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Parasha No. 35
Naso: “Take the sum”

Bemidbar (Numbers) 4, 21-7, 89

The stages of achieving joyfulness

First part: the structure of the parasha
- the urban geography of holiness
- The duties of the Levites
- The Levites
- The sons of the Levites
- The three branches of Levites
- Their groupings
- The setting
- The marches
- The date
- Measures to safeguard the purity of the camp
- The place of the blessing
- Confirmation of the people
- Finally, THE voice

Second Part: the camp of joy in holiness
- Rabbenu Bahya's method
- The joyfulness that comes from contact with a tzaddik hakham
- Joy and the Levite
- The age of service of the Levites in music and song.



First part
the structure of the parasha

The urban geography of holiness

In parasha Bemidbar Sinai, we saw that the entire Jewish people were organized around holiness (keddusha): the Shla notes that this parasha centers around the soul of things, the neshama.
Parasha Naso centers around the level of mind ruah, and Behalotekha, the next parasha, will center around nefesh, identity.
Here, in the center of holiness, in a collective reality, the Levites form a circle between the sanctuary and the camp of benei Israel. What is the function of the Levite, that develops the level of the mind, the ruah and how?

The duties of the Levites

Parasha Bemidbar Sinai ended with a description of the role of the Levites in the camp and among the people. They belong to Hashem (velahta et haleviim li, "And the Levites shall be Mine" Bemidbar 3, 13 and 41) and serve as ransom for all the other sons of Israel (kah et haleviim tahat ko bekhor bivne Yisrael, "And thou shalt take the Levites for Me…instead of all the first-born among the children of Israel" Bemidbar 3, 45).
Their duties are detailed, family by family: first the Levites, sons of Kohath, are charged with all that relates to the tent of the meeting. Then the sons of Aaron are charged with covering the holy vessels which the sons of Kohath will carry.
Parasha Naso continues to describe the duties of the other Levite families: the sons of Gershon who will carry the hangings and coverings of the Tabernacle, and the sons of Merari who are assigned the burden of carrying the heavy parts of the sanctuary. They "carry" that which carries holiness, they carry the people, and will lift its morale and point out its faults.

Genealogy of Yaakov

His 4 wives 1. Leah 2. Zilpa 3. Rahel 4. Bilha

1. Reuven
2. Shimeon
Their children 3. LEVI 1. Gad 1. Yosef 1. Dan
1 daughter and 4. Yehuda 2. Asher 2. Binyamin 2. Naphtali
12 sons 5. Yissakhar
5. Zevulun
daughter Dinah

The sons of Levi 1. Gershon
(Bereshit 46, 2. Kohath
8-11) 3. Merari
daughter Yokhebed

The Levites

They descend from Levi, the third son of Yaakov and Leah.
Levi lived 137 years (2195-2332). He was 34 when Yitzhak died, 60 when his father Yaakov died, and 114 when Yosef died. He did not live to see the birth of Moshe, his great grandson.
References: Shemot 6, 16-18

The sons of Levi
--- Levi had three sons (read Bemidbar 3, 13-17..): Gershon, Kohath and Merari and one daughter Yokhebed who marries Amram, the son of Kohath and gives birth to Aaron, Miriam and Moshe.
--- It is Korah, a grandson of Kohath, who will rise to challenge Moshe.
--- The sons of Aaron are Nadav and Avihu who will die as they approach the sanctuary, Elazar and Itamar.

Genealogy of Levi

2nd generation
The children of Levi Gershon Yokhebed Kohath Merari

1. Amram
3rd generation Children of 2. Izar, father Maali
Grandchildren Gershon: of Korah, the Mushi
of Levi Livini rebel, his eldest
Shime son.
3. Hevron
4. Uziel

Children of
Yokhebed and
4th generation Amram: Korah
1. Aaron
2. Miriam
3. Moshe

Children of Tzipora
and Moshe
Nadav, Avihu,
Elazar (father of Pinhas),
5th generation
Children of Tzipora
and Moshe:


The three branches
Thus among the Levites are all the descendants of Gershon, Kohath and Merari. They number 22,000 (read Rashi on Bemidbar 3, 39).

Their groupings
--- the descendants of Gershon: 7500 (read Bemidbar 3, 21-23).
--- the descendants of Kohath: 8600 (read Bemidbar 3, 27-29).
--- the descendants of Merari: 6200 (read Bemidbar 3, 33-35).
--- 300 firstborn (read Rashi on Bemidbar 3, 39).
We can see that the Levites form a total of 22300. When Moshe takes the census of the firstborn of the people, they form practically the same number (22273: read Bemidbar 3, 42-43). The meaning of what is written in Bemidbar becomes clearer: those who symbolize holiness are a minority among the people of Israel, just as Israel is a minority among the nations of the world.
For an understanding of what it means to be a moral minority, read chapter 9 of the book of Isaiah where the prophet laments his isolation. Our complaints are minute compared to these problems.

The setting
In Bemidbar 33, 1-15 we learn that we are at the 12th stage since the exodus from Egypt.
If I were asked why I include all these details as though they are of great importance, I would answer that we love every detail about those we love and tradition tells us too that were all among the 600,000 nefashot who came out of Egypt and stood at Sinai. Rashi says: "why are these journeys described? in order to make known (hodia, the name of this site) the goodness of God (lama nikhtevu hamaseot halelu lehodia hasadav shel makom).

The marches of the wandering Jew
First series:
Those who continue to suffer after having come out of a catastrophe or form of slavery, should remember that there were 12 stages in the long progression from Egypt to Sinai:
Ramses, Succot, Etam, Pi-haritot, Mara, Elim, the sea of reeds, the wilderness of Sin, Dophkah, Alush, Rephidim, and the wilderness of Sinai which, preceding the revelation, was just a desert. This was in the year 2448, from the exodus from Egypt to the revelation at Sinai.
Students should learn this list by heart in order to lift their spirits when they feel very far from the goals they want to achieve in life.

Second series:
Three more stages will have to be crossed in the year 2449 before the spies come back with the news that the land is good: Kivrot-hatava, Hatzerot, Ritma.

Third series
There are 19 more stages between the years 2449 and 2488 in the desert, from Rimon Perez to Mount Hor after the desert of Kaddesh.
The last 8 stages, from Zalmona to the steppes of Moav in the year 2488 takes place in the 40th year following the exodus from Egypt.
The whole process involves 42 stages.

Rashi's sense of humor, or what it means to be a Jew
Rashi demonstrates that the children of Israel had to cross 42 steps after Moav, before reaching the good land (read Bemidbar 33, 1-15 and Rashi's commentary).
Here it is:
"Lama nikhtevu hamasaot halalu, why are these stations cited?
Le hodia hasadav shel Makom, It is in order to make known the goodness of God.
Lo tomar she hayu naim umetultelim mimasa le masa, one cannot say that they erred and went round and round
She hare ein han ela arbaim u shetayim masaot, for there here no more than 42 stations !! (This is Rashi's wonderful humor) …
She kol shmone ushloshim shan lo nasu ela eserim masot, one sees that during 38 years they only crossed 20 stations" !!

What would it feel like if we had to move 20 times in 38 years, as individuals or as a group. Hashem asks such trials of those He loves the most; we should remember this.
How different is this lifestyle from that of modern consumer society: many people live their whole lives with just one goal - buying a house or retiring. This is not the Jewish model and it is natural that making aliya (to Israel) may seem a difficult prospect to those who come from a different cultural world.
Furthermore the number 42 has a lot of significance in Judaism; it refers to the 42-letter name of God which describes the force that elevates us - and whose initials make up the prayer ana vekhoah which is recited everyday during the counting of the Omer.

The date
Parasha Naso is read on the day when Moshe completed the period of 7 days of construction of the sanctuary, one year after the exodus from Egypt, in the year 2449, in the month of Nisan.
Those who are able to read Hebrew texts, should study the different analyses of Rashi and of Ramban (Nahmanides) of this date in Bemidbar 7, 1.
The important dates were:
--- the 1st of Nisan, construction of the sanctuary,
--- then, 7 days of dedication of the sanctuary,
--- then, for 12 days (the Sages say till the 12th or till the 19th day, according to their various calculations), the heads or princes of each tribe brought offerings for the ceremony (read Bemidbar ch. 7).

Measures to safeguard the purity of the camp
Before officially confirming the holy sanctuary built by the tribes, Hashem gave Moshe the measures that had to be taken to ensure the purity of the camp:
--- Bemidbar 5, 1-4: exclusion of unclean persons, the leper, one who has an issue, and one who has become polluted by contact with the dead (for holiness is life);
--- Bemidbar 5, 5-10: removal of all wrongs committed against others;
--- Bemidbar 5, 11-31: laws governing problems of marital jealousy and infidelity;
--- Bemidbar 6, 1-22: laws (Nazirite) governing the rare and dangerous cases of ascetics who impose on themselves austere modes of self-dedication.

The place of the blessing
When all the laws have been completed, the procedure for the magnificent priestly blessing by the Cohanim is then given (Bemidbar 6, 22-27).

Confirmation of the people
The heads of the tribes bring their offerings. We learn what is a true offering - that which is taken from our own possessions (read Rashi, mishelo hevi, he brought what was his, on 7, 12; ze korban Nakhshon ben Aminadav, this was the offering of Nakhson the son of Aminadav 7, 17).

A different offering is brought each day, in harmony with the creation of the world (lemaase vereshit, Rashi on 7, 12). True gifts re-create the world.

Finally, THE voice
The voice of Hashem then makes itself heard to Moshe in the intimacy of the tent, as though God were speaking to himself (Rashi on 7, 89). The parasha ends with this wonderful moment of love between the two: "And when Moshe entered the tent of meeting, that He might speak with him, then he heard the Voice speaking unto him…between the two cherubim (Mibein Shnei Hakeruvim) and He spoke unto him."
Each term carries meaning.
Remember that the initial letter for Mibein Sheni Hakeruvim (7, 89) form the name Moshe.

Many lessons can be drawn from this symphony of words: slavery, deliverance, long wanderings before reaching the levels of intimacy and happiness. This is not a concert, it is a teaching which we should apply to our own lives, on how to follow the Torah and achieve true happiness.


Second part
The camp of joy in holiness

In this context, we will now discover the duties of the Levites and that of Jews in the world.
We will base ourselves on the commentary of Rabbenu Bahya and follow his method.

Method of Rabbenu Bahya
Before each parasha, the Rav inserts a commentary which directs our approach to the whole parasha, based on one verse of Proverbs (Mishle).
He bases himself on the commentary of Rabbenu Yona on Mishle and gives it his own perspective. His aim is to link the Torah and moral conduct, musar. Rabbenu Yona ben Avraham, the Hassid of Gerondi (1200-1263) is the famous author of Shaarei Teshuva (The gates of Return) which we study mainly before Rosh Hashana, and of commentaries on Avot and on the Rif which are found in editions of Tractate Berakhot in the Talmud. He was a colleague of the Ramban and studied with the tosafists in France.
His commentary is also special because of his analysis of the text at 4 levels, that of the peshat, the drash, the sod and the kabala, which we will not go into here.

His analysis of the parasha centers on the link between joy and the Levite.
Proverbs 21, 15 says: "It is joy to the just to do judgment, but destruction shall be to the workers of iniquity" (simha ha tzadik asot mishpat, umenhita lefoalei aven). Justice here does not refer to the justice of men but to justice which ensures the order of the world and its existence.

The role of joy
Rabbenu Yona notes that there are four words in Hebrew to denote joy:
--- gil
--- rina
--- mesos
--- simha
and simha is the highest level, as is written in Provers 23, 24 (to be read). Read also what I have written on joy in relation to the Sheva Berakhot.

This joyfulness characterizes the person who is connected to the tzadik hakham, to the righteous person who is a master of Torah. This is written in Psalm 32, 11: "Be glad in Hashem and rejoice ye righteous, and shout for joy, al ye that are upright in heart" (simhu….).
It is this point which Rabbenu Bahya uses to teach us that the Levite radiates joy where he resides, in the camp of all Israel.
The master of bad actions (the tzaddik rasha) does not create joy in those he encounters. This concept of the master of Torah who is either good or bad, makes a very important moral distinction. The prophets always made this distinction. The teaching of the last week of the Omer tells us this: he who seeks glory from the Torah is bad, for the Torah teaches us that we are empty (ani, poor) until we receive life from the Torah.

The process of achieving joyfulness
--- not only does a good deed create joy (asot mishpat),
--- but the joy experienced in a mitzva is a mitzva in itself (ha simha bemaase ha mitzva, mitzva bifne atzma),
--- in the same way that a mitzva is called work (avoda) in the service of Hashem, so the joy which we put into a mitzva is an avoda for Hashem,
--- then there is the traditional concept that prayer is an avoda of the heart, in the service of the heart,
--- this link between a religious act and joy is intrinsic to what is written in Devarim 28, 47: "Because thou servedst not the Lord thy God with joyfulness and with gladness of heart for the abundance of all things, therefore shalt thy serve thy enemies which the Lord shall send against thee."
The categorical tone of this verse aims to make us understand the necessity of the link between joyfulness and religious rites, in prayer and in action, or in the mitzvot which we do unto others.
This joyfulness signifies completeness (shlemut) in our religion rites.

Joyfulness awakened
It is in order to maintain all of this at a level of joy, says Rabbenu Bahya, that the sanctuary was filled with singing and music, for these lead men towards joy.

The age when the Levite carried out his musical duties
It is for this reason too that the Levite only carried out his collective duty from the age of 30-50, for this is the age when the voice is strongest and best put in the service of song and joy, as is written at the end of chapter 5 of Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers); see also Tractate, Hulin page 24 a.

The role of the Levites is therefore essential in creating joyfulness. We too, as Jews, have the role of bringing the joy of Torah to the world. Torah must not be taught with sadness or constriction, for this is not joyful or enlightening.
I am surprised that in Israel, the role of the Levites has not been revived. Many institutions devote themselves to research on the Temple and on the role of the Cohanim, and many yeshivot train Cohanim. Why are the same efforts not made to revive the essential role of the Levites. When, each day, I return to Jerusalem, I conjure how the Levites welcomed weary pilgrims on the road and re-invigorated them with music and song. This is the origin of the Psalms that sing of the arrival to Jerusalem.
If any of you know of efforts being made in this direction, please contact me.

Some references on joyfulness
Berakhot 6b: he who gladdens the betrothed deserves to receive the Torah.
Berakhot 31a: one must only pray in joy.
Shabbat 30b: the shekhina does not dwell in sadness but only where there is joy.
Shabbat 152a: joy is woman.
Rosh Hashana 6b: woman, her husband gladdens her.
Taanit 26b: he who is joyful in times of hardship brings salvation to the world.
Taanit 30a: he who mourns the destruction of the Temple deserves to see its rejoicing.
Yevamot 62b: a Jew who has no wife does not know joy.
Pirkei Avot 3, 12: welcome all men with joy.
Pirkei Avot 4, 1: who is rich? He who rejoices in what he has.
Arkhin 11a: what is avoda, the work of the heart? It is to sing the words of the Torah.
Midrash Zuta, Eikha 28: in the future, God will make the 9th of Av a day of joy.
Tanhuma, Yithro 16: man must rejoice more in days of sorrows than in days of good.
Tanhuma, Tetzave 16: when, on the day of Kippur, the High Priest came out alive from the sanctuary, great joy spread through all Israel.
Tanhuma, Pikude 11: When God saw the joy with which the people built the sanctuary, he wanted to add to it the joy of the birth of Yitzhak.
Tanhuma, Tazria 5: God says, when I see you carry out the mitzvot with joy, I give you more joy.

Read the following verses from the Psalms:
4, 8; 30, 12; 97, 11; 16, 11; 21, 7; 45, 16; 68, 4; 100, 2.


The method in review

- after reading the entire parasha,
- read the references,
- memorize the plan,
- till you can teach it from memory,
- reflect on the application of these teachings to Jewish life and to your personal life.

Do not hesitate to ask me questions or to make recommendations. They are helpful to me in order to improve these commentaries.


- Psychology and Repentance
   (in french)

Part 15

Part 16

- Jerusalem excavations
- Terror and counseling
- Peace and peoples
- Israel and Iran
- Visual study & song on snow
for, through our union with the song of nature, the plan of Creation will be fulfilled

Poem: to be moon

In french

Avec Modia, vivez
vos vacances en Israël,
Texte et photos

- Par Modia, arrivez au Kotel
- La vie du Kotel
- Prières au Kotel
- Fête au Kotel
- La destruction du Temple
- Photos rares et émouvantes des abords du Temple
- Synagogues de Jérusalem
- Maisons de Jérusalem
- Les fleurs de Jérusalem
- Ici, tout sur Jérusalem
- "Le" texte sur Jérusalem
- Voir et visiter Israël
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- Belle carte d'Israël
- Jérusalem et les nations

- Vacances en Israël sur Modia
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- et ici aussi, autre caméra

- Trahison historique:
L'antique synagogue de Jéricho


Part 17

- Love towards all people
- Light in war
- Before the hanukiah
- Land of Israel
- Jerusalem excavations 2007
  Proof of the lies propagated
  by the media

In french - Hope in Israel

Part 20
"Encounters with God
in the real"

- You are planning a tour in Israel - Photos
- My photos and judaism
- New year of beauty
- Flowers
Gallery photos

Part 21

- My english songs


Rav Professor
Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour
(Dipur, in hebrew)

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