For the week ending 7 June 2003 / 7 Sivan 5763

Parshat Naso

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 Closest Relative

"And if a man or woman sins against his fellow man, thus being untrue to G-d..." (5:6).

Righteous converts deserve an extra measure of respect, since they made a great "sacrifice." They have forsaken friends, family, and familiar traditions in order to come and be a part of the Jewish People. Our Sages explain that the "sin against his fellow man" in this verse refers to "stealing something from a convert." Since the convert does not have any Jewish relatives, the Torah refers to afflicting him as "being untrue to G-d." This is as if to say that G-d is his closest relative.

The convert is dear to G-d since he came to Judaism based on his idealism. We must avoid fogging his keen perception and embittering his attitude towards G-d's Torah and His people, lest we drive him back to his non-Jewish practices.

Based on the Sforno

Drink and Be Happy!

"And the kohen shall make one as a sin offering and one as a burnt offering, and it will atone for him for his sin against his soul" (6:11).

Our Sages teach that if one unnecessarily fasts longer than the Law requires, he is considered to be a "sinner." Similarly, if one's fast is pointless, and did not lead to any spiritual progress, then he afflicted himself without a purpose and is therefore considered a "sinner."

This is despite the fact that he is fulfilling the technical letter of the Law with the fast. The Torah encourages us to improve spiritually by partaking from this world, and not by aimless suffering in life. The Nazir's sin is that he afflicted himself by abstaining from wine when he could have been using that wine for loftier purposes; for example, as Kiddush-wine on Shabbat.

Adapted from the Ktav Sofer

Individually Me

"G-d said to Moshe: Each day, a different Prince from the Tribes should present his donation." (7:11)

Whenever a person performs a mitzvah he has a personal emphasis and feeling that he inserts. This is even though all of us perform the same identical act (for example waving a lulav on Succot) for the same reason (to fulfill the commandment). Within the framework of mitzvot there is plenty of room for individual creative expression.

The Torah counts and recounts 12 times in great detail how each of the 12 Princes brought the exact same gift at the dedication ceremony for the Mishkan. The Midrash explains that although each Prince brought the same physical objects, he did it from his own unique and individual vantage point. We should not worry about trying to publicly overshadow the mitzvah of another person. Rather, we should concentrate on the endless levels of improvement in our personal relationship to each mitzvah, how we perform it and how we allow it to improve our relationship with G-d.

Adapted from Ralbag

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