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  • Writer's pictureEve Was Right

35. Breaking Human Will Isn't Easy

Parshah Naso

TL;DR of the Text

Major Themes

  • Priests: the original grifters

  • The origin of witch burnings

  • God isn’t human enough

*Important attribution note: All quotes listed in this article are credited to the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash. Here is an Extremely Clear Citation so I don’t get in trouble: Nosson Scherman, Hersh Goldwurm, Avie Gold, & Meir Zlotowitz. (2015). The Chumash: the Torah, Haftaros and Five Megillos. Mesorah Publications, Ltd.

Numbers 4:35-36*

“From thirty years of age and up, until fifty years of age, everyone who comes to the legion for the work in the Tent of Meeting. Their countings according to their families were two thousand, seven hundred and fifty.” 

The numbers are mind-boggling. Over two thousand people just to perform one part of the religious services?

Numbers 5:2-3*

“‘Command the Children of Israel that they shall expel from the camp everyone with tzaraas, everyone who has had a zav-emission, and everyone contaminated by a human corpse. Male and female alike shall you expel, to the outside of the camp shall you expel them…’”

The priestly class was established with its hordes of attendants, the Sanctuary was constructed, and the population was cowed. It was time for the finishing touch: a purge.

Numbers 5:6-9*

“A man or woman who commits any of man’s sins, by committing treachery toward hashem, and that person shall become guilty - they shall confess their sin that they committed; he shall make restitution for his guilt in its principal amount and add its fifth to it, and give it to the one to whom he is indebted. 

If the man has no kinsman to whom the debt can be returned, the returned debt is for Hashem, for the Kohen, aside from the ram of atonement… every portion from any of the holies that the Children of Israel bring to the Kohen shall be his.”

This is such a grift! Honestly, reading the text this closely causes my cultural scales to fall from my eyes. From a young age, we’re told how these stories are the history of Earth’s great heroes. No wonder we have such an epidemic of people pulling off insanely obvious grifts! Accepting thinly veiled scams has been inculcated in us for thousands of years. 

Numbers 5:12-24*

“Any man whose wife shall go astray and commit treachery against him… the man shall bring his wife to the Kohen and he shall bring her offering for her…the Kohen shall bring her near and have her stand before Hashem. The Kohen shall take sacred water in an earthenware vessel, and the Kohen shall take form the earth that is on the floor of the Tabernacle and put it in the water. The Kohen shall…uncover the woman’s head… and in the hand of the Kohen shall be the bitter waters that cause curse. 

The Kohen shall adjure her and say to the woman, ‘If a man has not lain with you… then be proven innocent by these bitter waters that cause curse’... The Kohen shall inscribe these curses on a scroll and erase it into the bitter waters. When he shall cause the woman to drink the bitter waters that cause curse, then the waters that cause curse shall come into her for bitterness.”

The precursor to witch burnings. The priest made a woman drink poisoned water, and if she were pure, God would save her from the poison. Whenever your husband felt jealous, he could take you down to the local priest and have you legally poisoned. 

Numbers 6:2-5*

“A man or woman who shall dissociate himself by taking a Nazirite vow of abstinence for the sake of Hashem; from new or aged wine shall he abstain…a razor shall not pass over his head.”

Why do gods always want either abstinence or indulgence? Where are the gods who just want people to take care of themselves, be good people, and enjoy life? The problem isn’t that we anthropomorphize our gods; the problem is that our concept of God isn’t human enough! 

Numbers 6:13-14*

“On the day [the Nazirite’s] abstinence is completed, he shall bring himself to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting. He shall bring his offering to Hashem…”

So, Nazirites spent however long abstaining from drinking wine, eating grapes, cutting their hair, and participating in funeral rites, yet after all their sacrifices, they still have to give an offering? 

“We’ll let you pay us for the privilege of serving us.” Sounds like capitalism. 

Numbers 7:11-13, 16*

“One leader each day, one leader each day shall they bring their offering for the dedication of the Altar.

The one who brought his offering on the first day was Nahshon son of Amminadab, of the tribe of Judah. His offering was: one silver bowl…two cattle, five rams…”

Each tribe gave identical offerings. The hilarious part is that the Torah repeated the list twelve times, once per tribe. 

In earlier posts, I used to parrot the rabbis’ statement that the Torah is very selective about what it chooses to repeat. This is utter bullshit. The Torah is a poorly written and extremely repetitive book. 

The only conceivable reasons to repeat an identical list twelve times would be to further solidify tribal hierarchy by recording the order of the processions, and also to ensure no tribe skimped on its offerings. If one tribe opted out, what would stop everyone else from following suit? 

Nothing. Oppression requires absolute obedience. Once enough people opt out, the whole system crumbles.

Put in context, maybe this is why Moses forced the Israelites to wander in the desert for forty years. I looked it up; Cairo is 635 kilometers from Israel. It’s a long trek, but certainly not forty years long. They could’ve done it in a year if they wanted to go slowly for the elderly and children. 

The Israelites, both ancient and modern, have a lot to atone for, but the level of oppression they experienced from their own leadership beggars belief. Not so much the people who got to Israel and inherited the spoils of mass genocide, but the people who had to endure slavery and, as an added bonus, were forced to wander aimlessly through the desert while carrying a giant box made of gold? 

Apparently, slavery hadn’t quite broken their spirits enough.

Numbers 7:89*

“When Moses arrived at the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, he heard the Voice speaking to him from atop the Cover that was upon the Ark of the Testimony, from between the two Cherubim, and He spoke to him.” 

Well, of course he did. You can’t exactly ask people to provide you with literal piles of treasure if you don’t hear the voice of God, right?

*Again with the Extremely Clear Citation so I don’t get in trouble: Nosson Scherman, Hersh Goldwurm, Avie Gold, & Meir Zlotowitz. (2015). The Chumash : the Torah, Haftaros and Five Megillos. Mesorah Publications, Ltd.


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