Torah Weekly

For the week ending 22 May 2010 / 8 Sivan 5770

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.


The Hidden Face

“May G-d illuminate His countenance...”(6:26)

Newspapers are depressing things.

We read of tragedies and war and natural disaster. It's easy to think, "Where's G-d in all this?"

The answer is in this verse, “I will surely have hidden My face.” (Devarim 2:18)

G-d will never abandon us. Rather, we feel that He has forsaken us, because He has hidden His face. When G-d hides ‘His face’ it means that we cannot see Him controlling events. It seems to us that chaos rules.

Nothing happens that He does not decree. The decree for every event that has happened this year was sealed last Yom Kippur: “...who will live and who will die.”

He is always with us. And if we look carefully at events, even though we cannot see G-d’s ‘face’, we can at least discern His ‘back’, we can see the telltale footprints in the snow of history.

When we fail G-d so totally and we feel there is no way back to Him, we must remember that He is always there behind the mask of the world, waiting for us to return through prayer and teshuva (repentance).

“I will surely have hidden My face.”

In the Hebrew language, the emphatic “to surely do” something is expressed by the repetition of the verb. In other words, the literal translation of the phrase “I will surely have hidden My face” is “Hide - I will have hidden My face.” The very structure of the Hebrew language gives us an insight into this ‘hiding’. There are two kinds of concealment: a concealment where you know that someone is there but you just can’t see them, and a concealment where you don’t even know if they are there at all. In other words the very fact of their hiddenness is concealed. This is the ultimate hiding — where the very hiding is hidden.

When we are aware that G-d has hidden from us, He is not really concealed, because we realize that our hiding from Him has been reciprocated by His hiding from us. It’s like any relationship: when you act coldly towards your beloved, she doesn’t feel the confidence to be close to you anymore so she retreats from you. But if you honestly ask for forgiveness and promise her that you really want to be close, then she will take you back.

However, there’s a deeper hiding of the “face.” In this hiding, the hiding is itself hidden. Then we don’t see that we have a relationship with G-d at all. We think that this is the way the world is supposed to be. Then we are in big trouble because nothing awakens us to return to Him. We think to ourselves: “This is the way things are supposed to be? Isn’t it? I’m supposed to be single.”

One of the blessings that a kohen bestows on the Jewish People is that G-d should “illuminate His countenance for you.” Obviously,G-d does not have a countenance, a face, in the literal physical sense of its meaning. The meaning of this blessing is that we should see everything that happens in the world as directly coming from G-d; that there is no such thing as ‘natural causes;’ that everything in our lives is directly sent to us from Him. The blessing of the kohen is that we see “His face” in the world — that His presence is clear to all who choose to see it. Then we can shake ourselves from the bonds of our illusions, re-establish our relationship with Him, return to His Torah, and realize that nothing is real except Him.

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