Thoughts on Parashat Naso

This week’s Parasha, Naso, Numbers 4:21 – 7:89,[i] continues the census and the assignment of the Levites that began in Bamidbar. Instead of summarizing all that happens in this Parasha, I want to look specifically at two issues. First, Hashem said to Moshe, “Any man or woman who desires to vow a Nazirite vow to be separate for Adonai…” (6.2). The rest of the chapter outlines the things that must be avoided by the individual who takes on the Nazirite vow, e.g., specific food and drink from which to abstain, no haircut restriction and association with the dead. This vow connects the Parasha to the Haftarah (Judges 13:2-25), which records the announcement and birth Samson. However, it should be noted that there is a distinct difference between the command in Numbers 6 and the Samson’s Nazirite vow. In this week’s portion it says, “any man or woman who desires to vow a Nazirite vow…” meaning it is the choice of the one who wishes to be set apart and consecrated to the LORD’s service. Samson, for whatever reason known only to Hashem Himself, had no choice. Hashem told Samson’s mother,

“For behold, you will conceive and bear a son. Let no razor come upon his head, for the boy will be a Nazirite to God from the womb.” (Judges 13.5).

Samson was apparently not unique in the workings of the LORD as Jeremiah discovered when He told Jeremiah,

Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you, and before you were born, I set you apart (I consecrated you) – I appointed you prophet to the nations. (Jeremiah 1.5)

Rav Shaul apparently felt himself in the same situation as he wrote to the Galatians,

But when He who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by His grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me… (Galatians 1.15-16)

But why point out the distinction between the command in Naso and the situations in which Samson, Jeremiah, and Shaul found themselves? It would appear that some people have specific callings upon their lives, so designated by the LORD, potentially even “from the womb.” However, according to the command in Naso, individuals, even without prior calling from the LORD and if they desire, can set themselves apart for His service. Neither in chapter 6 or anywhere else in Scripture, is it defined exactly what the individual is to do when they choose to “be separate for Adonai.” That decision is between them and Hashem. However, whatever the reason for the separateness, Shaul writes to the Corinthians that they should not tarry or waste time in completing what they started.

So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. (2 Corinthians 8.11)

In other words, if one desires to set himself or herself apart for service or ministry unto the LORD, they need to follow through with it, completing the work or calling that they started. We often quote Rav Shaul’s encouragement to the Philippians,

And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Messiah Yeshua. (Philippians 1.6)

And while this encouragement is true, it is also true that it is incumbent upon us to complete the work that we have stated.

Before leaving Naso, there is one other passage I would like to consider at the end of chapter 6 (6:23), but in doing so, I would like to cite a short FB teaching from Jewish House Mafia[ii]

“Speak to Aharon and his sons, saying: ‘So shall you bless the Children of Israel.’” (6:23)

QUESTION: According to halachah (Orach Chaim 128:5) when the Kohen recites the Priestly Blessing he must raise his hands and stretch them out. What is the significance of this?

ANSWER: Many people are accustomed to give blessings generously, and it is indeed a benevolent practice. For example, we bless a sick person, “May you have a speedy recovery,” and we bless a person in financial straits with hatzlachah (success) in his livelihood. With this halachah (law) our Sages are imparting a very important lesson; while giving blessings is laudable, it is extremely important that we also “raise our hands” and “stretch them out” — that we actually do something materialistic to help the person in need.

When I read this, I immediately thought of the words penned by Ya’acov,

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2.14-17)

In other words, Ya’acov, as well as the Sages, realize that just words of comfort, simple platitudes are not enough in every situation. Yes, there are times when words of comfort are necessary, but there are other times when “something materialistic” is needed. If we have the ability or capability to help, we need to do so.

Shabbat Shalom

[i] Unless otherwise noted, all Scriptures are from the Tree of Life (TLV) Translation of the Bible. Copyright © 2015 by The Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society.


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Michael Hillel with his wife Vered and their three children, made aliyah from the US in late 80s, and in biblical fashion has, for the last 27 years, done whatever his hands have found to do. In 2013 Michael began working on a MA degree in Messianic Jewish Theology. Using the tools learned from his studies, he has been writing teaching and devotional materials from both the Tanakh and Apostolic Writings. Since Messianic Judaism shares a communal context with both Judaism and Christianity, he incorporates material from both traditionally Jewish and Christian perspectives.