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Naso or Nasso (נשא — Hebrew for "lift up,” the sixth word, and the first distinctive word, in the parshah) is the 35th weekly Torah portion (parshah) in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the second in the book of Numbers. It constitutes Numbers 4:21–7:89. Naso is the longest of the 54 weekly Torah portions, with 176 verses. Jews in the Diaspora generally read it in late May or June.

PikiWiki Israel 146 Hanukka חנוכה

Hanukkah menorah

As the parshah includes the story of the consecration of the Tabernacle, Jews also read parts of the parshah as Torah readings on the eight days of Hanukkah, which commemorates the reconsecration of the Temple in Jerusalem. Numbers 7:1–17 is the Torah reading for the first day; Numbers 7:18–29 is the Torah reading for the second day; Numbers 7:24–35 is the Torah reading for the third day; Numbers 7:30–41 is the Torah reading for the fourth day; Numbers 7:36–47 is the Torah reading for the fifth day; Numbers 7:42–47 is the second Torah reading for the sixth day of Hanukkah, which, because it falls on Rosh Chodesh, has Numbers 28:1–15 as its first reading; Numbers 7:48–59 is the Torah reading for the seventh day when it does not fall on Rosh Chodesh; and Numbers 7:48–53 is the second Torah reading for the seventh day when it does fall on Rosh Chodesh, in which case Numbers 28:1–15 is the first reading; and Numbers 7:54–8:4 is the Torah reading for the eighth day. When a day of Hanukkah falls on a Sabbath, however, the regular weekly Torah reading for that Sabbath is the first Torah reading for that day, and the following readings from Parshah Naso are the maftir Torah readings: Numbers 7:1–17 is the maftir Torah reading for the first day; Numbers 7:18–23 is the maftir Torah reading for the second day; Numbers 7:24–29 is the maftir Torah reading for the third day; Numbers 7:30–35 is the maftir Torah reading for the fourth day; Numbers 7:36–41 is the maftir Torah reading for the fifth day; Numbers 7:42–47 is the maftir Torah reading for the sixth day of Hanukkah, which, because it falls on Rosh Chodesh, has Numbers 28:9–15 as its sixth aliyah; Numbers 7:48–53 is the maftir Torah reading for the seventh day; and Numbers 7:54–8:4 is the maftir Torah reading for the eighth day.

The parshah addresses priestly duties, purifying the camp, the wife accused of unfaithfulness (sotah), the nazirite, the priestly blessing, and consecrating the Tabernacle.

Tabernacle Camp

The Tabernacle and the Camp

Summary

Priestly duties

God told Moses to take a census of the Gershonites between 30 and 50 years old, who were subject to service for the Tabernacle. (Numbers 4:21–23.) The Gershonites had the duty, under the direction of Aaron’s son Ithamar, to carry the cloths of the Tabernacle, the Tent of Meeting with its covering, the covering of tachash skin on top of it, the screen for the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, the hangings of the enclosure, the screen at the entrance of the gate of the enclosure surrounding the Tabernacle, the cords thereof, the altar, and all their service equipment and accessories. (Numbers 4:24–28.)

Moses was also to take a census of the Merarites between 30 and 50 years old. (Numbers 4:29–30.) The Merarites had responsibility, under the direction of Ithamar, for the planks, the bars, the posts, and the sockets of the Tabernacle, and the posts around the enclosure and their sockets, pegs, and cords. (Numbers 4:31–33.)

Relative Population and Adult Population of the Levite Divisions (from Numbers 3:22–34 and 4:34–39)
Division Population Share of Total Rank by Pop. Adults Share of Total Rank by Adults Adult Share of Division
Kohathites 8,600 38.6 1 2,750 32.1 2 32.0
Gershonites 7,500 33.6 2 2,630 30.6 3 35.1
Merarites 6,200 27.8 3 3,200 37.3 1 51.6
Total 22,300 100.0 8,580 100.0 38.5

Moses, Aaron, and the chieftains thus recorded the Levites age 30 to 50 as follows:

  • Kohathites: 2,750,
  • Gershonites: 2,630, and
  • Merarites: 3,200,

for a total of 8,580. (Numbers 4:34–39.)

Purifying the camp

God directed the Israelites to remove from camp anyone with an eruption or a discharge and anyone defiled by a corpse, so that they would not defile the camp. (Numbers 5:1–4.)

God told Moses to direct the Israelites that when one wronged a fellow Israelite, thus breaking faith with God, and realized his guilt, he was to confess the wrong and make restitution to the one wronged in the principal amount plus one-fifth. (Numbers 5:5–7.) If the one wronged had no kinsman to whom restitution could be made, the amount repaid was to go to the priest, along with a ram of expiation. (Numbers 5:8.) Similarly, any gift among the sacred donations that the Israelites offered was to be the priest's to keep. (Numbers 5:9–10.)

The wife accused of unfaithfulness

God told Moses to instruct the Israelites about the test where a husband, in a fit of jealousy, accused his wife of being unfaithful — the ritual of the sotah. (Numbers 5:11–14.) The man was to bring his wife to the priest, along with barley flour as a meal offering of jealousy. (Numbers 5:15.) The priest was to dissolve some earth from the floor of the Tabernacle into some sacral water in an earthen vessel. (Numbers 5:17.) The priest was to bare the woman’s head, place the meal offering on her hands, and adjure the woman: if innocent, to be immune to harm from the water of bitterness, but if guilty, to be cursed to have her thigh sag and belly distend. (Numbers 5:18–21.) And the woman was to say, “Amen, amen!” (Numbers 5:22.) The priest was to write these curses down, rub the writing off into the water of bitterness, and make the woman drink the water. (Numbers 5:23–24.) The priest was to elevate the meal offering, present it on the altar, and burn a token part of it on the altar. (Numbers 5:25–26.) If she had broken faith with her husband, the water would cause her belly to distend and her thigh to sag, and the woman was to become a curse among her people, but if the woman was innocent, she would remain unharmed and be able to bare children. (Numbers 5:27–29.)

Turtle Dove

turtledove

Grapes02

grapes, forbidden to the nazirite

The nazirite

God told Moses to instruct the Israelites about the vows of a nazirite (nazir), should one wish to set himself or herself apart for God. (Numbers 6:1–2.) The nazirite was to abstain from wine, intoxicants, vinegar, grapes, raisins, or anything obtained from the grapevine. (Numbers 6:3–4.) No razor was to touch the nazirite’s head until the completion of the nazirite term. (Numbers 6:5.) And the nazirite was not to go near a dead person, even a father, mother, brother, or sister. (Numbers 6:6–8.)

If a person died suddenly near a nazirite, the nazirite was to shave his or her head on the seventh day. (Numbers 6:9.) On the eighth day, the nazirite was to bring two turtledoves or two pigeons to the priest, who was to offer one as a sin offering and the other as a burnt offering. (Numbers 6:10–11.) That same day, the nazirite was to reconsecrate his or her head, rededicate the Nazirite term, and bring a lamb in its first year as a penalty offering. (Numbers 6:11–12.)

On the day that a nazirite completed his or her term, the nazirite was to be brought to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting and present a male lamb in its first year for a burnt offering, a ewe lamb in its first year for a sin offering, a ram for an offering of well-being, a basket of unleavened cakes, unleavened wafers spread with oil, and meal offerings. (Numbers 6:13–15.) The priest was to present the offerings, and the nazirite was to shave his or her consecrated hair and put the hair on the fire under the sacrifice of well-being. (Numbers 6:16–18.)

Kohanim hands blessing photo

the positioning of the fingers of the Kohanim during the Priestly Blessing

The priestly blessing

God told Moses to instruct Aaron and his sons that they should bless the Israelites with this blessing: “The Lord bless you and protect you! The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you! The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace!” (Numbers 6:22–27.)

Consecrating the Tabernacle

Moses finished setting up the Tabernacle, and anointed and consecrated it, its furnishings, the altar, and its utensils. (Numbers 7:1.) The chieftains of the tribes then brought their offerings — 6 draught carts and 12 oxen — and God told Moses to accept them for use by the Levites in the service of the Tent of Meeting. (Numbers 7:2–5.) The chieftains then each on successive days brought the same dedication offerings for the altar: a silver bowl and silver basin filled with flour mixed with oil, a gold ladle filled with incense, a bull, 2 oxen, 5 rams, 5 goats, and 5 lambs. (Numbers 7:10–88.)

When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with God, Moses would hear the Voice addressing him from above the cover that was on top of the [ark of the Covenant|ark] between the two cherubim, and thus God spoke to him. (Numbers 7:88.)

In classical rabbinic interpretation

Numbers chapter 4

A midrash noted that God ordered the Kohathites counted first in Numbers 4:1 and only thereafter ordered the Gershonites counted in Numbers 4:21, even though Gershon was the firstborn and Scripture generally honors the firstborn. The midrash taught that Scripture gives Kohath precedence over Gershon because the Kohathites bore the ark that carried the Torah. (Numbers Rabbah 6:1.) Similarly, another midrash taught that God ordered the Kohathites counted first because Kohath was most holy, for Aaron the priest — who was most holy — descended from Kohath, while Gershon was only holy. But the midrash taught that Gershon did not forfeit his status as firstborn, because Scripture uses the same language, “Lift up the head of the sons of,” with regard to Kohath in Numbers 4:2 and with regard to Gershon in Numbers 4:22. And Numbers 4:22 says “they also” with regard to the Gershonites so that one should not suppose that the Gershonites were numbered second because they were inferior to the Kohathites; rather Numbers 4:22 says “they also” to indicate that the Gershonites were also like the Kohathites in every respect, and the Kohathites were placed first in this connection as a mark of respect to the Torah. In other places (for example, Genesis 46:11, Exodus 6:16, Numbers 3:17 and 26:57, and 1 Chronicles 6:1 and 23:6), however, Scripture places Gershon before Kohath. (Numbers Rabbah 6:2.)

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Levi
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Gershon
 
Kohath
 
Merari
 
Jochebed
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Amram
 
Izhar
 
Hebron
 
Uzziel
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Miriam
 
Aaron
 
Moses
 
 
 

A midrash noted that in Numbers 4:1 “the Lord spoke to Moses and Aaron” to direct them to count the Kohathites and in Numbers 4:21 “the Lord spoke to Moses” to direct him to count the Gershonites, but Numbers 4:29 does not report that “the Lord spoke” to direct them to count the Merarites. The midrash deduced that Numbers 4:21 employed the words “the Lord spoke” so as to give honor to Gershon as the firstborn, and to give him the same status as Kohath. The midrash then noted that Numbers 4:1 reported that God spoke “to Aaron” with regard to the Kohathites but Numbers 4:21 did not report communication to Aaron with regard to the Gershonites. The midrash taught that God excluded Aaron from all Divine communications to Moses and that passages that mention Aaron do not report that God spoke to Aaron, but include Aaron’s name in sections that concern Aaron to indicate that God spoke to Moses so that he might repeat what he heard to Aaron. Thus Numbers 4:1 mentions Aaron regarding the Kohathites because Aaron and his sons assigned the Kohathites their duties, since (as Numbers 4:15 relates) the Kohathites were not permitted to touch the ark or any of the vessels until Aaron and his sons had covered them. In the case of the Gershonites, however, the midrash finds no evidence that Aaron personally interfered with them, as Ithamar supervised their tasks, and thus Numbers 4:21 does not mention Aaron in connection with the Gershonites. (Numbers Rabbah 6:5.)

A midrash noted that in Numbers 4:2 and Numbers 4:22, God used the expression “lift up the head” to direct counting the Kohathites and Gershonites, but in Numbers 4:29, God does not use that expression to direct counting the Merarites. The midrash deduced that God honored the Kohathites on account of the honor of the ark and the Gershonites because Gershon was a firstborn. But since the Merarites neither cared for the ark nor descended from a firstborn, God did not use the expression “lift up the head.” (Numbers Rabbah 6:4.)

The Encampment of the Levites
North
Merari
West Gershon THE TABERNACLE Priests East
Kohath
South

A midrash taught that the Levites camped on the four sides of the Tabernacle in accordance with their duties. The midrash explained that from the west came snow, hail, cold, and heat, and thus God placed the Gershonites on the west, as Numbers 3:25 indicates that their service was “the tent, the covering thereof, and the screen for the door of the tent of meeting,” which could shield against snow, hail, cold, and heat. The midrash explained that from the south came the dew and rain that bring blessing to the world, and there God placed the Kohathites, who bore the ark that carried the Torah, for as Leviticus 26:3–4 and 15–19 teach, the rains depend on the observance of the Torah. The midrash explained that from the north came darkness, and thus the Merarites camped there, as Numbers 4:31 indicates that their service was the carrying of wood (“the boards of the tabernacle, and the bars thereof, and the pillars thereof, and the sockets thereof”) which Jeremiah 10:8 teaches counteract idolatrous influences when it says, “The chastisement of vanities is wood.” And the midrash explained that from the east comes light, and thus Moses, Aaron, and his sons camped there, because they were scholars and men of pious deeds, bringing atonement by their prayer and sacrifices. (Numbers Rabbah 3:12.)

A midrash noted that in Numbers 4:2 and Numbers 4:29, for the Kohathites and the Merarites, the sequence is “by their families, by their fathers houses,” whereas in Numbers 4:22, for the Gershonites, “their fathers’ houses” precedes “their families.” The midrash deduced that this is so because the importance of the Gershonites comes from their fathers’ house, as Gershon was the firstborn. (Numbers Rabbah 6:4.)

In a dispute with Rabbi Judah, Rabbi Jose cited Numbers 4:26 for Rabbi Jose’s view that as the tabernacle was 10 cubits high (roughly 15 feet or 4.6 meters high), so the altar was 10 cubits high. (Babylonian Talmud Zevachim 59b.)

Rav Hamnuna taught that God’s decree that the generation of the spies would die in the wilderness did not apply to the Levites, for Numbers 14:29 says, “your carcasses shall fall in this wilderness, and all that were numbered of you, according to your whole number, from 20 years old and upward,” and this implies that those who were numbered from 20 years old and upward came under the decree, while the tribe of Levi — which Numbers 4:3, 23, 30, 35, 39, 43, and 47 say was numbered from 30 years old and upward — was excluded from the decree. (Babylonian Talmud Bava Batra 121b.)

A midrash noted that Numbers 4:3, 23, 30, 35, 39, 43, and 47 say that Levites “30 years old and upward” did service in the tent of meeting, while Numbers 8:24 says, “from 25 years old and upward they shall go in to perform the service in the work of the tent of meeting.” The midrash deduced that the difference teaches that all those five years, from the age of 25 to the age of 30, Levites served apprenticeships, and from that time onward they were allowed to draw near to do service. The midrash concluded that a Levite could not enter the Temple courtyard to do service unless he had served an apprenticeship of five years. And the midrash inferred from this that students who see no sign of success in their studies within a period of five years will never see any. Rabbi Jose said that students had to see success within three years, basing his position on the words “that they should be nourished three years” in Daniel 1:5. (Numbers Rabbah 6:3.)

A midrash inferred from the words “from 30 years old . . . every one that entered upon the service” in Numbers 4:35 that a man attains his full strength at age 30. (Numbers Rabbah 6:7; see also Mishnah Avot 5:21.)

Belvati in the name of Rabbi Johanan derived the Levite’s obligation to sing songs while offering sacrifices from the words of Numbers 4:47, “to do the work of service.” Belvati reasoned that the work that requires service is the song. (Babylonian Talmud Arakhin 11a.)

Numbers chapter 5

The Mishnah interpreted the requirements of Numbers 5:8 regarding restitution where the victim died without kin to apply as well to where a proselyte victim died. The wrongdoer would have to pay the priests the principal plus 20 percent and bring a trespass offering to the altar. If the wrongdoer died bringing the money and the offering to Jerusalem, the money was to go to the wrongdoer’s heirs, and the offering was to be kept on the pasture until it became blemished, when it was to be sold and the proceeds were to go to the fund for freewill offerings. But if the wrongdoer had already given the money to the priest and then died, the heirs could not retrieve the funds, for Numbers 5:10 provides that “whatever any man gives to the priest shall be his.” (Mishnah Bava Kamma 9:11–12; Babylonian Talmud Bava Kamma 110a.)

Tractate Sotah in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of the woman accused of being unfaithful (sotah) in Numbers 5:11–31. (Mishnah Sotah 1:1–9:15; Tosefta Sotah 1:1–15:15; Jerusalem Talmud Sotah 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Sotah 2a–49b.)

The Mishnah taught that before a husband could accuse his wife pursuant to the procedure of Numbers 5:11–31, he had to warn her not to associate with a certain man. Rabbi Eliezer said that he warned her on the testimony of two witnesses, and made her drink the bitter water on the testimony of one witness or his own testimony. Rabbi Joshua said that he warned her on the testimony of two witnesses and made her drink on the testimony of two witnesses. (Mishnah Sotah 1:1; Babylonian Talmud Sotah 2a.)

The Mishnah taught that it was not sufficient for the husband simply to say to his wife (in the presence of two witnesses) not to converse with a man. And if she nonetheless conversed with him, she was still permitted to her husband and (if a daughter of a Kohen) still permitted to eat from sacrifices. If, however, she entered a private place with the man and stayed with him long enough to have committed misconduct, she was forbidden to her husband and forbidden to eat from sacrifices, and if her husband died, she was required to perform the ceremony of halizah and could not contract a levirate marriage. (Mishnah Sotah 1:2; Babylonian Talmud Sotah 2a.)

The Mishnah deduced from the two uses of the words “they shall enter” in Numbers 5:22 and 27 that just as the bitter water tested the suspected wife, so it tested the suspected paramour, punishing him as well as her if they were guilty. (Mishnah Sotah 5:1; Babylonian Talmud Sotah 27b.)

Reading the report of Exodus 32:20 that Moses “took the calf . . . ground it to powder, and sprinkled it on the water, and made the children of Israel drink it,” the Sages interpreted that Moses meant to test the Israelites much as the procedure of Numbers 5:11–31 tested a wife accused of adultery (sotah). (Babylonian Talmud Avodah Zarah 44a.)

A midrash taught that there is nothing greater before God than the “amen” that Israel answers. Rabbi Judah ben Sima taught that the word “amen” contains three kinds of solemn declarations: oath, consent, and confirmation. Numbers 5:21–22 demonstrates oath when it says, “Then the priest shall cause the woman to swear . . . and the woman shall say: ‘Amen, Amen.’” Deuteronomy 27:26 demonstrates consent when it says “And all the people shall say: ‘Amen.’” And 1 Kings 1:36 demonstrates confirmation when it says, “And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada answered the king, and said: ‘Amen; so say the Lord.’” (Deuteronomy Rabbah 7:1.)

The Mishnah taught that when adulterers multiplied, Rabban Johanan ben Zakkai discontinued the sotah ceremony of Numbers 5:11–31, as Hosea 4:14 says, “I will not punish your daughters when they commit harlotry, nor your daughters-in-law when they commit adultery; for they themselves consort with lewd women, and they sacrifice with harlots; and the people that is without understanding is distraught.” (Mishnah Sotah 9:9; Babylonian Talmud Sotah 47a.)

Numbers chapter 6

Tractate Nazir in the Mishnah, Tosefta, Jerusalem Talmud, and Babylonian Talmud interpreted the laws of the nazirite (nazir) in Numbers 6:1–21. (Mishnah Nazir 1:1–9:5; Tosefta Nazir 1:1–6:6; Jerusalem Talmud Nazir 1a–; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 2a–66b.)

Gerrit van Honthorst samsom

Samson and Delilah (painting by Gerard van Honthorst)

The Mishnah interpreted the “nazirite’s vow” of Numbers 6:2. The Mishnah taught that all substitutes for a nazirite vow functioned just like a nazirite vow. A person who said, “I shall be one,” became a nazirite. A person who said, “I shall be comely,” “a nazirite,” “a nazik,” “a naziah,” or “a paziah,” became a nazirite. A person who said, “I intend to be like this,” or “I intend to curl my hair,” or “I mean to tend my hair,” or “I undertake to develop tresses,” became a nazirite. Rabbi Meir said that a person who said, “I take upon myself an obligation involving birds,” became a nazirite,” but the sages said that the person did not become a nazirite. (Mishnah Nazir 1:1; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 2a.)

A person who said, “I declare myself a nazirite to abstain from pressed grapes,” or “from grape stones,” or “from cutting my hair,” or “from contracting ritual defilement,” became a nazirite subject to all the regulations of naziriteship. (Mishnah Nazir 1:2; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 3b.) But a person who said, “I vow to be like Samson,” “the son of Manoah,” “the husband of Delilah,” or “the one who plucked up the gates of Gaza,” or “the one whose eyes the Philistines put out,” became a nazirite like Samson. The difference between nazirites like Samson and a life-nazirites was that life-nazirites could thin their hair with a razor and then offer three animal sacrifices, while should they be ritually defiled, they had to offer the sacrifice prescribed for defilement. Nazirites like Samson were not permitted to thin their hair, and if ritually defiled, they did not offer the sacrifice prescribed for defilement. (Mishnah Nazir 1:2; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 4a.)

A nazirite vow of unspecified duration remained in force 30 days. (Mishnah Nazir 1:3, 6:3; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 5a, 39a.) A person who said, “I intend to be a nazirite for one long period,” or “I intend to be a nazirite for one short period,” became a nazirite for 30 days, even if the person added, “for as long as it takes to go from here to the end of the earth.” A person who said, “I intend to be a nazirite, plus one day,” or “I intend to be a nazirite, plus an hour,” or “I intend to be a nazirite, once and a half,” became a nazirite for two 30-day periods. (Mishnah Nazir 1:3; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 7a.) A person who said, “I intend to be a nazirite for 30 days plus an hour,” became a nazirite for 31 days, as there was no naziriteship for a period of hours. (Mishnah Nazir 1:3; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 7b.)

People who said, “I intend to be a nazirite as the hairs of my head,” or “the dust of the earth,” or “the sands of the sea,” became life-nazirites, cutting their hair every 30 days. Rabbi said that such nazirites did not cut their hair every 30 days. Rabbi said that the nazirites who cut their hair every 30 days were the ones who said, “I undertake naziriteships as the hair on my head,” or “the dust of the earth,” or “the sands of the sea.” (Mishnah Nazir 1:4; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 8a.)

They interrogated people who said, “I intend to be a nazirite a house full,” or “a basket full,” to determine their intent. A person who said, “I vowed one long period of naziriteship,” became a nazirite for 30 days. But a person who said, “I vowed without attaching any precise meaning to the statement,” became a nazirite for life, as the Rabbis regarded the basket as though it were full of mustard seed. (Mishnah Nazir 1:5; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 8a.)

If a person said, “I intend to be a nazirite, as from here to such and such a place,” they estimated the number of days that it took to get to the place mentioned. If the journey would take fewer than 30 days, then the nazirite becomes a nazirite for 30 days; otherwise the nazirite became a nazirite for that number of days. (Mishnah Nazir 1:6; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 8a.)

A person who said, “I intend to be a nazirite, as the number of days in a solar year,” would be a nazirite for 365 terms. Rabbi Judah said that such a case once occurred, and when the nazirite completed the 365 terms, the nazirite died. (Mishnah Nazir 1:7; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 8a.)

Akiba ben joseph

Rabbi Akiva (illustration from the 1568 Mantua Haggadah)

Rabbi Simeon the Just was so skeptical of the reasons for which nazirites might have interrupted their status that he found only one that he really trusted. He said that only once in his life had he eaten of the trespass-offering brought by a defiled tear in connection with an interrupted nazirite vow. On that occasion a nazirite came from the South country, and Simeon the Just saw that he had beautiful eyes, was of handsome appearance, and with thick locks of hair symmetrically arranged. Simeon the Just asked him what reason the nazirite had seen to destroy this beautiful hair by shaving it for the nazirite vow. The nazirite replied that he was a shepherd for his father and once he went to draw water from a well and gazed upon his reflection in the water, and his evil desires rushed upon him and sought to drive him from the world through sin. But the shepherd swore that day that he would shave his beautiful hair off for the sake of Heaven. Simeon the Just immediately arose and kissed the nazirite’s head, praying that there would be many nazirites such as him in Israel. And Simeon the Just said that it was of this nazirite that Numbers 6:2 says, “When either a man or a woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a nazirite, to separate themselves unto the Lord . . . .” (Babylonian Talmud Nedarim 9b.)

Penteteuch2

Numbers 6:3–10 in Hebrew alternating with the Aramaic Targum Onkelos in a 12th century manuscript from the British Library

The Mishnah taught that Numbers 6:2–8 forbade a nazirite three things: ritual defilement, cutting of hair, and products of the vine. (Mishnah Nazir 6:1, 5; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 34a–b, 44a.) The Mishnah taught that all products of the vine could be measured together, and that there was no penalty for violation of the nazirite’s vow unless the nazirite ate an olive’s bulk of grapes or drank a quarter of a log of wine. Rabbi Akiba said that there was a penalty even if the nazirite soaked bread in wine and enough was absorbed to make up an olive’s bulk. (Mishnah Nazir 6:1; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 34a–b.)

The Mishnah taught that there was a separate penalty for wine, for grapes, for grape seeds, and for grape skins. But Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah said that there was no penalty for grape seeds or grape skins unless the nazirite ate at least two grape seeds and one grape skin. (Mishnah Nazir 6:2; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 34b.)

If nazirites cut their hair or had their hair cut by bandits, 30 days of their nazirite term were rendered void. Nazirites who cut their own hair incurred a penalty, no matter whether they used scissors or a razor, or no matter how little they trimmed their hair. (Mishnah Nazir 6:3; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 39a.) Nazirites were allowed to clean their hair or part it with their fingers, but they were not allowed to comb it. Rabbi Ishmael said that they were not allowed to clean their hair with earth, because it causes the hair to fall out. (Mishnah Nazir 6:3; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 42a.)

A nazirite who drank wine all day long incurred only a single penalty. If the nazirite was repeatedly warned not to drink and then drank anyway, the nazirite incurred a penalty for each warning. Similarly, nazirites who cut their hair all day long incurred only one penalty, but if they were repeatedly warned not to cut and then cut anyway, they incurred a penalty for each warning. And similarly, nazirites who defile themselves by contact with the dead all day long incurred only one penalty, but if they were repeatedly warned not to defile themselves and then defiled themselves anyway, they incurred a penalty for each warning. (Mishnah Nazir 6:4; Babylonian Talmud Nazir 42a.)

The Mishnah taught that defilement and cutting of hair had a stringency that products of the vine did not, as defilement and cutting of hair rendered void the previous period of nazirite observance, while consuming products of the vine did not. Products of the vine had a stringency that defilement or cutting of hair did not, as the prohibition of products of the vine had no exception, while the law allowed exceptions for where cutting of hair was a religious duty or where there was an abandoned corpse. Defilement also had a stringency that cutting of hair did not, as defilement rendered void the whole of the preceding period and entails the offering of a sacrifice, while cutting of hair renders voided only 30 days and did not entail a sacrifice. (Mishnah Nazir 6:5; 44a.)

God the Father with His Right Hand Raised in Blessing

God the Father with His Right Hand Raised in Blessing (drawing by Girolamo dai Libri)

Rabbi Eleazar ha-Kappar taught that Numbers 6:11 required priests to “make atonement for” nazirites because the nazirites denied themselves wine. Rabbi Eleazar ha-Kappar thus reasoned that if nazirites were considered sinners because they denied themselves wine, then those who fast voluntarily are sinners, too. But Rabbi Eleazar said that the nazirite was termed “holy,” as Numbers 6:5 says, “he shall be holy, he shall let the locks of the hair of his head grow long.” Rabbi Eleazar thus reasoned that if nazirites were considered holy because they denied themselves just wine, then those who fast voluntarily are holy, too. (Babylonian Talmud Taanit 11a.)

Rav Havivi (or some say Rav Assi) of Hozna'ah said to Rav Ashi that a Tanna taught that Aaron first said the priestly blessing of Numbers 6:22–27 on “the first month of the second year, on the first day of the month” (Ex. 40:17, the first of Nisan), the same day that Moses erected the Tabernacle (as reported in Numbers 7:1), and the same day that the princes brought their first offerings (as reported in Numbers 7:2–3). (Babylonian Talmud Shabbat 87b.)

Numbers chapter 7

Noting the similarity of language between “This is the sacrifice of Aaron” in Leviticus 6:13 and “This is the sacrifice of Nahshon the son of Amminadab” and each of the other princes of the 12 tribes in Numbers 7:17–83, the Rabbis concluded that Aaron’s sacrifice was as beloved to God as the sacrifices of the princes of the 12 tribes. (Leviticus Rabbah 8:3.)

Commandments

According to Sefer ha-Chinuch, there are 7 positive and 11 negative commandments in the parshah.

(Sefer HaHinnuch: The Book of [Mitzvah] Education. Translated by Charles Wengrov, 4:2–79. Jerusalem: Feldheim Pub., 1988. ISBN 0-87306-457-7.)

Haftarah

The haftarah for the parshah is Judges 13:2–25, the story of the birth of Samson, the nazirite.

Rembrandt Harmensz. van Rijn 028

The Offer of Manoah (painting by Rembrandt)

Summary

Manoah's wife was barren, but an angel appeared and told her that she would bear a son. (Judges 13:2–3.) The angel warned her not to drink wine or strong drink or eat any unclean thing, and foretold that no razor would come upon her son's head, for he would be nazirite from birth and would begin to save Israel from the Philistines. (Judges 13:4–5.)

Manoah's wife told Manoah what happened, and Manoah entreated God to let the man of God come again and teach them what to do. (Judges 13:6–8.) God heeded Manoah and sent the angel to the woman as she sat alone in the field. (Judges 13:9.) Manoah's wife ran and told Manoah, and he followed her to the angel, and asked him whether he was the one who had spoken to his wife, and he said that he was. (Judges 13:10–11.) Manoah asked the angel how they should raise the child, and the angel told him that they should do what he had told Manoah's wife: She was not to eat any product of the grapevine, drink wine or strong drink, or eat any unclean thing. (Judges 13:13–14.)

MaciejowskiBibleManoahAndWife

Manoah and wife sacrifice to God (painting from the 1250 Morgan Bible)

Manoah asked the angel to stay so that they could serve him a meal. (Judges 13:15.) But the angel told Manoah that even if he stayed, he would not eat, and if they wanted to make a burnt-offering, they should offer it to God. (Judges 13:16.) Manoah did not recognize that he was an angel, and asked him for his name so that when his prophecy proved true, they could honor him. (Judges 13:16–17.) But the angel asked why Manoah asked for his name, as it was hidden. (Judges 13:18.)

So Manoah offered to God a young goat and a meal-offering, and as the flame went up off the altar toward heaven, the angel ascended in the flame and disappeared, and Manoah and his wife fell on their faces, as Manoah realized that he was an angel. (Judges 13:19–21.) Manoah told his wife that they would surely die, as they had seen God, but she replied that if God had wanted to kill them, God would not have received the burnt-offering or shown them what God did. (Judges 13:22–23.)

And the woman bore a son and called him Samson, and the child grew, and God blessed him, and the God's spirit began to move him in Mahaneh-dan, between Zorah and Eshtaol. (Judges 13:24–25.)

Schnorr von Carolsfeld Bibel in Bildern 1860 080

Samson killed a thousand men with the jawbone of an ass (woodcut by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld)

Connection to the Parshah

Both the parshah (in Numbers 6:1–21) and the haftarah relate to the nazirite status.

Both the parshah and the haftarah speak of abstention from "wine and strong drink." (Numbers 6:3; Judges 13:4.) And both the parshah and the haftarah note that "no razor shall come upon his head." (Numbers 6:5; Judges 13:5.)

The parshah and the haftarah do differ, however, about some aspects of the nazirite status. While the parshah (in Numbers 6:2) addresses one voluntarily becoming a nazirite, the haftarah (in Judges 13:5) speaks of one committed by another to nazirite status from birth. And while the parshah (in Numbers 6:13) contemplates the nazirite period coming to a close, the haftarah (in Judges 13:7) envisions a lifetime commitment.

In his career after the haftarah, Samson proceeded to violate each of the three nazirite prohibitions. He apparently consumed intoxicants (see Judges 14:10), frequently came in contact with the dead (see Judges 14:8–9; 15:8, 15), and ultimately allowed his hair to be cut. (See Judges 16:17–19.)

In the liturgy

Many Jews recite the Priestly Blessing, Numbers 6:24–26, as the first section of the Torah to which they turn after reciting the Blessings of the Torah in the morning. (Menachem Davis. The Schottenstein Edition Siddur for Weekdays with an Interlinear Translation, 20. Brooklyn: Mesorah Publications, 2002. ISBN 1-57819-686-8.) And the Priestly Blessing is reflected in the closing prayer for peace of the Amidah prayer in each of the three prayer services. (Reuven Hammer. Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Shabbat and Festivals, 9. New York: The Rabbinical Assembly, 2003. ISBN 0916219208.)

Further reading

The parshah has parallels or is discussed in these sources:

Milkau Oberer Teil der Stele mit dem Text von Hammurapis Gesetzescode 369-2

Hammurabi

Ancient

Biblical

Philon

Philo

Early nonrabbinic

Josephus

Josephus

Classical rabbinic

  • Mishnah: Challah 1:6, 4:11; Orlah 1:7–8; Megillah 3:6, 4:10; Moed Katan 3:1; Nazir 1:1–9:5; Sotah 1:17:1, 7:6; Bava Kamma 9:1112; Makkot 3:7–10; Avodah Zarah 5:9; Menachot 3:5–6, 5:3, 5:6, 6:1, 6:5; Chullin 13:10; Meilah 3:2; Tamid 7:2; Middot 2:5; Negaim 14:4; Parah 1:4. Land of Israel, circa 200 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Mishnah: A New Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 75, 149, 158, 160, 321, 324, 327, 430–66, 525, 618, 672, 739, 742–44, 764, 855–56, 871, 876, 1010, 1014. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988. ISBN 0-300-05022-4.
  • Tosefta: Demai 2:7; Maaser Sheni 3:11; Challah 2:8; Pisha (Pesachim) 8:9; Shekalim 3:26; Nedarim 1:1; Nazir 1:1–6:6; Sotah 1:1–15:15; Gittin 2:7; Bava Kamma 10:17–18; Makkot 3:5; Negaim 1:12; 4:12. Land of Israel, circa 300 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., The Tosefta: Translated from the Hebrew, with a New Introduction. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:85, 313, 339, 510, 538, 785, 807–93, 901; 2:1013, 1207, 1712, 1725. Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Pub., 2002. ISBN 1-56563-642-2.
  • Sifre to Numbers 1–58. Land of Israel, circa 250–350 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifré to Numbers: An American Translation and Explanation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:47–230. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986. ISBN 1-55540-008-6.
  • Sifra 45:1; 46:1; 47:1; 50:1; 51:2; 55:1; 63:2; 66:1; 77:1; 79:1; 81:1; 85:1; 87:1; 95:1; 101:1; 105:1; 188:3; 213:1; 230:1. Land of Israel, 4th Century C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Sifra: An Analytical Translation. Translated by Jacob Neusner, 1:255, 259, 265, 273, 277, 292, 318, 332; 2:29, 37, 43–44, 57–58, 63, 97, 145, 158–59; 3:55, 175, 237. Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1988. Vol. 1 ISBN 1-55540-205-4. Vol. 2 ISBN 1-55540-206-2. Vol. 3 ISBN 1-55540-207-0.
  • Jerusalem Talmud: Orlah 14b, 28a; Sukkah 3b; Nazir 1a–; Sotah 1a–. Land of Israel, circa 400 C.E. Reprinted in, e.g., Talmud Yerushalmi. Edited by Chaim Malinowitz, Yisroel Simcha Schorr, and Mordechai Marcus, vols. 12, 22. Brooklyn: Mesorah Pubs., 2007–2009.
  • Mekhilta of Rabbi Simeon 10:1; 58:1; 83:1. Land of Israel, 5th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Mekhilta de-Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai. Translated by W. David Nelson, 29, 259, 375. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 2006. ISBN 0-8276-0799-7.
First page of the first tractate of the Talmud (Daf Beis of Maseches Brachos)

Talmud

Rashi woodcut

Rashi

Medieval

File:Rambam.jpg
  • Numbers Rabbah 1:1; 2:10; 3:12; 4:19–20; 6:1–14:22; 15:3, 5, 8; 18:3, 20–21; 20:19; 21:12; 22:4. 12th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., Midrash Rabbah: Numbers. Translated by Judah J. Slotki, 5:8, 36, 90, 119, 124, 138, 157–484; 6:485–641, 644, 646, 649, 710, 732, 735, 810, 838, 856. London: Soncino Press, 1939. ISBN 0-900689-38-2.
  • Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed, 1:37, 61; 3:33, 46, 47, 48. Cairo, Egypt, 1190. Reprinted in, e.g., Moses Maimonides. The Guide for the Perplexed. Translated by Michael Friedländer, 53, 90–91, 327, 364, 366, 370, 372. New York: Dover Publications, 1956. ISBN 0-486-20351-4.
  • Zohar 1:120b, 199b, 211a, 248a; 2:6a, 24b, 75b, 79b, 107b, 140b, 221b; 3:38a, 121a–148b, 189a. Spain, late 13th Century. Reprinted in, e.g., The Zohar. Translated by Harry Sperling and Maurice Simon. 5 vols. London: Soncino Press, 1934.

Modern

Thomas Hobbes (portrait)

Hobbes

  • Thomas Hobbes. Leviathan, Review & Conclusion. England, 1651. Reprint edited by C. B. Macpherson, 725. Harmondsworth, England: Penguin Classics, 1982. ISBN 0140431950.
  • Abraham Isaac Kook. The Lights of Penitence, 5:7. 1925. Reprinted in Abraham Isaac Kook: the Lights of Penitence, the Moral Principles, Lights of Holiness, Essays, Letters, and Poems. Translated by Ben Zion Bokser, 55. Mahwah, N.J.: Paulist Press 1978. ISBN 0-8091-2159-X.
  • I. Mendelsohn. “The Family in the Ancient Near East.” Biblical Archaeologist. 11 (2) (1948).
  • H.C. Brichto. “The Case of the Sota and a Reconsideration of Biblical ‘Law.’” Hebrew Union College Annual. 46 (1975): 55–70.
  • Roland de Vaux. “Was There an Israelite Amphictyony?” Biblical Archaeology Review. 3 (2) (June 1977).
  • Jacob Milgrom. “The Case of the Suspected Adulteress, Numbers 5:11–31: Redaction and Meaning.” In The Creation of Sacred Literature. Edited by Richard E. Friedman, 69–75. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1981. ISBN 0520096371.
  • Jacob Milgrom. “The Chieftain’s Gifts: Numbers, Chapter 7,” Hebrew Annual Review. 9 (1985): 221–225.
  • Tikva Frymer-Kensky. “The Trial Before God of an Accused Adulteress.” Bible Review. 2 (3) (Fall 1986).
  • Joel Roth. “The Status of Daughters of Kohanim and Leviyim for Aliyot.” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1989. OH 135:3.1989a. Reprinted in Responsa: 1980–1990: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by David J. Fine, 49, 54, 63 n. 22. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2005. ISBN 0-916219-27-5. (implications for women’s participation in aliyot of daughters of priests eating from nazir sacrifices).
  • Jacob Milgrom. The JPS Torah Commentary: Numbers: The Traditional Hebrew Text with the New JPS Translation, 30–59, 343–66. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1990. ISBN 0-8276-0329-0.
  • Baruch A. Levine. Numbers 1–20, 4:163–266. New York: Anchor Bible, 1993. ISBN 0-385-15651-0.
  • Mary Douglas. In the Wilderness: The Doctrine of Defilement in the Book of Numbers, xix, 84, 103, 108–11, 120–21, 123–24, 126, 129, 137, 147–49, 151, 158, 160, 168, 170, 175, 180–81, 186, 199, 201, 232. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993. Reprinted 2004. ISBN 0-19-924541-X.
  • Mayer Rabinowitz. “Women Raise Your Hands.” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1994. OH 128:2.1994a. Reprinted in Responsa: 1991–2000: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by Kassel Abelson and David J. Fine, 9–12. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2002. ISBN 0-916219-19-4. (priestly blessing).
  • Stanley Bramnick and Judah Kogen. “Should N’siat Kapayim Include B’not Kohanim?” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 1994. OH 128:2.1994b. Reprinted in Responsa: 1991–2000: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by Kassel Abelson and David J. Fine, 13–15. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2002. ISBN 0-916219-19-4. (priestly blessing).
  • Jacob Milgrom. “A Husband’s Pride, A Mob’s Prejudice: The public ordeal undergone by a suspected adulteress in Numbers 5 was meant not to humiliate her but to protect her.” Bible Review. 12 (4) (Aug. 1996).
  • William H.C. Propp. “Insight: Was Samuel a Naz[i]rite?” Bible Review 14 (4) (Aug. 1998).
  • Elie Kaplan Spitz. “Mamzerut.” New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2000. EH 4.2000a. Reprinted in Responsa: 1991–2000: The Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of the Conservative Movement. Edited by Kassel Abelson and David J. Fine, 558, 583–84. New York: Rabbinical Assembly, 2002. ISBN 0-916219-19-4. (interpretation of the sotah ritual and its discontinuance).

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