When I was a child, I believed that the reason Samson lost his strength and was captured by the Philistines was because Delilah shaved his hair off while he was asleep, as though there were some magic power contained within that hair and that his strength derived directly from it. Of course, the real reason the Philistines were able to subdue mighty Samson was because he broke his vow as a nazirite. First, he allowed himself to be seduced by a prostitute. Second, he betrayed God’s trust to her deceit. After he had repented, and renewed his nazirite vow, his strength returned, symbolised by, but not contained in, his hair. The haftorah for Naso, which recounts the birth of Samson, links the story of a truly tragic hero with the nazirite rules detailed in the parsha. These rules make up only a small part of the longest parsha in the Torah. Also appearing are the census of the Levites and the duties of the different families, the purification of the camp, the trial by ordeal of the suspected adulteress, the offerings of the tribal leaders after the completion of the Tabernacle, all equal and all equally generous, and the priestly blessing.
‘This is how you must bless the Israelites. Say to them:
“May the Lord bless you and keep you.
“May the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May the Lord turn his face towards you and give you peace.”‘
Are there any words more beautiful?
Now raise up and light the lamps, for we have come to Beha’aloteckha. This is a parsha also packed with topics. The Levites must be purified and prepared for service. God’s signal of when to reside in camp and when to move on is explained. Instructions are given to make two trumpets to signal to the Israelites the moments to assemble, to make war and to celebrate the festivals. There is much more, not all of it good, for we are busy complaining again, despite the ever visible presence of God over the camp. Did we really deserve to be delivered from slavery? Not only do the people complain, but also Moses’ elder brother and sister, the very brother who went to meet Moses on his return from exile in Midian, the very sister who saved his life as a baby. Aaron quickly repents and Moses, ever unassuming, ever compassionate, plead for Miriam to be pardoned.
So much to come for, as I hope you will this Saturday at 10.30. Our much esteemed and loved Honorary President, Harvey will be leading us.