The Song, the Service
Naso "lift up"
Ever feel like there's more going on in the Torah portion than you're catching on to in English? That's a good thing, because it keeps us curious. As long as we're curious, we're studying. As long as we're studying, we're learning. As long as we're learning, we are less threatened that there is so much left to learn. We kind of feel like we're getting a leg up on an eternity of learning, right?
This week's portion Naso has a pretty straightforward English translation of the call to the Levites for service in the Tabernacle (Mishkan):
...from thirty years and upward even to fifty years old, everyone who could enter to do the work of service and the work of carrying in the tent of meeting. (Nu 4:47)
מִבֶּן שְׁלֹשִׁים שָׁנָה
לַעֲבֹד עֲבֹדַת עֲבֹדָה וַעֲבֹדַת
מַשָּׂא בְּאֹהֶל מֹועֵֽד׃
A Levite served for 20 years "on" his burden and work, a significant hint to "service." The number 20 has a corresponding Hebrew letter,
. Many words are formed from the cahf, all having something to do with being a vessel, container, or covering for another thing. A kippah is a cap, an upside-down vessel for the head. Yom Kippur is a Day of Covering, or atonement. A spoon is a
. Just picture the palm of your hand as being a "cup," and that's a great visual, which matches the cup-like shape of cahf.
Numbers 4:47 is translated in
Artscroll in such a way that it preserves the strange turn of phrase in Hebrew:
"...everyone who comes to perform service of a service (la-avod avodat)
the work of carrying the Tent of Meeting."
If the seeds of the whole Scripture are in the Torah, then where are the Levitical singers?
says right here. There is a service that accompanies the service of assembling, servicing, dismantling, and carrying the Tent of Meeting.
" is the song performed with cymbals and harps, a service done for another service...carrying and serving in the Tent.
There were singing men and women who returned from Babylon to Israel in the time of Ezra the Prophet:
The whole assembly numbered 42,360, besides their male and female servants who numbered 7,337; and they had 200 singing men and women. (
What exactly did these singing men and women do? They sang to accompany certain types of service, mourning, and especially to preserve events in Scripture:
And Jeremiah lamented for Josiah: and all the singing men and the singing women spoke of Josiah in their lamentations to this day, and made them an ordinance in Israel: and, behold, they are written in the lamentations. (2
Scripture was preserved in song.
The Song of Creation begins in Genesis 1.
There is no confusion in the song. Creation is orderly, numbered (as in our portion), and fruitful within all the boundaries sung to establish it.
Likewise, the song of the Levites accompanied by harps and cymbals is established for erecting, carrying, setting up, and working within the Tent.
The traditional Psalm is 67 for
. It fuses the song of strings, the Aaronic benediction, and the earth's "produce," its people. Those people will return to the Song of Creation in the Torah.
to be "a house of prayer for all nations," a light and song in the darkness to return the earth back to its spoken and sung order.
The song is the mystery of the Word, the spirit that moves those things which are spiritual to natural and which are natural to spiritual. Song bridges the gap
The salvation sung in the
would bring humankind back to its center, the fruitful Garden, through the resurrection of
, the Singer.
There is an anomaly in Naso's record of the gold ladles filled with incense, a doubled number "ten":
Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai taught: c
ahf asarah asarah
- ("Each incense bowl weighed ten sanctuary shekels"-lit:) each bowl ten
(the doubled words) "ten ten?"
, to allude to the work of creation, and once to allude to the Torah. There are ten utterances in the creation of the world, and (corresponding to them) ten utterances in the Torah (the Ten Commandments).
Each of the twelve "ten-weight" ladles was gold (
), yet they were weighed by a ten-weight of the holy shekel, which is silver. So were the ladles silver or gold?
Gold by substance, silver by weight.
Good Gold (Ge 2) was in the Garden, a symbol of Adam and Eve, who were "very good" creations. Silver is the symbol of redemption,
. Here is a picture of restoration of prayer in the Garden.
When Moses arrived at the Tent of Meeting to speak with Him, he heard the voice communicating with him from atop (me-al) the Cover (ha-
) that was upon the Ark of the Testimony, from between the two
, and He spoke to him." (Nu 7:89)
In the Tent of Meeting, songs of communications were re-opened between the two cheruvim, the entrance back to the Garden. The original "incense" was the prayer, direct conversations with the Creator.
= incense ladle
Al = how the Levites served, literally "on top of" the burden and service
There was a "Tent of Meeting" for Adam and Eve in the Garden. Their incense was offered in Good Gold vessels that Elohim created for them
is He who sits above the circle (
) of the earth...Who stretches out the heavens like a curtain and spreads them out like a tent (
) to dwell in
is the same root word as
, another word for
, the appointed times of Israel.
The whole circle of the earth moves according to the schedule of Heaven. Under this "
," or Tent of Meeting, Adam and Eve could meet Elohim.
in the wilderness re-creates this Creation Song, the voice of many waters from the Rivers of Eden.
When Good Gold, Adam and Eve, introduced confusion into themselves, the appointed rulers of the Earth, they fell into the natural sphere.
They weren't "on" their song, their service, their work to guard the Garden and their relationship with the Creator.
were put in place to guard the Garden so that they wouldn't live forever in a condition that made them abhorrent to Elohim. He would send a Redeemer, silver for Gold.
Every soul carries a burden, but the Israelite must have control OVER the work and burden. That means the
must be under the control of the Spirit so that it will not betray its service and be shamed and naked. Song is a bridge.
Adam and Eve's sin was also betrayed by their clothes...or lack of.
One of the garments (begedim) that the high priest had to wear in the Mishkan was the
me'il, a robe. (Strong's 4598).
Its root is:
מָעַל mâʻal; to cover up; used only figuratively, to act covertly, i.e. treacherously:-transgress, (commit, do a) trespass(-ing).
The priest's robe covers the transgression of the betrayal in the Garden, and it reminds us not to betray our work of guarding and working ON our service, our song, our prayer:
"He counted them at the word of HASHEM, through Moses, every man OVER his work and OVER his burden..."
עַל־פִּי יְהוָה פָּקַד אֹותָם
"on" or "over"
Song is a way of bridging the gap of communication between the Israelite and the Holy One and between Israelite and Israelite...and then from Israelite to the nations. It calls humankind back to the Song of Creation, before betrayal, a restoration of Good Gold through Silver Redemption. No shame. Song is a way of being "on the job" of spiritual service.
In Ephesians 5:6-20, Paul reminds the believers at Ephesus of this Torah portion, one that offers a Nazirite vow to limit natural wine and to increase spiritual wine:
So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.
do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation,
but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the
So let's get ON our spiritual service. Bang your cymbals and strum your harps, whatever the world will receive. Let's get to work singing the Word!
New Class: Learn Introductory Biblical Hebrew
Rabbi Shlomo Eitan, who lives in Israel, is gathering new students for another Introductory class of four 55-minute classes that will meet online on Sundays.
The introductory class is for those who need to learn the alephbet in block and script letters. If you can already read and write block and script, Introductory is not the class for you.
The class will be interactive, and there will be downloadable reference and weekly homework material.
If you are interested in the Introductory class, then please respond with an email to Rabbi Eitan and let him know you're interested. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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