Torah Portion: Naso (Lift) B’midbar (Numbers) 4:21-7:89
Haftorah Reading Judges 13:2-25
This Torah portion covers a number of topics that I would like us to look at tonight. To start, let’s take a look at the name of the portion, Naso. This is an interesting word. In Hebrew it means to lift. We see this same word used in Psalms 121:1 where the verse reads, “I will lift up my eyes…” However, here the English translation is usually, take, as in count. If we translate this using the words lift up, it will carry a completely different feeling than to count. When G-d told Moshe to lift the heads of the people what impression does that give you, as opposed to count? To lift up implies each person was important. They were not just a number in a mass of people.
Two other times, in Exodus 12:37 and Exodus 38:26, G-d asked Moshe to go through this process. My question this week was concerning these three times of counting the people, and another counting done by King David in I Chronicles 21:1-17. 70,000 people died in King David’s counting. What was the difference? We also read a warning from G-d on what would be the result if this was not done correctly. In fact, this occurred in I Chronicles 21:1-14. These people died because of David’s sin. So, this was a very serious undertaking and had to be done only at G-d’s direction.
To help us understand this more clearly, let’s talk about the reasoning behind the usual counting of people by a nation or its leaders. Most, if not all, are just interested in getting information for the government. David was motivated by knowing how much power he had, how many people could be used to fight for him. He was not interested in each person. The task was not to build up, or lift up, the people, but just to know how many would be at his command.
G-d’s purpose in counting Israel was different. It had nothing to do with the mass but everything to do with each person. Each person was precious to Him. Each person was created in His image and the object of His love. G-d’s counting of the people was a gesture of endearment. “Lift the head,” gives each person the true feeling of the Father. It is like that VBS song some of us sang as children, “red, yellow, black or white, we are precious in His sight.”
In Psalms 147:4 G-d even counted the stars and knew the name of each one. How much more for us, created in His image. Each person is looked at as an individual. He knows our name. As it says in Jeremiah 1:5, He knew us before we were formed in our mother’s womb. Usually only those things we value do we name. G-d knows us by our name and He knows the days of our life.
In the Holocaust the Nazis’ used a number on each person’s forearm. They were never called by their name. G-d calls us by our name for we are precious in His sight. That is the point here in our portion. Naso – lift their heads. We can rest in the fact that G-d knows us by name and for each of us He has a role only we can fill.
Even when we sin, He still knows us by name and will call us to repent. In B’Midbar 5:1-7 we read about confessing our sins. When we feel that distance between us and the Father, it is usually because of unconfessed sin. In these verses we read where the path to restore that connection starts with the recognition that we have sinned. Then we come to Him and confess our sins and resolve to not do it again. When we think of confessing our sins how far does that need to go. Is it enough to just ask G-d to forgive us? When should that confession be more public? For sure if we have sinned against a person we need to go to them, confess our sin and ask for their forgiveness, face to face. We see this pattern repeated in the Messianic scriptures in verses like, I John 1:9, II Cor. 7:9-10, James 5:16 and many more. The important thing here is we confess, repent with words of our mouth.
Now one more subject to cover. Back at the beginning of our reading, we read where people who were counted were those who had the role of taking down, carrying and setting up again each of the items of the Mishkan. This included, the utensils, the coverings, poles, boards, sockets, everything. Each group had their own assignment. They knew exactly what they were to do when it came time to move the Mishkan. They did not need a big discussion every time they moved.
My point is that just as these people had tasks to carry out, assigned by G-d, so do we. None more important than the other. All being necessary for the job to be successful. G-d has such a task, a role for each of us. We all are needed to be sure the House of G-d is kept up and His will is carried out. None of His people are to just float along. He loves us all. He knows our names and has a role for each of us.
Bless each of you as you go about doing the task G-d has given you to accomplish this week.