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Parashat Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

“So, too, any gift among the sacred donations that the Israelites offer shall be the priest’s.” (Num. 5:9)


Parashat Naso (Hebrew for “lift up”) is the longest parasha (portion) in the Torah with 176 verses.  It covers a lot of territory:  the responsibilities of the Levite clans for transporting the mishkan (sanctuary), maintaining the purity of the camp, the ordeal of the sota, the suspected adulteress, the Nazirite, the priestly blessing, and the gifts of the tribal chieftains.  It closes with a verse whose meaning and power derives from some unusual grammar.


“When Moses went into the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, he would hear the Voice addressing him from above the cover that was on top of the ark…”  (Num. 7:89)  There is nothing unusual about God talking to Moses; it happens throughout the Torah.  However, in this verse, DBR, the Hebrew root for “talk” appears in two different forms.  The first is the active form (m’daber; I speak to you), which is how it usually occurs.  The second, however, is the reflexive form (midaber; I speak to myself), which occurs in only one other story in the Bible, that of Elijah.  Rashi (an acronym for Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki, the pre-eminent 11th century Jewish commentator) explains: Moses hears God’s internal dialogue in the Holy of Holies.  Because of his intimacy with God, Moses can “tune” in to God and “hear” God speaking, even before God speaks to him!   Finally, the verse (and the parasha) concludes by using DBR a third time:  “…thus God spoke to him.” (Num. 7:89)


This small point of grammar (literally; the meaning is marked by a chirik, a single dot) presents the radical idea that God speaks to us through our own awareness of the Divine.  Rashi is the first to formulate the idea that for God to speak to me, I must first perceive God.


Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

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