Torah Portion: Naso (Count) Numbers 4:21-7:89
HafTorah: Judges 13:2-5
This evening we look at the Torah Portion named Naso or count. In this Torah section we cover many topics but I want us to look closely at two, both of which are in chapter 5 of Numbers.
The first thing I would like us to seek the L-rd on is found in Numbers 5:6-7. It speaks of confession of our sins. In these verses we read that when we sin we are to confess our sins to G-d. In Hebrew this is called “vidui.” The important part is that the confession, according to Judaism and Christianity, is to be verbalized. We speak the words with our mouth to G-d. What’s the point of vocalizing our thoughts of remorse to G-d? The L-rd of the universe knows our every thought and our every feeling like an open book. Why must our confession be verbal?
What if the purpose of the confession is not for G-d’s sake but for our own? Why do we need to hear it? I think there are several reasons. One, is that as humans we take our thoughts more seriously when they are spoken. When spoken they are less retractable. Also when spoken, inner thoughts become more intense. They are no longer concealed in our minds but they are out there. This intensity is easily seen in anger. Our spoken words add fuel to the fire in a heated argument. For this reason it is better to not get in a shouting match. It seldom ends well. Proverbs 15:1
In our confession to G-d spoken words can deepen our remorse. We see ourselves unvarnished. We cannot as easily justify what we have done when we step into the hearers place and hear our words. We can no longer justify our actions as easily as when they stay only in our thoughts.
Lastly, our spoken words can also sharpen our feelings of remorse over what we have done. We see it more truthfully, how could we have stooped so low? How could we have been so cruel? This occurs when the word are spoken. As long as they stay wrapped up inside we are blinded somewhat by our self love. We rationalize in our minds. It is much more difficult when we hear the words of confession. We hear the words and can’t so easily cover them up. Did I really say/do that?
So one of the main purposes of confession is to see our self clearly, to acknowledge ourselves to ourselves. It acknowledges that we lost our way. The purpose of confession is then that we shame our own evil inclination before our true selves and see ourselves clearly. In the New Testament we see this same concept in Romans 10:9-10. It takes words, spoken words. There is power in the spoken word.
Lastly I would like us to look at the “Isha Sotah” or wayward wife. I would ask that we look at this and explore what G-d is saying to us as believers through this process. What makes this so vivid to me is a scene we saw in Jerusalem last week. We were at the Western Wall on Thursday, which happens to be the day when young boys come to the Wall for their Bar Mitzvah or in other words to be married to the L-rd, to become sons of the Commandments. They enter into a marriage agreement with the Maker of the Universe. The L-rd is the groom and the boy under the chuppah is the bride. This is how we are when we come to faith. We are the bride, grafted into Israel. We can read it all through scripture: Rev 19:7-9, II Cor 11:2. So if we are the bride what do these verses say to us.
Our Ketubah or marriage agreement sets out our part of this relationship. We are to devote our life to the L-rd. We are to do His will. We are to always look to His good in every situation. So what happens when we stray off of the path? How do we guard against straying? We usually start out on fire and excited about our new husband. But life happens. We find one day we have strayed from what we felt in our hearts at the beginning. We do, say and act out on things that we would never have dreamed of doing in the beginning of our marriage. Culture, friends, jobs… they all press us to not be so rigid but to fit in, be one of the guys/girls. We are told, “things change, forget all those lofty ideals we once held on to.”
The Isha Sotah is labeled wayward because she has strayed from what was expected. Her husband warns her but she continues on. Here the husband goes and admits to the priest that he is jealous of his wife’s conduct. He could have ended the marriage without this whole process. Joseph and Mary are a good example. But, here he and the wife agree to go through this process. There is still enough left that they want to salvage their marriage. The woman comes before the priest humbled by the priest uncovering her head. She agrees to drink the bitter waters, saying I may have strayed but I have not taken another man. Do you see any similarities here between us and the Father? He wants us to return to Him. In fact in Judaism it says that the words written on the scroll and then scraped off into the water contain G-d’s holy name. Showing He is willing to go that far to save this marriage. Like this suspect wife we are still married to that first love for our husband. Our return like hers, will take resolve. Our lives must return to our first love – what we know as true. G-d stands with us and will welcome our return. My word for each of us is return. When we lose our way G-d stands ready to take us back and bless us.