The Parasha of Nasso (to raise, elevate) is usually being read after the holiday of Shavuot and it is dealing with few different topics that do not give the impression that there is a connection between them. The Parasha begins with a description of the Levites, the tribe that was totally dedicated to the work of the temple and the teaching the Torah. Some of the main topics are:
- The way for a thief to atone his wrongdoings: “Any man or woman who wrongs another in any way and so is unfaithful to the Lord is guilty” (Number 5:6). The Torah is giving the ways of confession and restitution in order to atone one’s sins.
- The purity of the camp of Israel; How to keep people with impure maladies outside the camp until their recovery?
- Sotah – How to cleanse a married woman from suspicions that she betrayed her husband.
- The Nazirite: The person that devoted himself to God (monk) by avoiding grapes, alcohol and haircut.
- The Priestly Blessing.
- The offerings that the leaders of the twelve tribes brought for the building of the Mishkan (Tabernacle, the portable temple that the Israelites carried in the desert).
Our Parasha describes situations in which once we are elevated and in the next moment depressed, and by that implies about the possibility that Shavuot provide us – the ability to make a change in our lives such as the Israelites did when they left Egypt. Once they transferred from having an awareness of slaves – meaning, fear, anger, frustration, jealousy, bitterness, etc., – to awareness of freedom and eternal life, given to us at the Mt. Sinai revelation. This kind of awareness is described in the Midrash as life without death (“בילע המוות לנצח”) so we could not realize how we experience that kind of reality before.
We refer to that kind of a change as a quantum leap, known from physics and talks about electrons leap from one stratum to another. That kind of a leap requires investing great amount of energy and that is the message of our Parasha – the ability we have to perform such a leap and to change our reality.
As we told above, the Torah tells us the story of the betraying wife. When her husband suspects she acted that way he brings her to the High Priest who gave her special water. If the water became bitter than “…her abdomen will swell and her womb will miscarry, and she will become a curse… If, however, the woman has not made herself impure, but is clean, she will be cleared of guilt and will be able to have children”.
The issue of the ‘bitter water’ was mentioned before when the Israelites escaped the Egyptians and reached, exhausted and thirsty, a place called Marah, but the water there was bitter. And when Moses cries for God’s help, God shows him a tree, which the Midrash identifies as the Tree of Life, and Moses throw the tree into the water and that sweetened them. That story was meant to teach us that whenever we feel that life is bad and bitter we need to taste the Tree of Life and the minute we will feel its taste we will know that we managed to make that Quantum Leap.
The Zohar explains that we are the betraying woman and that we are in the final stage of the redemption process which includes the drinking of the water we told above. And the Zohar mentions a saying attributed to Rabbi Shimon that being in our generation is a curse and a blessing as well (“ר’ שמעון נשא ידיו בכה ואמר אוי למי שיהיה בדור הזה ואשרי מי שיקרה ויוכל להימצא בדור הזה”). How can it be? The blessing and the curse together are in the holy water – that from these water one can miscarry and the other will have a child. And right now it is our time to decide which kind of water we would like to taste, what kind of reality we wish for ourselves – the bitter or the sweet. Shavuot allows us to make that quantum leap and to choose a reality of love, joy and connection to the Creator’s light.