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In Melbourne Shabbat begins Fri 15 Dec 2017 08:19 PM and ends Sat 16 Dec 2017 09:20 PM

Parsha Insights Naso

בס׳ד
ח' סיון ה' אלפים תש"ע

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Parshat Naso

The Torah portion of Naso always comes immediately following Shavuot, the holiday of the giving of the Torah by God to the Jewish people. At this once in history monumental revelation, the Torah states that God descended unto Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19:20). This descent is explained to mean that the revelation and will of God was revealed in the world as it had never been before. The Midrash states that until then higher reality had been separated from lower reality in such a manner that Divine revelation could only descend so far and lower reality could only ascend so far. At the giving of the Torah this decree was annulled and higher reality descended while lower reality ascended when Moses went up to the mountain (Midrash Tanchuma Vaera 15).

Even with the annulment of this decree there was still one further stage to be accomplished in order that God’s descent into this world would be complete. This final stage is represented by the building of the Tabernacle as it says: “Build Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in their midst” (Exodus 25:9). It is explained that it does not say that God would dwell in it[the Tabernacle], rather in their midst – within each and every Jew (Rasheit Chochmah - Sha’ar HaAhavah)

At the end of Naso the dedication of the Tabernacle and especially the gifts of the princes of all the tribes are described (Numbers 7: 1-69). Although this portion is out of chronological order, its appearance here immediately following Shavuot emphasizes that the complete descent and revelation of God is only complete when there is a dwelling place for Him within our midst, in our most inner beings. This fulfills the very purpose of creation as the Midrash tells us that “God desired to have a dwelling place for Himself in the lower worlds” (Midrash Tanchuma, Naso 16).

The Tabernacle was dedicated on the first day of Nisan, the day the world was actually created, as it is understood that God created the world in potential only at Rosh Hashanah time. According to the Midrash it was the greatest day since the very inception of the world. One can imagine the excitement, anticipation and energy surrounding this awesome dedication. The Torah describes how each of the princes brought an assortment of gifts to be used in the Tabernacle. Interestingly enough they all brought the very same gifts, but we are told by the Midrash that each one had a completely different intention in each of the gifts.

Rashi in his explanation of the dedication of the Tabernacle brings one set of intentions, those of Nachshon, the prince of the tribe of Judah, the first to bring the gifts. These explanations are practically unique in the commentary of Rashi, as they use an assortment of Kabbalistic methods and devices that are only rarely used by him in explaining the simple meaning of the text. The fact that these methods are employed here in such a concentrated way alerts us to the fact that very deep meanings are certainly alluded to in the text. When enumerating these gifts according to Rashi’s explanations we see immediately that the intentions here begin with Adam, the first man, and go through central events in history till the time of the dedication of the Tabernacle. We will quickly review these gifts in order and Rashi’s explanation and then try to shed light on the spiritual intention of Nachshon.

  • A silver bowl weighing 130 shekels: the numerical value of “silver bowl” in Hebrew is 930, corresponding to the years of Adam’s life, while 130 corresponds to the age at which Adam and Eve gave birth to Seth.
  • One silver basin weighing seventy shekels: the numerical value of “one silver basin” is 520, corresponding to the age of Noah when he gave birth to his children at age 500, and 20 for the years before he began to give birth that God told him of the coming flood. The weight of seventy corresponds to the seventy nations that descend from Noah
  • One ladle weighing ten shekels full of incense: the one ladle represents the totality of Torah given by the One God. The weight of ten represents the ten commandments, the seminal teachings of the entire Torah. The word for “incense” equals 613, the number of commandments in the Torah when the letters are interchanged according to Atbash, a little known Kabbalistic alphabet.
  • One bull: this alludes to Abraham who fed a bull to the angels who came to announce to him the impending birth of a son.
  • One ram: this hints to the ram that was taken by Abraham in place of sacrificing his son Isaac.
  • One sheep: this alludes to the sheep of Laban that Jacob was able to breed in an ingenious manner in order that they would become his sheep according to an agreement he had made with Laban.
  • One goat: to atone for the sale of Joseph by his brothers. They dipped his special cloak in the blood of a goat in order to trick Jacob into thinking Joseph was dead.
  • Two cattle for peace offerings: this corresponds to Moses and Aaron who brought peace between God and Israel.
  • Five rams, five male goats, and five sheep: these three sets of animals correspond to Israel which is divided into three divisions – kohanim (priests), levi’im (Levites) and Israelites, as well as the three divisions of the Tanach – Torah, Prophets and Writings. The number five also corresponds to the five books of Moses and the five commandments that were written on each of the two tablets that Moses brought down from Mt. Sinai.


We see from these explanations that Nachshon was trying to connect his intentions in bringing the gifts to the spirit of the day, which was of rectification and revelation. The dedication of the Tabernacle represented the culmination of the process of repentance for the sin of the golden calf and symbolized God’s acceptance and atonement. In addition, the dedication represented the fulfillment of the purpose for creation – the creation of a permanent dwelling place for God in the lower worlds and more important in the hearts and minds of the Jewish people.

With that in mind, Nachshon’s gifts were intended to rectify the combined history of the world, as well as draw down upon the people the spiritual energy of the great deeds of the righteous individuals and the Patriarchs who proceeded them. What better time to rectify the sin of Adam and Eve, of the generation of the flood, the building of the tower of Babel by the descendents of Noah, and the selling of Joseph. What better time to draw upon themselves the spirit of self-sacrifice of Abraham and Isaac, the wisdom of Jacob, the peace between God and Israel brought about by Moses and Aaron, and the commitment to the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. (Although we will not delve into it here, this also lies at the heart of the intentions of Nadav and Avihu as they took incense and entered the holy of Holies without permission. As a result, their souls left their bodies and they died before God. They too were literally consumed with the spirit of the day and intuited the many ultimate rectifications and unifications which could be accomplished.)

We must remember also that Nachshon was the one who jumped into the sea until the water reached his nostrils before it split before the Jews as they were being pursued by the advancing Egyptians. His act represents the courage to confront all obstacles, trusting in the word of God who told Moses to tell the people to go forward. We see again in his holy intentions his desire to grasp the moment in order to mend the world from the results of its sins and shortcomings.

There is a great teaching here for each individual. Although we of course must learn from Nadav and Avihu and be careful to not be overwhelmed by events, nonetheless, there are times in our lives when events and circumstances align themselves in such a way that by taking the initiative and tuning into the opportunity that is presenting itself, truly great rectifications can be made.

For example: two people who have been quarreling for a long time find themselves in a situation where they need to cooperate and work together or the joyous or conducive spirit of an occasion allows them to drop their defenses and reach out to each other. Many times a new job, changing location, or a new relationship, opens us up to fresh energy and a new start in life. At other times, a crises situation creates the opportunity to look at things differently or to take serious stock of ones actions. At each of these junctures a person with the right intent can in a relatively short time rectify and heal his or her past, and breakthrough by adopting a new and rectified attitude about life.

This same idea holds true for nations as well. Sometimes after many years of hardship, war, and dispute between countries, dramatic events create an atmosphere where radical change can be accomplished. Although it certainly did not solve or fully rectify the long and tortured relations between the Jewish people and the world, the rebirth of Israel can be seen as a radical departure from old patterns of relations and has gone along way in changing our relations with the world. The obvious exception is the Arab and Moslem world, but that will come in time as well.

On an even grander scale, the possibility always exists for the entire world to be confronted with events and circumstances that will create a radically new situation, and with it the chance for permanent change in how the world conducts its affairs and nations relate to each other. The words of the prophets reverberate with allusion and prophesy of occurrences that will usher in the Messianic era. Then, and only then, will the full rectification and healing of the world occur.

When Nachshon brought his gifts his thoughts were in tune with the energy of newness, repair and atonement inherent in that day. How much was he, the other princes, and Nadav and Avihu able to accomplish we may never know, but their example is a beacon of light to what we can attempt in our own lives. May we always be ready and willing to grasp the moment and squeeze from it all the potential we can.


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