FIRST ALIYAH-The Torah continues from the parsha of Bemidbar to list the responsibilities of the different families of Levi. At the end of Bemidbar, we read of Kehat’s role in transporting the Ark of the Covenant in the desert, and at the beginning of Naso we read about the responsibilities of Gershon and Merari families in looking after the other articles of the sanctuary.
KLI YAKAR asks as to why the family of Kehat merited the carrying of the Ark, considering that Gershon was the first born of Levi and should have by inheritance received that honour? Answer: Had the Gershonites received the right to carry the Ark, people would have attributed the reason to the fact that simply birthright entitled them to do so. The Torah which according to the rabbis in Bava Batra was placed in this Ark eventually is available to all and not just first born children. All have access to it through study, and all have an inheritance in it to paraphrase Moses’ statement in Devarim 32. Further, Aaron and Moses are descended from Kehat, and they prove to be our greatest teachers of Torah and role models.
SECOND ALIYAH- The Torah continues to describe to delineate the responsibilities of the Levite families in regard to the Mishkan, and further indicates the age requirements to engage in these tasks.
The RAMBAN indicates that the delineation of these tasks indicates that Levites from different families could not switch tasks with Levites from other families.
THIRD ALIYAH- Two salient points are discussed in this Aliyah, the first that special quarantine rules and boundaries were set for those suffering from different types of impurities, the second, that confession was part and parcel of any sin offering brought.
The RAMBAM in the beginning of the laws of Repentance in his Mishne Torah states that the concept of Vidui, or confessional, is based on the laws given in this Aliyah. Vidui becomes part of the prayer services for Sepharadim on a daily basis, and for Ashkenazim on fast days. In addition, it is recited by an individual prior to death.
FOURTH ALIYAH- The Torah goes into great discussion regarding the laws of the Sotah and the Nazir. The former is the wife accused of her husband as to having committed adultery, and the latter refers to the individual who for religious conduct concerns eschews the drinking of wine, cutting of hair and refraining from attending family funerals for a period of time, normally thirty days. At the end of the Aliyah, the Torah brings us the Birkat Cohanim, the Priestly blessing that in Sephardic communities is said daily, and in Ashkenazic shuls in Israel and primarily Jerusalem, said daily as well. Ashkenazic communities outside of Israel. recite the Birkat Cohanim only on Jewish holidays.
RASHI cites the Talmudic statement that the word, ‘Sotah’ is a reflection of a spirit of foolishness that overcomes her in committing an unfaithful act. The Nazir, Rashi continues in the name of the Talmud, takes a vow not to drink wine having seen the Sotah in her state of disgrace. Perhaps intoxication brought her to that stage. On the other hand, we read the Birkat Cohanim, mindful of the law that a Kohen shall not be intoxicated on performing this beracha from the duchan or platform.
‘ALIYOT 5-6-7- As part of the Chanukat Hamizbeach, or dedication of the Mishkan, each of the tribal leaders brings the identical gifts for this occasion. What stands out is that though the gifts are identical, we read the description of each so as to indicate the importance and uniqueness of not only the gifts but of the leaders themselves.
The OHR HACHAIM points out that each leader brings his own gift, and does not assign that opportunity to others to act on his behalf. The tribal leader’s gift is reflective of his particular commitment and dedication.