The Parsha this week is Naso (count). In Numbers 4:21 to 7:89 Moses was commanded to count the Gershonites who were descendants of Gershon the eldest son of Levi – not to be confused with Gershom the son of Moses who was born to him while in the wilderness prior to the Exodus.
The sons of Levi were counted differently to the other tribes. The other tribes were counted by all men over twenty – that is to say all men of military age. The sons of Levi were accounted as men between thirty and fifty since their function was to maintain the Mishkan – the Tabernacle – and its worship.
The duties of the Kohathites were described last week in Parshat Bamidbar and now the area of responsibly of the Gershonites is defined. They are to take care of the curtains that comprise the tent and its covering along with all the ropes and materials for the tent and the courtyard.
The Merarites, the descendants of Levi’s youngest son, were responsible for the framework of the Tabernacle and all the poles and ropes associated with the courtyard.
All the transportation, dismantling and erecting of the Mishkan was to be supervised by Itamar the priest the son of Aaron.
The results of the census of Levites serving in the Mishkan were
Anyone with a infectious skin condition or boil has to be put outside the camp.
If anyone was wronged or defrauded, restoration was to be made in full and one fifth added to the loss.
The bizarre test for an unfaithful wife was that if a man suspected his wife of adultery but had no proof, she was brought before the priest who would make her drink a mixture of water, dust from the tabernacle and curses written on a scroll and then washed off to add to the mixture. If nothing happened, then she was declared innocent and returned to her husband. Otherwise, her abdomen would swell, and she would miscarry and be henceforward barren.
If anyone wants to take a Nazirite vow for a period, they are not to drink wine or eat anything that grows on the vine. They also were not to cut their hair and let it grow long for the duration of the vow.
They were also not to touch any dead body. If someone dies unexpectedly in the presence of someone taking a Nazirite vow, the Nazirite had to shave his head, bring a sin offering to the Priest and start the period of the vow from the beginning again.
When the period of the vow is complete the Nazirite is to bring a burnt offering, a sin offering, and a peace offering to the priest and shave his or her head. They are to burn the hair to the fire under the alter and from then on, they can drink wine.
The Aaronic Blessing
This is how Aaron was to bless the people
יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ.
Y’varechacha Adonai v’yishmarecha
‘The Lord bless you and keep you.
יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
Ya’er Adonai panav alecha ve’khunecha
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you.
יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם.
Yisa Adonai panav eilecha veyasem lecha Shalom
the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace
The Mishkan is now complete, and Moses consecrates it. The family heads bring carts and oxen to be given to the Levites for undertaking their duties. Each tribe brings an offering of silver dishes filled with fine flour and olive oil and a gold dish full of incense as well as the requisite animals for the burnt, sin and peace offerings. For twelve days each tribe bring their offerings, one tribe per day.
Moses stood in the tent and the LORD spoke to him from between the cherubim.
Haftarat Naso הפטרת נשא
The Haftarah associated with the Parsha this week is the story of the birth of Samson who was to be a Nazirite all his life. The passage is Judges 13:2 to 25.
A woman who is not named in the scripture but referred to only as the wife of Manoah was barren but received a message from an Angel telling her she would give birth to a son. She told her husband who said he wanted the Angel to come back and reaffirm it. The Angel does come back but again Manoah is not there at the time. Manoah’s wife quickly calls him over and the Angel affirms the message that his wife will have a son. The boy is to be a Nazirite, so she was not to touch wine of anything that comes from a vine during her pregnancy. Manoah invites the Angel to stay for lunch, but he declines. However, Manoah was to offer a burnt offering of a goat and some grain. The Angel disappears into the flames of the offering and ascends back to heaven.
Manoah realising that he has seen God, fears that he might now die, but his wife reassures him that God would never have appeared in that way if he had intended to kill him.
The woman then became pregnant and gives birth to a son who was named Samson.
The subject under consideration from this week’s Parsha is being set apart. The Levites were set apart for the purposes of the upkeep if the Mishkan while the Nazirite is set apart, either for a time or for a lifetime as in the case of Samson.
Likewise, if we are to be disciples of Yeshua we are to be set apart and very distinguishable from the world in the way we live our lives. It is not something we do of ourselves and that is why the Ruach Hakodesh The Holy Spirit dwelling in us gives is the power to live differently from the world around us
It is often suggested that the body of Messiah cannot survive unless it adopts the norms of the world around us. The opposite is true since the congregations and churches that survive are the ones that offer a radical alternative.,
It is interesting that the Angel of the LORD spoke to the mother to be of Samson. He didn’t seem to pay too much attention to Manoah who demonstrated a great lack of faith in his fear of dying since he had seen God. It was his wife who reassured him showing that the weaker partner was the stronger in faith.
Who was the mysterious Angel and what was his name? The Angel answered the question in a very Jewish way by asking another question.
“Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?” (Judges 13:18 ESV)
His name is not just wonderful, it is also “Counsellor Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6)
This article originally appeared on the BMJA website, June 12, 2022, and reposted with permission.