This week’s reading, Nasso, tells of two forms of Judaism, the functional and the organic. The first preaches the formulaic performance of mitzvot as the most valued output, and obeying when ordered to do something: metsuveh v’osseh. Organic values the whole process of living as a Jew, mindful of others while performing one’s own obligations, not waiting for orders to serve God and community: na’asshe venishma.

The word Nasso is a command term with two possible meanings; that when one “counts” the Levites, one also “lifts” them. Thus, Moses recognises both the function of the Levites in servicing the mishkan while valuing each Levite individually.

After the Levites took apart, carried and reassembled the mishkan, each was lifted and waved in the direction of the four words, to show we must see ourselves as part of the same natural world.

The rest of the reading tells of a jealous husband taking his wife to the Temple to undergo a ritual. Then comes the Nazirite who abstains from wine and growing dreadlocks. Finally, the princes of Israel bring contributions towards finishing what the Israelite commoner had already donated.

Moses asked each prince to wait in line and donate a prescribed sum, thus showing the superiority before God of willingness over prescribed performance. 

  • Ariel Abel is rabbi of Liverpool’s Princes Road
    synagogue

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