5/31/2012

Shabbat Naso

Begins Friday 1st June at 8pm

Ends 2nd at 9pm

This week’s reading continues the theme of the first three weeks of the Book of Bamidbar. Everything is being prepared for the invasion of the Land of Israel. The tribes are counted and given their positions. The leadership is primed, the flags are raised and they are getting ready to march. But as we know, it all ends in anti-climax and they are forced back into the desert for another generation.

And in the middle of it all come two laws that seem out of place. The Nazirite is someone who chooses to be extra religious and take upon himself something more than is commanded. After the period he designates for his special sanctity, he has to atone. What for? For thinking that being extra necessarily is better. Sometimes doing the basic things well is better than trying to do too much or be super-religious.

The second case concerns someone who tries to skirt the law by doing something wrong but claiming innocence. That is the other extreme. Pretending to be good and honest when you aren’t.

The message the Torah is giving us that what undermined the morale of the Israelites was either the false assumption that being holier necessarily meant being better. And on the other hand thinking that you can get away with things, undermines the point of having a moral code.

Although the Torah describes the grand sweeps of history and the big events, often it is the small human error and mistake of judgment that are the real causes of failure.