Thank you all for your good wishes concerning my son’s graduation! We are happy, proud, and relieved (no more tuition!).
I am having a great deal of difficulty concentrating at the moment for no discernible reason. Maybe lack of sleep. I’ve developed a bad habit of getting absorbed in something after 11, which usually results in my getting to sleep after 1 AM, but waking up around 7:30 anyway. Today, I fell back asleep and woke up around 9:30 but am still groggy. So, I can’t think of much to write here. I already had chosen the jokes, and I think you’ll enjoy the comments below from 2010, with a little from 2000 included. Like nesting eggs.
This week’s portion contains a various variety of interesting little items. First, we complete the census of the Levites and their job descriptions. The total is a mere 8,580, but that’s because only men aged 30 to 50 were included. Some of the work of the Levites was not easy, especially when they had to disassemble and carry the Tabernacle through the wilderness, so I can understand their early retirement, but I don’t see why those men between 20 and 30 were not included. Maybe I’ll have a chance to look into that next year.
Then there’s a reminder to remove ritually unclean people from the camp, followed by a declaration of the need for one who has wronged another to confess and pay restitution, not simply to make things right with the person but because the wrongdoer has broken faith with the Lord (5:6).
The jealousy ritual (with the “bitter waters”) for wives suspected of infidelity is described in dramatic detail, and there’s even more detail in the Mishnah, a whole tractate (Sotah), at the end of which we are told the practice had already been abolished.
There’s also a whole tractate (Nazir) in the Mishnah about nazirites, who took a vow to abstain from intoxicants, grapes, haircuts/shaving, coming in contact with a corpse; this was intended to enable them to attain a holier state, consecrating themselves to the Lord. Normally, a man or woman would vow to be a nazirite for a limited period of time, but at least 30 days. Samson, whose birth is foretold in this week’s haftarah (Judges 13:2-25), is the most famous nazirite, but atypical in that he was expected to be one permanently and, since he effectively became one as soon as he was conceived, he didn’t choose to do this.
This portion is also where we find the 3-fold priestly benediction (6:24-26). Note that the priests don’t actually bless the people; they are expressing a wish that the Lord will bestow blessings on them, acting as intermediaries (6:27. Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them.), or designated hitters if you’re a baseball fan (American League. See Rabbi Marc Wolf’s JTS Torah Commentary this week at http://www.jtsa.edu/Conservative_Judaism/JTS_Torah_Commentary/Naso_5770.xml ).
Finally, we read a description of the dedication gifts each of the twelve tribes donates for the tabernacle. The gifts are impressive and identical. I’m not sure whether that was a hardship for the smallest tribe or whether the largest got off easy, but it reinforced a sense of equal value among the tribes, whether or not that was true numerically.
I’d like to conclude with an excerpt from 2000’s Naso TPH:
“I particularly appreciate that the tribes were assessed equally, regardless of their individual size or wealth. At least at the time, it helped prevent a pecking order among the tribes based on how much they donated to the synagogue, oops, I mean Tabernacle. (-;
“This reminds me of a recent conversation with my mother, who was grousing about the inappropriately exaggerated influence wealthy donors had at her synagogue. She reminded me how fortunate it was that, for fifty years, our family belonged to and was active in a shul in which the generous donors gave quietly and without going on a power trip (no, she didn’t use the term “power trip”). She had learned at an early age from her grandmother the importance of giving quietly. Grandmom Goodman, on hearing of someone in need, would give an unmarked envelope of money to one of her children to slip in that person’s door. I kind of doubt she’d read Maimonides’ levels of charitable giving. They came naturally to her.”
- A man goes into a barber’s and asks for a haircut that leaves his fringe at different lengths round his head, creates two bald spots near the back, a spiky bit at the side, and leaves a large nick on his ear. ‘I’m not sure we could manage that,’ says the ‘It sounds pretty tricky.’ ‘I don’t see why,’ says the man. ‘It’s the same haircut you gave me the last time I was here.’
- Bald guys never have a bad hair day.
A jealous husband hired a private detective to check on the movements of his wife. The husband wanted more than a written report; he wanted video of his wife’s activities.
A week later, the detective returned with a video. They sat down together to watch it. Although the quality was less than professional, the man saw his wife meeting another man!
He saw the two of them laughing in the park. He saw them enjoying themselves at an outdoor cafe.
He saw them dancing in a dimly lit nightclub. He saw the man and his wife participate in a dozen activities with utter glee.
“I just can’t believe this,” the distraught husband said.
The detective said, “What’s not to believe? It’s right up there on the screen!”
The husband replied, “I can’t believe that my wife could be so much fun!”
Four ladies from their synagogue’s fundraising committee are driving home one Sunday afternoon when they are involved in a terrible car crash. Unfortunately, none of them survive. When they arrive at the Pearly Gates, they are kept waiting to get into Heaven because the angel at the Gates can’t find them listed in the book of new heavenly arrivals.
“I’m sorry,” he says to them, “but I can’t find you in the book.” So he sends them down to Hell.
A week later, God visits the Pearly Gates and says to the angel, “Where are those nice Jewish ladies who were supposed to be here by now?”
“You mean the fundraisers? I didn’t see them listed, so I sent them down to Hell,” replies the angel.
“You did what?” God says. “I wanted them here. If you don’t want to join them, you’d better call Satan and get them transferred back here right away.”
So the angel phones Satan and says, “Satan, you know those Jewish ladies I sent you last week? Well, we really need them up here. Could you please send them back?”
“Sorry, I can’t oblige,” Satan replies, “they’ve been down here only one week and already they’ve raised $100,000 for an air conditioning system.”
Top Ten Nazir Pet Peeves by weekly bang staff Posted: 06-07-2009
10. Everyone confusing you for Matisyahu [popular American Hasidic Jewish reggae musician].
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
- Trying to control my dry hair, I treated my scalp with olive oil before washing it. Worried that the oil might leave an odor, I washed my hair several times. That night when I went to bed, I leaned over to my husband and asked, “Do I smell like olive oil?”
“No,” he said, sniffing me. “Do I smell like Popeye?”
- “Middle age is when a woman’s hair begins to turn from gray to brown.”
- Then there was the man who got in legal trouble for stepping over Rapunzel’s hair, which trailed on the floor. He was arrested for tresspassing.