Parashah Nasso (take, elevate) Numbers 4:21-7:89
In this connection, we learn of the census and responsibilities of the rest of the tribe of Levi (4:21-49). This is followed by five topics that are all connected, in one way or another, with the Mishkan and the divisions of the tribes: 1. Sending out the unclean from the camp (5:1-4). 2. Laws of theft, which can involve sacrifices and the transfer of property to the Kohanim (5:5-10). 3. The Sotah (wayward wife, suspected of adultery) (5:11-31). 4. The Nazir (6:1-21). 5. The blessings of the Kohanim (6:22-27).
Anyone who was unclean according to the Torah was to be sent outside of the camp because them remaining in it would defile the camp as He dwelt in the midst of it. Later we know that Yahweh removed His presence from the midst of the camp and would only meet with Moses at the Tent of Meeting which was set up outside the camp. While the Tabernacle remained in the center of the camp Yahweh Himself no longer came into the midst of the camp because of the sin of Israel.
This takes on importance when we connect the stories of what the Rabbis said happened after the death and resurrection of Yeshua back in the first century - how the Shechinah or Presence of God or His Glory departed from the Temple after this time and did not come into the Holy of Holies anymore on the Day of Atonement. The tradition tells us that when the High Priest would go into the Holy of Holies after this time, the cloud no longer appeared which meant the Glory of God no longer came into the Temple. Also in the past, if the sins of Israel were forgiven the red cloth which was tied to the Azazel goat turned white. It was related that after this time the red cloth no longer turned white. God had removed Himself from the midst of the people because of their sin. His Presence will also withdraw from our lives if we indulge in sin.
The passage also goes on to address any unfaithfulness against Yahweh which needs to be confessed and the appropriate restitution made. It is a mitzvah of the Torah to confess our sins and repent from them. When we sin, we are not to remain in the sin, nor are we to passively accept the fact that we are sinners. We must humble ourselves to confess the sin and then turn away from it. It is a positive commandment, to confess one’s sins and repent from them. Even the smallest sin should be confessed. Confession should be made privately, but audibly, directly to Yahweh. King David says, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh; and You forgave the guilt of my sin." Psalm 32:5 John the beloved disciple says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
The Wayward Woman
The Sotah is a woman who has strayed from the norms of community behavior and has not acted with discretion in that she has been in circumstances that arouse suspicion and there are no witnesses that can prove guilt or innocence. If she protests her innocence against the suspicion of her husband, then, as long as both she and her husband consent, her innocence or guilt is tested with the ceremony of the “bitter waters”. The local court listens to the accusations, and then sends two judges to chaperone the husband and wife on their way to the Sanhedrin. All along the way, and again in court, the wife is told that if she will admit her sin, she will be divorced and that she need not go through the ordeal. If she continues to argue her innocence, then the Priest/Kohen administers the oath as in Ch.5:19-21. The whole passage then is written on parchment. The Kohen removes her headcovering and pours water from the basin into an earthenware vessel, adds dust from the floor of the Temple and then dissolves the ink writing of the parchment which has Yahweh's Name written thereon, into the mixture. The woman is then made to drink the mixture, which proves her innocence, if she is unharmed, or guilt, if the curse comes true. If she is innocent the blessing follows in her bearing offspring, but if guilty she would fall down dead. If she confessed, she would be divorced and not receive the death penalty because there were no witnesses which was necessary by law to execute the death penalty for adultery. Some Rabbis say that this was seldom carried out to the full, as if the woman was guilty she would confess beforehand.
The purpose was to protect the wife's innocence against unreasonable suspicions or else to prove her guilty by ordeal. The ceremony of the Sotah removes the cause for suspicion and protects her from the extremes of jealousy, which in many societies often leads to violence and in some cases, murder. Thus it provided a way for the husband to deal with his jealousy. Were it not for the commandment of the Sotah, the impulse for jealousy would go unchecked. Yahweh compensates the innocent woman for her humiliation with blessing. The Targum Johnathan says “her brightness will shine forth, and she will find affection before her husband, and become the mother of a son.”
When Yahweh joins husband and wife, they share the same “basar”, that is “flesh”. Yahweh preserves the holy union of two individuals made one. The ordinary term for marriage is “kiddushin” and denotes sanctification. It is so called because the husband sanctifies (i.e.sets apart) his wife from the whole world like an object which is dedicated to the Sanctuary. It implies the strictest chastity in both parties
In John 8:3-11, the Torah teachers and the Pharisees of the day brought in a woman caught in the "act of adultery" yet no witnesses came forward and the man by law should also have been brought. The purpose was to trap Him and bring charges against Him. It seems that her sin was a foregone conclusion as far as Yeshua was concerned, but her accusers were not following the law in not bringing the man involved, and none of them when challenged were without sin themselves.
Here Yeshua the Living Word, protected this woman against the injustices of those involved, telling her to go and sin no more. Sometimes in life, the actual sin of adultery may not have been committed. Yeshua spoke of committing adultery in your hearts by looking upon another lustfully. This is often an instance of coveting what is your neighbour's also. (5:11-31 - Matthew 5:28 )
We all sin in some way and cause offence against our Heavenly Father and fellow man. When we are convicted of our sin or it is brought to our attention by someone else, how quick are we to repent, seek forgiveness and make restitution, when necessary? Husbands, do you repent to your wives. Wives do you repent to your husbands? James 5:16 says to, "Confess your faults to one another..." then indicates that because we fail to do so our physical healing may be impeded.
The Nazarite Vow Ch. 5:1-21
The word Nazirite comes from the Hebrew word nazir, rhzb, and means “dedicated” or “consecrated.” Accordingly, it seems to be a vow one may voluntarily take in order to temporarily dedicate himself either to do a special task for the Lord or to consecrate his life in a special manner for spiritual things. In order to accomplish this dedication, the Nazirite was required to observe three things:
- total abstinence from grapes or all grape products,
- refrain from cutting his hair during the time of the vow,
- avoid coming near to a corpse.
Any breach of these stipulations nullified the period of consecration and a new beginning had to take place. Ordinarily, it is a vow entered into voluntarily. The hair is a symbol of the vital power at its full natural development; and the free growth of the hair on the head represented the dedication of the man with all his strength and powers to the service of God. There have been several recorded occasions in Biblical times that women undertook a Nazarite vow. See Numbers 30: 3 - 16
It is Yahweh's purpose at this time, to set His people apart from the world and its affairs, calling us out and purifying us for His purposes. What is of significance is that the one who took the vow, brought his offering after the period of consecration and not during it. At the conclusion of the period of nezirut, the Nazir brought a series of offerings--a male lamb as an "ascending offering," an ewe lamb as a "sin offering," and a ram as a "peace offering". The Nazir's hair, which had grown freely throughout the nezirut, is now completely shorn and burned in the fire beneath the peace offering.
The fact that the instructions for those taking a Nazarite vow immediately follow those regarding an adulterous woman underscores the fact that to lead a chaste life one must not do anything that would stimulate the evil inclination (carnal nature) and incite it to sin (such as adultery). The evil imaginations of the heart are easily aroused and the consumption of wine can lead to sin. A Nazarite avoided wine for this reason in order to facilitate the leading of a chaste, kadosh (set apart) life. What carnal indulgences do we permit in our lives which war against our spirit man and weaken us morally so that we are more susceptible to fall into temptation and sin? In 1 Corinthians 15:33 we read, "Evil company corrupts good habits."
Though not under a Nazarite vow, we must nonetheless lead chaste, set apart/kadosh and pure lives abstaining from that which contaminates, corrupts and brings spiritual death. Abstain from all appearances of evil (1 Thes. 5:22) and the fleshly lusts that war against our souls (1 Peter 2:11).
The Aaronic or Priestly Blessings of 6:22-27
And God spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying: Thus shall you bless the children of Israel; say to them: “Yahweh bless you and keep you. Yahweh make His face shine upon you, and give you grace. Yahweh lift up His face to you and give you peace."
The blessing, according to ancient Rabbinic tradition, was to be pronounced only by the Kohain Gadol, the High Priest, who are the descendants of Aaron. In the preparatory prayer, prayed by the priest before pronouncing the blessing, he blesses Yahweh and commits himself to this office with the holiness of Aaron, and to fulfill this act in love.
The Aaronic Blessing can be subdivided into three sections:
(a) The First Blessing: May Yahweh bless you and safe guard you. He is the God who Keeps us. The rabbis take this to refer to the material and physical blessings that Torah obedience brings as enumerated in Deuteronomy 28:1-14. This includes good health, wealth, divine protection and victory over enemies. Yahweh's blessing and his safeguarding of those blessings from those who would kill, steal and destroy them go hand-in-hand. The rabbis teach that "the best way for someone to preserve his wealth is to use it for charity and good deeds. That assures him of God's continued blessing" (ibid. p. 763).
(b) The Second Blessing: May Yahweh illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you. He is the God of all grace. The rabbis teach that this illumination refers to the light of the Torah and they cite Proverbs 6:23, "For the commandment is a lamp and the Torah is a light." Compare this with what John said about Yeshua in John 1:1-14; 8:12; 9:5. Yahweh's grace involves his granting his people Torah knowledge, wisdom and understanding to utilize Torah properly and fully; to use the insights gained therefrom to comprehend his purposes (ibid. p. 763).
(c) The Third Blessing: May Yahweh lift his countenance and establish peace/shalom for you. He is the God Who grants peace. In Hebraic thought the idea of Yahweh's face or countenance shining toward his people is a metaphor of divine grace and favor. Contrariwise, when his face is turned against His people, this represents divine disapproval and shame upon his people. The rabbis note that peace is an essential component of the other blessings, for what good is physical blessings and spiritual insight if one's life is devoid of peace? What is the Jewish concept of peace? Balance. The absence of strife between the opposing forces in one's life. Sin disrupts this balance and causes strife and warfare as well as creating a barrier between Yahweh and his people (read what Rabbi Yeshua taught about this in Matthew 5:23-24). When such strife and barriers exist causing the negation of peace what are some things one must do to restore the peace. After all, Yeshua said, "Blessed [Happy] are the peacemakers..." Does peace just happen or is it necessary to exert effort to create it? Can there be peace where there is sin (Torahlessness)? Does it logically follow that the more our ways line up with the Torah of Yahweh, the more our ways are pleasing to him, the more peace we will experience in all our relationships? Read Proverbs 16:7.
(d) The Bearers of His Name: By invoking the blessing of Yahweh upon the people the priest was to "put My name upon the children of Israel" Bearing His Name is synonymous with bearing His Presence which had been imparted by the blessing.
The Targum Johnathan brings out the traditional understanding of this blessing, "The Lord bless thee in all thy business, and keep thee from demons of the night, and things that cause terror, and from demons of the noon and of the morning, and from malignant spirits arid phantoms. The Lord make His face to shine upon thee, when occupied in the law (Torah), and reveal to thee its secrets, and be merciful unto thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee in thy prayer, and grant thee peace in thy end. And they shall bestow the benediction of My Name upon the children of Israel, and I, by My Word, will bless them."
“May Yahweh bless you and keep you." Before you found the Messiah, God sought for you! He sought to bless you, by bringing you into the fellowship of His beloved Son! When the time was right, and your heart was tender, He lovingly reached out to you and saved you from the death-grip that sin had you in! Once your tender heart accepted His covenant relationship, based on trusting faithfulness to His Only, Unique Son, His covenant love for you secured a place for you in His Kingdom to come! You were His for the keeping!
“May Yahweh make his face shine on you and show you his favor." The Torah teaches us the wonderful, yet mysterious truth that the “saving” Name of Yahweh is Yeshua! The Mighty Name of Yeshua is the power of Salvation from the Father himself! When His Salvation walked the earth in bodily form, we beheld His kâvod (glory), and it was full of Grace and Truth! To attempt to look at the Eternal Yahweh was to invite instantaneous death! To be sure, the Torah teaches us that no man has seen God and lived! Yet, Yeshua informed us that to look upon His face is to behold the face of the Father! The gracious expression of the Father favor was demonstrated most fully in his Son’s bloody sacrificial death, burial and miraculous resurrection! Through the Father’s sacrifice of His Son, the Father’s face shines down upon us! The idiom ‘to cause one’s face to shine upon’ another, means to be friendly toward another. When God’s face is directed this way, it means the removal of the enmity that sin causes and the outpouring of divine love and salvation. (Hertz op. cit. p.595)
“May Yahweh lift up his face toward you and give you peace" Yahweh lifting up His face toward us is an action that indicates His attention directed toward us to impart His peace. The Hebrew word ‘to lift’, also carries the meaning of ‘to raise up, furnish, magnify, pardon’. from the root of this Hebrew word comes the meaning of ‘rising wind’, ‘vapor’. The magnificent Rising Wind which uplifts the Face of Yahweh and furnishes us with all the benefits of Yeshua’s salvation is the Ruach HaKodesh. He is the lifter of our souls and His miracle-working indwelling power is the source of ushering in the genuine shalom that only comes from knowing the Messiah Yeshua in the pardon of our sins!
The Name of Yahweh is a strong tower, the righteous run into it, and they are saved. Without the peace that passes understanding, nothing else matters. And that peace is only available through the Prince of Peace. So, how are we to bless our neighbors? First, we must be cleansed of our own sin. Then, we must enter into the Presence of God, only with blood, and speak the Name above all names. Then, sanctified by His Presence, by the holiness that is ours only in the Messiah, we must experience love for our neighbors. The Rabbis teach that if the Priest has anything against one member of the congregation, he must be absent from this time of blessing. We then, with purpose and respect for God and the office of priesthood in which He has placed us, speak to God about the physical needs, the emotional needs, and the spiritual needs of our ‘neighbors’. It is an awesome responsibility to bear the Name of Yahweh, to have His Name put upon us by our Great High Priest, Yeshua.
As we are a Royal Priesthood, we now occupy the position of those called to bless in His Name and we must follow His pattern. The Rabbinical tradition is that before raising their hands to bless others, they pray: "Blessed are You, O Yahweh our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with the holiness of Aaron and has commanded us to bless His people with love.”
The power of blessing, the power of our words. The Bible teaches that words can heal, build up and encourage, or kill, tear down and curse, that the power of life and death is in the tongue. What kind of words come from your mouth _ especially to your spouse and children? How often do we speak blessings over our children and spouses? We should bless those who curse us also and not just those who are our friends. How about those who cut you off in traffic and similar situations? Yahweh sees!
Dedication of the Sanctuary
The Torah now resumes its account (which it left off in the 10th chapter of Leviticus, back in the Parshah of Shemini) of the dedication of the Sanctuary on the 1st of Nissan, one year (less two weeks) after the Exodus. And it came to pass on the day that Moses had finished setting up the Tabernacle, and had anointed and sanctified it, and all its vessels, and the altar and all its vessels... The nessi’im of Israel, heads of the house of their fathers, who were the princes of the tribes... approached; and they brought their offerings before God on behalf of each tribe.
The Torah then proceeds to itemize each tribe’s gift separately, although each nassi brought the very same 35 items as his offering. After listing the twelve tribes’ offerings on the first twelve days of Nissan, the Torah summarizes: This was the dedication of the altar, in the day when it was anointed, by the princes of Israel: twelve dishes of silver, twelve silver bowls, twelve spoons of gold... All the silver vessels weighed two thousand four hundred shekels... all the gold of the spoons was a hundred and twenty shekels. All the oxen for the burnt offerings were twelve bullocks, the rams twelve, the yearling lambs twelve, with their meal offering. The kids of the goats for sin offerings twelve. And all the oxen for the sacrifice of the peace offerings were twenty four bullocks, the rams sixty, the he goats sixty, the yearling lambs sixty.
“And when Moses would go into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, then he heard the voice speaking to him from off the covering that was upon the Ark of Testimony, from between the two cherubim; and it spoke to him." The Torah recounts each tribe’s gift separately, repeating the 35-item list twelve times in succession.
Even thought each one’s gift was the same, it was given the same recognition and the same importance. So it was with each tribe, they all had their function and purpose in the divine plan, much like the Body of Christ has varying functions within it’s ministry.