Torah Weekly

For the week ending 30 May 2015 / 12 Sivan 5775

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-d's 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 Nissan 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.


Hair Suit

“......he shall take the hair of his Nazirite head and put it on the fire that is under the peace-offering.” (6:18)

Almost every part of the body is covered with hair.

Some is fine and some is thicker, but all hair has the same primary function — to insulate the body.

Hair does this in two ways. It serves as a physical barrier between external cold air and the skin, and it also traps warm air in-between the skin and the hair, keeping the body warmer.

Hair protects skin from the elements, such as sun and wind damage. It blocks dust and dirt from settling on the skin, and also serves as a buffer against friction.

When a nazir desists from cutting his hair, he is indicating his withdrawal and insulation from the physical world to devote himself totally to the service of Gd.

However after this period of separation, the nazir returns to society; he shaves his head and places his hair on the fire under the feast peace-offering. A peace-offering symbolizes well-being and community life.

The nazir takes his elevation and separation from the physical, and subordinates it to the well-being of the community.

In Judaism asceticism is not a tool for the removal of oneself totally from society. It is a time of separation, so that one may return to the community as a more proficient and giving member.

  • Based on Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch

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