) too easy and/or tempting. Does the society bear some of the responsibility for a sinner's actions, because of mis placed emphasis on the wrong values? A person is primarily accountable for his actions. But the Torah's use of the plural, reminds us of our duty to develop an environment of Torah values that will be conducive for all members of society to enthusiastically follow a Torah way of life.

SDT - According to the Rambam (and others), when a person sins, and repents, in addition to the various elements of T'shuva (regret for the past, acceptance for the future, changing one's ways), the repentant individual must orally confess his sins before G-d. The Rambam seems to imply that T'shuva itself is not one of the 613 mitzvot, but rather a natural result of a Jew taking advantage of G-d's gift - the opportunity for a second chance. The mitzva is to confess (when repenting) and not letting the process be exclusively in one's heart and mind. Other mitzva-counters do include T'shuva among the 613 mitzvot.

R'VI'I - Fourth Aliya - 48 p'sukim (5:11-6:27)

This long portion primarily contains the topics of the SOTA (wife suspected of infidelity and duly warned) and the NAZIR (one who vows abstinence of a specific type) and Birchat Kohanim.

If a wife is unfaithful to her husband, and there is no proof of her adultery, or if a man suspects his wife of unfaithfulness and it be unwarranted, he may formally warn her in front of witnesses not to be seen in the company of a particular man. This warning is a precondition to the whole topic of Sota. Suspicion alone, or even adultery per se, do not produce the conditions for Sota without a formal warning by the husband. Once the warning is issued, it is a mitzva (requirement) to proceed with the Sota-process [365]. The husband must bring his wife to the kohen at the Temple. A barley-meal offering is brought. No oil [366] or spice [367] is used with it since the issue at hand is so serious and unpleasant before G-d.

The kohen prepares a potion consisting of water from the Kiyor (the washing basin in the Temple), earth from the floor, and the dissolved writing of this portion of the Torah.

The kohen administers an oath to the woman asking her to swear to her innocence, if that be the case, or to admit her guilt. The woman is warned of serious adverse effects of the potion which she will be asked to drink, if in fact she has been unfaithful to her husband, and of the favorable consequences of the potion if she is innocent.

The seriousness with which the Torah treats the issue of Sota is motivated by a desire to bring harmony between husband and wife (when feasible) and the notion that doubt is extremely detrimental to a relationship. G-d, so to speak, permits His Name to be written and erased in order to advance the cause of marital harmony.

A man or a woman may makes a Nazirite vow to G-d. This is usually, but not always, for a period of one month. A Nazir is forbidden to drink wine [368], eat grapes [369], raisins [370], grape seeds [371], and grape skins [372]. A Nazir may not cut his hair [373], but rather must let his hair grow long [374]. A Nazir may not come into contact with a dead body [375], nor become ritually defiled even from the bodies of one of his close relatives [376].

The Chinuch explains that since a regular Kohen is born with restrictions of ritual purity, it would be unfair to forbid him to be in contact with the body of one of his close relatives. His grief might be too great to handle that level of prohibition. But a Nazir volun tarily accepts his restrictions, knows what he is getting himself into (as would a candidate for Kohen Gadol), and therefore he can be restricted from contact with the body of even his own father.

If a Nazir does become defiled, he must purify himself (following 7 days of defilement), shave his hair, bring 2 doves and a lamb as korbanot, and begin his period of Nazir anew. When a Nazir successfully concludes the term of his vow, he brings 2 lambs and a ram plus various types of flour- oil offerings and wine for libation [377]. Included with these korbanot is a sin offering. (This implies that it is not entirely proper for one to accept upon himself a Nazirite vow. The Torah often provides extreme measures for one who feels he must live a stricter life in order to correct certain shortcomings, but still reminds us that it is not a preferable way of life.) Part of this mitzva is for the Nazir to shave off his hair, which is put into the fire under his korban. Afterwards, he may drink wine.

It is interesting to note that the many details of a Nazir's prohibitions are counted separately among the Torah's mitzvot. For example, does it not seem strange that the prohibition of a Nazir's eating grapes and raisins and grape skins and seeds should be counted separately? In contrast, look at the many examples in the Torah where a huge number of details are all subsumed under one mitzva - building the Mishkan, the melachot of Shabbat, to name just two. Perhaps the answer lies in the usual circumstances of a Nazir. Here is an individual who might be having more than regular difficulty controlling his physical urges. The Torah permits him to take vows of abstinence (which would ordinarily be frowned upon) in order to help him "straighten himself out". The Torah further "bombards" the Nazir, and his troubled soul, with mitzva upon mitzva to scrupulously adhere to. This process will hopefully bring the Nazir back "on an even keel". (This is clearly an over- simplification of the Nazir issue, but hopefully, it will give you something to think about.)

Next, the Torah presents the "three-fold blessing" which forms the text of "Birkat Kohanim". (We also say these p'sukim every morning as part of Birchot HaTorah, and we "borrow" the bracha for our children on Leil Shabbat, even though we are not all Kohanim.) When the kohanim pronounce this blessing, G-d will bless them and the people of Israel. Birkat Kohanim is a mitzva upon kohanim on a daily basis [378].

CHAMISHI - 5th Aliya - 41 p'sukim (7:1-41)

The reading from this point until the end of the sedra and into the beginning of the next portion, constitutes the readings for the eight days of Chanuka. (Some start from the Birkat Kohanim portion at the end of R'vi'i.) Some communities also read "the gifts of the tribal leaders" on the first 12 days of Nissan.

On the day the Mishkan was completed, it and its furnishings, altar and its utensils, were anointed and sanctified. The tribal leaders gave to the Mishkan 6 wagons and 12 oxen, two to pull each wagon. The wagons were to be distributed to the Levi'im proportional to the tasks of the different families. Gershon received two wagons and four oxen. Merari received four wagons and eight oxen (because their loads were consider ably heavier and bulkier). No wagons were given to K'hat, since they were responsible for the sacred articles which had to be carried by shoulder. That the Aron was to be carried on the shoulders of Levi'im from family K'hat is a mitzva [379].

Next follows 12 portions of 6 verses each, which are practically identical. Each portion contains the name of a tribal leader and a description of the gifts of gold and silver vessels and animals for sacrifices that were presented on one of the twelve days of dedication of the Mishkan. Nachshon b. Aminadav of Yehuda was the first to present his gifts. The leaders of Yissachar, Zevulun, Reuven, and Shimon presented their gifts on the 4 following days. Although the gifts are identical to each other, there are sources that teach that each leader brought his gifts with special kavanot and symbolisms unique to his tribe.

SHISHI - Sixth Aliya - 30 p'sukim (7:42-71)

The leaders of Gad, Ephraim, Menashe, Binyamin, and Dan brought their gifts on days 6 thru 10 respectively.

There are intricate symbolisms for each element of the gift, that differ from tribe to tribe, even though the gifts were outwardly identical. One of the recurring themes among the gifts is the list of animal sacrifices. The PAR (bull) is associated with Avraham Avinu, as it says when he ran to greet the angels - And to the cattle, ran Avraham... The AYIL (ram) is associated with Yitzchak, as in the ram that replaced him on the Mizbei'ach at the conclusion of the Akeida. The KEVES (lamb) is linked to Yaakov, as in the whole Lavan- sheep experience. The goat that is brought as a Sin Offering stands for Yosef, as in the goat with which the brothers deceived Yaakov. Note that it is the goat that is the Chatat. The other animals are not associated with sin.

SH'VI'I - 7th Aliya - 18 p'sukim (7:72-89)

Bamidbar 7 is the longest perek in the Torah.

The leaders of Asher and Naftali brought their gifts on days 11 and 12. The Torah presents totals and summaries of the "Dedication".

From this point, contact by G-d to Moshe emanated from between the two cherubs atop the (kaporet of the) Aron.

The last 3 p'sukim are reread for the Maftir.

HAFTARA - 24 p'sukim - Shoftim 13:2-25

The sedra teaches us the laws of the Nazir. The haftara tells us of the first Nazir, namely Shimshon. The nazirship of Shimshon is not typical. His was "ordered" by G-d via a heavenly angel and was to be a Nazir from birth, for Shimshon's entire life. "Regular" nazirship is proclaimed by a vow and is for a limited time, usually one month. The nazir's outward appearance - his unshorn hair - should be the external evidence of an inner sanctity. In Shimshon's case, his nazirship was accompanied by miraculous feats of heroic achievements against the Philistines who were Israel's major adversaries of the time.

Side point. The angel instructs Shimshon's mother (wife of Mano'ach of the tribe of Dan) as to how she must behave when she becomes pregnant. She must not drink wine or any other alcoholic beverages, nor eat anything Tamei. Interesting how long ago it was known that alcohol intake of a pregnant woman affects her child.