The Spirit of Jealousy
Naso "Lift up"
Numbers 4:21-7:89
an excerpt from Creation Gospel Workbook 5 Vol 4

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash 

Although packed with seemingly unrelated instructions, the common thread that runs through Naso is individual accountability to manage emotions and desires, whether of jealousy, love, wine, ambition, praise, worship, and even grief.  Naso means to lift up, and when emotions are elevated over the ruach, they become excessive instead of expressive of truth.  Humans can love, drink, work, and grieve to excess.  Even praise and worship may be experienced as something self-serving, not God-serving.  

Naso teaches Israel to bring emotions and desires into check.  This is only accomplished by lifting up the Spirit to rule them.  It is yet another example of self-discipline that grows from gratefulness and humility.  It helps each person to assess himself or herself first, gain a balanced personal view, and then to use that self-control to aid and benefit the community.  

The blessing of the Kohanim is part of this portion.  In Hebrew, the blessing is given to "you" in singular instead of plural.  First be at shalom in your own heart, mind, and body, and then serve and edify the hearts, minds, and bodies of the congregation of Israel.  Part of the blessing is:

            The Lord shall make His face shine upon you. (Nu 6:25)   

One of the 613 commandments is to "Emulate the Almighty." The great sage Shammai said:  "Greet every man with a pleasant expression of countenance" (Pirkei Avot, 1:15).  There are three parts to this statement that parallel the priestly blessing:
  1. Countenance - The minimum is to turn your face towards your fellow man; don't greet anyone with the side of the face. Turn your full countenance towards him.  This is the pattern of the camps of Bamidbar.  By facing the Mishkan, the tribes turn their countenance toward one another.
  2. Expression - Your face must denote interest in the individual, not mere formality.
  3. Pleasant - Your countenance should also be pleasant.
Since Adonai deals with humans measure for measure,[1] He makes His face shine upon those whose faces shine to their fellow human beings!  A pleasant countenance is as contagious as the emotional viruses we so freely spread when our countenance is downcast.  However, if we are despondent, it is almost impossible to paste on a cheerful countenance.  

It is difficult to show interest in someone else when we are seething or grieving inwardly.  We can smile, but our spirits will radiate tension or sorrow.  This Torah portion gives several illustrations that call the individual into balance with these emotions. 

No rational person wants out-of-balance emotions to characterize him or her.  A person who desires to control others with emotions is under control of the beast, who uses the nefesh (soul) to manipulate and enlarge his territory.  Emotions are to be experienced at appropriate times in appropriate places, but when those who know us are asked to pick one word that describes us, it should not be such words as depressed, resentful, sad, unhappy, driven, ready-to-snap, gasoline-waiting-for-a-match (okay, more than one word).  

One word, however, will unlock the key of understanding to out-of-control emotions:  stewardship.  Like Adam and Eve, Kain and Abel, when thoughts turn to ownership instead of stewardship, we err.

Those who cannot differentiate between control and influence will eventually lose both.

Jealousy-the Trial of the Sotah [1]

...if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has defiled herself, or if a spirit of jealousy comes over him and he is jealous of his wife when she has not defiled herself... (Nu 5:14)

Jealousy takes all kinds of expressions.  In the first part of the parasha, a packing and traveling plan short-circuited disagreements and the temptation to be jealous over another clan's responsibilities.  Another kind of jealousy is closer to home.  What about a jealous spouse?  How many times does Scripture state that YHVH is a jealous God?  Thirteen times! Adonai is very jealous over His Bride, and the jealousy of a husband toward his wife is a physical representation of that emotion.  YHVH's jealousy is always justified, for He knows truth from falsehood.  His Bride cannot fool Him.   

A mere man, however, is subject to the deception of his own beastly emotions.  The part of a man's nefesh (soul) that is planted within him so that he will protect and shield his wife from predators can become distorted with the self-service of a controlling, jealous spirit.  Instead of caring for the safety of his wife, he may have an overblown sense of pride that causes him to view her as property and suspect her of devaluing him in the eyes of others.  The difference is subtle, but there is a fine line between an attentive, nurturing husband and an abusive one.  According to the Jewish tradition, the trial of the sotah was one that the wife requested so that she could be free from a jealous husband's beastly emotions. 

Pharaoh's chariot wheels came off because he could not release Israel to her true Master, the Holy One of Israel.  An unreasonably jealous husband cannot release his wife to her true Master, the Holy One of Israel.  That earthly husband is a steward of her spirit, soul, and body, just as she is of his, but neither is the absolute owner.  Property is something one controls; a relationship is something one influences.  While it is necessary to control children during their training, no adult, married woman wants to be controlled, but loved and influenced.  A Godly husband respects and values her even when they disagree.  To shame her is to shame himself.  Likewise, a wife who publicly shames her husband shames herself.  

Proverbs 31 says that a woman who is praised by her community and family is the catalyst who will also bring respect to her husband "in the gates" of judgment.  An unjustifiably jealous husband is deceived by the serpent of his desire for attention, control, and esteem.  He will believe the lie that using his emotions to manipulate his wife will ensure she remains under his exclusive control.  Such controlling behavior may actually destroy the beautiful thing that should hold them together:  love. 

Although the trial of the sotah addresses the husband's jealousy, women are also susceptible to excesses of suspicion and doubt, and like other examples in the Torah, the too-high nefesh is not gender-specific.  Perhaps the emphasis on allowing the trial of the sotah to benefit women is the acknowledgment that men will struggle more in the area of unjustified jealousy, and due to their decreased ability to access representation before earthly judges, the Holy One of Israel Himself takes up a woman's case in the trial of the sotah, trumping any earthly judge.

Ironically, the thing Pharaoh feared, which was loss of control over Israel, was the very thing he suffered as his ultimate fate.  Egypt was the temporary caretaker of Israel, not her Husband.  Stewardship grew into ownership. Ultimately, a husband's worst fear is an unfaithful wife and the betrayal of his trust.  The Torah makes provision for him to rest at ease if his fear is through earnest, but undisciplined zeal for the good of his relationship with her.  If his suspicions are unfounded and self-serving jealousy, his beastly motivations will be exposed by the trial of the sotah. 

The root word of kana , jealous, is the same as zealous, and it is also found in the name of Kain, who was named by his mother because she had "acquired" a male child.  The truth is that Eve was only a temporary steward of her son, not the owner.  That spirit of possessiveness transferred to Kain, giving him an overblown kana for Abel's offerings.  The verb kana expresses a very strong emotion whereby some quality or possession of the object is desired by the subject.  Think of the undisciplined emotion of zeal as:

            zeal for another's property = "envy"
            zeal for one's own property = "jealousy"

Jealousy can be a good thing, for it motivates men to protect wives, children, and property, or even one's own spirit when assaulted with evil.  Jealousy or zeal must be informed and disciplined by relational knowledge of the Torah, or it will turn into a broken relationship. At the root of both envy and jealousy is a desire to control property or a person.  Unfounded envy and jealousy is a symptom of deep self-doubt that one can influence a relationship with the light of one's countenance; therefore, he or she turns a dark, fallen face to maintain control.  

Pinchas had proper zeal and jealousy for the Tabernacle when he pilloried Zimri and Cozbi, for he was performing his assigned job to protect the Tabernacle.  When the fornicators crossed into the holy space, Pinchas took up his spear.  Taking up the spear requires Godly wisdom, for without it, one is not a righteous priest, but a murderer, especially of relationships.

The balance is in knowing what our holy space is.  What and who belongs inside our boundary of control?  When we are not entitled to control an object or person, then we must depend upon something else to exert righteous influence, and that is the power of the uplifted countenance, the blessing from above.  Never underestimate the power of the spiritual Light of the Torah to sweeten our relationships in time, even when they seem out of control today.  When the Holy One appoints us a season of losing control, the fastest way out of the fallen countenance is to shift to a mindset of pleasant influence.

The trial of the sotah is just that, a humiliating public trial.  It is better to "try" ourselves first rather than to let jealousy and envy drive us to a public court, which only brings shame to the Name and the Bride.  Lift it up!

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If you would like a good study into strengthening your family relationships among father, mother, spouse, and even singles, consider The Spirit-filled Family, a workbook for those who would like to find the spiritual balance from the light of the menorah.


[1] "Samson followed his eyes, therefore the Philistines pierced his eyes...Absalom glorified in his hair, therefore he was hung by his hair.  And inasmuch as he cohabited with the ten concubines of his father, ten lances were thrust into him...And inasmuch as he stole three hearts - the heart of his father, the heart of the court, and the heart of Israel -as it is stated (2 Samuel  15:6): So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel, therefore, three darts were thrust into him..."  (Mishnah Nashim Sotah 1.8)
[2]  A "sotah" is one who has turned aside or declined


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