Beth Elohim Messianic Synagogue
Parashah # 35: Naso (Take) B’midbar (Numbers) 4:21-7:89
Haftarah: Shof’tim (Judges) 13: 2-25
B’rit Chadashah: Yochanan (John) 7:53-8:11; Acts 21:17-32
In this Parashah we read about the tribal heads bringing offerings to commemorate the consecration of the Mishkan (Tabernacle). All the offerings are the same and the redundancy seems extraneous. But we know that the Torah does not insert one extraneous word. So, why did it not read at the end of the offering of the first prince, “and the rest of the heads of the tribes gave exactly the same?” There are two other places in the Torah this question arises. The first is when Eliezer, Yitzhak’s servant, is sent to find a wife for Ya’akov. First, the Torah tells us about the test, and then word for word tells how it was accomplished. The second time is with the building of the Mishkan. First, the Torah goes into all the details of what was to be created for the Mishkan, and then repeats all the details again when the Mishkan was built.
Ask yourself, why does the Torah go into such lengthy details as regards these things? Rabbi Breuer says that these three things are the basic pillars of Judaism, and merit such lengthy descriptions. Likewise, the choosing of a spouse is the groundwork for building a family that will follow G-d’s path, and therefore Eliezer’s experience is mentioned twice.
The Mishkan was the sanctuary where we served G-d in antiquity, and the Torah wants us to participate in the joy and happiness accompanying every phrase of its creation, for the Sanctuary was the home of G-d’s spirit. Likewise, our bodies (sanctuaries) are the homes of G-d’s Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit) who walks along side to nurture and guide us. We should observe our own creation, from the planning to the finished product. We should stay closely attuned to and observe the continuing process of the Ruach in our spiritual growth until we become that which He intended. This can only be done through studying, internalizing, and acting upon the Word of G-d.
Finally, we see that there are three examples given us and that these relate to three spheres that make up the essence of our community. The first is the family unit, the second is our relationship to YHVH as believers (our religion), and the third is our nationality as Israelites. All three of these play a vital role in making us who we are.
This closeness of family and the necessity for an honorable spouse as integral to a firm and G-dly foundation for life takes us to the seemingly male chauvinistic ritual for a man who becomes jealous of his wife, whether or not she is guilty of unfaithfulness. Feminists love to attack this scripture and accuse G-d of discriminating against women! Let’s take a closer look at this scripture in Chapter 5:11-29 to clarify.
Tapping into the requirement to be a holy people because G-d is Holy; the need to maintain religious and civil purity in the camp, and the need to maintain purity in the lineage of the Israelites, it is suddenly more easily to understand the concept behind the ritual performed by a jealous husband. Adultery, which is forbidden, is defined as involving sexual contact between a married woman and a man other than her husband. It is a capital crime (Lev. 20:10). Because Israel was a polygynous society at the time, sexual contact between a married man and an unmarried woman was not considered adultery, although it was not encouraged. When conclusive evidence was lacking, the judgement and punishment was left to G-d. But the reasons this narrative is included in this parashah are two-fold. The ritual uses earth from the floor of the Tabernacle (v.17), which was the focus of the previous chapter, and the ritual, like the guilt offering, is connected to broken faith (vv.6,12). The concept is contiguous with the requirement for holiness which required faithfulness by default. By having the woman state “Amen” twice, this is an affirmation of truth often attached to oaths. A wife guilty of adultery would certainly be convicted in her heart as she said these words, just as being required to drink the water of bitterness. Perhaps a woman guilty of adultery might confess before drinking the water or before saying “Amen.” We can only speculate. However, this explanation should dispel any doubt that our G-d was a chauvinist, discriminating against His own creation of women to compliment and complete the male gender.
B’rit Chadasha: John 7: 53-8:11; Acts 21:17-32
John 7:53-8:11 is believed by most scholars to have been inserted into the manuscript of John at some later time and is not the actual writing of John. They believe it is from oral tradition, but at the same time they believe it is historically correct. This section mainly reports history of movement and does not introduce doctrine or theological concepts.
Chapter 8:11 however, does address a woman taken in adultery, which relates to the Torah, and the punishment prescribed for such a sin. In verse 5 Moshe is cited, as is the Torah for the prescribed punishment. Verses 7 and 11 give Yahshua’s response, and I might add that it showed four things. 1. He was not against the Torah, (2) instead He was merciful toward the woman, as YHVH was merciful toward David who was guilty of not only adultery but also murder. (3) He opposed her sin (4) He could silence hecklers and put them to shame (Matt. 22:13). This also relates to the ritual of jealousy in which the Sages said that a man demanding his wife submit to the ritual must first be without sin. Since there is no one without sin, that levels the playing field, does it not?
Acts 21: 17-32
Not mentioned by Sha’ul is the great collection of money he was bringing to Yerushalayim for the Jewish poor. It probably had already been delivered. But his concern was with the things YHVH had done among the Gentiles through him. He is bringing the elders up to date on his work. Verse 20 teaches us something. Many Church institutions teach that the leadership in Jerusalem was against Sha’ul’s efforts, but as you can see from this verse upon hearing Sha’ul’s report they praised YHVH Elohim. These believers intensely committed to their Jewishness praised YHVH for what he was doing and addressed Sha’ul as “brother.”
In verse 20 some translations translate muriades as thousands when referring to the Messianic believers. Literally, it means “tens of thousands.” Traditional Judaism teaches that the Messianic population of Jerusalem was about 5%, which would reflect the word in the text, meaning tens of thousands. The Messianic population of Jerusalem based on a population of 80,000 as estimated by the Biblical Archeology Society was no less than 20,000 Messianic Jews, which constituted about 25% of the population. We can extrapolate that number to the minimum number of world Jewry at that time and there would have been about 640,000 Messianic Jews worldwide.
We also see that in this section, the Jews, or more correctly Judeans, are jealous for the Torah or zealots for the Torah (G-d’s Torah/Instructions and not the Oral Torah/Traditions of men)). YHVH describes Himself as jealous for His Torah in Exodus 20:5, and nowhere here is there any condemnation for their devotion to the Torah. Not only were they Jews (not ex-Jews as Christianity would have us believe) but they behaved Jewishly, which means that they observed Torah and were zealous for it. In verse 21 Ya’akov’s careful choice of the verb “katechethesan” which means “catechism” shows that he was aware of what had been rumored to the Messianic Jews about Sha’ul was not true, that Sha’ul had been teaching all the Jews living among the gentiles to apostatize (Greek “apostasia” literally means, stand-apart and implies rebellion from Torah. The apostasy has two parts: (1) Not to have their sons circumcised (2) not to follow the traditions. These are the same issues in Acts 15. Basically it meant then, and even today it is taught that Sha’ul was a traitor to the Jewish people who taught Jews all over the Diaspora to quit functioning as Jews.
There is one point I’d like to make to refute these charges:
1) Sha’ul himself did not violate the Torah after coming to trust in Yahshua. He had Timothy circumcised (16:3). He kept numerous Jewish customs -taking a vow (18:18), observing YHVH’s festivals (20:16); paying for the vow ending sacrifices at the Temple (following vv. 23-27); fasting on Yom Kippur (27:9). He regularly attended synagogue services and was welcome to teach in them (17:2), as Messianic Jew he remained a Pharisee (23:6). As such he could say that he believed everything that accords with the Torah (24: 14), and that he had a clear conscience before YHVH and man (24:16) that he had committed no offense against Torah (25:8).
Ya’akov purposes a further proof that Sha’ul is not teaching against Torah and Sha’ul is asked to take a vow so that all will know it is so. Sha’ul underwent a Nazirite vow according to Torah that he was Torah observant and not guilty of any part of the rumors.
In verse 26 Five lies were spread by unbelieving Asian Jews who aroused the Judean Jews.
· That Sha’ul taught against the people (Jews)
· That he taught against Torah
· Taught against the Temple
· Brought Goyim into the Temple
· Or defiled this Holy Place
As the Roman battalion was stationed next to the Temple, Sha’ul was rescued from being killed by Roman soldiers. What we see in all of this is that are people who have an agenda and to whom proof means nothing. Be they someone who will not believe scriptural proofs that condemn their lifestyle or belief system or someone who politically will not accept truth when it opposes their own agenda.
The Haftarah Connection:
In this Parasha we read the laws of a Nazir. In the Haftarah, we read the story of a Nazir call Shimshon (Samson). We see that when he keeps the Nazirite laws, he is able to defeat the entire nation’s enemies, but when he breaks the laws, he succumbs to his enemies. Explore this scripture the laws of the Nazarite , and the three elements of taking a Nazarite vow to explain why he lost his strength. Furthermore, how and why did he get it back in the final episode of his life?
Look it up!
1. What are the three elements of taking a Nazirite vow?
2. Why does the topic of Nazir (one who take a Nazirite vow) come right after Sota (jealousy offering)? Are wine and immortal sin somehow connected?
3. When a Nazir finishes his Nazarite vow, he has to bring a sin offering. Why? Is taking the Nazarite vows somehow considered a sin?
Rabbi Tamah Davis-Hart