Monday, June 04, 2012

Parshat Naso, 5772/2012 second thoughts

While I was following the Torah reading at shul (synagogue) this past Shabbat (Sabbath), it occurred to me that I might have missed a few things, even in this line-up.

Nazir (Numbers, chapter 6, verses 1-21)

I believe that "nazir-ship" (n'zirut?) may be Judaism's first recorded chumrah (extra stringency not required by halachah/Jewish religious law).  This may account for the fact that a man or woman who takes a nazir vow must bring a chatat (sin offering) at the end of his/her term.  The Torah, while allowing an opportunity for people who insist on acting "holier than thou,"  is, apparently, ambivalent, at best, about such behavior, especially when it affects a person's own family, and I can see at least one good halachic reason why--it's chutzpah (nerve) to put oneself deliberately and unneccessarily in a position to be forbidden to bury one's own dead.

Birkat Kohanim/the Priestly Blessing (Numbers, chapter 6, verses 24-26)

To the best of my knowledge, this may very well be the only prayer that survives in current Jewish liturgy that predates the first Bet HaMikdash/Holy Temple.  Wow, that's old!

The Census of the Tribe of Lev, part 2 :) (See Leviticus, chapter 4, verse 1-49)

  • My guess is that only Leviim from 30 to 50 served on the "Ohel Moed transport squad" (see verses 3, 23, and 30) because the younger and older men were needed to help the women and children transport the Tribe of Levi's personal possessions.  Tents, tent poles, and pots are heavy, man.  :)
  • Regarding my complaint about the absurdity (in my opinion) of 8,580 (see verse 48) men being needed to carry the disassembled Mishkan from one encampment to another, one wiseguy at our Torah discussion at Seudah Shlishit opined that this was a "jobs program," while another chimed in that "that's what politicians do."  :)  They may have been joking, but they may have had a point--in the days when only the oldest son got a full inheritance, maybe some way was needed to remove a certain number of men from the market by giving them non-productive but dignified work so that others could make a living the old-fashioned way--by earning it (to paraphrase an old advertisement).

Wednesday, June 6, 2012 update:  See my follow-up post.


Anonymous AnecDatum said...

"the only prayer that survives in current Jewish liturgy that predates the first Bet HaMikdash/Holy Temple." How about Shema Yisrael? (Or do you not consider that 'prayer'?)

Tue Jun 05, 06:40:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Good point, AnecDatum, but though it's a central component of the Shacharit/Morning Service and Arvit/Maariv/Evening Service and is recited at bedtime, Sh'ma is a biblical quote, technically speaking, not a prayer.

Runners up for longevity, in terms of biblical quotes included in the current liturgy, are the Shir Shel Yom/Psalm of the Day psalms, which were recited by the Leviim/Levites at the Bet HaMikdash/Holy Temple, as their formal introduction in Shacharit tells us in no uncertain terms.

To the best of my limited knowledge, the oldest surviving *prayer* still included in our current liturgy is Aleinu.

Tue Jun 05, 10:47:00 AM 2012  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Those still catching up with their Jewish learning--as I myself have been doing for roughly the past 40 years--might wish to read the actual text of the Sh'ma here, with further information here and here. Note that the second sentence (Baruch Shem/Praised is the Name . . .) is a later addition and is not part of the biblical quotations, and that Emet/True, which is added at the end, is also a later addition and is not part of the biblical quotations.

Tue Jun 05, 11:19:00 AM 2012  

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