The virtual Kehilla of Orthodox Jewry of Greater Montreal

Take a census of the sons of Gershon


(4:21-22) Vayidabaer Hashem el Moishe Leimor. Naso es Rosh Benei Gershon-Hashem told Moishe Take a census of the sons of Gershon.

It seems strange that this weeks parsha should begin with the oldest son of the tribe of Levi. In last weeks parsha the Torah began describing the duties of the Leviim by listing the sons of Kehas, the second of the tribe of Levi who had the most coveted job of carrying the holiest vessels of the Mishkon. The parsha then ends and we find the narrative continues in this weeks parsha with the duties of Gershon? Why was it necessary to separate the listing with a new parsha? We know that Parshas Nasso is usually read on the Shabbos following Shevuos. Since the Festivals are related to the Torah portions in whose time they fall, there must be an allusion to the special qualities of this Shabbos. What is special about this Shabbos?

   Before the Torah was given there was a rift in the universe. From the time Adom ate from the Eitz Hadas there was a separation between Hashem and the physical world. It was impossible for the spiritual to exist in the physical. When the Torah was given there was a tremendous shaking in the physical world. Reports of earthquakes, volcano eruptions and floods are recorded by many different cultures and civilizations. The giving of the infinite Torah to the finite world was an unnatural phenomenon. But through this giving there was a mend in the cosmos. Heaven and earth could now be united. Thus the Mitzvos performed before Matan Torah lacked the quality of the mitzvos performed after Matan Torah. Since all past events are reawakened at the time of year during which they first occurred, we understand that the Shabbos following Shevuos is an echo of the first Shabbos following the giving of the Torah.

   The duties of the sons of Kehas were connected to the highest forms of Keddusha. Therefore their function could exist in a world before the Torah was given. Only after the healing accomplished through Matan Torah could there be the duties of Gershon. The physical parts of the Mishkon now could be connected to the spiritual essence.

   The Gemarrah in Brochos says it is greater to do a Mitzvah when commanded than when not commanded. Why is this so? We would think it would be greater to do something when not forced to, when it comes from our own initiative. But doing a mitzvah affects the entire universe. This can only be done when acting as an agent of Hashem. When Hashem commands us to do a Mitzvah he is in essence making us an agent to perform his will thus empowering us to change the physical world. Matan Torah is the time we became empowered as Hashems agents to affect our world through His mitzvos.

   The name of each parsha exemplifies its essence. Nasso means to uplift but it also is connected to the word for prince. The bulk of this parsha deals with the donations that were given by the princes of each tribe after Matan Torah. They each brought the same exact gift but for different reasons. They each looked at the world from a slightly different perspective. In so doing they elevated another aspect of the physical world.

   The Zohar writes that the name Yisroelis an acronym for Yesh Shishim Rebo Osios LTorah-There are Six Hundred Thousand Letters in the Torah. We know there are 600,000 core Neshamas to Klal Yisroel, which was also the total number of Jews counted in last weeks parsha. It therefore comes out that every Jewish soul has a corresponding letter in the Torah. The question however is what about the 22,000 Leviim? They were not included in the counting of the other tribes. Perhaps according to R.Zev Leff we can say the following. Every Torah scroll must have lines drawn in order to allow the writing of the letters to be uniform. The letters much touch the line at the top. There are no more than 30 letters permitted to a line but when counting spaces and paragraphs the average line contains 27 letters. If we divide the 600,000 letters in the Torah by 27 we come up with 22,000 as the

amount of lines in the Torah. This is what the tribe of Levi represents. They are the ones we must look up to and who keep Yisroel in line.

   (4:32) UVsheimos Tifkidu es Klei Mishmeres Mosom-By name you shall appoint the safeguarding of their load.What does appointment by name mean? The Shelah writes that the carrying of these vessels were extremely difficult. They were made of heavy materials. Investing them with Holy Names served like a soul to a body, and just like a live being carries itself, and his weight is lightened, so too these Holy items had an inner spirit which made them lighter.

(6:2) Rashi writes that the reason the Parsha of Nazir was written next to the parsha of Sotah is thatwhoever sees a Sotah in her disgrace should take the vow of Nezirus. The question is why? If he witnesses such a traumatic sight it should cause him to feel distanced from sinning? The answer could be that a person does not see things randomly. If he happened to be in that place at that time, there is a reason he was there to witness it. That is why he needs to take the vow of Nezirus. There must be something he needs to correct in his life and the sight he witnessed is a message to him.

(6:5) "תאר לא יאבר אל ראשו - No blade shall pass over his head" A Nazir must not shave his hair. Hair evokes mans resemblance to Hashem. It represents mans crowning glory of appearance. What makes hair symbolize strength?

   R.Bachya writes that the Nazir is on a spiritually higher level than the high priest. The high priests dominating attribute is that of Chesed whereas the predominant attribute of the Nazir is Binah, which is ranked higher than Chesed. The word Nazir is a reference to the crown, which is worn by the high priest. This is the meaning of the words "the crown of his God is on his head". The reason he must not drink wine or become ritually Impure is to keep his distance from forces which are beholden to the left side of the emanations, the part which is perceived as representing spiritually negative influences. On the other hand, he is warned not to shave his hair because hair represents strength as we know from Sampson. Hair grows incessantly and continues to grow even after death if the corpse is in a moist environment. Each single hair is a symbol of the far-flung activities of Hashem, activities which deal with minute details, just as every single hair seems by itself insignificant. Hairs represent a continuous development in all directions of the globe. As a reminder of this concept of G-d the "All-Present", the Nazir iscommanded to give the hair full and unrestrained opportunity to keep growing. The Nazir is cautioned not to destroy any part of his hair by means of a razor. It is similar to separating a sapling from its roots. Once separated it loses its nourishment and strength.

(6:7) "Laviv ULemo Lachiv ULachoso Lo Yitamu-To his father or his mother, to his brother or to his sister he shall not contaminate himself.We have learned in Vayikra (21:2) that a Kohen, who is also holy, is permitted to contaminate himself for close relatives while the nazzir is not? The Shem Meshmuelwrites that a Kohen receives his kiddusha from his family, from his father. While the nazzir attains his Kiddusha on his own, with no connection to his family. Therefore, the Kohen, whose Kiddusha is derived from his family may participate in the funeral of a family member.

   The Kohen Gadol is not permitted to attend the funeral of family members. Although he is a Kohen from his family, he is Kohen Gadol due to is own merits. (Shem Meshmuel)

   The parsha lists each of the princes gifts to the dedication of the Mishkon. Twelve times the same gifts are repeated. Why this repetition? The Torah wanted to show how each tribe was valued equally. That had only the first offering been described the importance of the others would have been belittled.

   Also the repetition teaches that although the donations were identical, the thoughts behind each of them differed. Each Nassi with Ruach Hakodeshchose gifts and measurements that symbolized the traits and history of his own tribe. Thats why each is listed individually because although externally they were the same the reflections behind them differed.

   (6::23) כה תברכו את בני ישראל אמור להם״-So shall you bless the Children of Israel say to them." The word "אמור" is spelled full with the extra "Vav".

Three reasons are given.

1- "Vav" equals six representing the six blessings found in the priestly blessings.

2- The word אמורequals 247 the same as זמר meaning song, the blessings must be sung.

3- The word אמור including the word equals 248 all of the bodily limbs are blessed.

     (7:1) Vayehe Bayom Kalos Moshe Lhokim es HaMishkon-And it was the day Moshe finished erecting the MishkonThe Torah always uses this as an expression of pain. The completion of the Mishkon should have been the most joyous of days? The Zohar writes that the pain here was that the Shechina was now leaving its heavenly abode.

   (7:2) Vayakrivu Nesiai YisroelHaim Nesiai Mattos-They drew near the princes of Yisroel..They were the heads of their tribes.Rashi explains that these were the officers over them in Egypt and were smitten because of them. Because these princes took a beating for their brethren, Hashem repaid them now by appointing them as princes over Yisroel. This is the meaning of Nesiai Mattoswhich can be read as princes of the rod.

   (7:12) Vayehe Hmakiriv Bayom HRishon ..Nachshon ben Aminodov- And it was the one who brought his offering on the first day, Nachshon ben Aminadav.Again we find this term of pain regarding the first dedication of the Mishkon? However on the day that the Mishkon was dedicated we know that Ahrons two sons died. Despite that terrible tragedy the dedications had to take place. Nachshon was chosen because of his display of self sacrifice at the splitting of the Red Sea they knew he would have the proper intention even though his sister was Elisheva, the wife of Aharon and the mother of Nadav and Avihu.

(7:18) Byom Hasheni Hikriv Nesanel ben Tzuor- On the second day Nesanel the son of Tzuor brought. The word Hikrivis not found by the other tribes. Rashi elaborates on the significance of the donations given here. The question is why did he choose to comment on the second day and not comment on the first day? The answer is because the prince of the tribe of Yissacher, Nesanel, was the one who suggested that each prince make a donation. This is the meaning of the word Hikrivin this context. It was he who brought. Very often we find that the second person that gives tries to outdo the first by giving a little more. This could have escalated with each tribe. But Nesanel gave exactly the same as the first prince thereby preventing any possible escalation. Even though it could have been perceived as humiliating to give the exact same donation, he still took that upon himself. That is why the word Hikrivis spelled without the letter Vav.

(7:19)   Karas KasefRashi says the numerical value of this gift was 930, the same as the number of years Adam lived. What significance does this have to the Mishkon? Also it says the weight of the silver was 130 shekalim, equal to the number of years that Adam separated from Chava. What is the relationship to the Mishkon?

   The Maharal says that the Mishkon was a microcosm of the perfect world. Everything that was in the creation of the world was in the creation of the Mishkon. Adam was represented by a bowl (ke'ara) because he was the mainstay (ikar) of mankind. He included all of the neshamas of future generations. Its weight was 130 shekalem to symbolize that Adam was 130 years old when his successor Shais was born, who became the founder of mankind.

   Each of the princes gave their particular gift for a different reason, yet each gift was exactly the same. Each prince had something in their tribe, which they wanted represented in their gift. Even the names of the nesium had significance. Nachshon ben AminadavThe name Nachshon comes from the word nachshol(wave) this signifies that when Benei Yisroel reached the shore of the yam suf, this nassi was the first to obey Hashem's command to go further. He leaped into the waves of the sea. The gift of the basin weighed 70 shekel to indicate that Shlomo and Moshiach, who both come from his tribe, would rule over 70 nations. The tribe of Dan had Shimshon come from that tribe. In the parsha of Nazir there are 130 words. Thats why they gave the silver plate weighing 130 shekalim. Each tribe had their own independent connection to the donations given.

   The Gemarrah in Sotah says that the proximity of the parsha of Sotah with the parsha of Nazir comes to teach us that if someone would see a Sotah it would compel him to declare himself a Nazir. The Ibin Ezra writes that the parsha of Nazir is next to the parsha of Birchas Kohanim to teach us that they both have Kiddusha. The Abarbanel takes this one step further by saying that it teaches us that even a simple Jew can attain the highest levels of Yidishkeit without having to be born into it like a Kohen. We can see another similarity between a Kohen and a Nazir. It says that the nazir must bring a korban after having been contaminated by coming in contact with a corpse. One of the reasons is because being on such an elevated state should have protected the people in his proximity from dying. We find a similar situation by a city of refuge. It says that if a person kills someone accidentally, he flees to this city to escape the wrath of the relatives of the deceased. He remains there until the current Kohen Gadol dies. This is for the same reason as the Nazir. The Kohain Gadol is responsible for the lives of his people.(Shem Meshmuel)

   At the end of the parsha it says (7:84) Zos Chanukas Hamizbeach Byom Hemoshach Oso-This was the dedication of the Altar, on the day it was anointed Then a few posukim later it says (7:88) Zos Chanukas Hamizbeach Acharei Hemoshach Oso-This was the dedication of the Altar after it was anointed. Why the repetition just four posukim later? It is very common for people to be excited when something is new. However as time passes the novelty usually wears off. The Torah is telling us that not only was there tremendous excitement on the day the altar was anointed but that even after it was anointed it did not lose its newness, but was cherished with the same awe as on the first day. (Chidushe Harim)


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(8:2) “Behaloscha es-Ha’neros-When you light the lights.”

Rashi explains the connection between this Parsha and the end of the previous one. That when Aaron saw all of the donations made by the Nesiim he felt bad that neither he nor his shevet had any part of it. This is why the Mitzvah of lighting the Menorah was directed exclusively towards him. The Ohr Hachaim asks why was it this mitzvah when there was so many others that Aharon had to perform? The Nesiim only brought their Korbaonos this one time, while Aharon and his descendants were to perform them for all time? He answers that the Mitzvah of cleaning and lighting the Menorah was even greater than bringing the Korbonos because each day it was necessary to dismantle the Menorah in order to clean it. So in effect Aharon, by reassembling the Menorah, was completing the Mishkon every day.

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Shelach Leche

(13:2) “Shelach-Send out.”

The incident concerning the spiesis the forbearer of the destruction of the Beis Hamikdosh. The numerical value of the word Shelach is equal to 338. Not coincidently the year of the destruction was 3338.

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“Zos Chukas H’Torah"

   (19:2) “Zos Chukas H’Torah-These are the statutes of the Torah.” This week’s Parsha deals with death. The ashes of the Para Adumah that purify someone who came into contact with death, the death of Miriam and Aharon and the decree of Moshe’s death are all major themes here. With this parsha the sefer Bamidbar seems to change direction. Until now we have been dealing with the generation that emerged from Egypt. But from here on, the remainder of the Chumash recounts the history of the next generation. All of the events described from here on take place in the 40th year of the midbar wanderings. The point of this transition is the mitzvah of the Para Haduma. It is called a “Chok” because the meaning behind it has eluded even the greatest of minds. Rashi says that no reason is given for these “Chukim”. Yet he does say that if the nations of the world would mock the Torah saying, look at these mitzvos that make no sense, we precede this by saying that although they are a Chok beyond our comprehension, Klal Yisroel were still willing to comply.This could be the connection to last week’s parsha. In parshas Korach we learned that Korach challenged Moshe by using his own logic. He would tear down anything he could not understand. If a room is full of Torah scrolls how can it need a mezuzah? This is why our parsha begins with “Chukim” these are laws beyond human comprehension.

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 “Vayeshev Yisroel B’Shitim-Israel settled in Shittim.”

It was here that many of the men of Israel began to sin with the daughters of Moav. It is difficult to fathom how a people growing up in the Midbar and seeing all of the miracles they must have seen, could sin with the first sight of seductive women?The Midrash Tanchuma interprets the words “Vayeshev Yisroel B’Shitim-Israel settled in Shittim.” to indicate that there was a fountain at Shittim which caused people who drank from it to develope into adulterers, just as we know there are fountains of water which cause the people who drink from it to become strong or weak physically, or to influence their character in various ways. The waters of that well were the ones the people of Sodom had been drinking which affected their behavior. Seeing that it had such spiritually negative effects on the people drinking from it Hashem caused it to stop flowing. (RabeinuBachya)

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