Naso – 5778 – Naso

By: Michael Carr

The word Naso/Nasso means to ‘Take a Census’ or to ‘Lift Up’. While the idea of counting our people seems somewhat mundane it was actually an important  aspect in the evolution of the Israelites.  It’s also kind of funny to think that in order to take a Census we need to COUNT AND we should consider that this is the 2nd story in the Book of ‘NUMBERS’ .    COINCIDENCE??

The parashah addresses priestly duties, camp purification, restitution for wrongs committed, the wife accused of unfaithfulness, the Priestly Blessing, and consecration of the Tabernacle.

So what about this Census and Lifting Up stuff? God commands Moses and Aaron to “lift up” the Children of Israel by concluding the census. In other words to actually witness or examine or take notice of and inventory or audit groups of people such as the Koathites, Gershonites and Merarites. Why is this important?

Well – while God values the individual there was also a practicality in counting the numbers of Israelites. For example – having enough food, clothing, shelter and of course TORAH.

The Torah seems to imply that Moses and Aaron, and the general population of Israelites, needed to count one another and audit the numbers of people within groups of their community.

So God commands Moses and Aaron to make sure there are enough essentials and to ‘notice’ each person and assess each one for what was most significant at that time – the ability to serve and fight in defense of the vulnerable people of Israel. This of course introduces an entirely new discussion about Diaspora and fighting for survival and beliefs in one God etc.

Nevertheless the Naso torah portion is a deliberate commandment with purpose and intent for saving the chosen people. Helping to protect and keep them safe.

The value of counting is also evident when we consider that  God made us in his image and commanded us to count one another long ago to preserve what he had started.

Similarly we count ourselves today with a Census. In fact the entire population of the United States is counted every ten years as mandated in the U.S. Constitution.

I am not an official  historian however the idea for a US Census theoretically began way back when – the emergence of OUR vulnerable and emerging nation had also been under attack.  How many men were needed to fight for our liberty and freedom?

How much food, shelter, clothing and Automatic Firearms or eh Muskets were required?  We had a need to count our numbers of men, women and children.

As Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and Rabbi James Bennett (who writes in the “World Union for Progressive Judaism” ) point out that the realities of our world today cry out for ‘a Census’ counting more than ever. A census of heart and mind, as well as body, is necessary.  Moses and Aaron were in the ‘meeting needs’ business. God commanded them to take care of the children of Israel – You know – food, clothing shelter AND TORAH.Rabbi Bennett goes on to note that Israelites were called upon to count every person in their society because, quite simply, every person counted.


We are challenged daily to act on the values we profess and when we fail to do so, we abandon values such as  Tzedek (justice), Chesed (lovingkindness) and Derech Eretz (the way of the world) upon which our faith and our people were established. Rabbi Bennett asks – will we be complicit, as we safeguard and practice and maintain our Jewish beliefs and values, with those around us who are able to ignore such core  values? Or will we speak out, as did the prophets of our ancient Jewish tradition, and demand that the world we live in be one founded on the very values we profess to cherish and read in Torah?