Parashat Naso

Ancient Rituals, Enduring Values

The rituals described in this week's parashah remind us to allow our values and principles to guide us in balancing our physical and emotional imbalances.

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Protecting the Community

We can imagine that God's intention in Moses' command to separate those labeled "tameh" is to protect the community from the unbalancing effect of having the tameh among them. "Tameh" or "spiritually unclean" might today be understood as being in a state wherein we should keep an eye on ourselves.

When we are sick, emotional, or in mourning, we are more at risk for blocking our receptivity to God's eternal values and moving away from balance and unity. We are more open to the unfettered emotionality that could lead to sin. Our values and principles could become influenced too much by our emotions. (Motivating emotions like love, anger, hate, and jealousy as they flow to us from God are associated with the sefirah of Hod, splendor.)

In the third section of Chapter 5, we are introduced to Moses' interpretation of God's message in dealing with a very difficult problem, jealousy between husband and wife. Jealousy is an intense emotion, perhaps essential to our survival and reproduction as some scientists claim, but potentially very destructive and dangerous. Uncontrolled jealousy will lead to sin. Jealousy not tempered and balanced by our principles and values, whether conscious or unconscious, against another individual or another nation, can motivate evil.

While the ancient laws of impurity and the ritual of the suspected adulteress are very disturbing to our contemporary ears, their underlying message is enduring. Deal with the state of emotional or physical imbalance when you experience it. Deal with jealousy in your communities. Let us allow our values, principles and ideals to guide us, to help us prevent evil in ourselves and in our societies.

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Jay McCrensky is author of Understanding Evil: Insights from Kabbala and a Ph.D. candidate in Kabbalah and Jewish Studies at the Baltimore Hebrew University. He and his wife, Barbara Hess, are founders of Machaya Klezmer Band, a Jewish band that masters the style, feeling and dynamism of authentic East European Jewish music. Jay is also the founder and President of the Contemporary Kabbalah Institute (CKI), a new rabbinic and scholarly center for the development and promotion of contemporary Kabbalah.