This week’s Torah portion covers Numbers 4:21 to 7:89. The text is made up of seemingly unrelated passages that are out of any chronological order. The reading begins with a continuation of the census in the camp. Over 8,000 Levites are counted responsible for transporting the Tabernacle. Details are given for exactly which pieces go to which priestly families. The text then goes into how to handle accusations of a wife’s unfaithfulness. Right after that we are presented with the laws of the Nazarite. By avoiding wine, haircuts, and contact with death, a non-Levite can take a special vow and achieve the same high standard of purity as the priesthood. The text ends with a long and very repetitious section where each of the leaders of the twelve tribes brings an offering to the altar. Nasso has more verses than any of the other 54 Torah portions for the entire year.
I want to focus on one small portion of the reading in the sixth chapter, but one that has left a permanent and unique imprint on Judaism and Christianity for all of time. Aaron and his descendants are instructed on how to give the priestly blessing to the Israelites, sometimes called the Aaronic blessing.
That one simple, yet chillingly powerful prayer, is also the oldest biblical text ever discovered. By far.