19 May PARASHAT NASO- RECTIFYING THE SIN OF ADAM AND CHAVA
Parashat Naso incorporates a variety of different topics which, at first glance, appear unrelated:
1) The tribe of Levi’s responsibility to tend to the needs of the Mishkan;
2) The obligation to send out of the camp people in a state of impurity, either because of their contact with a human corpse, Sara’at (a skin disorder similar to leprosy), or bodily emissions;
3) The special requirements for one who stole and then repented;
4) The Nazir, who takes a special vow to abstain from wine;
5) The Sota – the woman whose husband suspects her of infidelity;
6) Birkat Kohanim – the special blessing with which the Kohanim bless the people;
7) The dedication of the Mishkan, when the twelve Nesi’im (leaders of the tribes) brought special gifts and sacrifices.
The Ba’al Ha’turim (Rabbenu Yaakob Ben Asher, 1269-1343) explains that the connection between some of these topics is the sin of Adam and Hava in Gan Eden. The punishments for this sin, the Ba’al Ha’turim explains, included the snake’s being stricken with a form of Sara’at; the curse of mortality; and the curse of regular bodily emissions – which correspond to the three basic categories of Tum’a (impurity). The command to expel from the camp those with impurities thus represents the banishment of Adam and Hava from Gan Eden because of their sins, which is the source of these various forms of impurity. The Torah presents the instructions here for the penitent thief – just as Adam and Hava were guilty of “stealing” from G-d by eating from the forbidden tree. Moreover, the Midrash relates that the snake, in luring Hava to eat the forbidden fruit, actually engaged in a physical relationship with her, for which it was punished by losing its legs and having to slither with its stomach on the ground. This adulterous act parallels the tragedy of the Sota, who, if she was found guilty of infidelity, would die after drinking the special waters, with her stomach “falling” from her body. Finally, according to one view, the forbidden tree in Gan Eden was a vine, from which Adam produced wine. This is why the Torah here presents the law of the Nazir, who seeks to rectify the sin of Adam and Hava by abstaining from wine.
We might add that this theme runs also through the sections in Parashat Naso dealing with the Mishkan and its inauguration. The Midrash comments that G-d created the world with the intention of residing in it, together with mankind. Indeed, G-d was present in Gan Eden, together with Adam and Hava. As a result of their sin, however, He withdrew His presence, and resided in the heavens. The Mishkan was the vehicle through which G-d’s presence would be restored to the world. The root of the word “Mishkan” – “Sh.K.N.” – means “reside,” and this was precisely the purpose of the Mishkan – and, later, of the Bet Ha’mikdash: to serve as the place where G-d would once again reside in our world.
The Midrash goes so far as to say that on the day of the Mishkan’s dedication, when the first of the twelve Nesi’im brought his offering, G-d said, “On this day, the world was created.” This marked the world’s “re-creation” because it marked the time when G-d took residence in our world, just as He did at the time of the world’s creation, before withdrawing as a result of Adam and Hava’s sin.
And thus the story of the Mishkan’s dedication, too, revolves around the theme of the rectification of Adam and Hava’s sin, as it marked the return of G-d’s presence which had left our world because of this sin.
This also explains the relevance of Birkat Kohanim in this context. Naturally, G-d’s presence among us brings us great blessings, resembling the blessings enjoyed by Adam and Hava in Gan Eden before their sin, and these are the blessings wished upon us by the Kohanim.
This might also be the reason why Parashat Naso – the longest of the Parashiyot in the Torah – has 176 verses. The Kab Ha’yashar (by Rav Tzvi Hirsch Kaidanover, 1648–1712) cites a Kabbalistic teaching that Esav’s grandson, Suf (Bereshit 36:11), was “the first ‘Kelipa’ [force of impurity] among the seventy nations.” The descendants of Suf, according to this tradition, represent the very worst and most severe form of spiritual contamination. The force represented by Sefo, the Kab Ha’yasher writes, was generated by the sin of Adam and Hava. Some have noted that the Gematria of the name “Sefo” is 176 – the number of verses in the longest Parasha in the Torah, Parashat Naso, as well as the number of verses in the longest chapter of Tehillim (119). It is also the number of pages in the longest Masechet of Talmud (Baba Batra). We combat this destructive force of impurity through our intensive engagement in Torah study – an intensity embodied by the longest Parasha, the longest chapter of Tehillim, and the longest tractate.
In light of what we have seen, the connection between Parashat Naso and Sefo assumes even greater significance. This Parasha, as we explained, revolves around the theme of the rectification of Adam and Hava’s sin – which is what resulted in the destructive force of Sefo, which we must continue to struggle against to this day.
May the merit of our Torah study render us worthy of experiencing the ultimate perfection of the world and the restoration of G-d’s presence in the rebuilt Bet Ha’mikdash, speedily and in our times, Amen.