A SUMMARY OF NASO, Num. 4:21-7:89

Last week the leading Levite subtribe, Kahat, was counted and given its special task- to carry the holy utensils of the tabernacle. The other two subtribes, Gershon and Merari, are now given more mundane tasks- moving the tabernacle curtains and boards. Yet they too must be treated with respect. Those who perform society's creative functions must also value those who do the detail work- without them, no grand plan would be executed.

Ch. 5: Those ritually impure must, in varying degrees, stay away from the holy encampments of Israel, surrounding the tabernacle. They were duly dispatched. A breach of trust regarding another's property entails 120% restitution. The associated sacrifice declares it also a sin against God; it evinces lack of both faith and God-awareness. If the owner died without legal heirs (e.g. a convert), payment is made to the priest on duty. While the priests are entitled to certain religious gifts, one may pick his priest- no one must support any particular charity, including ours. The Torah then prescribes a test to allow the husband of a suspected adulteress (sotah) to continue living with her, tho witnesses saw her secreted with a man, after her husband's witnessed warning not to do so. Tho the test is at her option, she can die if proven guilty. If innocent, she'll be blessed in childbirth. This supernatural Temple institution ceased functioning when sexual immorality became rife in Israel.

Ch. 6 Any Jew can vow to be a voluntary priest-like Nazarite. He abstains from grape products, grooming of his head, and rendering himself ritually impure by contact with the dead, during a specified period. His subsequent sacrificial ritual includes a sin offering. This indicates the Torah's disapproval of asceticism, per Rashi. One should enjoy God's gifts, if not forbidden. Ramban, however, says that he sins in limiting his Nazirite period, returning to a lower freer lifestyle. Both reflect Talmudic views. God commands the priests to deliver His blessing to Israel: "May God bless you and keep you. May God illuminate His Countenance for you and favor you. May God lift up His Countenance toward you and establish peace for you."

Ch. 7: The 12 tribal princes bring gifts, after the tabernacle was erected. Together they brought 6 covered wagons and 12 oxen. Each brought, on separate days, identical offerings for the dedication of the altar- tho leaders crave uniqueness, they followed God's command. Yet each saw different meaning and symbolism in his gift. But only Moshe heard God's Voice speaking from the Holy of Holies.

The Haftorah is Judges 13:2-25. The birth and role of Samson, a lifelong Nazirite, were proclaimed to his parents by a mysterious angel. His passionate nature jibes with Talmudic views that the Nazaritism is an opposite reaction to over- absorption in primal drives. Those most wild often become the most rigid religious returnees.

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