For the week ending 2 June 2012 / 11 Sivan 5772

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 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.


History Lesson

"On the first day, Nachshon ben Aminadav, prince of Yehuda, brought his offerings." (7:12)

At the inauguration of the Mishkan, the princes of the twelve tribes of Yisrael each brought identical donations. These donations contained within them a symbolic "history lesson" depicting the history of the world from Adam onwards. What was the significance of this historical panorama?

The silver bowl that they brought alluded to Adam, the first man, for the gematria (numerical value) of word ke’arat kesef is 930 the years of Adam’s life. It was made of silver which hints to the fact that Adam kept six commandments of the Torah, for the Torah is likened to silver. The weight of the bowl was 130 shekels, symbolizing the 130 years that Adam lived before his successor, Shet was born. It was through Shet that mankind was established.

Apart from this silver bowl, they brought a silver basin. The gematria of mizrak ehad kesef ("one silver bowl") is 520. Noach did not have children until the age of 500, and 20 years before this event, G-d decreed the flood. The word mizrak is from the same root as "to be thrown out," and Noach was an outsider in a generation that scoffed at his building of the ark. This basin was also silver to represent the Torah, for in addition to the six mitzvot that Adam observed, Noach kept a seventh mitzvah not to eat the limbs or the meat of a living animal. The basin weighed 70 shekels corresponding to the seventy nations that are descended from Noach who are commanded to observe these seven mitzvot to this day.

The offerings of one bullock, one ram and one lamb as olah offerings hint to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. The bullock symbolizes the hospitality of Avraham when he ran to bring oxen for his guests. The ram is a reminder of Yitzchak’s willingness to be bound on the altar even though a ram was offered in his stead. The lamb represents Yaakov who separated his herds from Lavan.

The two oxen, which were offered as shlamim, allude to Moshe and Aharon who made peace (shalom) between the Jewish People and their Father in Heaven.

The kaf, spoon, represents the giving of the Torah. The Torah is called a kaf because kaf can also means "hand" — the Torah was given to us directly to be the "Hand" of G-d. The spoon weighed 10 shekels, corresponding to the Ten Commandments. It too was gold, alluding to the Torah. The kaf was filled with ketoret incense. The gematria of ketoret is 613, the number of mitzvot in the Torah.

When Adam sinned the Divine Presence withdrew from this world. The message of the symbolic "history lesson" of the princes’ offerings was that with the inauguration of the Mishkan which these offerings honored, the Divine Presence rested on the world once again.

  • Sources: Bamidbar Rabbah; Tzror Chamor

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