Torah Weekly

For the week ending 8 June 2019 / 5 Sivan 5779

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 neighbor’s 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 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.


Me and My Shadow

“This is the law of the nazir: on the day his nazirut is complete, he shall bring ‘him’ to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.” (13:6)

I remember watching an episode of “I Love Lucy” about 250 years ago. Lucille is dressed as a clown, looking at herself in the mirror, adjusting her costume and fixing her makeup. In reality, the “mirror” doesn’t exist — another actor is pretending to be her reflection. Her “reflection” proceeds to mimic Lucille’s every movement. The synchronization of their movements is amazing and extremely funny.

Suspicious from the beginning, Lucille constantly attempts to fool her “reflection” into making a mistake, but her “reflection” manages to move in total harmony with her. In a last attempt to expose the prankster, Lucille drops a ball she is holding. Unbeknownst to her doppelganger, the ball is attached to a string and rebounds into her hand. The ball in her “reflection’s” hand, however, bounces all over the stage. Howls of laughter. Lucille chases her “reflection” all over the set. Fade out.

"Oh wad some power the giftie gie us, To see oursels as others see us!” wrote Scotland’s national bard Robert “Rabbie” (not Rabbi) Burns (1759-1796).

It always amazes me how transparent we are. We think that nobody sees us, that we can conceal our character flaws and blemishes. Our body language, however, our choice of words, our tone of voice, our choice of car, everything we do, reveals who we really are.

If we could see ourselves through others’ eyes, most of us would turn various shades of puce.

“This is the law of the nazir: on the day his nazirut is complete, he shall bring ‘him’ to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting.” (13:6)

Rashi explains that the word “him” in this verse means “himself.” The question remains though, why didn’t the Torah choose the normal reflexive pronoun?

A nazir is a man or a woman who adopts voluntary restrictions not to drink wine or any grape products, to refrain from trimming the hair of the head and face, and to avoid contact with a cadaver. What was the purpose of this self-imposed abstinence?

The process of nazirut was a kind of therapy to remove excesses, indulgence and self-centeredness. If this procedure was successful, the nazir was able to see himself exactly the way someone else would see him, without any of ego’s self-serving bribery.

Thus the verse tells us that if he “bring(s) him if he sees himself the way the world would see him, then “his nazirut was complete” — the purpose of his abstinence had been successful. Who he is and who he thinks he is have become identical.

He and his shadow are now one.

  • Sources: based on the Meshech Chochma in Mayana shel Torah.

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