Blog Naso 12 Sivan 5778 בלוג נָשֹׂא, י”ב סיון תשע”ח
The word Naso means to be lifted up to be counted. The main idea here is “are we being counted?” In Parashat Bamidbar we read about the census taken when Moses received the order to build Israel’s army and now in Naso we read about another census of the sons of Levi – Kehat, Gershon, Merari who would build a “spiritual army.” The role of this army would be to SERVE the people of Israel and be responsible for all aspects regarding building and maintenance of the Tent of Meeting. The Creator formed Israel’s camp giving it order, where the sons of Levi had their place, each having been given very specific tasks. It seems that it was easier for them than the rest of the tribes since they knew exactly what they had to do. However later on, we will see that the other tribes would be cattle-herders, farmers, fishermen, sea-merchants etc. All are called to do something within and for the community.
Biblical Judaism teaches us that each individual is special; we are made in His likeness and image to serve the community not the reverse. While most religions teach self-denial, our Creator tells us that He gave us life in abundance and wants us to LIVE! He is not impressed with self-sacrifice. Being created in His likeness and image has nothing to do with physical characteristics as those who are idolaters believe, rather it has to do with possessing His ethereal qualities such as knowledge, understanding, the ability to communicate, to reason, and to think. With these qualities we have the ability to live and work together in community. Living in a material world is a great challenge since it is a constant struggle to balance between the material and the spiritual.
When the Creator formed us as male and female, He assigned to us our roles and raison-d’être. When these roles are confused, our society is led on the road to destruction. This is happening in the world today. When God breathed His Ruach, His divine Presence within mankind, we were endowed with integrity and morality. We have slowly been shifting our values from being moral to immoral in which we are still able to know right from wrong. In this state there is still hope but today we find ourselves living in an amoral society in which the majority no longer has the capacity to discern right from wrong and imposes its amoral judgements upon the rest. This has tragically caused past civilizations to fall.
How would the Creator now keep the camp clean, “tahor”? He would have to separate those who are unclean “tamei” from the rest. Unclean is not necessarily referring to a material state of being but rather to a spiritual one. The nature of tsaarat, leprosy was not physical; it stemmed from lashon harah – הרעהלשון , the evil tongue or gossip. The root of physical destruction in the human begins within the spiritual being, when we start losing the concept of right and wrong. The Creator advises us to separate the contaminated from within the camp, then to instruct them in the right way of being and to bring them back once they are ready to return. In my work as a counselor with people who were addicted to various substances, I found that the only way they could be helped was if they were “willing”. Many of us are addicted to spiritual substances and we need to be willing to say, I need help to differentiate right from wrong. Yes, we have been given free will and every human has the freedom to act the way he or she wants to, but this doesn’t change the fact that their behavior can simply be wrong in the eyes of the Creator. The reason we needed to keep the camp clean was to prevent infection from spreading all over. Today we have become infected. Many of us, even right here in this room, do not have a clear understanding of right and wrong. The Torah is clear, but we make excuses for Him, putting words in His mouth.
The last chapter of this parashah is the longest in the Torah. It repeats each of the identical offerings that the leaders of twelve tribes would bring to the Creator. This is emphasizing what He is showing us – each of us “counts” and that our calling and our roles are important; our existence is important. It means that we need to participate and to be available. We are here to serve, not to be served. Many people who attend our congregation week after week are simply free-loaders. They receive like gluttons but give very little of themselves in return. Those people are not counted anywhere. They remain visitors but are not part of the community. The Creator assigned very clear responsibilities to the people of Israel. The greatest gift He gave to us was “free will”. We are free to make decisions, but this makes us responsible. Religions teach that someone else will pay for us. The welfare system teaches us how to be free-loaders and this destroys them and us. There is always a way to give of ourselves in the community in which we live.
When the Creator separated the Levites from the twelve tribes, placing them in the highest position, it was not to lord themselves over the others but rather that they would serve the rest. It is a joy to be useful, to bring something to others. Let us ask ourselves: Am I being counted in my community? Do they trust me? Am I reliable? Am I present? Am I part of this community; can they count on me? Am I simply trying to show how spiritual I am or am I being myself? Without commitment, there is no growth either on a personal or communal level. If we have been called to this community wherever we live, it is to grow in our relationship with one another, with the Creator and to spread light to those around us.
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