Parashat Naso, Repentance, Confession, and the Forgiveness of sins


This week’s reading is from Parashat Naso (Bamidbar / Numbers 4:21-7:89) the Lord speaks to Moshe telling him to number the sons of Gershon and the fathers of their household by their families (כב   נָשֹא אֶת-רֹאשׁ בְּנֵי גֵרְשׁוֹן גַּם-הֵם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם:).  It is interesting that the title of this week’s Parashah and the command to number the people is described by this Hebrew word נָשֹא which comes from the root word לשאת meaning to carry, lift, bear, endure, or suffer” but is translated as “number” the people.  According to these Scriptures, numbering the people is connected to lifting, bearing, enduring, and suffering.  Moshe obeys the Lord and numbers the Gershonites (הַגֵּרְשֻׁנִּי) and details the duties of the sons of Levi in their work in carrying the Mishkhan (Tabernacle) in its construction and deconstruction (4:21-49).  The Lord then tells Moshe to command the people to send away the person who is unclean, the one with Tzaraat (Leper) and every person having a discharge of the skin (5:1-4) everyone who is unclean so the camp is not defiled.  The Lord commands when a person sins he is to make restitution by confessing their sin and then adding one-fifth to the wrong and giving it to the person that he has wronged.  In Bamidbar / Numbers 5:6-8 it says ו   דַּבֵּר אֶל-בְּנֵי יִשְֹרָאֵל אִישׁ אוֹ-אִשָּׁה כִּי יַעֲשֹוּ מִכָּל-חַטֹּאת הָאָדָם לִמְעֹל מַעַל בַּיהוָֹה וְאָשְׁמָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא: ז   וְהִתְוַדּוּ אֶת-חַטָּאתָם אֲשֶׁר עָשֹוּ וְהֵשִׁיב אֶת-אֲשָׁמוֹ בְּרֹאשׁוֹ וַחֲמִישִׁתוֹ יֹסֵף עָלָיו וְנָתַן לַאֲשֶׁר אָשַׁם לוֹ: ח   וְאִם-אֵין לָאִישׁ גֹּאֵל לְהָשִׁיב הָאָשָׁם אֵלָיו הָאָשָׁם הַמּוּשָׁב לַיהוָֹה לַכֹּהֵן מִלְּבַד אֵיל הַכִּפֻּרִים אֲשֶׁר יְכַפֶּר-בּוֹ עָלָיו: 5:6 ‘Speak to the sons of Israel, ‘When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against the Lord, and that person is guilty, 5:7 then he shall confess his sins which he has committed, and he shall make restitution in full for his wrong and add to it one-fifth of it, and give it to him whom he has wronged.  5:8 ‘But if the man has no relative to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong must go to the Lord for the priest, besides the ram of atonement, by which atonement is made for him. (NASB)  It is interesting here it says that if a man sins against another man, the man has also sinned against God (מִכָּל-חַטֹּאת הָאָדָם לִמְעֹל מַעַל בַּיהוָֹה וְאָשְׁמָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא:).  The scriptures then describe what to do if a man’s wife is unfaithful, how to test her faithfulness before the Lord (5:12).  The unfaithfuil wife is brought to the temple, and if she has not defiled herself, a grain offering is made of one-tenth of an ephah of barley meal (5:13-15).  However, no oil or frankincense is to be put on the grain because it is an offering of jealousy (טו   וְהֵבִיא הָאִישׁ אֶת-אִשְׁתּוֹ אֶל-הַכֹּהֵן וְהֵבִיא אֶת-קָרְבָּנָהּ עָלֶיהָ עֲשִֹירִת הָאֵיפָה קֶמַח שְֹעֹרִים לֹא-יִצֹק עָלָיו שֶׁמֶן וְלֹא-יִתֵּן עָלָיו לְבֹנָה כִּי-מִנְחַת קְנָאֹת הוּא מִנְחַת זִכָּרוֹן מַזְכֶּרֶת עָוֹן:).  The Cohen then has the woman stand before the Lord, takes holy water (מַיִם קְדֹשִׁים) and places dust from the floor of the Mishkhan into the water (5:17), places the grain offering of jealousy in her hands and makes her take an oath before God concerning her unfaithfulness.  The Cohen then writes the oath of the curse on a scroll and washes off the ink from the scroll into the water, and causes the woman to drink the water (5:19-26).  If the woman has defiled herself in unfaithfulness, the waters will make her barren unable to have children, if she was faithful then she will be able to bear children (5:27-29).  The Scriptures continue in Bamidbar / Numbers 6 detailing the requirements of one who makes the vow of a Nazarite he or she is (i) not to drink wine, vinegar, strong drink or anything from the fruit of the vine, (ii) not to shave the head, and (iii) not to touch any dead thing (6:1-21).  Following the Nazarite vow, the Lord tells Moshe to have Aharon bless the people with the Aharonic blessing (6:22-26).  Moshe then constructs the Mishkhan and consecrates the Mishkhan (7:1-11).  Each tribe is to participate in the dedication of the Mishkhan; they are to present a silver dish weighing one hundred and thirty shekels, a silver bowl of seventy shekels, and a grain offering.  One gold pan of ten shekels full of incense, one bull, one ram, one male lamb for an Olah Korban (לְעֹלָה, Burnt Offering), one male goat for a Khatat Korban (לְחַטָּאת, Sin Offering) and for the Shelamim Korban (הַשְּׁלָמִים, Peace Offering) two oxen, five rams, five male goats, five male lambs (7:10-17).  This dedication repeated twelve times, one per day for each of the tribes of Yisrael totaling twelve days.  This week’s Parashah ends detailing the total number of animals offered as sacrifices for the dedication of the altar of God. Read more here.