by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS NOSSO 5769 BS"D
Ch. 4, v. 22: "Nosso es rosh bnei Gershon gam heim" - Count the head of the sons of Gershon also them - This means besides the counting of the bnei K'hos, which already was commanded at the end of the previous parsha. By the bnei M'rori we find no expression of "n'sias rosh" (verse 29). Rabbi Yochonon Luria explains that "n'sais rosh," a counting that indicates that they are elevated, is only appropriate when there is indeed a special aspect. The bnei K'hos were the most spiritual and merited the carrying of the holiest objects. The bnei Gershon were from the family of the firstborn, as Gershon was the oldest son in the family. The bnei M'rori had no special feature, and as such the expression "nosso" is not used.
Ch. 4, v. 22: "Bnei Gershon" - The sons of Gershon - Why is the command to take a census of the three Levite families split between parshas B'midbar and Nosso? Either add Gershon and M'rori to the end of parshas B'midbar, or start our parsha with the command to count K'hos? The Abarbanel answers that since K'hos was given the honour of being counted first there is a fear that his family would look at Gershon with disdain. To avoid this, the parshas are split in a manner that the command to count the Gershon family appears at the beginning of a parsha, also a prominent position.
Ch. 4, v. 25: "Mich'sehu umich'sei hatachash asher olov" - Its cover and the cover of the tachash that is upon it - The verse begins with "y'rios haMishkon," which Rashi explains to mean the undermost covering, then "v'es ohel mo'eid," which means the goatskin covering that is above the "mishkon" covering, "mich'seihu" means the reddened ram hide covering that are above the goatskin covers, and "umich'sei hatachash asher olov," which obviously means the "tachash" covers above the "mich'seihu" covers (here Rashi offers no comment). This is good and fine according to the opinion in the gemara Shabbos 28a that the reddened ram covers and the "tachash" covers are two separate covers, totaling four layers. Rashi's following this opinion in explaining our verse is well understood, as it is the simple understanding of the words. However, according to the opinion in the gemara that there were only three layers, and the topmost one was half reddened ram hides and half "tachash" hides, how are we to understand our verse, which seemingly is clearly stating that there were four separate covers?
Moshav Z'keinim answers that these two materials were sewn together and were one continuous cover. In preparation for traveling this covering was rolled from both ends to the middle, leaving us with the view of ram hides on one side and "tachash" hides on the other. Since each type of material could be viewed separately, the verse expressed itself in a manner of their being two separate covers. What remains to be explained is the words "olov milmoloh."
The Ibn Ezra understands the words of our verse to not specify the ram hide covers, and he says that either the verse shortened the details and indeed left it out, or that the two were sewn together (even though each covered the complete Mishkon), and as a single unit it is better understood why the verse would leave out the mention of both the ram and "tachash" hides.
Ch. 4, v. 27: "Al pi Aharon uvonov" - According to the word of Aharon and his sons - We do not find this expression by the responsibilities of the K'hos family in the end of parshas B'midbar. Abarbanel explains that it is obvious that the responsibilities of the K'hos family, which involved the transport of the holiest objects, was done under the scrutiny and supervision of Aharon and his sons. However, lest you think that the responsibilities of the Gershon family did not have this special supervision, since they were involved with lesser holy items, the verse therefore spelled out that their service was also done under the careful control of Aharon and his sons.
Ch. 5, v. 14: "V'hee nitmo'oh" - And she became defiled - We find the term "tumoh" by sanctified objects, where it refers to a spiritual decline that comes about through contact or being in the proximity of something that defiles it. Why is the infidelity of a wife called "tumoh?" Rabbi S.R. Hirsch explains that marriage between a man and his wife is a spiritually sanctified relationship. Infidelity negates its sanctification, and this is why the Torah does not allow for the marriage to continue where the wife (of a non-Kohein) sins willingly.
This deserves further elucidation, as we find "tumoh" by non-sanctified objects as well, such as the "tumoh" of "chulin" food, of garments, etc., through "tumas meis" and "tumas tzoraas."
Ch. 5, v. 31: "V'nikoh ho'ish meo'ovon v'ho'ishoh ha'hee tiso es avonoh" - And the man shall be free of sin and that woman shall bear her sin - Rashi explains the first half of the verse in two manners, one if the woman was guilty, and the second if she was innocent. If she was guilty she died after the "sotoh" procedure. Her husband might feel guilty that he brought about her death. The verse therefore says that he is free of any wrongdoing. If she was innocent the verse tells us that the husband is free of sin by continuing to live with her, as a guilty "sotoh" is not permitted to her husband.
The second half of the verse tells us that the woman will bear her sin. This is well understood if she is found guilty, and bearing her sin means suffering the results of the "sotoh" procedure. But, as Rashi explains, the verse also means to explain an outcome of innocence. If so, what sin does she bear? Sforno answers that her sin is that of being so audacious to go into seclusion with someone whom her husband warned against doing so. Abarbanel answers that her sin is bringing doubt into her husband's mind about her fidelity to the point that he was pushed into bringing her to the Mishkon/Mikdosh and going through the "sotoh" procedure.
Ch. 6, v. 2: "Nozir" - Rashi says that this word's basic meaning is separation. Abarbanel offers the same as Rashi, but also says that it might well mean a crown of glory, as we find later in this parsha, "Neizer Elokov al rosho" (verse 7).
Ch. 6, v. 14: "V'chavsoh achas bas shnosoh t'mimoh l'chatos" - And a sheep within one year of age complete as a sin offering - Rabbi Yehoshua ibn Sho'ib explains that a sin offering is in place because the nozir lived a more elevated spiritual life during his nozir days, and is now returning to a more mundane existence, rather than having committed himself to be a permanent nozir. (The gemara N'dorim 10a cites Rabbi Elozor Hakapor who says that a nozir is called a sinner because he caused himself anguish by refraining from drinking wine. However, the gemara there bases this insight on the words in verse 11, "Mei'asher choto al hano'fesh." That verse discusses a nozir who became defiled, albeit by surprise and even beyond his control. His previous days of being a nozir fall away and he must begin anew. It might be that only under these circumstances that Rabbi Elozor Hakapor made his remark. Rabbi Yehoshua ibn Sho'ib comments on verse 14, which discusses a non-interrupted nozir count, and yet even then a chatos offering is required. This might be why he offers another explanation for the nozir's "sin.")
Ch. 6, v. 18: "V'lokach es sar rosh nizro v'nosan al ho'aish" - And he shall take the hair of his nozir staus and he shall put it onto the fire - The reason the nozir's hair is to be burned is that it is sanctified, as mentioned in earlier verses. It therefore must be burned to avoid someone's misusing it. (Chizkuni)
Ch. 7, v. 89: "Uv'vo Moshe el ohel mo'eid l'da'beir ito va'yishma es hakol" - And with Moshe's coming into the tent of convocation and he heard the voice - For these words to flow smoothly we must understand "va'yishma" to mean "he would hear." If so, "yishma" would seem to be a better choice of wording. Indeed, Rabbeinu Myuchos says that we should consider the Vov of this word as superfluous when translating it.
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