Teaching on Parashat Nasso

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Read the transcript below, or watch a video of the teaching by Joseph Shulam.

Shalom, my name is Joseph Shulam, and in partnership with Brad TV. We are doing the Torah portions week after week as they are read in the synagogues around the world.

We’re covering the whole five books of Moses, from Genesis all the way to the end of Deuteronomy, which is what is read in the synagogues year after year.

Now we are talking about the portion that is called Naso. Naso in Hebrew means the census, the numbering, the arrangements that the children of Israel were required by God, to do in the wilderness as they march out of Mount Sinai all the way to the land of Canaan.

So, there are a lot of technical things in the Book of Numbers like in the Book of Leviticus and there are administrative things and for most Christians, they don’t find so much material in there to teach from these texts. However, these texts are very important.

The Holy Spirit saw fit to deliver them to us as a part of God’s word, that as Paul puts it in the letter to Timothy, it’s profitable for correction, for instructions, for equipping the men of God to do all good works. So, if the Holy Spirit saw fit to give us this material, we need to study it, to learn from it, to glean from its practical things that apply to our lives today in the 21st century. And that will enrich us in our walk and into our faith, and into our relationship with the almighty God.

So Parashat Naso, which means the census that God commanded the children of Israel, is continuing. We started earlier in the beginning of the Book of Numbers, and it continues now. And I’m going to read the first few verses and then go forward.

Chapter four of Numbers verse 21, it’s where our portion starts, and it ends in chapter seven verse 89 of the Book of Numbers. And as I said, it starts with the continuation of the order of the census of the families of the tribes of Israel. And now, specifically with the families of the tribe of Levi, of the tribe of Aaron, the priesthood. And it says to us this; thus says the Lord. Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying, “Also take a census of the sons of Gershon “by their father’s house, by their families. “From 30 years old and above, “even 50 years old, you shall number them “all who enter to perform the service “to the work in the tabernacle of meeting.” In other words, they are now dealing with specifically the families of Aaron and their job around the tabernacle. Each family is given a specific job; some are in charge, like in chapter 4:25, they’re in charge to carry the curtains of the tabernacle. Others are in charge to carry the screen of the door of the gate of the court that is hanging outside. Others are in charge of carrying the wooden poles that hold the tabernacle up. Others are in charge of carrying the Ark of the Covenant. Others are in charge…
It was an elaborate affair and all of it was holy and all of it had to be carried, when the children of Israel moved. When the pillar rose up in the day and they went forward, then they had to carry all the things of the tabernacle, the altars and tools and the tabernacle itself with them on the way until they encamped somewhere else.

This is called in Hebrew, Mishmeret. Chapter 4:28 calls it the service of the families. And the word service here is Mishmeret. It is what they have to guard, what they have to watch, what they have to protect, from the root of protection, Nishmor in Hebrew.

That’s a very interesting concept. We don’t have a tabernacle; the Jews haven’t had a tabernacle for many many thousands of years. Solomon built the temple. And the tabernacle, who knows what happened to it?. If it was stored or it was already old several hundred years when Solomon built the temple. But the service, the calling of each family with a specific task is very, very important to us. Why is it important? Because Paul, in the first letter to the Corinthians in chapter seven. Start reading from verse 17. “But as God has distributed to each one, as the Lord called each one, let him walk, and so I ordain in all the churches.” That’s how Paul starts this section. The word distributed, means he gave the task, the service to each one of the families of the Levites and the priests of what their job is going to be around the tabernacle, and specifically in our portion of what part of the tabernacle they have to carry when they are wondering through the wilderness.

And Paul says, “God distributed to each one a calling, a service, and each one has to walk in the service that God has given him.

It’s a very interesting concept. It’s a military concept. And the language that is used in the Hebrew Bible in the Book of Numbers is a military language. Each one has his rank, each one has his task, each one has his calling, and he’s supposed to walk in that calling that God has given him. And Paul says,” I am making this an ordinance, a law for all the churches.”

And in verse 18 and on, he’s giving us the detail of this law, which he made for all the churches. Was anyone called while circumcised? Let him not become uncircumcised. Was anyone called while uncircumcised? Let him not be circumcised. That’s verse 18. In other words, each one of us has a calling in the kingdom like the Levites and the priest in the wilderness with the tabernacle. If the Gershonites got a job of carrying the curtains of the tent of the tabernacle, that’s what they had to carry. Others got a job to carry the wooden parts, they had to carry the wooden parts. Others got a job to carry the Ark of the Covenant, they had to carry the Ark of the Covenant; each one in his own calling.

What happens with human beings? Why did Gershonites carry the curtains? And the Midianites carry the woods? And the other ones carry the Ark of the Covenant. We want to carry the Ark of the Covenant. No.

Paul says from the Holy Spirit, “Each one is to be in his own calling.” And he brings it home to a body of the Messiah where there are Jews and Gentiles, there are Chinese, Koreans, Arabs, Israelites, Hottentot; whatever you want in the body of the Messiah. Let each one remain in the status, in the calling, which God called him. If you were called circumcised, a Jew, don’t uncircumcised yourself. If you were called uncircumcised, don’t circumcise yourself. Each one, stay in the status that you were called. When you were called by God, you became a believer, you became a born again disciple of Yeshua. Remain in that status. If you’re Korean or Japanese, don’t go have plastic surgery to make you look European, Caucasian. It sounds simple, but it’s actually very complicated.

It’s very complicated that we have one body in which we are equals. Men and women, Jews and gentiles are equals in the body of the Messiah. Sometimes they develop jealousy. Why would he carry the Ark of the Covenant and I have to carry the wooden planks and the posts of the tent? Why can’t I carry the Ark of the Covenant? No, because God gave each one his calling.

It’s hard for us to accept this, but it is a very important principle because God, first of all, knows what he’s doing. That’s our basic premise. God knows what He is doing. And when he gives a job to somebody, He knows what he’s capable of. He knows what his talents are, what his gifting is, and He expects him to do what God commanded him to do.

And Paul says, this is the law. This is something that is ordained. It’s legal language, ordained, in ordinance for all the churches. So, if you’re a Jew, don’t try to become a Gentile. The language that he uses is interesting. Don’t uncircumcise yourself. And it’s interesting that we have in rabbinic literature. This trend is mentioned. In the Babylonian Talmud, we hear about people who pull their foreskin, and tie it so that they look like they’re uncircumcised. Jews that were going to the gymnasium in the Greek world, in the Roman world. In the gymnasium, they exercise naked. They didn’t have Speedo bathing suits. They exercised naked in the gymnasium. And if you are Jewish, it’s visible that you’re Jewish. And Jews in the Hellenistic world didn’t want to always identify as Jews. So they pulled their foreskin and they tied them together. They tied them so it looks like it’s uncircumcised.

Paul says, don’t do that. But if you’re uncircumcised, if you’re a Gentile, don’t circumcise yourself. God knows his business and he knows what he called you. If you are a black brother, don’t try to bleach yourself. If you are a white brother, don’t try to make yourself black by over exposing yourself in the Sandton gallery. Each one is what God called him to be.

Why is this important? Because we look in verse 19 of first Corinthians. Circumcision is nothing and uncircumcision’s nothing. What is really important is that each one keeps the commandments which God has given us. This is what matters. Paul says in verse 19 of first Corinthians seven. And he repeats that same idea in Galatians chapter six.

It doesn’t make difference who you are, who your father is, who your mother is, what your color is, how tall you are, whether you are blonde, blue-eyed or you have black hair and brown-eyed. No, that doesn’t matter. What matters is what God called you to be, what God made you to be. And so, if you’re Jewish, don’t become a Gentile. And if you’re a Gentile, don’t become a Jew.

Each one has his own commandments. And each one is responsible to keep the commandments which God gave him. If you’re a woman, there are commandments for women. If you’re a man, there’s commandments for men. If you’re a child, there’s commandments for a child; honor your father and your mother. If you’re a father and you have children, there’s commandments specifically for fathers. If you’re not married and you’re just a man, there’s commandments for men.

Each one has his own calling, his own task inside the camp of Israel, the camp of the holy presence of the Lord. And therefore, don’t try to become what God did not make you, physically or spiritually as well. Let each one stay in the status, in the calling which God called him.

However, there’s always a caveat. If you are a slave, which God doesn’t make slaves. Other people make slaves. If you are a slave and you have a chance from becoming free of that slavery, a freeman. That’s in verse 22. First of all, realize that in Christ, you are already free. You may be enslaved for financial reasons, for other reasons, but in Christ, everybody’s free. Why? Because you were bought at a price, verse 23. And the price that God paid for you is the life of his son, the blood of Yeshua. And therefore, socially speaking, you are in debt and you became enslaved to another man. In Christ, you are free. But if you have a chance to get free also in the community socially, then take that chance. Don’t choose to remain a slave because you are already free in Christ.

Now all this is based on this text that we read earlier from the book of Numbers; that each one remain in the status in which God called him. Let each one do his job and not look over the shoulder to somebody else’s job, and say, “Why don’t I do his job?” Because God knows his business. This is the principle that everybody needs to internalize very, very carefully. God doesn’t make mistake. I didn’t choose to be born in Bulgaria, and I didn’t choose at the age of one for my parents to bring me to Israel. And the children of Israel, that were in Egypt, a couple of hundred years as slaves, didn’t choose to be slaves. And God delivered them from slavery and gave them the law, the law of freedom, the perfect law of liberty is what James in his letters speaks about, to liberate us from our shackles of our past.

And therefore, he gave each one a job, a task. And our portion of the Torah details each family of the priests in Israel; what is their job in relationship to the tabernacle in the wilderness?

And you can read it and you can see how God divided the different jobs, the different tasks to each one of the families.

Now the important thing is, that each one gets satisfaction, learns to be satisfied with what God gave him.

But in our portion of the Torah, there is another very important principle. And that is a husband that suspects his wife of infidelity and he is envious of his wife, and he has lost the trust for his wife. And what is the cure for this? It’s here in our portion of the Torah. The cure is, the bitter waters. You go to the priest and you say, “I suspect my wife.” And they bring the wife and they have the ashes of the red heifer, and they mix the ashes of the red heifer with water. And the priest declares to the wife that she drinks this mixture of the ashes of the red heifer. If she is innocent, nothing happens. If she is guilty, that drink is going to reveal her guilt and confirm that her husband is lawfully, legally has a good reason to suspect his wife and to accuse her of infidelity, and then the consequences will be serious.

I am reading from Numbers chapter five from verse 16. “And the priest shall bring her near and set her before the Lord. And the priest shall take holy water in an earthen vessel, clay vessel and take some of the dust that is on the floor of the tabernacle and put it into the water. Then the priest shall stand the woman before the Lord, uncover the woman’s head and put an offering of remembering in her hands, which is grain offering of jealousy. And the priest shall have in his hand the bitter water and bring a curse on the bitter water. And the priest shall put her under oath and say to the woman, if no man has lain with you and if you have not gone astray to uncleanliness while under your husband’s authority, be free from this bitter water that brings a curse. But if you have gone astray while under your husband’s authority and you have defiled yourself, and some man other than your husband has lain with you,” then the priest shall put the woman under the oath of the curse.

And he gives her the drink, and if nothing happens, the woman is innocent, she’s clean. If she feels bad in her stomach, terrible pain, and the water of the curse in her belly, and her belly swells and tightens up, then the woman is guilty. And then she bears the consequences of her guilt. She will have to offer a sacrifice and repent and the husband can put her away, and all kinds of things happen.

But this sounds very primitive, but psychologically, it’s very smart because if the woman is not guilty, nothing’s going to happen to her. What happens is not from the water. What happens is from her guilt. Psychologically from her guilt. Her guilt makes her stomach hurt, her belly swell, and the curse applies.

So, the Torah has all kinds of interesting things. Each page of God’s word is full of good and important instructions. And I urge you all to read the portion, starting in chapter four verse 21, ending in chapter seven verse 89, and then the reading from the Prophet Zachariah chapter two from verse 10 to chapter four verse seven, and then we read Luke 10 the whole chapter. 10 of Luke from the New Testament. Read these things. Keep up with the word of God. It is really a living word that will enrich your life.

God bless you and fill you with the Holy Spirit in Yeshua’s name, amen.

This video and transcript originally appeared on Netivyah and is reposted with permission.