1. If we look at ancient models of civilization we see two archetypes. The bottom up model (Aristotle, individual liberty systems, organic growth etc…) and the top-down model (Plato, the Republic, Communism, central control etc…) where people have jobs assigned to them. The Torah has both models. The people and creativity occupy the bottom-up model – the Kohanim and holiness occupy the top-down model. The Leviim are primarily holy – they have life-time jobs, but their labor is not directed directly from G-d – it is directed by the Kohanim. We can see a hint of this dual perspective by the request to count them. Hashem doesn’t ask Moshe to count the Kohanim, they are all top down. And Moshe is directed to count the Jewish people – bottom up. But the counting of the Leviim is “Naso” – we will count. Both Hashem and Moshe.
  2. The order of counting seems confused. If you think about it logically, you’d describe the families moving inwards as the Mishkan is disassembled. First would be the screens (Gerhsonites), then the pillars (Merarites) and then the Kohatites (Holy articles). But we see the Kohatites come first, then the coverings and then the pillars. Why? There is a practical reason, the Kohatites have to work while concealed, then the screens can be removed and finally the pillars. When they stop, the opposite occurs. You build the structure, then the screens and then the holies. Perhaps this is a personal lesson. When you need to move spiritually, you adjust your holy core first, then you adjust the screens that others see and then you adjust the foundations of your life. We you come to your new destination you set down your foundations first, and then the façade others see, and then the holy core of your life.
  3. The words for treachery against Hashem לִמְעֹל מַעַל are repeated for the Sotah. We learn this area is discussing monetary debt owed because somebody withheld money they owed. How can this be compared? There is a concept of worshipping money or being a slave to money. If we worship money so much we betray our responsibilities to others then we are being treacherous to Hashem like an adulterous woman.
  4. The Sotah is a very confusing area. One area I wanted to mention is the prerequisites. The first is that the woman has to be secluded with another man. But the second is that he has to have a spirit of jealousy. The word for spirit is ruach. In verb form, it means smell. And when Hashem brings spirit to mankind, it is through the nose. Scent is one of the most fundamental senses. The spirit of jealousy might be a smell of jealousy. She is alone with another man and perhaps, as a prerequisite, her husband has an actual sense that something literally smells wrong. Even if she is innocent, it can poison the relationship. The child is not a blessing for her or him. It is a sign of the relationship being repaired.
  5. Here we have the beginning of the princely offerings. But we have a very strange phrase referring to them: הֵם הָעֹמְדִים עַל-הַפְּקֻדִים. What does this mean? As normally translated it is something like: “They are the ones who stand on the countings.” But that is odd. The word for countings has multiple meanings. For example, it shows up in the Ten Commandments. When he visits the sins of the fathers upon the third and fourth generation and kindness to thousands. It is a sense of reckoning. It can be both good and bad, but it is a reckoning (e.g. day of…). The princes have to stand when the time of reckoning comes. This is why we have the commandments we have between the counting and the princely gifts. We are cleaning up the community so they can stand at the reckoning. We have the unclean leave the camp, the poisoned relationships be cleaned up, the Nazir who separates themselves getting holier and then being brought back into the community and the priestly blessing being given to the community. After all of this, the princes can stand.
  6. In the second reading we see that all the days are the same Shabbos is no different. I’m not sure who pointed it out, but we can see here that while there might be a few additional offerings fundamentally Shabbat in the Mishkan is the same as any other time. Shabbat is always holy, no matter the place. And the Mishkan is always holy, no matter the time.
  7. At the end of this reading we hear the voice from between the two Cherubim. The last time two cherubim were actually actors (rather than things being made) was when they were set up to guard Gan Eden. Behind them is the perfect world for mankind – where we are productive and holy. Here, we have built the Mishkan and all our tribes have dedicated our own created resources to timeless spiritual energy. And at this time, Moshe can hear through past the Cherubim. He can hear the Garden.

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