The Thirty-fifth Sedra
1-5, 8-14 Sivan 5783
FROM THE TORAH
In the preceding Sedra Bemidbar, counts were made for all of the tribes of Israel, with separate attention to the tribe of Levi, ending with the service description and census of Kehath, one of Levi’s three sons. Our Sedra Naso continues this process for the divisions of the two other sons of Levi, Gershon and Merari. It then turns to issues of purity within the camp, restitution of misappropriated property, perquisites of the Kohanim, trial of a woman accused by her husband of adultery, rules of the Nazirite, benediction by the Kohanim, dedication of the Tabernacle and Altar, and privileged communication between God and Moses in the Tent of Meeting.
Completion of Census
SERVICE AND CENSUS OF THE SONS OF GERSHON
The Eternal charges Moses to take a separate census (Naso) also of the sons of Gershon, according to their fathers’ houses and their families, from the ages of thirty to fifty years, all who are subject to work assignments in the Tent of Meeting (cf. Numbers 4:1-20).
The work of the Gershonite families shall include labor and porterage in the following tasks: carrying the cloths of the Tabernacle and the Tent of Meeting, its Covering and the Tachash Covering on top of it, the Screen for the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, the curtains of the Courtyard, the Screen at the entrance of the gate of the Courtyard which is around the Tabernacle and around the Altar, their cords, and all of their service implements, all that are made for the service to be performed. All of their labor and porterage shall be under the direction of Aaron and his sons. These duties of the Gershonite families for the Tent of Meeting shall be supervised by Ithamar son of Aaron the Kohen.
SERVICE AND CENSUS OF THE SONS OF MERARI
Take a separate census of the sons of Merari, according to their families and their fathers’ houses, from the ages of thirty to fifty years, all who are subject to work assignments in the Tent of Meeting.
These are their porterage tasks in connection with their work in the Tent of Meeting: the planks of the Tabernacle and its bars, posts and sockets, the posts around the Courtyard and their sockets, pegs, and cords, for all of their implements and their service. Appoint them by name to all of the implements that they are to carry. This is the service of the Merarite families in the Tent of Meeting under the supervision of Ithamar son of Aaron the Kohen.
RESULTS OF THE CENSUS OF LEVITES
So Moses and Aaron and the chiefs of the congregation produce counts of the divisions corresponding to the sons of Levi—Kehath, Gershon, and Merari—according to their families and their fathers’ houses, from the ages of thirty to fifty years, all who are eligible for service in the Tent of Meeting, in accordance with the word of the Eternal through Moses. The counts are as follows:
Descendants of Kehath: 2,750
Descendants of Gershon: 2,630
Descendants of Merari: 3,200
Total Enrollment of Levites: 8,580
Maintenance of Purity, Innocence, Sanctity, and Blessing
KEEPING THE CAMP FREE OF DEFILEMENT
The Eternal charges Moses to command the Children of Israel to send outside of the camp anyone, male or female, afflicted with tsara’at, suffering a discharge, or impure from contact with a deceased person, so that “they do not defile their camp, in whose midst I dwell” (Numbers 5:3). The Children of Israel duly comply.
RESTITUTION FOR GUILT
The Eternal charges Moses to instruct the Children of Israel that any man or woman who sins against another, thereby breaking faith with the Eternal and being in a state of guilt, shall acknowledge their sin and restore the loss to the party harmed in the amount of the principal plus one-fifth. If the offended party has no redeemer to accept the restoration in his absence, then the restoration escheats to the Eternal for the Kohen, apart from the ram of atonement which the guilty party shall offer to seek atonement for the wrong.
PRIESTLY OWNERSHIP OF SACRED GIFTS
Any gift among the sacred offerings of the Children of Israel to the Kohen shall belong to that Kohen. A person’s sanctities are his to give: once he gives them to the Kohen, they are his.
SUSPICION OF ADULTERY
The Eternal charges Moses to instruct the Children of Israel regarding jealousy harbored by a husband who suspects his wife of concealed, unwitnessed, willful infidelity with another man, whether she is in fact guilty of adultery or not. In the event of such suspicion, the husband shall bring his wife to the Kohen, and he shall bring as her offering one-tenth of an ephah of barley flour, without oil or frankincense as it is a meal offering of jealousy and claim of iniquity. The Kohen shall bring the woman forward and cause her to stand before the Eternal. He shall put holy water into an earthen vessel and add to it some earth from the floor of the Tabernacle. He shall then uncover the woman’s hair and place upon her hands the meal offering and hold in his hand the bitter water of imprecation.
The Kohen shall therewith administer the following oath to the woman: If no man has lain with you, if you have not gone astray to be defiled under your husband, then be unharmed by this bitter water of imprecation! But if you have gone astray under your husband and been defiled in that a man other than your husband has lain with you, then may the Eternal make you a curse and an imprecation among your people as the water of imprecation enters you and the Eternal causes your loins to fall and your belly to swell! The woman shall answer: Amen! Amen!
The Kohen then writes these imprecations upon a document and wipes them off into the bitter water. He will make the woman drink the bitter water of imprecation, so that the water of imprecation will enter her for bitterness. The Kohen takes the meal offering of jealousy from the woman’s hand and, after waving it before the Eternal, offers it upon the Altar. The Kohen shall then scoop up some of the meal offering as representative of the whole and make it smoke upon the Altar. After that he makes the woman drink the water.
If she has been defiled, in breaking faith with her husband, then the water of imprecation will enter her for bitterness: her belly will swell and her loins will fall, and the woman shall become a curse in the midst of her people. But if the woman was not defiled and remains pure, then she will be unharmed and capable of being impregnated with seed.
This is the instruction of jealousy for when a woman goes astray under her husband and is defiled, or for when the feeling of jealousy overcomes a man so that he suspects his wife. He shall bring her before the Eternal, and the Kohen shall carry out all of this instruction, whereby the man is innocent of iniquity and the woman bears her iniquity.
RULES OF THE NAZIRITE
The Eternal charges Moses to speak to the Children of Israel regarding the vow to become a Nazirite. If anyone, man or woman, should explicitly make such a vow, that person must abstain from wine or shaychar, from wine vinegar or shaychar vinegar, from grape juice, from fresh or dried grapes, from any product of the grapevine.
Throughout the duration of his vow, no razor may touch his head. He shall be holy, the hair of his head being allowed to grow untrimmed. He may not enter where there is a dead person; he may not defile himself even for his father, his mother, his brother, or his sister, as he is consecrated to God.
If someone dies near him unexpectedly, thus defiling his consecrated head, he shall shave his head on the day of his purification; on the seventh day shall he shave it. Then, on the eighth day, he shall bring two turtledoves or two pigeons to the Kohen at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. The Kohen shall use one for a sin offering and one for a burnt offering; he shall seek atonement for him over the sin involving a dead person. The defiled Nazirite shall reconsecrate himself on that day, rededicating his days of Naziriteship, and he shall bring a year-old lamb as a guilt offering. The previous days of his Naziriteship shall be voided since his consecration was defiled.
Here follow rules for the Nazirite upon completion of his term of consecration. He shall be brought to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and present his offering to the Eternal of one year-old male lamb without blemish for a burnt offering, one year-old female lamb without blemish for a sin offering, one ram without blemish for a well-being offering, a basket of unleavened cakes of fine flour mixed with oil, unleavened wafers spread with oil, their meal offering, and their libations. The Kohen shall present his sin offering, his burnt offering, and the ram as a well-being sacrifice before the Eternal, along with the basket of unleavened bread, and the Kohen shall perform his meal offering and his libation. At the entrance the Nazirite shall shave his consecrated head and place the hair upon the fire that is under the peace sacrifice.
After the Nazirite has shaved his consecrated hair, the Kohen shall place the boiled shoulder from the ram, one unleavened loaf from the basket, and one unleavened wafer, upon the hands of the Nazirite. The Kohen shall wave them as a wave offering before the Eternal, a sacred donation for the Kohen, besides the breast of the wave offering and besides the thigh of the gift offering. Following all of this, the Nazirite shall drink wine.
Beyond this instruction, the Nazirite must fulfill any additional vow of offering that he might make according to his means.
BENEDICTION OF THE KOHANIM
The Eternal bids Moses to instruct Aaron and his sons to bless the Children of Israel. Say to them these words:
“May the Eternal bless you and keep you” (Numbers 6:24).
“May the Eternal cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you” (Numbers 6:25).
“May the Eternal show you favor and grant you peace” (Numbers 6:26).
Continuing to Moses: Let them place My Name upon the Children of Israel whereupon I shall bless them.
Inauguration of Sacred Space
DEDICATION OF THE TABERNACLE AND ALTAR
Service Gifts: Wagons and Cattle
On the day that Moses finishes setting up the Tabernacle, he anoints and sanctifies it and its instruments, and he does the same for the Altar and its instruments. The twelve chiefs of Israel—heads of their fathers’ houses, the tribal chiefs who oversaw the censuses—bring before the Eternal, before the Tabernacle, their offerings of six covered wagons and twelve cattle. The Eternal instructs Moses to accept them and to give them to the Levites for use in their respective services for the Tent of Meeting.
Moses distributes them among the Levites as follows: To the sons of Gershon he gives two wagons and four cattle in accordance with their services (cf. Numbers 4:24-28). To the sons of Merari he gives four wagons and eight cattle in accordance with their services (cf. Numbers 4:31-33). These are under the supervision of Ithamar son of Aaron the Kohen.
To the sons of Kehath Moses gives none of the items. As their service is of the sacred (cf. Numbers 4:4,15), they would lift up upon their shoulders.
Twelve Days of Tribal Offerings
On the day that the Altar is anointed, all of the chiefs start to present their offerings before it. But the Eternal tells Moses: let the chiefs (cf. Numbers 1:5-15) present their offerings one day for each chief.
On the first day Nachshon ben Amminadav presents his offering for the tribe of Judah.
On the second day Netanel ben Tsuar presents as chief of the tribe of Issachar his offering.
On the third day Eliav ben Cheylon presents as chief of the tribe of Zebulun his offering.
On the fourth day Elitsur ben Shedeyur presents as chief of the tribe of Reuben his offering.
On the fifth day Shelumiel ben Tsurishaddai presents as chief of the tribe of Simeon his offering.
On the sixth day Elyasaf ben Deuel presents as chief of the tribe of Gad his offering.
On the seventh day Elishamah ben Ammihud presents as chief of the tribe of Ephraim his offering.
On the eighth day Gamliel ben Pedahtsur presents as chief of the tribe of Manasseh his offering.
On the ninth day Avidan ben Gidoni presents as chief of the tribe of Benjamin his offering.
On the tenth day Achiezer ben Ammishaddai presents as chief of the tribe of Dan his offering.
On the eleventh day Pagiel ben Ochran presents as chief of the tribe of Asher his offering.
On the twelfth day Achirah ben Eynan presents as chief of the tribe of Naphtali his offering.
The offerings consist of:
1 silver platter weighing 130 shekels from each tribe for a total of 12 silver platters and
1 silver bowl of 70 sacral shekels from each tribe for a total of 12 silver bowls, both platter and bowl filled with fine flour mixed with oil for a meal offering, for a total of silver of 2,400 sacral shekels;
1 gold pan of 10 sacral shekels from each tribe for a total of 12 gold pans, each filled with incense, for a total of gold of 120 sacral shekels;
1 bull of the herd, 1 ram, and 1 year-old lamb, for a burnt offering, from each tribe;
1 goat for a sin offering, from each tribe; and
2 cattle, 5 rams, 5 male goats, and 5 year-old sheep, for the well-being sacrifice, from each tribe;
for a total of 12 bulls, 12 rams, and 12 year-old lambs, for the burnt offering, and their meal offering,
for a total of 12 goats for the sin offering, and
for a total of 24 bulls, 60 rams, 60 male goats, and 60 year-old lambs, for the well-being sacrifice.
Such is the dedication of the Altar after its anointing.
THE VOICE IN THE TENT OF MEETING
When Moses enters the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, he hears a voice speaking to him from over the Kaporet (Propitiatory) on top of the Ark of Testimony from between the two cherubs. Thus He speaks with him.
FROM THE PROPHETS
Haftarah for Shabbat Naso
The Miracle of Samson’s Birth
A Danite from Tsorah, whose name is Manoach, has a wife who is barren, having borne no children. An angel of the Eternal appears to the woman and says to her, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne a child.” Then he tells her that she will conceive and bear a son. He cautions her not to drink wine or shaychar or eat anything unclean, in anticipation of her conceiving and bearing a son who will be a “Nazirite of God from the womb” (Judges 13:5). No razor shall go over his head. He shall begin to save Israel from domination by the Philistines.
She describes the angel to her husband as “the man of God” whose appearance was “like the appearance of the angel of God, very fearsome” (Judges 13:6)! She acknowledges that she did not ask him his origin and that he did not tell her his name. In relating to her husband his message, that the boy will be a Nazirite of God from the womb, she adds to it, “until the day of his death” (Judges 13:7).
Manoach entreats the Eternal to send the man of God once again to “teach us what we should do for the boy that is to be born” (Judges 13:8). God fulfills his request so that the angel of God comes again to the woman, but only as she sits in the field unaccompanied by her husband. She rushes to her husband to tell him that the man has again appeared to her. Manoach follows her back to the man and ascertains from him that he is the same man who spoke to his wife before. Manoach asks him the fate and mission of the boy, but the angel of the Eternal can only affirm that his wife must observe the cautions that he first presented her. However he does add: “Let her not eat of anything that comes out of the grapevine” (Judges 13:14).
Manoach asks the angel of the Eternal to allow them the time needed to prepare a kid. The angel replies that he would not eat their food and that if they chose to make it a burnt offering, it would ascend to the Eternal. This explanation was necessary because Manoach had not known that this was actually an angel of the Eternal (cf. Judges 13:6). Yet Manoach then asks him his name so that they can honor him when his prediction is fulfilled. The angel of the Eternal responds: “Why do you ask for my name, seeing that the event is a wonder” (Judges 13:18)?
So Manoach offers up the kid with the meal offering upon a rock, to the Eternal. Then, while Manoach and his wife look on, something marvelous happens: as the flame ascends heavenward from on top of the altar, the angel of the Eternal itself ascends in the flame of the altar. When Manoach and his wife observe this, they fall upon their faces to the ground.
The angel of the Eternal appears no more to Manoach and his wife. From this Manoach understands that it was indeed the angel of the Eternal. So Manoach shares with his wife his fear that they will die from having seen God. But his wife reassures him that if the Eternal wanted to kill them, then He would not have accepted their burnt offering and meal offering and that He would not have let them see and hear all that they had.
The woman bears a son and calls him Samson. As the boy grows, the Eternal blesses him, and the spirit of the Eternal begins to impel him in the camp of Dan between Tsorah and Eshtaol.
FROM TALMUD AND MIDRASH
Numbers Rabbah 8:8-9
“Any gift among the sacred offerings of the Children of Israel to the Kohen
shall belong to that Kohen.
A person’s sanctities are his to give:
once he gives them to the Kohen, they are his.”
The Holy One, blessed be He, seems to repeat in the second verse what He said in the first verse: that when an Israelite gives his sacred gifts to the Kohen, they belong to that Kohen, that is, “they are his (the Kohen’s).” But those words of the second verse are not a repetition of the first; rather, they teach that whoever provides those sanctities to the Kohen in the proper way shall merit that he marry his daughters to the Kohanim so that his grandsons shall eat from the sacred foods. In such a way, He says, “they are his,” the Israelite’s, through his offspring!
“A person’s sanctities are his…”
This may also be understood through the following:
“Fortunate is he who fears the Eternal, who walks in His ways!
When you eat the labor of your hands,
fortunate are you and good shall be yours:
your wife shall be like a fruitful vine in the intimacy of your house,
your children like the plantings of olives around your table—
thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Eternal!
The Eternal shall bless you from Zion,
and you shall behold the goodness of Jerusalem
all the days of your life,
and you shall behold your childrens’ children,
peace and well-being for Israel!”
“Fortunate is he who fears the Eternal…”
This psalm speaks not of the Israelites, not of the Kohanim, not of the Levites, but without specificity of him “who fears the Eternal,” that is to say, the proselyte (ger). He is distinguished under the same word as Israel, as was said, “Fortunate are you, O Israel…” (Deuteronomy 33:29)!
“…who walks in His ways!”
Of what kind of proselyte does the psalm speak? Not of the Cuthean type, who were taught how to fear the Eternal (cf. II Kings 17:28) but, besides worshipping Him, continued to serve their own gods in accordance with the nations from which the king of Assyria moved them to Samaria (cf. ibid. 33), rather of the righteous proselyte (ger tzedek), who both “fears the Eternal” and “walks in His ways!”
“When you eat the labor of your hands,
fortunate are you and good shall be yours:…”
This refers to the proselyte in his lacking the merit of his ancestors, so he depends entirely on his own merits, “the labor of your hands,” to achieve his reward in this world, but not deprived of reward in the world to come, as was taught, “Whatever you can achieve with your own effort, do it, for there is no doing or figuring or knowledge or wisdom in She’ol where you are going” (Ecclesiastes 9:10). In that case, promises the Psalmist, “Fortunate are you” in this world, and “good shall be yours” in the world to come!
“…your wife shall be like a fruitful vine…”
Your wife, who joined Israel along with you, shall be like the daughters of Israel, like those vines whom the Shepherd of Israel plucked up from Egypt (Psalms 80:2,9). She shall be “fruitful,” not “depleted” as the Prophet described Israel (Hosea 10:1), therefore capable of producing children!
“…in the intimacy of your house,…”
She practices the Jewish religion “in the intimacy of your house,” that is, in an appropriately modest way, thereby enabling:
“…your children like the plantings of olives…”
“Children” emerge from her who are Biblical scholars, Talmudic scholars, practitioners of good deeds, and men of affairs, just as the planted vine produces “olives” which are suitable for eating, for drying, and for producing the best-burning oil of any, and none of them fall by the wayside, but their offspring persist forever.
“…around your table—“
For the merit you have earned will stand for your children, that from “your table” your children will acquire the merit to reach great heights.
“thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Eternal!”
Thus do we find with Abraham and Sarah, who were proselytes, that Abraham was blessed for “fearing the Eternal” (cf. Genesis 22:12,17-18), and all proselytes who follow their practice shall “be blessed” like them!
“The Eternal shall bless you from Zion,…”
This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be He, blesses the proselytes from the same place that He blesses Israel—and how do we know that His blessings emerge from Zion? It was said, “The dew of Hermon falls down upon the mountains of Zion, which is where the Eternal commanded the blessing” (Psalms 133:3), and so He says, “The Eternal shall (also) bless you (the proselytes) from Zion!”
“and you shall behold the goodness of Jerusalem
all the days of your life,…”
Proselytes will have the merit of beholding the good that happens to Jerusalem in the future!
“…and you shall behold your childrens’ children,
shalom (peace and well-being) upon Israel!”
How does “beholding your children’s children” lead to “peace and well-being (shalom) upon Israel?” The verse speaks of the righteous proselyte (ger tzedek), who succeeds in marrying his daughter to a Kohen, so that her sons, who are his “children’s children,” are Kohanim, who therefore bless Israel with the words:
“May the Eternal bless you and keep you.” (Numbers 6:24)
“May the Eternal cause His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.” (Numbers 6:25)
“May the Eternal show you favor and grant you shalom.” (Numbers 6:26)
Thus shall the proselytes see their grandsons invoke “shalom upon Israel!”
Moses also suggested this reward for the righteous proselyte by placing the verse, “A person’s sanctities shall be his…” (Numbers 5:10), following the escheat of stolen property for the benefit of the offended party who lacks a “redeemer” in his absence (Numbers 5:8). A Jew who lacks a Jewish relative to act as redeemer would be a proselyte. Thus this section of the Torah deals with proselytes, and the verse included therein, “A person’s sanctities shall be his…” (Numbers 5:10), may also be understood to deal with proselytes, to wit: Whoever joins Israel for the sake of Heaven, that is, a righteous proselyte (ger tsedek), shall merit that his daughter will marry a Kohen, and that their son, his grandson—his “sanctities shall be his”—that is, he shall be a Kohen and therefore shall eat from the sacred foods!
Numbers Rabbah 9:14
Purity of Wives
“The Kohen shall put holy water
into an earthen vessel…” (Numbers 5:17)
in order to prepare
the bitter water for
the woman accused of adultery.
The only water that could already have been holy would have been in a container, and the only container that is provided for the Tent of Meeting is the Kior (Washstand) from which Aaron and his sons would wash their hands and their feet (cf. Exodus 30:18-21). Why, then, was the water for this trial taken from the Washstand?
Because the Washstand was made with mirrors of the women who came out of Egypt, as was said: “He (Bezalel) made the Washstand of brass and its pedestal of brass with mirrors of the many women who assembled at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting” (Exodus 38:8). The women’s mirrors were of polished brass, which they used to make themselves attractive to their husbands. Although Moses was at first reluctant to use for the Washstand mirrors which he feared were instruments of lust, God testified concerning the women that they were pure and that their motive in using the mirrors was to maintain pure family life and the procreation of children. So from the Washstand made of their mirrors it might be determined that women, though accused of adultery by their husbands, were as pure as their mothers who came out of Egypt. In this way those mirrors would remove the suspicions of their husbands and continue to serve as instruments of pure and prolific family life.
Numbers Rabbah 11:4
“Thus shall you bless the Children of Israel;
say to them!”
Moses is to instruct Aaron and his sons:
“Thus shall you bless the Children of Israel;…”
From these words I learn that the blessing of the Kohanim is for Israel,
but whence do I derive that the blessing is also for non-Israelites?
From the otherwise redundant words, “…say to them!”
Say not only to “the Children of Israel,” but to all of them inclusively!
Numbers Rabbah 10:5
“Manoach has a wife who is barren,
having borne no children.”
“An angel of the Eternal
appears to the woman and says to her,
‘Behold, you are barren and have not borne a child.’”
Knowing, as she did, that she was barren,
why did the angel appear to her and tell her,
“Behold, you are barren…?”
There was a disagreement between Manoach and his wife. He said to her, “You are infertile, and that is why you have not borne a child,” and she said to him, “You are sterile, and that is why I have not borne a child.” But Manoach was not sterile, and from the fact that “an angel of the Eternal appears to the woman,” and not to her husband, we know that the wife of Manoach is righteous, having earned the merit of the angel’s appearance. And the angel appeared in order to tell her, “You are barren,” not Manoach, and that is why, “You have not borne a child!” In so doing, appearing to her and telling her exclusively, the angel was maintaining peace between her husband and her!
Numbers Rabbah 11:7
Great is Peace!
“May the Eternal…grant you peace.”
The last word of the Priestly Benediction is “peace” (shalom)!
Great is peace, for the Holy One, blessed be He, modified Sarah’s words for the sake of peace. After she said, “Shall I have pleasure (and bear a child), with my husband so old” (Genesis 18:12)? He recounted them to Abraham as if she had said, “Shall I indeed bear a child, with me so old” (ibid. 13)? This was for the sake of peace between husband and wife!
Great is peace, for the angel acknowledged to Manoach’s wife, “Behold, you are barren and have not borne a child” (Judges 13:3), while he did not repeat it to Manoach. This, too, was for the sake of peace between husband and wife!
Great is peace, for the Holy One, blessed be He, ordained the blotting out of His Holy Name in the waters of imprecation (when a husband suspects his wife of adultery, cf. Numbers 5:11ff.) in order to establish peace between a man and his wife!
Rabbi Elazar: Great is peace, for the Prophets implanted into the mouth of all creatures only the hope for peace. Mirkin Commentary: “I offer a new expression of the lips, ‘Peace to him afar and peace to him near,’ says the Eternal, ‘and I shall heal him’” (Isaiah 57:19)!
Rabbi Shimon ben Chalafta: Great is peace, for the object of His petition for strength is ultimately the blessing of peace, as was said, “May the Eternal grant strength to His people; may the Eternal bless His people with peace” (Psalms 29:11)! In the Blessing of the Kohanim also, the conclusion of all of the blessings is peace, “May the Eternal…grant you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26), in order to say that all other blessings will not be effective unless there is peace!
Rabbi Elazar Hakappar: Great is peace, for the conclusion of all of the Tefillah (Eighteen Benedictions) is peace, “Blessed are You, O Eternal, Maker of Peace,” just as the conclusion of the Blessing of the Kohanim is “Peace!”
Great is peace, which was granted to the humble, as was said, “The humble shall inherit the earth and benefit from an abundance of peace” (Psalms 37:11)!
Great is peace, which is compared to all of God’s creation, as we say in our daily morning benediction, “Maker of peace and Creator of all” (Siddur, “Yotser,” First Blessing before the Shema)!
Rabbi Elazar son of Rabbi Elazar Hakappar: Even if Israel should practice idolatry but there is peace between them, it is as if the Holy One, blessed be He, prevents Satan from doing them harm, as was said, “Ephraim is joined to idols; leave him alone” (Hosea 4:17)! But when they are divided, what does the Prophet say for them? “Their heart is divided: now they are guilty” (ibid. 10:2)! See: Great is peace, and hated is dissension!
Great is peace, for even in time of war it is required, as was said: “When you approach a city to fight against it, you must first appeal to it for peace” (Deuteronomy 20:10)!
Great is peace, for even the dead require peace, as God said to Abraham: “You shall come to your fathers in peace” (Genesis 15:15).
Great is peace, for it is granted to those who commit to repentance, as was said: “’Peace, peace, to the one far off (and then) he is near,’ says the Eternal, Creator of the fruit of the lips, ‘and I shall heal him!’” (Isaiah 57:19)
Great is peace, which was bestowed upon students of Torah, as was said, “All of your children shall be learned of the Eternal; great shall be the peace of your children” (Isaiah 54:13)!
Great is peace, which was bestowed upon workers of righteousness, as was said, “The work of righteousness shall be peace” (Isaiah 32:17)!
Great is peace, as the Name of the Omnipresent is called “Peace,” as was said, “Gideon built an altar to the Eternal, and he called it, ‘The Eternal of Peace’” (Judges 6:24), which can also be read, “The Eternal is Peace!”
Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 1:1
The Dependence of God’s Presence
“The righteous will inherit the earth,
and they will dwell upon it forever.”
Rabbi Isaac considered a problem which the verse presents:
Where are the wicked? Are they flying in the air?!
In order to answer this question, he read the second part of the verse:
“They (the righteous) cause God’s Presence to dwell upon it (the earth)!”
From the time of Creation, God’s Presence was in the lowest regions, touching the earth, but when Adam, the first man, sinned, God’s Presence rose away from the earth to the lowest region of the heavens. When the generation of Enosh arose and sinned in idolatry, His presence was removed from the lowest region of the heavens to the next, second level. The sinful generation of the Flood caused it to be removed to the next, third level of the heavens. The generation that built the Tower of Babel caused the Divine Presence to be removed to the fourth level. Egypt in the days of Abraham our father caused it to be removed to the fifth level. The Sodomites and their sins caused it to be removed to the sixth level. Egypt in the days of Moses, to the seventh.
But there followed seven righteous ones who, sequentially, brought God’s Presence back down to earth: Abraham our father, from the seventh to the sixth; Isaac, from the sixth to the fifth; Jacob, from the fifth to the fourth; Levi, from the fourth to the third; Kehath, from the third to the second; Amram, from the second to the first; and Moses, who brought God’s Presence down to the earth. Therefore, it was said, “On the day that Moses finishes setting up the Tabernacle (Mishkan)…” (Numbers 7:1), which can be read, “On the day that Moses finishes establishing the Divine Presence (Shechinah) on earth…” since “Tabernacle” (Mishkan) means “Abode of the Divine Presence (Shechinah).” When Moses was seen setting up the Mishkan, he was actually bringing down the Shechinah!
Talmud Arachin 11a
Song of the Levites
“On the day that Moses finishes setting up the Tabernacle…the twelve chiefs of Israel…bring… their offerings…. The Eternal instructs Moses to accept them and to give them to the Levites for use in their respective services for the Tent of Meeting…. To the sons of Gershon he gives two wagons and four cattle in accordance with their services…. To the sons of Merari he gives four wagons and eight cattle in accordance with their services…. But to the sons of Kehath Moses gives none of the items, for as their service is of the sacred (cf. Numbers 4:4,15), they would lift up upon their shoulders.” (Numbers 7:1-9)
One tanna (teacher) derives from these words that the Song of the Levites which accompanied the Temple Service is commanded in the Torah: As the sons of Kehath did not need the wagons and cattle in their sacred Service, which they performed “upon their shoulders,” what need is there to add “they would lift up?” The implication of these apparently superfluous words is that the Levites would lift up their voices, as in “Lift up (your voices) in Song, beat the timbrel, the sweet lyre with the harp” (Psalms 81:3)! and “They shall lift up their voice, they shall sing; they shall cry aloud from the sea in tribute to the Eternal’s majesty” (Isaiah 24:14)!
Numbers Rabbah 6:10
Talmud Arachin 11a-11b
Derivations of the Levites’ Song
“All that are counted by Moses and Aaron,
Leaders of Israel,
of the Levites…”
This verse follows the census of each of the three divisions of Levi—
Kehath, Gershon and Merari—
and introduces the total of those three counts.
Since He had calculated the number of Levites according to the family of Kehath separately, the family of Gershon separately, and the family of Merari separately, He now reviews and combines their numbers together in order to indicate that all of them are beloved equally by the Omnipresent.
The inclusiveness covers the distinction of their respective functions
(cf. Numbers 4:1-33):
“…from the age of thirty years up to fifty,
all who come to perform
the work of Service and the work of Porterage
with respect to the Tent of Meeting.”
But this verse may also be interpreted
to teach the necessity of the Levites’ Song.
A Tannaitic Teaching: The Song is a required accompaniment of the Offering—according to Rabbi Meir. But the Sages say that the Song is not a required accompaniment.
Rabbi Elazar argued that Rabbi Meir’s position may be derived from, “I grant the Levites to Aaron and his sons, from amidst the Children of Israel, to perform the Service of the Children of Israel in the Tent of Meeting and to atone for the Children of Israel…” (Numbers 8:19)—As the only “Service” by the Levites is their Song, we learn from this verse that atonement depends upon their Song—just as atonement depends upon the Offering—so that we may infer that the Offering, to provide atonement, requires Song! ∞ But the Rabbis would not support this derivation, as they hold the same verse to teach only that the Levitical service of Song must be performed at the same time that atonement is performed—which must be during the day—as the Offering, which provides atonement, may only be performed during the day!
Rabbi Judah in the name of Samuel: Whence may be derived in principle that the Song is commanded in the Torah? “When the Levite comes to the place that the Eternal shall choose, he shall serve in the Name of [b’Shem] the Eternal [YKVK] his God, like all of his fellow Levites who stand there before the Eternal” (Deuteronomy 18:6-7)—“He shall perform his service with the Name of [b’Shem] YKVK his God…,” with the explicit Name of God on his lips—and what is service with the explicit Name of God on his lips? I would have to say that is Song as we find it in the Book of Psalms, such as, “O House of Levi, bless YKVK” (Psalms 135:20)!
Rabbi Isaac argued a vocal and instrumental definition of sacred Song from, “Sing joyously to God our Strength; shout out to the God of Jacob” (Psalms 81:2), followed immediately by, “Lift up a melody, beat the timbrel, the sweet lyre with the harp” (Psalms 81:3), which he interprets: “Lift up (your voices) in Song (as in the preceding verse) but also beat the timbrel, the sweet-sounding lyre and accompanied along with the harp” (Psalms 81:3)!
Rav Nachman bar Isaac derived Song in the Temple from the Prophet, “Let them lift up their voice, exult in the magnificence of the Eternal…” (Isaiah 24:14), which he interprets: They shall sing, exultantly, in the Temple—referring necessarily to the Levites’ Song there!
Chananiah nephew of Rabbi Joshua derived the Levites’ Song from, “Moses would speak, and God would respond to him in a voice [v’kol] (Exodus 19:19b)”: God responded to Moses’s speaking concerning the matter of voice [v’kol], that is, He commanded him to sing because Moses was a Levi (Rashi)!
Rav Ashi derived the Levites’ Song from the Torah in reference to the Dedication of the Temple, “With the Levite singers are 120 Kohanim who blow the trumpets…the trumpeters and the singers join as one to make a unified sound to praise and to thank the Eternal…” (II Chronicles 5:12-13): The Kohanim sounded the trumpets over the sacrifices as commanded in the Torah—“You shall sound the trumpets over your sacrifices…” (Numbers 10:10)—and the Levites were “as one” with them; hence the Levites’ Song is commanded from the Torah (Tosafot)!
Rabbi Yochanan derived the Levites’ Song from the inclusiveness of the Levites’ functions:
“All that are counted…
who come to perform
the work of Service [avodat Avodah]
and the work of Porterage [avodat Massah]
with respect to the Tent of Meeting [b’Ohel Moed].”
What is “the work of Service [avodat Avodah]?” That is, what is “the service of Service [avodat Avodah]?” What is the Service that requires Service [Avodat Avodah]? That must refer to the Levites’ Service of Song that requires the Service of Offering!
(Or perhaps one can interpret “the work of Service [avodat Avodah]” as peshat: the work that supports the Service as assigned to the three families of Levi respectively—and “the work of Porterage [avodat Massah]” as derash: the Service of [Avodat] Song [Massah, “lifting up” the voice]—in the Tent of Meeting [b’Ohel Moed]!)
Numbers Rabbah 13:4
Preeminence of Nachshon
“In Judah [beehudah] is God known;
His Name is great in Israel.”
Of the twelve days of tribal offerings,
“the one who presented his offering
on the first day
was Nachshon ben Amminadav
for the tribe of Judah.”
Rabbi Judah son of Rabbi Ilai taught: When Israel stood at the Red Sea, as the tribes debated with each other, “I shall go down into the water first!” “No, I shall go down into the water first!” Nachshon jumped into the waves of the Sea and went down. David was thinking of him when he said, “Save me, O God, for the waters have come as far as my life” (Psalms 69:2)!
This is what the Holy One, blessed be He, meant when He said to Moses at the shore of the Red Sea before the pursuing Egyptians, “Why do you cry to Me?” My beloved Nachshon is about to be drowned in the Sea, and you cry out in prayer?! “Tell the Children of Israel to go forward!” (Exodus 14:15)
Therefore the Holy One, blessed be He, raised the name of Nachshon in Israel, providing him the first merit of the twelve tribal offerings, as we interpret:
“Through Judah [beehudah] is God known…”
—through the faithfulness of Nachshon of the tribe of Judah—
“…his name is great in Israel!”
—Nachshon’s name shall be made great in all of Israel!
Numbers Rabbah 14:12
Equality of the Tribes
“This was the dedication of the Altar
by the chiefs of Israel
on the day of its anointing…”
But was all of the dedication of the Altar completed on the day that it was anointed? Was it not incomplete until all the offerings were presented, tribe by tribe, for the duration of twelve days (Numbers 7:12-83)?
“On the day of its anointing” (ibid. 84) comes to teach us that all of the tribes are equal and beloved as one before the Holy One, blessed be He, who applied the verse for all of them as if all of them had presented their offerings on the first day—in order to fulfill that which was said:
“Each part of you is beautiful, My beloved;
there is no blemish in you!”
(Song of Songs 4:7)
Pesikta d’Rav Kahana 1:2
The Privacy of Maturity
“When Moses enters the Tent of Meeting…”
“The king Shlomo (Solomon)
made for himself an apiryon (palanquin)
from the trees of Lebanon.”
(Song of Songs 3:9)
The King, shlomo (well-being is His),
made for Himself
the Tent of Meeting…
Rabbi Judah bar Ilai taught: This may be likened to a king with a young daughter. Before she matured, he would speak with her wherever he encountered her, even in public. But once she became a woman, he thought it did not befit her honor for him to speak with her in public view. So he commanded that a private pavilion be made for her, and he would speak with her inside the pavilion.
Thus, at first, “When Israel was a child, then I loved him; and from Egypt I called to My son” (Hosea 11:1)! They could all see Me in Egypt, “and I passed through in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:12)! At the Sea they saw Me: “Israel saw My great hand” (Exodus 14:31)! At Sinai they saw Me: “Face to face the Eternal spoke with you” (Deuteronomy 5:4)! But once they accepted the Torah and became for Me a complete nation, He thought: It does not befit My child’s honor that I should speak with them in public; rather, make for Me a Tabernacle and I will speak from inside it. This is the meaning of: “When Moses enters the Tent of Meeting…, he hears a voice speaking to him from over the Kaporet (Propitiatory) on top of the Ark of Testimony from between the two cherubs. Thus He speaks with him” (Numbers 7:89).
Talmud Sotah 9b-10a
Samson Savior and Shield
“The angel tells the wife of Manoach
that she will conceive and bear a son:
He [hu] shall begin [yachel] to save Israel from domination by the Philistines.”
“He” (Samson) shall only “begin?”
But Samson succeeded in saving Israel from domination
by the Philistines for forty years (cf. Judges 15:20; 16:31; Numbers Rabbah 14:9)!
Rabbi Chama son of Rabbi Chaninah interpreted:
“It was voided [huchal] so it was up to Samson to save Israel…!”
What was voided?
The Philistines violated the oath that Avimelech had sworn to Abraham
at Beersheba (cf. Genesis 21:22-32) when they began to attack Israel
before the birth of Samson (cf. Judges 13:1; Numbers 30:3).
“The woman bears a son and calls him Samson.
As the boy grows, the Eternal blesses him…”
How does the Eternal “bless” him?
Rav Yehudah said that Rav said that He blessed him with his penis: He had a penis like any other man, but his flow of semen was “like an overflowing river” (cf. Isaiah 30:28), thereby blessing him in the only aspect of his life that gave him pleasure. Rashi: The use of the word “blessing” in Scripture is a superlative, something that provides an inordinate amount of satisfaction. How then was it a blessing for Samson? We do not find in Samson any (other) happiness but this (sexual interest).
“…and the Spirit of the Eternal begins [tachel] to impel him…”
Said Rabbi Chama son of Rabbi Chaninah: That is, the Prophecy of Jacob our Father takes effect [chal’tah], as is written: “Dan will be a serpent in the road…” (Genesis 49:17), as Samson was a Danite (cf. Judges 13:2)!
“…to impel him [lefa’amo] in the camp of Dan…”
Rabbi Isaac of the School of Rabbi Ammi teaches that the Divine Presence began to ring before him [lefa’amo] like a bell [pa’amon], directing him along the way, as the word is used in reference to the Robe of the Ephod: “Make upon its hem…a bell [pa’amon] and a pomegranate…” (Exodus 28:33-34).
“…between Tsorah and Eshtaol.”
Said Rabbi Amsi: Tsorah and Eshtaol were two great mountains which Samson uprooted and ground against each other!
“Dan shall judge his people;
the tribes of Israel shall be united [k’achad].”
Rabbi Yochanan interpreted: Samson (the Danite) judged his people, the tribes of Israel, like their Father in Heaven [k’Achad], literally, “like That-Which-Is–One [k’Achad]!” Rashi: That is to say, as does God in justice.
Rabbi Yochanan also taught: Samson [Shimshon] was named after the Holy One, blessed be He, from the verse, “A Sun [shemesh] and Shield is the Eternal One, God…” (Psalms 84:12). – Then, if “Samson” is actually a Name of God, the name “Samson” may never be erased! – Understand his teaching rather to mean that Samson’s name bears a simile with the Name of the Holy One, blessed be He: Just as the Holy One, blessed be He, “Sun and Shield,” shields the entire world, so did Samson, shield Israel in his generation!