Naso 5772 – Gilayon #751

Shabbat Shalom The weekly parsha commentary

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Parshat Nasso

FROM the age of THIRTY YEARS and upward;

to the age of fifty years you are to count them.

ALL who enter to join-forces with the working-force,

to serve the serving-tasks in the tent of appointment.

(Bemidbar 4:23, E. Fox translation))



All who enter the work-force [Hebrew – tsava]The meaning of

tsava is a group of people

gathered together to fulfill their appointed function. All

who join-forces with the working-force [litsvo

tsava] mean all who come to be partners in the group.


VeHakabalah, ibid. ibid.)


All who enter the work-force – In the case of the sons of Kehat and Merari it is written "Kol

Haba Latsava" , whereas

here [regarding the sons of Gershon] it is written "Litsvo tsava" [Trans.

note: R. Alter translates the first phrase "all who come to the army",

and the second "all who do army service". E. Fox translates the first

"to join-forces with the working-force", and the second "everyone

who entered the working-force"]. The difference is not insignificant. It should

be known that the sons of Gershon were exceptional

in their singing ability as they accompanied the Temple service. As in the days of David and Solomon,

when Assaf, a descendent of Gershon,

preceded Heyman, descendent of

Kehat… and this is the meaning of ‘Litsvo tsava", for

"tsava" alone refers to any kind

of appointment of a person, in his home or his town. It also means an organization

of persons for a specific purpose such as "hanashim

hatsoveot" ["the women who performed tasks"].

"Litsvo tsava"

means to lead the organization. Here [in the case of Gershon] this refers to the task of song in the organization.

Thus is written in Tractate Arachin Chap. 2 and in Midrash Rabba, "Litsvo tsava = these

are the gatekeepers," – to serve the serving-tasks – these are the

singers". In the case of the sons of Gershon

it says "laavod avodah"

[to serve the serving-tasks], not, as is written in the case of the sons of

Merari, "laavod"

– "for the working-task". The Talmud in Arachin

11 explains "the serving task of the serving of…" as meaning – song.      

 (Haamek Davar,

Ibid., ibid.)



Thirty years for strength. As we find with the Levites, of whom it is said (Bemidbar 4:23) "From the age of thirty years and upward;

to the age of fifty years you are to count them, all who enter to join-forces with

the working-force" – For man's strength does not reach its fullest before the

age of thirty.

(Rabbeinu Yonah,

Commentary on Aboth 5:23)


"And the woman gave birth to a son

And called him shimshon"

(Judges 13:24, from the Haphtarah

of Parashat Nasso)

Yehonatan Avraham Gorenberg

The story of Shimshon's

adult adventures begins with his departing his parents' home: "And Shimshon went down to Timna"

(Judges 14:1). Our sages were puzzled by this description,

because in the story of Yehudah (Bereishit 35:13), Tamar is told that "Behold, your father-in-law

has gone up to Timna".

The midrash

(Bereishit Rabba 5:13) offers several explanations for the seeming contrariety. Outstanding is

Rabbi Simon's solution: "Going up for Yehuda from whom will come kings; going down for Shimshon who betroths a gentile woman".

Rabbi Shimon's solution itself demands explication.

The Bible tells us that from Shimshon's very beginning,

hidden processes are at work ("For this is from God" [Judges 15]), whereas the hidden processes affecting Yehuda

– from whom came kings – is only hinted at, in Jacob's blessing of Yehudah, and its meaning becomes clear only later on in Scripture,

in the stories of Shmuel, Ruth, and Chronicles. And just

as Shimshon married a gentile woman, so did Yehuda marry

a Canaanite woman, something forbiddened to the Patriarchs.

His very going to Timna led him to seduction by Tamar,

his daughter-in-law who had disguised herself as a harlot. The Babylonian Talmud

solves this contradiction with a more general formulation: "Shimshon was disgraced through her; therefore, in his case it

is written went down. Judah

was elevated by her; therefore in his case it is written "went up".

It would seem that comprehension of the midrash lies in a wider comparison

of the Yehuda and Shimshon narratives, one which establishes

Yehudah as a hero but raises questions about Shimshon.

True, not only were both Yehudah

and Shimshon active in the same region; their stories

describes similar events. After the death of Onan, Tamar

returns to her father's house (Bereishit 38:24); Shimshon's Philistine wife returns to her father's

house following Shimshon's first altercation with the

Philistines. Yehudah promises Tamar, whom he had thought

to be a harlot, payment in the form of a young goat; Shimshon,

desiring to bring back his wife, gives her a young goat. Later on, the similarity

becomes more pronounced: Yehuda, suspecting that Tamar had behaved promiscuously,

orders that she be taken off for burning. Shimshon demands

his wife's return from her Philistine father and sets the Philistine fields afire;

the Philistines react by burning his wife and her father.

Perhaps unparalleled in the

Bible, Shimshon and Yehudah

turn to whores. Yehuda sees

disguised Tamar on the road, and asks to come to her; Shimshon,

arriving in Philistine Gaza, also sees a whore and comes to her. In both stories

we find riddles. Shimshon propounds his riddle to the

Philistine guests at his wedding feast, promising the solver thirty linen tunics

and thirty sets of clothing. After the selling of Joseph – largely of Yehuda's doing – the brothers send the father, Jacob, Joseph's

tunic dipped in blood, and, somewhat cynically, ask "Recognize

it, pray". This is the very same question which Tamar asks Yehudah when she sends him his seal and cord and his staff which

he had given her as pledge for the kid he had promised.

There are other echoes which reverberate between

Yehudah and Shimshon which are

not explicit in the stories themselves but find expression in indirectly related

stories. Shimshon, after going down to Timna and choosing the Philistine woman, tears a lion asunder

with his hands. David, the king from

the tribe of Yehudah, recalls in his proclamation preceding

his battle with Goliath, that he, too, had killed "both the lion and the bear".

Every act of violence perpetrated by Shimshon is preceded

with "the spirit of the Lord gripped him" (Judges 14:7, 19, and 15:14). This phrase appears also in a David narrative

– when King Saul wants to kill David despite David's innocence: "An evil spirit

of God gripped him" (I Samuel 18:10).

The Book of Judges, in which the Shimshon story appears, is framed by references to the tribes

of Yehuda and of Dan, Shimshon's tribe. The story begins

with the Children of Israel asking God "Which of us shall be the first to go

up against the Canaanites" (Judges 1:2); they are answered "Let the tribe of Yehudah

go up". Further on, we read of the tribes' conquests, and of the Tribe of Dan

which did not succeed in conquering its territory (ibid., ibid. 34). In the closing stories of Judges, The Tribe

of Dan goes out to choose a new portion (ibid., 18:1). In the book's final narrative, telling of the

Israelite's war against the Tribe of Benjamin, again God is asked (ibid. 20:18): "Who shall go up for us first to fight"

and His answer is: "Yehudah first".

Shimshon himself, who functions within Yehudah's region (inasmuch as the Danites

did not conquer their portion), also collides with the Tribe of Yehudah. After the two violent encounters with the Philistines,

the latter demand Shimshon's extradition, and the Judeans

acquiesce. It should be remembered that Shimshon – against

his parents' advice – chose a Philistine wife. He then makes a banquet for the Philistines

alone, perhaps as a sign that his act had already proscribed him from membership

in the Tribes of Israel.

These echoes only sharpen the tremendous differences

between the stories of Yehuda and Shimshon themselves.

Shimshon decides to burn the fields of the Philistines,

thereby leading them to realize the threat to burn his wife and her father. Yehudah, after he had already sentenced Tamar to death by burning,

also prevents it – at the last moment, he understands that Tamar was impregnated

by him, and he proclaims "She is more in the right than I". Her riddle

leads Yehudah to admit his error in having denied her

the option of yibbum [levirate marriage]. Shimshon, however, upon discovering that the solution of his

riddle had been revealed to the Philistines, begins a cycle of violence which is

repeated again and again.

Thus we see that the going to Timna was, for Shimshon, a descent;

for Yehudah it was an ascent. This is how Shimshon begins the story of his adult life – taking a Philistine

wife, ego battles with the Philistines and the ensuing violence – and so until his

dying day. Even though Shimshon had been consecrated yet

before birth, and even though Scripture itself testifies to some divine plan, his

life story is ultimately one of descent. His blessing finds realization in his physical

strength, but this physical strength becomes a curse, and Shimshon

dies an heirless suicide.

For Yehudah, Timna marks the beginning of repentance. His answer to Tamar's

challenging question "Recognize, pray, whose are this deal and cord and this

staff" (Bereishit 38:25)

is to admit that she is in the right, and he forgoes his honor. Before that, Yehudah had initiated the sale of his brother, Joseph, into

slavery. But later, after having confessed to Tomar, he

promises his father to return his young brother, Benjamin, safely from Egypt, and

is even prepared to be sold into servitude in his place (Bereishit


Shimshon is not unlike the pagan heroes, chosen at conception

or birth, and he walks in their path, one marked by miraculous strength and a life

replete with wine, licentiousness and violence. Yehudah,

on the other hand, becomes a hero the Torah way – Man confesses his sin and repents.

The election of Yehudah to be the father of the Israelite

monarchy follows his actions. Yaakov blesses him: "The scepter shall

not pass from Yehudah, nor the

mace from between his legs" (Bereishit 49:10)

"Because Yehudah confessed and said, She

is more in the right than I, a Bat Kol came down and said:

You saved Tamar and her two sons from the flame, by your life I will rescue three

of your sons from fire. Who are they? Hannanel, Mishael and Azarriah" (Bavli,

Sota 10b)

Yehonatan Avraham

Gorenberg serves in the "Shiluv"

program [full army service plus two years of Yeshiva  study] at Yeshivat

Maaleh Gilboa


When adulterers became numerous, the bitter waters

stopped working, and Rabban Yohanan ben Zakkai ended their use for it is said I will not punish their daughters, and

it is written, and the man shall be

clear of guilt – when the man is clear

of guilt, the water tests his wife; if the man is not clear of guilt, the water

does not test his wife.

(Yalkut Shimoni Hoshea 519)


[If one only has enough money to buy one of them and] the lamp of his home

and the lamp of Hanukah are set before him, or the lamp of his home and the [wine

for the] Kiddush of the day [are set before him], the lamp of his home takes precedence

because of [the importance of] domestic peace, since God's own Name is erased in

order to make peace between man and wife. Great is peace, for all of the Torah was

given in order to make peace in the world, for it is said It's ways are ways of pleasantness, and

all of its paths, peace.

(RaMBaM Hilkhot Megillah ve'Hanukah 4:14)


And make expiation on his behalf for the guilt

that he incurred through the corpse.



"For the guilt that he incurred through

the corpse: He was not careful regarding

impurity of the corpse. Rabbi Elazar HaKapar said that he denied himself wine.

(Rashi, ibid.)


Sinner or Holy Man?

Shemuel said: Anyone who perseveres in fasting is called a sinner. He agreed with

the Tanna who taught: R. Elazar

HaKafar said in the name of Rabbi: What do we learn from

the verse and atone on his behalf for sinning by the soul (Bamidbar 6) – against whose soul did he sin? Rather, he grieved

himself by abstaining from wine. From this we can learn a kal

va'homer argument: This one who only caused himself

grief by abstaining from wine is called a sinner – all the more so in the case of

someone who abstains from many things.

R. Elazar says: He is called holy, for it is said,

he shall be sacred, and he shall allow the growth of the hair of his head to grow

wild (ibid). This one who only caused himself grief by abstaining

from one thing is called holy – all the more so in the case of one who abstains

from many things.

(Ta'anit 11a)


The Difference Between

Asceticism and Holiness

Should one say that since envy and passion and

honor etc., are a bad path and they remove man from the world, I will renounce them

completely, distancing myself from them as much as possible, to the point of not

eating meat or drinking wine or marrying, or dwelling in a pleasant dwelling or

wearing nice clothes but sackcloth and rough wool, etc, as do the idolatrous priests,

– this too is a wrong way, and it is forbidden to follow it. He who embarks upon

this path is called a sinner, for the Torah, in reference to the nazirite, says "And make

expiation on his behalf for the guilt that he incurred through the corpse."

Said the Sages: If a nazirite, who only denied himself wine, is need of expiation, all the more so one who has

cut himself off from everything?! Therefore, the Sages decreed that one should abstain

only from those things banned by the Torah; he should not bind himself with vows

and oaths regarding permitted activities. So said the Sages: Is it not enough for

you that which the Torah forbade – you have to enjoin yourself from other things?

Those who constantly deny themselves are not on a good path, and the Sages forbade

that one torment himself with fasts. Regarding all these and similar things, Solomon

decreed: "Don't overdo goodness and don't act the wise man to excess, or

you many be dumbfounded."

(Rambam, Laws of Beliefs, 3:1)


The lord spoke to moses, saying: speak to the israelites

and say to them: if anyone, man or woman, explicity utters

a nazarite's vow to set himself apart for the lord…

Throughout the term of his vow as a nazirite, no razor

shall touch his head; it shall remain consecrated until the completion of his term

as nazirite of the lord.

(Bemidbar 6)


Growth of Hair As An

Expression of Mourning Or A Partition Between the Nazarite

and Society


the term of his vow as a nazirite, no razor…" Why

did God command that the nazirite not shave his head?

Because shaving beautifies one, as illustrated by Yosef "And he shaved and he changed his clothes".

Letting the hair grow long is an expression of sorrow and mourning. Therefore the

Holy One, Blessed Be He, said: After this nazirite enjoined

himself from wine in order to distance himself from indecency, let him grow his

hair long so that he become unsightly and sad, lest the evil inclination assail

him; throughout the period of his vow to be a nazirite

holy to God, they are forbidden him as though they are sanctified objects from which

one may not derive pleasure, for he has sanctified them to the name of heaven.

(Bemidbar Rabba 10:10)


"And the nazirite

shall shave" – The shaving of the hair ordered here and the placing of it on

the fire which is cooking (the shelamim meal) forms the

most striking expression of the meaning of naziritism

just ended, and of its value only being relative to the happy life to be lived henceforth

before God. His life as a nazirite was only to have been

a preparatory provisional training. If letting the hair grow was the sign of a sanctifying

separation and withdrawal into oneself (v.

5), the complete shaving is the expression

of thenceforth ceasing this separation and thenceforth completely re-entering the

whole social life of the community. This complete re-entry into the whole social

life of the community is not merely something permissible; it is a just mitzva, a duty. It is a mitzva to

be happy and have pleasure before God, to live a life permeated with the spirit

of the shelamim. This kind of life transcends a life of

naziritism, of renunciation and abstention, which reveals

its moral strength only in seclusion and retreat. Naziritism

has no value unless it leads to complete social integration.

(Rabbi R. S. Hirsch, Bemidbar



The Torah Deals Strictly with Theft from Converts

And if there is no man to redeem: This means that the claimant who put him to

the oath died and left no heirs…Our Rabbis asked: But can you find anyone in Israel

who has no kinsman whatsoever, neither a son nor a brother nor other relative near

akin to him from his father's family, going back as far as Jacob? But this person

referred to is a proselyte who died and has no heirs.

(Rashi on Bamidbar 5:8, Silbermann translation)


And Grant You Peace

So great is peace that God changed His words for the sake of peace, as it

says, [God told Abraham that Sarah had laughed, thinking to herself,] Shall I

in truth bear a child, old as I am? (Bereishit 18:13) [while Sarah had actually thought Now that

I am old shall I have enjoyment – with my husband so old (18:12)].

Great is peace, for the angel changed his words to Manoah

for the sake of peace, for to the woman he said, You

are barren and have borne no children (Shoftim 13:3),

but he did not tell Manoah. So great is peace that God

said to have the Divine Name that was written in holiness erased into the water

in order to bring peace between husband and wife [in the Sotah


Rabbi Eliezer said: So great is peace that the

prophets only placed 'peace' in the mouths of all creatures.

Rabbi Shimon ben Halaftah

said, "Great is peace, for there is no vessel that can contain a blessing besides

peace, for it is said, The Lord bless His people with peace (Tehillim 29:11). Even in the priestly blessing, all of the blessings

are capped with peace, [as is written,] and grant you peace (Bamidbar 6:26). This tells you that all the other blessings

are to no avail if they are not accompanied by peace.

Rabbi Elazar Ha-Kafer

says: Great is peace, for peace concludes every blessing, and the priestly blessing

is concluded with peace. Great is peace for it is given to the humble, for it is

said, but the humble shall inherit the land, and delight in abundant peace

(Tehillim 37:11). Great is peace, for it is weighed against everything

else, as we say [in the blessing before Shema], "He makes peace and creates everything."

(Bamidbar Rabbah 11:7)


The numerical value of Shalom is 376 = like "Esav", which hints that one should always be first to greet

another person with "Shalom," even to a gentile.

(Ba'al Ha-Turim Bamidbar 6:26)

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