Parsha Naso – 5777

Parshat Naso In-Depth

“The priest shall write these oaths in a scroll, and he shall blot them out with the bitter water (5:23)

Great is peace! To make peace between husband and wife, the Torah instructs that the name of G‑d, written in holiness, should be blotted out in water. (The text of the oath administered to the sotah included the divine name.) (Talmud, Chullin 141a)

It shall come to pass: if the woman had been defiled . . . her belly will swell and her thigh will rupture (5:27)

Just as the waters test her, they also test him (i.e., if she is guilty, the same happens to the adulterer). (Talmud, Sotah 27b)”

Torah Sparks: Naso 5777

“Parshat Naso contains the famous law of the Sotah (Num. 5:11-31), the woman who is suspected by her husband of having committed adultery. In such a case her husband can bring her to the priest (kohen) and she will be forced to drink a strange concoction of water, dirt from the Tabernacle floor and curses containing God’s name ground into little pieces, known as the “bitter waters” (mei ha-marim).

Once the woman drinks this potion there are two options: If she is guilty “the water that causes the curse will enter into her and become bitter, and her belly will swell, and her thigh will fall away; and the woman shall be a curse among her people.” If she is innocent “then she shall be cleared, and will conceive seed” (vs. 27-28).”

Justice and Mercy Are Jewish Love

“When was the last time I made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself? Just asking the question, without even making a list or acting upon it, can cause some consternation. After all, who among us hasn’t crossed a line, fallen back, or hurt others with our choices? If I consider the ways I have sinned against others — those I love and those I don’t — how can I put myself back on track?

Those familiar with the 12 steps for addiction recovery, first introduced by Alcoholics Anonymous, recognize taking a moral inventory as the fourth step. I learned from Harriet Rossetto, co-founder of Beit T’Shuvah in Los Angeles, that everyone can benefit from following the 12 steps and living as if we are in recovery. The notion of making a fearless moral inventory, and the subsequent steps of what to do with our realizations, are in line with how we live as just and merciful people trying to follow Judaism.”

The Nazirite

“Jewish tradition teaches that the Torah yields 613 commandments, which are incumbent on the Jewish people. One would think that this daunting total would be sufficient for most Jews, yet this week’s Torah portion, Naso, teaches of additional regulations which one could assume under the status of being a “Nazirite”, one consecrated to the service of God. The haftara (additional) reading for this Shabbat narrates the story of Sampson, who according to the Bible was himself a Nazirite.

The biblical information about Nazirites is inconsistent, and the Torah and haftara portions for this week indicate the instability. In the sixth chapter of Numbers, the Torah teaches that one who wishes to become a Nazirite does so through the following rituals: the taking of a vow, the avoidance of grape products (especially wine), abstaining from cutting of the hair, and keeping adequate distance from a corpse (a prohibition normally only incumbent on Kohanim, descendents of the line of Aaron.) ”

Haftarah Parshat Naso

“The heroine of this week’s haftarah, Samson’s mother, remains nameless even though she is the primary character in the story. Professor Y. Zakovitch has suggested that her anonymity was intended to make the character of Samson stand out by minimalizing his familial ties (Hayei Shimshon, p. 25). I have previously suggested that some biblical stories give anonymous characters pronounced roles as a lesson in the significance of every individual no matter their place in society.

Still, anonymity in biblical literature is a phenomenon that seemingly bothered the rabbinic sages. Professor Y. Heineman, in his classic work Darchei HaAgaddah, has pointed out that it is not uncommon in rabbinic literature for the sages to identify a character in the Bible by either giving the person a name or associating a person with a previously known character. This phenomenon was probably influenced by the style of storytelling familiar to them in the Greco-Roman period. (p.21)”