Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)

This week: The census of Levites assigned to do work relating to the Tent of Meeting (like disassembling and carrying it), those aged 30 to 50 (now that’s early retirement), is completed, as is the description of their duties.  Segueing through removal of the ritually impure from camp and the issue of restitution to one whom you have wronged, we come to the Sotah ritual for wives suspected of adultery, followed by the laws of the Nazirite, the priestly benediction (6:24-26), and the offerings given by each tribe on the occasion of the consecration of the Tabernacle and its contents, twelve identical offerings (which makes reading it easy for the Torah reader but rather boring).  As I noted last year, the portion’s seemingly disparate topics are actually connected in a stream of consciousness manner described by Umberto Cassuto (1883-1951), who wrote that Biblical subject matter “was often linked by a process of thought and, in particular, word association, probably designed as an aid to memory.” (Cassuto, Sefer Hakinus, 1947 lectures, p. 168, cited in N. Leibowitz, Studies in Bamidbar, pp. 38-9).

The two most intriguing topics are the Sotah ritual and the laws of the Nazirite.  The Sotah ritual was used when a man suspected his wife of adultery – no solid proof, but “a fit of jealousy comes over him” (5:14).  It’s basically a trial by ordeal involving drinking “bitter waters” comprising enough drama and threat to scare a guilty woman into confessing.  There is a whole tractate of the Mishnah, Sotah (duh), which goes into a lot more detail about the ritual and everything surrounding it.  The tractate has 9 chapters.  Toward the end of the ninth chapter, mishnah 9, the student learns that the ritual was discontinued by Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, who lived at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple because of the moral degeneracy of his time:  “I will not punish their daughters for fornicating, nor their daughters-in-law for committing adultery, for they themselves [turn aside with whores and sacrifice with prostitutes (Hosea 4:14)].” In other words, it had already been discontinued when this tractate was written.

The Nazirite (or Nazir) was a man or woman who took a vowed to live a particular type of ascetic life for a defined term, say, 30 days: no shaving or haircutting, no intoxicants or grape products, no defiling oneself for the dead, even a first degree relative.  The Mishnah of course contains a Tractate Nazir, which expands on the text, including things like what happens if a Nazir is defiled before the term is up (s/he has to start the term over).  At the end of the period, the Nazir had to bring the prescribed offerings, including a sin offering.  Why a sin offering?  The rabbis differ (surprise) and are generally ambivalent about the Nazir.  Maimonides regards deliberately undergoing the deprivations of the Nazir to be sinful, while Nachmanides says the sin is returning to a normal life after this term of holiness.  The most famous Nazirites, dedicated for life, were Samuel and Samson.  The haftarah, Judges 13:2-25, tells of foretelling of Samson’s birth and his dedication as a Nazir from the womb – long before Delilah.

Shabbat shalom,


Note that the word ‘pun’ is in the middle of ‘Rapunzel’!!

I hope no one gets dis-tressed over these jokes!! 🙂

This page was less hairy for me to do than some of the math problems I faced in graduate school!!

Place names that say looooooong hair (with input from my special Medusa and MrHaroldG2000):

  • Hairvard Squhair in Combridge, Masshairchusetts and UK
  • Braidtree, MA
  • Hair-old Squhair in Manehattan Island
  • O’Hair International Hairport in Chicago, IL
  • US States (partial list): Hairizona, Misshairi, Masshairchusetts, Delawhair, Hairwaii, New Hampshair, Mane, Cannotgetitcut, Ohairo, Alabamhair, Floridhair, Alaskhair.
  • Canadian Provinces: Mane-itoba, Albhairta, the Mhairitimes
  • World Cities: Lisbun, Maneila, Manetreal, Vancouvhair, Manedrid, P-hair-is, Bunbay, Ho Chow Mane City
  • Languages: Vietmanese, Mane-dhair-in Chinese

A woman worked in the garden wearing her ankle length tresses down. After a while, she noticed rabbits nibbling the ends of her beautiful locks. Did she have a bad hair day or a bad hare day?

If you notice loooooooooooong haired women entering a hair salon and most of them come out with braids dyed a certain color not normally associated with human hair, wouldn’t you think that the hair salon is running a ‘blue plait’ special??

Then there was the man who was arrested for stepping over the floor dragging part of Rapunzel’s hair. He was arrested for tress-passing!!


TPH nazir pet peevesTop Ten Nazir Pet Peeves

10. Everyone confusing you for [the unshorn] Matisyahu* tph matisyahu unshorn
9.   Singles Wine Tasting events
8.   Annoying “Hey There Delilah” song always on radio
7.   Only one at the Seder not trashed after cup 3
6.   HR keeps making subtle comments about long man-braids not being appropriate for the office
5     People always asking if you have any weed, Phish tickets or weed
4.  “Nazir, not Navi [prophet], I don’t know your future, damn it”
3    ‘Before-vow’ binge-drinking photos always popping up on Facebook
2    Bald alcoholic coroners
1    Samsonite briefcase gag gifts


Too-Jealous Wife

There was once a wife so jealous that when her husband came home one night and she couldn’t find hairs on his jackets she yelled at him,

“Great, so now you’re cheating on me with a bald woman!” 

The next night, when she didn’t smell any perfume, she yelled again by saying,

“She’s not only bald, but she’s too cheap to buy any perfume!” 

From 2002

My wife’s jealousy is getting ridiculous. The other day she looked at my calendar
and wanted to know who May was.

~ Rodney Dangerfield ~

Jealous Wife Joke

Standing in front of a boutique I noticed an impatient looking young man approach an attractive woman.

“Would you mind talking to me for a few minutes?” he asked her.

“Why?” she countered suspiciously.

”My wife has been in this shop for a long time,” the man explained. “But I know she’ll come out if she sees me talking to you.”  -E.C.Forbes Jr.

[I don’t know why it was so much easier to find jealous wife jokes than jealous husband ones. IGP]

Retirement Quotes

The trouble with retirement is that you never get a day off.
— Abe Lemons

Retire? I’m going to stay in show business until I’m the only one left.
— George F. Burns

Retirement is wonderful. It’s doing nothing without worrying about getting caught at it.
— Gene Perret

I have made enough faces.
— Greta Garbo (in 1946 refusing ever again to perform)

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