THE TORAH READING FOR 11 SIVAN 5781 MAY 21-22, 2021
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/naso
Naso (נָשֹׂא — Hebrew for “Take a census” or “lift up”) – Numbers 4:21−7:89
The Eternal One spoke to Moses: “Take a census of the Gershonites also, by their ancestral house and by their clans.” – Numbers 4:21-22
- A census of the Gershonites, Merarites, and Koathites between the ages of thirty and fifty is conducted and their duties in the Tabernacle are detailed. (4:21-49)
- God speaks to Moses concerning what to do with ritually unclean people, repentant individuals, and those who are suspected of adultery. (5:1-31)
- The obligations of a nazirite vow are explained. They include abstaining from alcohol and not cutting one’s hair. (6:1-21)
- God tells Moses how to teach Aaron and his sons the Priestly Blessing. (6:22-27)
- Moses consecrates the Sanctuary, and the tribal chieftains bring offerings. Moses then speaks with God inside the Tent of Meeting. (7:1-89)
NOTE: Sometimes Parashat Naso is separated into Naso I and Naso II as follows:
Naso I (Numbers 4:21-5:31) and Naso II (Numbers 6:1-7:89)
[The haftarah is about the birth of Samson, the nazirite.]
STUGGLING WITH TORAH
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naso_(parsha)
The parashah addresses priestly duties, camp purification, restitution for wrongs committed, the wife accused of unfaithfulness (סוטה, sotah), the nazirite, the Priestly Blessing, and consecration of the Tabernacle.
Many Jews recite the Priestly Blessing, Numbers 6:24–26, as the first section of the Torah to which they turn after reciting the Blessings of the Torah in the morning. And the Priestly Blessing is reflected in the closing prayer for peace of the Amidah prayer in each of the three prayer services.
[The triennial reading is Numbers 5:11-6:27. In it,] God told Moses to instruct the Israelites about the test where a husband, in a fit of jealousy, accused his wife of being unfaithful — the ritual of the sotah. The man was to bring his wife to the priest, along with barley flour as a meal offering of jealousy. The priest was to dissolve some earth from the floor of the Tabernacle into some sacral water in an earthen vessel. The priest was to bare the woman’s head, place the meal offering on her hands, and adjure the woman: if innocent, to be immune to harm from the water of bitterness, but if guilty, to be cursed to have her thigh sag and belly distend. And the woman was to say, “Amen, amen!” The priest was to write these curses down, rub the writing off into the water of bitterness, and make the woman drink the water. The priest was to elevate the meal offering, present it on the altar, and burn a token part of it on the altar. If she had broken faith with her husband, the water would cause her belly to distend and her thigh to sag, and the woman was to become a curse among her people, but if the woman was innocent, she would remain unharmed and be able to bear children.
[Today we might say that the sotah ritual as described includes the power of suggestion and elements of magic.]
From My Jewish Learning https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/adultery/
One thing made clear from this biblical ordeal of the suspected adulteress is that the Torah gives the male partner clear prerogatives by laying the burden of proving innocence on the woman. And, while both the wife and her adulterous lover were subject to capital punishment if guilty, no reverse ordeal was instituted: a wife suspecting her husband of infidelity had no recourse. The standards were not the same and men were allowed to be polygamous.
One major problem inherent in the law of the ordeal is the underlying assumption that by invoking the procedure a husband could force God, so to speak, to make the truth known. No other Torah law is dependent on such a divine manifestation.
Laws of adultery continued to be developed in talmudic times. The unfaithful wife was dealt with extensively in a talmudic tractate called Sotah (the faithless wife). Before the penalty of death could be administered, the rabbis stated in the Talmud, a number of strict requirements needed to be met, including such necessities as the crime having to have occurred before two valid witnesses and a warning that must be given to the couple concerning the punishment for the crime in very specific terms. The probability of carrying out the death penalty was, therefore, quite remote.
From the Office of Rabbi Sacks https://rabbisacks.org/lifting-heads-naso-5778/
The word Naso that gives its name to this week’s parsha is a verb of an extraordinary range of meanings, among them: to lift, to carry, and to forgive. Here though, and elsewhere in the wilderness years, it is used, in conjunction with the phrase et rosh (“the head”) to mean “to count.” This is an odd way of speaking, because biblical Hebrew is not short of other verbs meaning to count, among them limnot, lispor, lifkod, and lachshov. Why then not use one of these verbs? Why not simply say “count” instead of “lift the head”?
The answer takes us into one of the most revolutionary of all Jewish beliefs. If we are each in the image of God, then every one of us has infinite value. We are each unique. Even genetically identical twins share only approximately 50 percent of their attributes. None of us is substitutable for any other. This may well be the single most important consequence of monotheism. Discovering God, singular and alone, our ancestors discovered the human individual, singular and alone.
…At the very moment when one might be maximally tempted to see people as “just numbers” – namely, when taking a census, as here – the Israelites were commanded to “lift people’s heads,” to raise their spirits, to make them feel they counted as individuals, not numbers in a mass, ciphers in a crowd.
…The point being made by the Torah, though, is that what matters is not how we see ourselves but how we see, and treat, and behave toward others. The world is not short of self-important people. What it is short of is those who make other people feel important – who “lift their heads.”
…The challenge that emerges from the way the Torah describes taking a census is that we must “lift people’s heads.” Never let them feel merely a number. Make those you meet feel important, especially the people whom others tend to take for granted: the waiters at a communal meal; the woman who takes your coat in a cloakroom; the shammas in the synagogue; the people doing security duty; the caretaker; the most junior member of the office team, and so on. Make eye contact. Smile. Let them know you do not take them for granted. You appreciate them. They matter as individuals.
For this is the life-changing idea: We are as important as we make other people feel.
[The complete text of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks z”l D’var Torah on Naso is well worth reading. Ctrl-click on the URL above or copy it into your browser.]
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of brutality, abuse, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, violence especially against all minority communities including us, conflicts, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, disease, pandemics, natural disasters, war and all violence.
This coming week, the 11th through the 17th of Sivan, we lovingly remember:
Brother of Jack Farkas z”l, brother-in-law of Monica Farkas and uncle of Renee Farkas
Mother of Pam Elder
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
TORAH STUDY AND SHAZOOM
We will meet as usual at the regular times for Torah Study and Shazoom this evening, Friday, May 21, 2021.
Zoom continues updating its security and performance features. Making sure you have the latest version of Zoom, please join us online this evening:
Topic: Torah Study – Triennial Reading Num. 5:11-6:27
Time: May 21, 2021 06:00 PM Arizona
Shazoom – Erev Shabbat Service
Time: May 21, 2021 07:30 PM Arizona
To join the Torah Study and/or Shazoom click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/72510500854?pwd=Z3VQZWF4U1BBZytNYmh3aHFTWkFDZz09
Meeting ID: 725 1050 0854
Hint: The last character of the password is the number zero.
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!