Shabbot Shalom All,Welcome to this week’s Torah / Bible study section titled “Nasso” (meaning Lift Up or Elevate). Numbers 4:21 – 7:89, Judges 13:2-5, Ephesians 1:1–23. “The LORD spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Take a census of the sons of Gershon also, by their fathers' houses and by their clans.’” (Numbers 4:21–22). Last week, in section Bamidbar, a census was taken of the Israelite men of draftable age. The Levites, who were given the duty to serve in the Sanctuary in the place of Israel’s firstborn, were excluded. The title of this week’s Torah section, Naso, means lift up or elevate. It was the term used to take a head count (census) of the children of Israel. In the Hebrew it reads, “Lift up the heads” (נָשֹׂא אֶת רֹאשׁ — naso et rosh). This week, the headcount of the Israelites is completed with a census of the Levites who are between the ages of 30 and 50. They are to do the work of transporting the Mishkan (Tabernacle). Besides discussing the duties of the Levites, this Scripture portion also provides the law of the nazir, or Nazirite, and the Aaronic Benediction (Birkat Kohanim — ברכת כהנים), more commonly known as the Priestly Blessing. THE PRIESTLY BLESSING. The LORD bless you, and keep you; the LORD make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace. Numbers 6 closes with the immortal words of the priestly blessing, a commandment for the sons of Aaron to bless Israel. To this day, the sons of Aaron lift their hands over the worshipers in the synagogue service while they utter the words, (I have added the name of God, Yahweh instead of the Lord or Adonai) “Yahweh bless you, and keep you; Yahweh make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; Yahweh lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). The three lines of the priestly benediction each invoke a different aspect of God’s blessing. The first requests God to bless and keep us. Messiah “has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Messiah” (Ephesians 1:3). Through Messiah, the blessing of Abraham has come upon the Gentiles, and we all experience “the fullness of the blessing of Messiah” (Romans 15:29). Through Yahshua, God is “able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory” (Jude 24-25). The second verse of the blessing says, “Yahweh make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you” (Numbers 6:25). The shining of Yahweh’s face represents His attention and pleasure. His graciousness is the expression of His grace. The gift of God’s grace comes through “the redemption which is in Messiah Yahshua” (Romans 3:24). “We believe that we are saved through the grace of the Master Yahshua” (Acts 15:11), which God “freely bestowed on us in the Beloved…according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us” (Ephesians 1:6-8). That grace / mercy being given through faith (Eph 2:8) to those who love Him and keep His commandments (Ex 20:6). The third verse of the blessing says, “YHWH lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace” (Numbers 6:26). The lifting up of YHWH’S countenance upon a person implies the smile of God. Messiah fulfills the request for peace: “We have peace with God through Yashua the Messiah” (Romans 5:1). He told His disciples, “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). “Let the peace of the Messiah rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15), and “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in the Messiah Yahshua” (Philippians 4:7). This peace will cover the whole earth in the Messianic Era: “There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore” (Isaiah 9:7). The blessings by the priests were blessings of God via the priests. God said, “So they shall put My name on the children of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27). Not only did God place His name on the hands of the Kohanim, He also engraved the names of the children of Israel on the palms of His hands (Isaiah 49:16). The Difference Between Prayers and Blessings. "The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective" (James 5:16). The rabbis make a distinction between blessing and prayer. The blessing of a tzadik (righteous man) imparts to us whatever God has intended for our life. For example, when Jacob blessed his grandchildren, Menasheh and Ephraim, Jacob crossed his hands to give the greater blessing to Ephraim rather than Menasheh. This was not his personal decision; he was being guided by God to give the blessing He intended for these particular tribes. Prayer, however, can also change circumstances for the better. It can cause a sick person to recover, a single person to find their bashert (chosen match), and a person plagued by poverty to have their needs met. The Birkat Kohanim, however, acts as both a blessing and a prayer. The Kohanim bless us with God’s peace, protection, favour, and grace; but as a prayer, it can also change our circumstances for the better. The Nazirite Vow. “When a man or a woman utters a Nazirite vow... he shall abstain from new and old wine... grape-beverages, grapes and raisins ...” (Numbers 6:2–3). Samson was a Nazarite in Judges 13. A man or woman who vows to abstain from cutting their hair, touching a corpse, and eating grapes and grape products, including drinking wine, is called a Nazirite, or Nazir (נָזִיר) in Hebrew. The word comes from the root NZR (נזר), which means to dedicate or separate oneself (as in keeping oneself separate from grapes and wine). Another word from the same root is nezer (נֵזֶר), which means crown, consecration, and separation. We can see the intersection of these ideas in Numbers 6:7–8, which discusses the Nazir. It reads, “They must not make themselves ceremonially unclean … because the symbol of their dedication [crown (nezer—נֵזֶר)] to God is on their head. Throughout the period of their dedication [nezer], they are consecrated [kadosh / holy] to the LORD” (Numbers 6:7–8). Through this vow, the layman’s status was raised to something approaching the status of priest. This level of sanctity is seen in that, like the High Priest, the Nazirite could not contaminate him or herself by coming into contact with a corpse, even one of an immediate family member. As well, the Nazirite abstains from intoxicants more stringently than the priests, who abstain only during their term in the Sanctuary. Moreover, the focus of sanctity for both the Nazirite and High Priest is their head (compare Numbers 6:7 to Exodus 29:7 and Leviticus 21:10). Although most people are not to stay separate or aloof from society but, rather, to bring holiness into the world in which we live, Nazirites are allowed to do so. Amos underlines the holiness of the Nazirites, connecting them to prophets: “I set up prophets from your sons and Nazirites from your young men" (Amos 2:11). Confession and Repentance. Confession is the essential part of repentance; and the more one confesses, the more praiseworthy he is. The Torah (God’s instructions) commands us to confess our sins and repent from them. Sin is transgression of the Torah’s commandments (1st John 3:4). When we sin, we are not to remain in the sin, nor are we to passively accept the fact that we are sinners (of the devil 1John 3:8). Yahshua commands us to strive against sin. We must humble ourselves to confess the sin and then turn away from it. Luk 13:5 ... except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Even the smallest sin should be confessed. Confession should be made privately, but audibly, directly to God. King David says, “I acknowledged my sin to You, and my iniquity I did not hide; I said, ‘I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh; and You forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah’” (Psalm 32:5). John the beloved disciple says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). A sinner should turn back from his sin, and should confess his misdeed before God as Scripture says, “When a man or woman commits any of the sins of mankind, acting unfaithfully against YHWH, and that person is guilty, then he shall confess his sins which he has committed” (Numbers 5:6-7). This means an admittance of the transgression in words before the blessed God. He is to say from the depths of his heart, “I beseech You HaShem: I have sinned, done wrong, and acted criminally before You. This-and this I did (and he is to describe the sin in detail); and here I have regretted my deed and become ashamed of it. Never will I go back and do this thing again.” The main element is remorse in the heart, in truth, over the past; and one must take it upon himself not to do such a thing ever again. Confession is the essential part of repentance; and the more one confesses, the more praiseworthy they are. The Torah links confession and repentance together: “He shall confess his sins which he has committed and repent.” Confession is the first step toward repentance. When John the Immerser called Israel to immerse as a sign of repentance, they came to be “baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins” (Mark 1:5). Yahshua’s gospel message of the kingdom came with an imperative to repent. Most of Yahshua’s teachings illustrate repentance. The first step of obedience to Yahshua requires a confession and renunciation of sin. The life of discipleship requires daily confession and repentance. Confession should be made audibly in prayer to God, but it need not be made in front of others or to another person. It does not require an intermediary. In Judaism, penitents need not confess their sins to priests or rabbis. Some people use James 5:16 thinking they should confess their sins to another human. The correct wording is to confess our faults, not sins. Fault in error to each other. Sins are solely for confession to God as only He can grant forgiveness. They is no commandment or example in the bible of sins being confessed to another human. Confession, Repentance, Restitution. It's never easy to apologize, but the Torah requires us to confess our sins and then make restitution when we have wronged another. When we sin against another person, causing them some loss, we must confess the sin, but we must also prove our repentance by making restitution. In most cases our restitution should include a sincere confession and apology to the individual we have wronged. A person must seek his neighbour’s forgiveness before seeking God’s. 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. 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 (Numbers 5:7–8). In some cases, the victim has suffered no injury and remains unaware of the offense committed against him or her. In such a case, the person might be unnecessarily hurt to hear one’s confession. It may be best to spare the person the injury that would be incurred by the confession and apology. For example, a husband probably should not say to his wife, “I apologize for gazing on other women whom I find more attractive than you.” Sometimes the desire to confess a sin to a person who does not know about the sin stems from a selfish desire to relieve one’s own feelings of guilt. The confessor is unconcerned with how the apology will emotionally damage the victim. In such situations, a person should employ common sense and a little empathy before offering an apology. In most cases, however, the clear and certain thing to do is to seek out the person you have wronged and apologize. Along with the apology comes restitution. In matters involving financial loss, the Torah prescribes a minimum of full repayment plus one-fifth the value. If the sin also involved a matter of sacrilege, such as swearing falsely, the sinner must also bring “the ram of atonement” as a guilt offering to the Sanctuary. If one’s victim has died or is no longer available, one must still pay the restitution. The restitution should be made to the victim’s next of kin according to the order of blood redemption outlined in Leviticus 25:25–31, i.e., brother, uncle, cousin. The Torah says that the restitution must be given to the man’s kinsman kinsman-redeemer: “But if the man has no redeemer to whom restitution may be made for the wrong, the restitution which is made for the wrong must go to YHWH for the priest” (Numbers 5:8). Jealous Husband (Numbers 5:11). The husband of a woman suspected of adultery is to bring her to the priest and Tabernacle. The priest officiating the ritual prepares a cocktail of water and dust from the Tabernacle floor. He makes the woman swear an oath that will bring an imprecation upon herself if she is guilty. Then the priest wrote out the words of the oath on a scroll, washed the ink from the scroll into the water and gave the water to the woman. The priest shall then write these curses on a scroll, and he shall wash them off into the water of bitterness (Numbers 5:23). The woman drank the water, symbolizing the ingesting of the curse to prove her guilt or innocence. If she was guilty, the water would harm her. If she was innocent, the water would have no malignant effect on her. Instead, it would increase her fertility. The procedure raises a difficulty, though. Ordinarily in Judaism it is forbidden to erase God's holy Name. For example, when a scribe is copying the Scriptures in Hebrew, he can erase any mistake he makes unless it contains God's Name. If he errs while writing a line of text with God's Name in it, he can erase the rest of the line, but not the Name of God. For this reason, observant Jews do not write the Name of God in Hebrew on a chalkboard or white board that might be erased. Documents containing the written Hebrew Name of God take on a more precious status. They are not carelessly dropped or destroyed or irreverently tossed in the garbage. Holy books containing God's Name are not even left face down on a table or placed beneath other, less sacred books. Holy books are never taken into bathrooms. Even photocopies containing God's Name take on a holy status. When a scroll or book or piece of paper containing God's Name is ready for disposal, the item is accorded a proper "burial" of sorts in a repository for sacred writings. These traditions teach us to respect and revere God's Name. Given the respect accorded to God's Name and the strong tradition against erasing God's Name, why does the Torah command the priest to erase the curse from the scroll into the water? God's holy Name appears twice in the curse. The sages teach that God is so concerned for peace between a husband and wife that He is even willing for His own Name to be erased to bring it about (Sifre 17). In Judaism, peace between husband and wife is referred to as shalom bayit (שלום בית), a term that literally means "peace of the house." Peace between a husband and wife takes precedence even over the sanctity of God's Name. If that is the case, we need to be careful about allowing religion to disrupt marriage. God is more interested in the success of your marriage than He is in your particular religious choices. He is so committed to the sanctity of marriage that He is even willing for his Name to be erased to preserve peace in the home. How much more should we make every effort to bring peace into our homes. [I strongly recommend studying the articles titled “Biblical Marriage” parts one and two on www.forwardtoyahweh.com. If not already uploaded then check back later]. Ephesians 1:1-23 (Some verse to note). Eph 1:1 Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: [2 groups. Saints being Hebrew stock of Israel and faithful being gentiles]. Eph 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Eph 1:13 In whom you also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, [promise not saved]. Eph 1:20 Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, Eph 1:21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: Eph 1:22 And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, Eph 1:23 Which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all. Shalom.