Torah Weekly

For the week ending 30 May 2009 / 6 Sivan 5769

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.


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“A man or woman who will take the vow of a Nazir for the sake of G-d...from new or aged wine...shall he abstain.” (6:2)

"Good evening, and here is the nine o'clock news. The perpetrators of last year’s spectacular $5,000,000 diamond heist were finally sentenced today to a total of 427 years in prison..."

David leaned forward and turned off the TV, sank back in his armchair and mused to himself, "$5,000,000! Their only mistake was they weren’t careful enough...if that had been me, I would have got away with it!”

In order to restore a husband's trust in his wife after she has behaved in a way that indicates that she may have been unfaithful to him, the Torah provides a means of verifying her innocence. This is called the mitzvah of Sotah. If she is innocent she is blessed with children who will be scholars, but if not, she dies a spectacular and miraculous death. Her stomach swells until she dies.

The Torah immediately follows this with the mitzvah of the Nazir. A Nazir is a person who takes upon himself additional stringencies such as refraining from wine and all grape derivatives. Rashi explains the connection of the two sections is to teach us that someone who sees the terrifying demise of the Sotah should understand that indulgence in wine leads to adultery, and distance himself from anything to do with wine.

But the question remains — shouldn't the spectacle of the grisly end of the Sotah, in itself, be more than adequate warning?

The implication here is thatwe are more attracted by the crime than deterred by the punishment.

A person can always rationalize and say to himself, “They weren’t careful enough; I would have got away with it!” The spectacle of punishment enforces the idea of the feasibility of sin more than the danger of getting caught.

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