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Nasso: Moral Clarity (June 15, 2019)

1) Something is trying to stop me from doing #BibleStudyCoffeeTime this week, so it must be especially urgent.

Nasso / נשא
Read in synagogue June 15, 2019.
Numbers 4:21 – 7:89
Haftarah: Judges 13:2 – 13:25

2) Twitter is stopping me from sending my tweets on this. Bear with me.


4) Start at 13. …

5) To get right to it. The Bible portion talks many themes, among them the wife who is suspected of cheating.

6) This is a case where her guilt or innocence can it be definitively established. (In-depth essay here.) …

7) Obviously the woman’s husband can’t live with not knowing.

8) So there is a ceremony.

9) From the essay linked above: “The Torah (Pentateuch) determines that a husband who suffers from ‘a spirit of jealousy’ and suspects his wife must bring her to the priest at the Tabernacle.”

10) “There the priest….offers a ‘meal-offering of jealousy,’ an offering of ground barley without oil or frankincense, unbinds the woman’s hair, makes her swear an oath that she had sexual relations with no man other than her husband,”—

11) “writes the oath in a scroll and erases it in water mixed with dust from the Tabernacle, and finally makes the woman drink the mixture.”

12) Guilt or innocence are displayed on her body.

13) Guilt – her stomach blows up and she’s infertile.

Innocent – the water makes her especially fertile and she bears child.

14) Some people ask why the focus is on women (like is this sexist) but there are deeper meanings here.

In the Bible, the relationship between God and the wayward Jewish people (which served idols, assimilated) is dramatized as that of betrayed husband and untrustworthy wife.

15) Right after the discussion of a public trial/ceremony for the wife suspected of cheating, we have a discussion of the Nazirite.

16) The Nazirite is one who abstains from liquor and lets his or her hair grow unshorn. No contact with a corpse.

17) The discussion of the Nazirite comes right after the discussion of the jealous husband/possibly cheating wife to imply that even watching the ceremony mentioned above can arouse one’s lustful impulses and so a period of asceticism can be useful.

18) We will get to the connection with the other topic I couldn’t tweet about and had to screenshot. (See #2)

19) Before proceeding let me throw in here that elsewhere, the Torah talks about rape in the context of “the city or the field.”

Basically if a woman says she is attacked “in the field” we automatically believe her, b/c if she screamed,no one would hear.

I know this is sexist.

20) The sexism is rabbinic. I am not going to explain it away as is done here. …

21) The point for our purposes is that “the field” was known to be a dangerous place for a woman. Because rape.

22) Now we go to the supplemental reading, which concerns the birth of Samson the Strong (“Shimshon HaGibor”) – TRIBE OF DAN, UNDER PHILISTINE RULE.

23) The text of the supplemental reading is set in a time of rampant Jewish suffering, caused by their “cheating on God.” God sends the Philistines to oppress them as a punishment.

24) The period of punishment is ending. Samson is destined to save the Jews.

25) Here is the point: Samson’s mother is approached by an angel in human form, IN THE FIELD.

26) Knowing the danger, she RUNS to get away because she is virtuous.

27) She gets her husband, who comes back WITH HER to the field. There is no lack of clarity around her behavior, as in the Torah portion.

28) The angel establishes that he is for real, and mother gives birth to son, who proceeds to save the Jewish people…until—

29) “Samson was betrayed by his lover Delilah, who ordered a servant to cut his hair while he was sleeping and turned him over to his Philistine enemies, who gouged out his eyes and forced him to grind grain in a mill at Gaza.”

30) “Whilst there his hair began to regrow. When the Philistines took Samson into their temple of Dagon, Samson asked to rest against one of the support pillars; after being granted permission, he prayed to God and miraculously recovered his strength,—“

31) “allowing him to grasp hold of the columns and tear them down, killing himself and all the Philistines with him.”
* All opinions are the author’s own. Public domain.

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