Torah Weekly

For the week ending 7 June 2008 / 4 Sivan 5768

Parshat Nasso

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Torah assigns the exact Mishkan-related tasks to be performed by the families of Gershon, Kehat, and Merari, the sons of Levi. A census reveals that over 8,000 men are ready for such service. All those ritually impure are to be sent out of the encampments. If a person, after having sworn in court to the contrary, confesses that he wrongfully retained his neighbors property, he has to pay an additional fifth of the base-price of the object and bring a guilt offering as atonement. If the claimant has already passed away without heirs, the payments are made to a kohen. In certain circumstances, a husband who suspects that his wife had been unfaithful brings her to the Temple. A kohen prepares a drink of water mixed with dust from the Temple floor and a special ink that was used for inscribing G-ds Name on a piece of parchment. If she is innocent, the potion does not harm her; rather it brings a blessing of children. If she is guilty, she suffers a supernatural death. A nazir is one who vows to dedicate himself to G-d for a specific period of time. He must abstain from all grape products, grow his hair and avoid contact with corpses. At the end of this period he shaves his head and brings special offerings. The kohanim are commanded to bless the people. The Mishkan is completed and dedicated on the first day of Nisan in the second year after the Exodus. The prince of each tribe makes a communal gift to help transport the Mishkan, as well as donating identical individual gifts of gold, silver, animal and meal offerings.


Out of Darkest Africa

“May G-d illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you... ” (2:22)

There was a young Israeli who grew up in North Tel Aviv. That’s about as far from B’nei Brak spiritually as it is close geographically.

After serving his time in the army, this young man went abroad on his de rigueur tour of the world. He traveled through Europe to Sweden where he met, fell in love, and married a non-Jewish girl. She was a diplomat who worked for the Swedish Foreign Ministry, and shortly after their marriage they were posted to the embassy in one of the central African nations in what used to be know as Darkest Africa.

The Foreign Minister held a reception to welcome the new Swedish consulate, and he was introduced to this Swedish girl and her Israeli husband. The Minister saw that the husband didn’t look very Swedish and asked from where he came,

“I am from Israel,” replied the husband.

“You are Jewish!” exclaimed the Minister, his eyes widening.

“Yes…” he replied rather sheepishly.

With a loud and commanding voice, the Minister summoned his entire entourage, “Everyone come here immediately! G-d has sent us one of His holy people — and from His Holy Land!”

The polite consular chitchat fell silent as all eyes turned to this fellow, who was praying (probably for the first time in his life) that the floor would mercifully open at his feet and swallow him.

His prayers seemingly went unanswered, and the Minister proceeded to ask him how he came to be in his country and many more questions about the Land of Israel.

A few months later, the wife received her transfer orders to the embassy in Ankara. Before they left, however, the Foreign Minister arranged a farewell reception. As the reception drew to a close the Minister made a small speech. Again he impressed on the crowd the tremendous honor that they had enjoyed having one of “G-d’s holy people” in their midst. At this point he took an ancient book from one of his aides. Addressing the Israeli fellow he said:

“We have had this book in the Ministry for many years, no one is quite sure how long. None of us can read the book since it is in a foreign language. We are not sure, but we think it is in the Holy Tongue. If it is, we would like to present it to you as a mark of our esteem and honor for the time you have spent among us.”

With a polite acceptance speech, the Israeli received the ancient tome, and sure enough, it was a Hebrew book — The Kuzari by Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi.

The couple had decided to see something of the continent of Africa and had planned to spend a month motoring up to Turkey. Needless to say, the husband had no interest in reading The Kuzari, but seeing as the nearest copy of Maariv was more than a thousand miles away, he made do with the only Hebrew literature that he had.

He started to read Rabbi Yehuda HaLevi’s account of how the King of Kazars, a tribe in Central Asia, had invited the representatives of Judaism, Islam and Christianity to present their claims to being the true faith. After hearing the arguments of each he had chosen to convert, along with his entire people, to Judaism.

By the time the couple reached the Bosphorous, they were no longer a couple. The Israeli flew back to Tel Aviv, took a taxi to B’nei B’rak, and stopped a black-hatted man on the street, announcing, “I want to learn Torah.”

He got remarried in Bnei B’rak just before Pesach this year.

“G-d has many agents,” and we can never know but the tiniest fraction of them. How a copy of the Kuzari found its way into the middle of darkest Africa remains deeply in the world of speculation. But what I would really like to know is in which, or in whose, merit did this particular Yiddishe neshama merit to be blessed with the verse, “May G-d illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you”?

  • Source: Story heard from Rabbi Y. Abramov

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