Torah Portion: Nasso

“Take” Numbers 4:21-7:89; Judges 13:2-25; John 7:53-8:11; Acts 21:17-32

Parsha Focal Points

  • Finishing of the counting of Levites
  • Purification of the Camp (separation of infected people/the sotah or adulterous wife)
  • Nazarite Vow
  • Aaronic Benediction
  • Offerings of the Leaders

Introduction

This is the longest portion in the Torah (176 verses). Interesting, the longest Psalm, 119, also has 176 verses. The context of Psalm 119 is David’s delight in the Torah, and I hope to show you that Nasso contains some very relative instructions in how and why the Torah is a delight. To begin with, the Hebrew word Nasso means much more than to “take”. It means to elevate, lift up, to bear, and even to forgive. The following bold terms in the verses below contain our study word, Nasso.

Exo 10:17  Now therefore forgive, I pray thee, my sin only this once, and intreat YHWH your God, that he may take away from me this death only.

Exo 19:4  Ye have seen what I did unto the Egyptians, and how I bare you on eagles’ wings, and brought you unto myself.

Exo 20:7  Thou shalt not take the name of YHWH thy God in vain; for YHWH will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

Lev 16:21-22  And Aaron shall lay both his hands upon the head of the live goat, and confess over him all the iniquities of the children of Israel, and all their transgressions in all their sins, putting them upon the head of the goat, and shall send him away by the hand of a fit man into the wilderness: (22)  And the goat shall bear upon him all their iniquities unto a land not inhabited: and he shall let go the goat in the wilderness.

Num 6:22-27  And YHWH spake unto Moses, saying,  (23)  Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,  (24)  YHWH bless thee, and keep thee:  (25)  YHWH make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:  (26)  YHWH lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.  (27)  And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.

Moreover, Nasso is spelled in Hebrew as: nun-seen-aleph. The Hebrew pictograph can mean that “Life comes when our own strength is diminished”. Therefore, our trust must be in YHWH, the One that forgives, lifts up, and bears our iniquities through Yeshua our Mashiach! As we continue to study this parsha (portion), we will clearly see how YHWH nasso(‘s) in our behalf!

Purification of the Camp

Our previous portion (B’midbar) details the arrangement of the camp and the ordering of the march in the wilderness; therefore, these laws command that the purity of the camp also be safeguarded. The Israelites were (are) set apart unto YHWH and as such are to remain in a state of purity. Any person that contracts impurity must be removed from the camp so as not to defile the camp or the place where YHWH dwells in their midst. (Num. 5:3) Interestingly, the Sages midrash that this section speaks to the idea that blemished souls (spirits) [those guilty of sin] will eventually be reflected in the form of physical blemishes or sickness.

Those manifesting these “blemishes” must be removed from the camp to show us that the affected person is contagious both physically and spiritually. They are immediately followed by those in need of making restitutions for wrongs. In this, we see that the removal of physical impurities must be accompanied by the removal of moral wrongs. Verse 6 teaches that any wrong which a man commits against his fellow is at the same time treason against God. The largest part of rectifying such a condition was through the act of confession.(vs. 7). The Sages teach from this same verse that there is no atonement for sins against God without confession of sins[1].

The camp of Israel is to remain pure. Sin is an infectious disease as sin propagates more sin. By removing the contagion from our midst, the camp is protected and ironically so is the infected person[2]. The apostle Paul speaks to this matter in the believing community, teaching us that these measures must still be upheld by our communities today if we are to remain undefiled. I fear that we, like the Corinthians, have become arrogant by allowing people to remain in our “camp” that are committing all sorts of abominations. Whether we realize it or not, their sin affects and infects the whole body.

1Co 5:1-13  It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of such a kind as does not exist even among the Gentiles, that someone has his father’s wife.  (2)  You have become arrogant and have not mourned instead, so that the one who had done this deed would be removed from your midst.  (3)  For I, on my part, though absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged him who has so committed this, as though I were present.  (4)  In the name of our Lord Jesus, when you are assembled, and I with you in spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus,  (5)  I have decided to deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.  (6)  Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?  (7)  Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Messiah our Passover also has been sacrificed.  (8)  Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  (9)  I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people;  (10)  I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world.  (11)  But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler–not even to eat with such a one.  (12)  For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church?  (13)  But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES.

Sotah

The sotah, a woman accused of adultery, has many prophetic and spiritual implications for us. At first glance, this ritual may seem barbaric and even unfair. What if the tables are turned and the husband is thought to be guilty of adultery? Does the woman have no recourse?  The Torah seems to be silent on this issue. However, we must not forget what Yeshua told us:

Mat 5:27-28  “You have heard that it was said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY’;  (28)  but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Therefore, men do NOT get a free pass to desecrate the marriage covenant[3]. Their sin will eventually be brought to light and they will give an account of their sins before the Great Judge of heaven and earth. So, what is this section of the Torah really teaching us?

The sotah (adulterous woman) is a definite spiritual picture of us. For we truly are an adulterous generation[4]. Idolatry is spiritual adultery. When we put ANYTHING in the place of our service to YHWH, we have committed adultery (idolatry) against YHWH.

Ex. 20:4-6  “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.  (5)  “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, YHWH your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me,  (6)  but showing loving-kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.

We are the adulterous wife and our husband has a spirit of jealousy; for our God is a jealous God[5]. Like the Sotah’s husband, YHWH brings the offering (Yeshua). The offering consists of grain; it is an 1/10 of an ephah. That is equal to an omer[6] (the amount of daily manna[7]) and its value is equal to a ½ shekel, or the atonement price of a person[8].

If she was guilty, her belly would swell and her thigh would rot. The swelling of the stomach is a picture of a false pregnancy. She has no fruit. Her thigh rotting is a picture of her reproductive organs shriveling up. She can produce no fruit. A guilty woman will always look pregnant but never deliver. This would be a curse (alah) to her. If she is innocent, she will conceive and be fruitful (a blessing).

Amazingly, there is not one recorded instance in all of Scripture or in any of the Jewish histories that this ritual was ever carried out. The Sage’s consensus is that YHWH placed this section in the Torah for our sakes today!

Num. 5:13 literally says: “…and a man lies with her with seed….” She has received another’s seed or “WORD”.

Spiritually, if we have received the seed (word) of another lover and not of YHWH our Elohim (God), then although we may have the appearance of fruitfulness or pregnancy, we will never deliver. Our very capacity to bear fruit has rotted away. The seed of the enemy is poisonous! While it may contain some truth, it is mingled with lies. Though it may promise prosperity, it only gives us a swollen belly.

So, we have our Father (husband) bringing the offering (Yeshua) on our behalf. This offering is equal to our daily bread (manna/Word of God) and the ½ shekel required for our atonement. All these half shekels will later be smelted together to build all the sockets or bases to support the Tabernacle[9].

Can you see the picture?

The price of our atonement (silver) is what actually provides the sockets/bases in the House of God. They “receive” and “hold together” the entire structure. Yeshua was sold for 30 pieces of silver[10]… And He is what “holds” all things[11] (including His body of believers) together. He is the Word; He is our daily Bread; He is the manna or Bread from Heaven; He is our barley offering in the Feast of Early Firstfruits———lifted up and waved before the Father. And all of this is done on OUR behalf. We deserve the curse; we are guilty. But, our Elohim takes (nasso[‘s]) this curse for us[12]! He drinks the bitter waters from the cup[13]!

If you have never had the pleasure of listening to Rico Cortes’ teaching called “The Bitter Waters”, I highly recommend you do so. The entire teaching is about the sotah ritual and how Yeshua has fulfilled it on our behalf. Rico’s website is wisdomintorah.com.

Nazarite Vow

I can imagine that if you are an average Israelite and not a Levite or Priest that you may often feel as if your capacity to serve YHWH is somehow limited. Enter the Nazarite Vow. First, I find it fascinating that the instructions for the Nazarite fall between the ritual of the sotah (adulterous woman) and the priestly blessing. What is the Torah trying to say? What is the real significance of this vow and how does it relate to my life? Who should participate in this vow?

Second, the fact that the Judge Samson, the Prophet Samuel[14], John the Baptist[15] and the Apostle Paul were (at least at some point) a Nazarite is intriguing. Samson was born a Nazarite[16]. His mother didn’t even eat/drink of the vine as long as she was pregnant[17], and Samson’s great strength was somehow linked to his long (holy) hair! Paul fulfilled a Nazarite vow[18] at the Beit (Temple) and later paid for the costly offerings of four other Nazarites————— all t0 prove that he wasn’t teaching against the Torah or Moses!

Act 21:23-24  “Therefore do this that we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow;  (24)  take them and purify yourself along with them, and pay their expenses so that they may shave their heads; and all will know that there is nothing to the things which they have been told about you, but that you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law.

The Nazarite could be a man or woman from any tribe. While under the vow, they lived by a strict order likened most closely to the priestly regulations. For example, until the days of the vow were fulfilled he/she was to be set apart unto YHWH.  The free growth of the hair is called, in Numbers 6:7, the nezer, and is usually translated as separation or consecration. This same Hebrew word is used for the crown of the holy turban worn by the High Priest in Exodus 29:6.

Exo 29:5-6  Then you shall take the garments, and put on Aaron the coat and the robe of the ephod, and the ephod, and the breastpiece, and gird him with the skillfully woven band of the ephod.  (6)  And you shall set the turban on his head and put the holy crown (nezer) on the turban.

Therefore, we can see that the uncut hair of the Nazarite was akin to the crown of not only the priest, but the High Priest! Their head was quite literally kodosh l’YHWH (Holy to the LORD). Also like the priesthood, a Nazarite couldn’t defile himself by a dead person during the vow, not even for his parents, or his brothers and sisters. This also was an obligation reserved for the High Priest.

Lev 21:10-12  ‘The priest who is the highest among his brothers, on whose head the anointing oil has been poured and who has been consecrated to wear the garments, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes;  (11)  nor shall he approach any dead person, nor defile himself even for his father or his mother;  (12)  nor shall he go out of the sanctuary nor profane the sanctuary of his God, for the consecration of the anointing oil of his God is on him; I am YHWH.

A Nazarite was to guard most carefully against other defilements, not only like ordinary Israelites, but also like the priests. Taking this vow was to (at least for a season) take on a greater yoke of YHWH’s holy instructions in the Torah. One must be overcome and I would say “filled” with the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) in order to fulfill such a commitment. A person taking this vow without the leading of Ruach HaKodesh would be in danger of pride and self-righteousness, the opposite of what this vow should accomplish.

The Nazarite becomes a public reminder of YHWH as he or she lives out life among the brethren. If the culture is walking in awareness of and obedience to God, then the public reminder is a blessing and the Nazirites contribute to the blessing of the society. But if the culture is in rebellion against God, then the Nazarites are an ever-present rebuke to the godless self-seeking society that surrounds them. That is why the people of Israel in Amos’ day suppressed the Nazarites[19]. Greater light reveals what is hidden in the darkness…

I cannot help but to wonder how many Nazarites are called (by the Ruach) in every generation. It seems to me as though a Nazarite has a role similar to that of prophet as the Amos account lumps them together[20]. A prophet may be a mouth speaking the Words of Elohim, but a Nazarite speaks to people simply by action. Perhaps our old English adage is true in many cases: actions speak louder than words. That is the duty of a Nazarite.

Seeing their devotion and separation should heighten our desire to be obedient and (re)ignite our passion to serve the Holy One. But a wicked generation is put off by this type of godly devotion, for it only reveals the ugly and dark places of their hearts. This is why the people in Amos’ (and dare I say our) day forced the Nazarites either by seduction or force to break their vows and commanded the prophets to shut their mouths[21].

One last note about Amos. Amos testified fearlessly before the idolatry of courts and priests. The primary crimes committed by God’s people in Amos’ day were those of luxury and excess. Does this sound familiar? The Nazarite was a marked man, and because his vow was regarded as an unspoken condemnation of the popular self-indulgence, he was exposed to the scorn of the worldly, and the temptations of the base. Like Israel of old, we live in a society that has forgotten her God and has no desire to remember Him. If we read through the entire book of Amos, we discover the outcome of this type of behavior and how to be spared from the wrath of the Almighty.

Amos 3:7  Surely Adonai YHWH does nothing Unless He reveals His secret counsel To His servants the prophets.

Aaronic Benediction

Right after the instructions for the Nazarites, we are given six highly significant verses. This blessing or benediction comes straight from the mouth of YHWH to Moses as an instruction on how to bless the people, Israel (us!). The Israel museum in Jerusalem actually has a tiny fragment of parchment that contains these precious words. Remarkably, this fragment, dating to the time of the First Temple, is the oldest known surviving parchment of biblical literature!

Num 6:24-26 YHWH bless you, and keep you;  (25)  YHWH make His face shine on you, And be gracious to you;  (26)  YHWH lift up His countenance on you, And give you peace.’

The Aaronic blessing has three vital parts:

1. Physical Blessing. These are our basic earthly needs. This first part of the blessing includes all the physical provisions we need and the safeguard of those provisions. This is our physical prosperity. This would include our physical life and the life of those in our camp.

2. Spiritual blessing. Having YHWH’s face shine upon us is likened to His face being turned toward us. In strong opposition to this is YHWH hiding His face from us. Being gracious to us is having underserved mercy without which we would surely perish in this life and the next. When YHWH shines His face toward us, our face begins to shine with His light and His “house” increases. This is lived out in our actions: Loving YHWH and loving our neighbor as ourselves. This second part of the blessing ensures us that the Almighty is concerned for our eternity.

3. Shalom Blessing. The last part of the blessing encompasses both the physical and spiritual realms. Do you remember what the Hebrew name of our portion means? Nasso means to elevate, lift-up, bear, take, and even forgive. Verse 26 uses our Hebrew word nasso translated as to “lift up”. Here we have YHWH Nasso(ing) His countenance. But the word countenance is the same Hebrew word from verse 25 translated as “face”. He is literally “lifting-up His face” toward us————- in order to give us peace or shalom.

I think we miss the full impact of this summation without first expressing the Hebrew meaning of peace or shalom. Shalom is much more than without war, strife, or conflict. Shalom is completeness. It speaks of your entire being. A common Hebrew greeting is “Mashlomchah”? Or literally, “What is your peace”? In other words, anything that is out of order in your physical or spiritual life affects your peace or shalom. The verb form of the root word is shalam and is usually used in the context of making restitution. When a person has caused another to become deficient in some way, such as a loss of livestock, it is the responsibility of the person who created the deficiency to restore what has been taken, lost or stolen. Therefore, to be in shalom, you are in a state of wholeness. Nothing is lacking.

Is it just me or does the idea of restitution take you right back to beginning of this Torah portion? This type of righting a wrong was given just before the ritual of the sotah or adulterous woman. The desire of the Holy One is for us to be in a state of shalom; however, this can only be accomplished if we are living by His righteous standards. Man’s laws and wisdom will inevitably leave us lacking and thus without shalom. So in a way, shalom can be a choice because it is so closely linked with life.

Rom 8:6  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace

The Talmud tells us that in Temple times the priests would lift up their hands over the people while pronouncing the Aaronic blessing. When they did this, they spread their fingers apart in such a way as to make the shape of the ancient letter, shin[22]. Traditionally, this is known as the abbreviation for El Shaddai (God Almighty). This custom was their way of “putting His Name on the children of Israel”. (verse 27)

Messiah Yeshua actually blessed His disciples in this manner right before He ascended into heaven.

Luk 24:50-51  And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them.  (51)  While He was blessing them, He parted from them and was carried up into heaven.

Yeshua as the High Priest of the Melchizedek order has full authority to bless His people. According to the Luke passage above, His manner in bestowing the blessing is consistent with the traditions of the Levitical system.

Heb 7:15-17  And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek,  (16)  who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life.  (17)  For it is attested of Him, “YOU ARE A PRIEST FOREVER ACCORDING TO THE ORDER OF MELCHIZEDEK.”

Once again we see the Hebrew term “nasso”. Yeshua nasso(ed) “lifted up” His hands as He blessed His disciples. Can you imagine the Master pronouncing this blessing over your life? After they not only saw and heard the Master’s last earthly words spoken over them in the form of a blessing, they witnessed Him ascending into heaven! What would your reaction to this magnificent spectacle be?

Luk 24:52-53  And they, after worshiping Him, returned to Jerusalem with great joy,  (53)  and were continually in the temple praising God.

The disciples experienced a great emotional high that sparked a desire to be as close to God as possible. Every free moment you could find them in the House of Yah (the Temple) praising our Elohim! Wow, I can only imagine what that would have been like. I could see how their enthusiasm would be contagious. If I didn’t know the Master, I would at the very least be curious if I witnessed the zeal these men must have had. I love sitting near an enthusiastic worshiper. Something about their unabashed joy really is infectious. This is the type of contagion that the body does need.

If we meditate on what the Aaronic Blessing is actually asserting: that the Creator of Heaven and Earth cares for our entire being and desires us to be completely whole (mind, body, & spirit), then perhaps we will be filled with an infectious joy that permeates the entire camp! Talk about worshiping Him in Spirit and in Truth! If that doesn’t make you want to get up and scream HalleluYah, then what will?

Offerings of the Leaders

Nachshon, the Prince of the tribe of Judah, was the first to bring his offering; and, each of the other princes brought the exact same offering, as you’ll see from the text. There can be no coincidence that Judah, the fourth son, was the first to bring the offering. Judah represents the rule of authority and the Messiah. He would be the one to lead by example for us to follow.

Rashi has some very interesting things to say about these offerings. I have included his summations below. Taking them in order, Rashi explains:

1) “A silver bowl weighing 130 shekels. The numerical value of ‘silver bowl’ in Hebrew is 930, corresponding to the years of Adam’s life. 130 corresponds to the age at which Adam and Chavah gave birth to Seth (Replacement).

2) “One silver basin weighing 70 shekels. The numerical value of ‘one silver basin’ is 520, corresponding to Noah’s age of 500 when he gave birth to his children, and 20 for the years before he began to give birth that God told him of the coming of the flood. The weight of 70 corresponds to the 70 nations that descend from Noah, those who involved in the tower of Babel.”

3) “One ladle weighing 10 shekels full of incense. ‘One ladle’ represents the totality of Torah, given by the ‘One God’. The weight of 10 represents the ’10 Commandments’, the seminal teachings of the Torah. The word for ‘incense’ (in some of its spellings) equals 613, the number of mitzvoth in the Torah.”

4) “’One bull’. This alludes to Avraham, who fed a young bull to the messengers (angels) who visited him on their way to Sodom.”

5) “’One ram’. This hints to the ram that was taken by Avraham in place of offering his son Yitzaq.”

6) “’One sheep’. This alludes to the sheep of Laban that Ya’aqob was able to breed in an ingenious way, in order that they would become his sheep, according to an agreement he had made with Laban.”

7) “’One goat’, in order to atone for the sale of Yoseph by his brothers. A goat was used in particular for the brothers had dipped his special ‘coat or tunic’ in the blood of a goat to trick Ya’aqob into thinking Yoseph was dead.”

8) “’Two cattle for peace offerings’. This corresponds to Moshe and Aharon, who brought peace between HaShem and Israel.”

9) “’Five rams, five male goats and five sheep’. These three sets of animals corresponds to Israel, who are divided into three divisions (Kohanim, Levites and Israelites), as well as the three divisions of Scripture (Torah, Prophets and Writings). The number five (5) also corresponds to the five books of Moshe and the five commandments that were written on each of the two tablets that Moshe brought down from Mt. Sinai.”

Is this really what the offerings represented? It is a good speculation and gives us some food for thought. What I know for sure is that these offerings weren’t arbitrary; each one did and does have significance. There are no idle words in the Bible. Perhaps Rashi is correct or perhaps these things are yet to be revealed.

One thing is certain; all 12 tribes were in unity following the lead of the tribe of Judah. They were acting as a unified whole; as One man. This is the desire of our Master Yeshua and our Father. That we are one. That we become the One New Man.

Eph 2:13-22  But now in Messiah Yeshua you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Messiah.  (14)  For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall,  (15)  by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace,  (16)  and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.  (17)  AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR;  (18)  for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father.  (19)  So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household,  (20)  having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Messiah Yeshua Himself being the corner stone,  (21)  in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord,  (22)  in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

The Lion of the tribe of Judah, our Master, our example, our authority, His blood makes us one and establishes our PEACE or shalom. He makes us whole and complete. He desires that we lack nothing. We are being plucked one by one and joined together with like kind as a living Beit (Temple). We bring the bulls of our lips[23] and offer them to our King.

I leave you with one thought to ponder. What is the key to our unity?


[1] Hil. Teshuvah 1:1

[2] James 5:19-20, 1 Tim. 1:20, 1 Pet. 4:6

[3] Heb. 13:4

[4] Mt. 12:39, Mt. 16:4, Mar. 8:38

[5] Ex. 20:5, Ex. 34:14, Dt. 4:24, Dt. 5:9,  Dt. 6:15, Dt. 32:21,  Jos. 24:19,  Nah. 1:2,

[6] Ex. 16:36

[7] Ex. 16:14-16

[8] Ex. 30:11-16

[9] Ex. 38:25-28

[10] Zech. 11:13, Mt. 27:6

[11] Col. 1:17

[12] Gal. 3:13

[13] Mt. 27:48, Mar. 15:36, Jn. 18:11

[14] 1 Sam. 1:11

[15] Luke 1:15

[16] Jud. 13:5

[17] Jud. 13:14

[18] Acts 18:18

[19] Amos 2:11-12

[20] Ibid

[21] Ibid

[22] Those familiar with the Star Trek series will remember Spock’s odd hand pose and salutation, “Live long and prosper”. Both his hand gesture and greeting are based on the Aaronic Benediction.

[23] Hos. 14:2

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Basic Judaism spoken here.

madebymamaleh

Creating a modern Jewish home one project at a time

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