Nasso: The Greater the Responsibility, the Greater the Load ~ Tzvi Abrahams

Parshas נָשֹׂא

The Greater the Responsibility, the Greater the Load

נָשֹׂא: raise, carry 

נָשִׂיא: prince

מַשַׂא: burden, a load

נְשׂוּאִין: marriage

לְהַשִׁיא: to trick, to deceive

שִׂיא: elevated heights

נָשֹׂא: Raise, Carry

נָשֹׂא אֶת רֹאשׁ בְּנֵי גֵרְשׁוֹן גַּם הֵם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם
Raise up the head of the children of Gershon also them, according to the house of their fathers and to their families.

נָשִׂיא: Prince

What makes a נָשִׂיא a נָשִׂיא? In order to be a prince, one needs to follow in the footsteps of the king. Yehudah HaNasi was not only the נָשִׂיא because of his lineage or great wealth but because of his great wisdom and closeness to Hashem. 

מַשַׂא: Burden, A Load

After the חֵטְא הַעֵגֶל/the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe declared to the Jewish People:מִי לַה’ אֵלָי/whoever is for Hashem, come to me. The tribe of Levi stepped forward. By drawing close to Hashem, they were automatically raised up. Accordingly, they were the tribe chosen to do the avodah/service in the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash. The Levites were also given the special task of carrying the Mishkan from place to place, according to their מַשַׂא/burden.

The greater the responsibility, the greater the load.

נְשׂוּאִין: Marriage

So too נְשׂוּאִין/marriage has this aspect of greater responsibility. It is the husband’s responsibility to carry the burden of his wife. He has to carry her, not the other way round. In the kesubah it is stated that it is his responsibility to support her and the family with food, clothing, and jewelry.

So how do we cope with the burden of life?

For women, all they have to do is get married and their husbands will take care of them! For men, the answer is also quite simple: we make ourselves into a fitting kallah for Hashem, and Hashem marries us, so to speak, and carries us through life. Hashem betrothed us at Har Sinai, the Torah being the kesubah that we received. If we keep to what is written in the kesubah, Hashem will give us everything we need.

Just like the yoke around the neck of an ox enables it to plow a field and carry the heavy load, so too, if we place the yoke of Hashem’s kingship around our necks, we will be better equipped to carry life’s burdens.

When the Jewish People crossed over the Jordan River into Eretz Yisrael, the Talmud says that rather than the ark being carried over, it carried its pole bearers. And in Tehillim it says:הַשְׁלֵךְ עַל ה’ יְהָבְךָ/cast upon Hashem your load, and you can be sure that Hashem will bear it.

There is a story called “footsteps in the sand,” whereby when looking back through life, we see two sets of footprints in the sand, ours and Hashem’s side by side. At some sections along the way, there seems to be only one set of prints, and when we turn to Hashem and say, “Those were the most difficult times; where were you?” Hashem turns to us and says, “That’s when I carried you.”

לְהַשִׁיא: To Trick or Deceive

After Chava eats from the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad, Hashem questions her motives. She explains that the nachash/snake הִשִׁיאַנִי/tricked me. The yetzer hara tricked her into desiring to be like G-d, to know good and bad. In other words, he falsely raised her up.

The second time this root appears in the Torah is when Kayin gets angry after Hashem accepts his brother Hevel’s offering over his. Hashem then turns to him and says: אִם תֵּיטִיב שְׂאֵת/if you raise yourself up, it will be good. According to the Seforno, Hashem is saying to Kayin: “If you rise above your yetzer hara, it will crouch before you, but if not, it will crouch at your door.” Deep down, the desire of the yetzer hara is not to trick us, but rather for us to be its master. 

We can also perhaps say that Hashem so to speak tricks us into getting married through the agent of the yetzer hara. He has implanted in us a strong desire for women, and if not for this desire, and ignorance of what marriage really entails, we would never willingly get married!

שִׂיא: Elevated Heights

There are two types of raising up, one good and one bad.

Take, for example, an athlete competing for an Olympic gold medal. His sole motivation is to be the best, to raise himself above everyone else. He conditions himself to believe he is number one. He acts god-like, thinking that everything in life exists to serve his goals. He has allowed himself to be tricked by the yetzer hara, where the yetzer hara rules him and he is not its master. 

This person will have a hard time in marriage if he continues to think like this. Instead of carrying and supporting, his focus will be the exact opposite, expecting his spouse to support him in achieving his goal of being number one.

Now we can better understand what Rashi is explaining by connecting the Sotah woman and terumah/tithes to the kohanim. Rashi says that by holding back the gifts that one must give to the kohen (one of Hashem’s ways of supporting his chosen tribe), the miser will nevertheless have to come to the kohen to bring his Sotah wife suspected of adultery. The one who does not recognize the need to support and carry Hashem’s chosen tribe will undoubtedly be in a marriage where he is not supporting his wife either. He is a taker and not a giver. The one who sees life as “everything is here to serve me,” takes from life and takes from his wife. Surely, that wife is going to be looking elsewhere for the love and support that her husband isn’t providing.

The real prince, and the real champion of life, is the one who chooses to be elevated by Hashem. He takes on the burden of life, he carries the load, as Rashi says on the verse הֵם נְשִׂיאֵי הַמַּטֹּת/they were the princes of the tribes, i.e., the ones who were the police enforcers in Egypt, who took the main blows from the Egyptians when the Bnei Yisrael slackened in their work. By taking on the extra responsibility, Hashem raised them up to be נְשִׂיאִים/princes. So too, when we take on life’s responsibilities, when we get married and raise a family and carry the extra load, then Hashem raises us up from being a single, self-focused taker to the much loftier position in life of giver.

The kohanim conclude the נְשִׂיאַת כַּפַּיִם/the Priestly Blessing with יִשָׂא ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וֱיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם/may Hashem lift His face towards you and give you peace. This is the ultimate blessing that we are all seeking — the peace that comes with the knowledge that we are not alone, that it is Hashem who raises His face towards us and carries us on eagle’s wings to the lofty heights of life.

1 Bamidbar 4:22.

2 Sotah 35a.

3 Tehillim 55:23.

4 Though the source of this story is not from the Torah, the notion that Hashem carries us is evident from the Gemara in Sotah.

5 Bereishis 3:13.

6 See Ohr HaChaim to Bereishis ibid., where he mentions that the lashon hints to raising oneself up.

7 Bereishis 4:7

8 See Rashi to Shabbos 146a, s.v., כשבא, where he explains השיאני to refer to marriage.

9 See Rashi to Bamidbar 7:2.

10 Bamidbar 7:2.

Nasso: A Crown is a Crown ~ Rabbi Reuven Chaim Klein

A Crown is a Crown

10-36_20GOLD_large.jpgThe Bible uses three different words to mean “crown”: keter, atarah, and nezer. Some explain that the word keter is a general term which refers to crowns, while the other two are specific types of crowns. However, most commentators assume that the three words represent three different types of crowns.

Malbim defines these three words by explaining the differences in their physical properties. He explains that an atarah is the type of crown which completely surrounds the circumference of one’s head and rises above the head’s height, while the keter is a crown which circles around one’s head, but does not rise above the head’s height (i.e. a coronet). A nezer is a type of crown which only encircles half of the wearer’s head (i.e. a tiara). Others explain that an atarah refers specifically to the type of crown which is covered on top, while the others refer to crowns which are not necessarily so.

The conceptualization of the physical aspects of keter and atarah—which surround the wearer’s head—are used metaphorically in the Bible to refer to any type of surrounding (similar to the English word circlet—a type of crown—which conjures the word circle). Similarly, the Aramaic word for “crown”, klil also refers to something which encompasses another. Rabbi Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (1785–1865) reveals that kallah, the Hebrew word for bride, is derived from the Aramaic word for crown. He explains that just as a crown wholly surrounds the head of the one who wears it, a kallah is wholly surrounded with adornments and jewelry.

In addition to the physical characteristics which set apart these types of crowns from one another, Malbim explains that they also differ on a more abstract, thematic level. He explains that a keter specifically denotes a royal crown, while an atarah may denote any type of crown. In fact, all three times that the word keter appears in the Bible (Esther 2:17, 6:8, 1:11), it appears in the construct phrase keter-malchut, royal crown (like the soft drink!).

The word nezer is related to the word zer (diadem), which appears ten times in the book of Exodus, when describing the golden ornamental “crowns” which are to adorn some vessels in the Mishkan (Tabernacle). But, the word nezer connotes much more than that. For example, it serves as the root of the word nazir, Nazirite. The Torah explains that a Nazirite—one who has foresworn drinking wine, cutting his hair, and ritual impurity—is considered especially holy “because the nezer of G-d is upon his head” (Numbers 6:7). The physical manifestation of this “crown” is the Nazirite’s long hair, but the spiritual manifestation of the Nazirite’s uniqueness is the way that he separates himself from the common folk. The same expression is used when explaining the reason for the special laws concerning the Kohen Gadol (High Priest). About those laws, the Torah says, “Because the nezer—anointing oil—of his G-d is upon him…” (Leviticus 21:12). The Kohen Gadol is also separated from the rest of the nation in both physical (e.g., the priestly vestments) and spiritual ways. From this, we see that the word nezer connotes a crown specifically used as a means of demarcation or separation which shows one’s significance and sets him above the rest.

In addition to the three Hebrew words and the one Aramaic word mentioned above, there is a fifth word for crown used in rabbinic idiom: tāg/tāga. This word is commonly used when referring to the “crowns” drawn on top of certain letters in a Torah Scroll (known as tāgin). Linguists claim that tag is a Persian loanword that was later adopted by Aramaic. Interestingly, in light of our understanding of the role of a crown in marking its wearer as special, we can easily see how the Aramaic word tāg became the English word tag, which also serves as a marker of sorts.

Naso: Adulterated and Satanic – Yehoshua Steinberg

אִישׁ אִישׁ כִּי תִשְׂטֶה אִשְׁתּוֹ וּמָעֲלָה בוֹ מָעַל (במדבר ה:יב).

Should any man’s wife go astray and deal treacherously with him (Num. 5:12).


Machberet Menachem[1] lists this verse in the entry שׂט. The following is the complete listing of the passages included there:


אַל יֵשְׂטְ אֶל דְּרָכֶיהָ לִבֶּךָ[2], שְׂטֵה מֵעָלָיו[3], סֵטִים שָׂנֵאתִי[4], וְשַׁחֲטָה שֵׂטִים הֶעְמִיקוּ[5], תִשְׂטֶה אִשְׁתּוֹ[6], וְאִם לֹא שָׂטִית[7], וְשָׂטֵי כָזָב[8].

Should any man’s wife go astray (Num. 5:12). You have not gone astray (Ibid. 5:19). I hate doing wayward deeds (Ps. 101:3). Those who turn to falsehood (Ibid. 40:5). Their straying they have deepened (Hosea 5:2). Let your heart not veer off into her ways (Prov. 7:28). Turn away from it (Ibid. 4:15).


All these passages indeed share a single broad concept, namely: diverting, digressing and deviating… generally in a negative sense. The only other word in לשון הקדש with a שׂ followed by a ט is the word שטן, Satan. The logical connection between the two[9] is that שטן is so called because his task is solely to deflect one from his mission or intention[10].


Notice that one of the words listed by Menachem begins with the letter ס (סטים). The interchanging of ש and ס is a very common phenomenon[11]. To wit, the Talmudic tractate treating the subject of the unfaithful woman is called סוטה, an adaptation of the word תשטה. Both letters are part of the phonetically related group of (dental) letters: זסשר”ץ. Our sages therefore link the word סוטה/שׂוטה: to the word שטות (folly), with a שׁ (shin):


סוטה ג. – אין אדם עובר עבירה אלא אם כן נכנס בו רוח שטות, שנאמר: אִישׁ אִישׁ כִּי תִשְׂטֶה אִשְׁתּוֹ.

Sota 3a – Resh Lakish said: A person does not commit a transgression unless a spirit of folly [שטות] enters into him; as it is said: If any man’s wife goes astray [תשטה].


Is this merely a homiletic association, or is it possible that an actual linguistic connection is being hinted to as well? Note that the words  שטותandשוטה  are not Scriptural; they are first found in the Talmud and Midrash. That said, new terms such as these introduced by the Sages were generally founded on Biblical roots[12]. In an attempt to determine the Biblical connection, we again turn to Machberet Menachem, where we find four מחלקות (subsections) in the entry שׁט. The following verses are grouped in the first מחלקה there, the theme of which is wandering, floating or roaming aimlessly:


  1. שָׁטוּ הָעָם[13], שׁוּט נָא[14], אֳנִי שַׁיִט[15], שׁוֹטְטוּ בְּחוּצוֹת[16], מִשּׁוּט בָּאָרֶץ[17], הֵמָּה מְשׁוֹטְטִים[18].

The people walked about (Num. 11:8). Go now, to and fro (II Sam. 24:2). A floating boat (Is. 33:21). Walk to and fro in the streets (Jer. 5:1). From going to and fro (Job 1:7).

On the other hand, the other three subsections all in entry שט refer to rods, oars or trees:

  1. אֶרֶז שִׁטָּה וַהֲדַס [19], וְעֹרֹת תְּחָשִׁים וַעֲצֵי שִׁטִּים [20].

Cedars, acacia trees, myrtles (Is. 41:19). Tachash skins and acacia wood (Ex. 25:5).

Common theme of this subsection: Acacia wood.


  1. וַיּוֹשֶׁט הַמֶּלֶךְ[21], אַלּוֹנִים… מִשּׁוֹטָיִךְ[22], הַשָּׁטִים אֹתָךְ[23].

And the king extended (Esth. 5:2). {possibly related:} Of oaks… were made your oars (Ez. 27:26). Were your oarsmen (Ibid. 27:8).

Common theme of this subsection: A rod/oar used to extend one’s reach.


  1. בְּשׁוֹט לָשׁוֹן[24], יִסַּר אֶתְכֶם בַּשּׁוֹטִים[25], קוֹל שׁוֹט[26], וּלְשֹׁטֵט בְּצִדֵּיכֶם[27].

The whip of the tongue (Job 5:21). Chastised you with rods (I Kings 12:11). The sound of the whip (Nachum. 3:2). A goad in your sides (Josh. 23:13).

Common theme of this subsection: A rod used as a whip/prod.


While the connection between the last three subsections, dealing with rods, sticks, oars and scepters is that all are shafts that can be constructed of wood, how is that connected with the first section, whose focus is aimless drifting? The connection is obvious: rods, oars and the monarch’s staff are all used (literally or symbolically) precisely to prevent careless straying, to ensure that a boat, ox or nation remain on/return to the straight and narrow. In other words, these objects are used to thwart waywardness of any sort.

Indeed, the שטים tree itself (included in subsection #2 above) is not named randomly. חז”ל teach us[28] that בני ישראל were commanded to construct the משכן  out of שטים to remind them of their deviant sins at the place in the Sinai desert so named (see Num. 25:1-9), as a form of atonement[29].

Summarizing to this point, we’ve seen derivatives of שׂט/סט whose core meaning is diverting, digressing and deviating. In contrast, those words deriving from שׁט denote wandering, floating or roaming aimlessly on the one hand, and devices designed to prevent such roving on the other.

A concept related to diversion/deviation is contempt/scorn/revilement, in that an entity so branded is one to be avoided, an object away from which one deviates. This may explain a word appearing only in the book of Ezekiel[30]: שאט. Rashi explains that the word implies contempt/disgrace: [31]

יחזקאל טז:נז – בְּנוֹת פְּלִשְׁתִּים הַשָּׁאטוֹת אוֹתָךְ מִסָּבִיב; רשי – השאטות – לשון בזיון, ולא קרינן א’. ויבז מתרגמינן: ושט.

Ezekiel 16:57 – the daughters of the Philistines, who despised you from around. Rashi: השאטות – an expression for disgrace. The ‘aleph’ is not sounded.  ויבזdespised (Gen. 25:34), is translated as ושט [in Targum Onkelos].


As mentioned above, diversion/deviation is indeed the core meaning of the root שׂטה in Parshas Naso. As alluded to previously, according to Maimonides this root שׂטה is the source of the word שטן, Satan[32]. While one can scarcely imagine any positive association with this word, that is precisely what the Midrash (quoted by Rashi) teaches:


במדבר כב:כב – וַיִּתְיַצֵּב מַלְאַךְ ה’ בַּדֶּרֶךְ לְשָׂטָן לוֹ; רש”י מלאך של רחמים היה והיה רוצה למנעו מלחטוא, שלא יחטא ויאבד.

Num. 22:22 – and an angel of the Lord stationed himself on the road to thwart him; Rashi – to thwart him; It was an angel of mercy, and he wanted to prevent him from sinning, for should he sin, he would perish.


Deviation in and of itself is not necessarily evil or even negative, in fact, it may be quite positive, if the diversion is away from a negative path (as Balaam was obviously on) towards a healthier one[33]. But while deviation in the abstract can be turned to good, not so with the concrete deviation of the סוטה. Her turn for the worse represents evil, period.


May this Shavuos holiday bring an end to our wandering and aimlessness, and may all our diversions be away from malevolence and towards righteousness. In the merit of uprightness may we witness the righting of the Beis Hamikdash, replete with the holy Ark built of עצי שטים speedily in our times, amen.



Yehoshua Steinberg Complacency is tantamount to complicity; Serenity is prerequisite to accomplishment.





[1]  [הלקסיקון הראשון ללשון מקרא מאת מנחם אבן סרוק. מצוטט מאות פעמים בפירושי רש”י לתנ”ך ולגמרא].

[2]  רלב”ג משלי ז:כח – אל ישט – אל יטה לבך אל דרך האשה הזרה הזאת.

[3]  מצ”צ משלי ד:טו – שטה – ענין הטיה והסרה, כמו: אַל יֵשְׂטְ אֶל דְּרָכֶיהָ (משלי ז).

[4]  מצ”צ תה’ קא:ג – סֵטִים – ענינו דברים הסרים מדרך הנכוחה, כמו: אַל יֵשְׂטְ אֶל דְּרָכֶיהָ (משלי ז).

[5]  מצ”צ הושע ה:ב – שֵׂטִים – ענין הסרה מדרך הטוב, כמו: וְאַתְּ כִּי שָׂטִית (במ’ ה:כ).

[6]  רש”י במ’ ה:יב – תִשְׂטֶה – תט מדרכי צניעות… כמו: שְׂטֵה מֵעָלָיו (משלי ד:טו), אַל יֵשְׂטְ אֶל דְּרָכֶיהָ לִבֶּךָ (שם ז:כה).

[7]  ת”א במ’ ה:יט – ואם לא סטית לאסתאבא בר מבעליך.

[8]  רש”י תה’ מ:ה – וְשָׂטֵי כָזָב – משטים מדרך הישר אחרי הכזב.

 [9] ע’ ספר הבהיר, סי’ קסד; זמרת ישע, דף פט; מעשה רקם, דף 427.

 [10] [השטן מוזכר לראשונה בפרש”י בפרשת העקידה, שם הטה השטן את האיל מדרכו, ובכך עיכבו ממשימתו]: רש”י בר’ כב:יג – בקרניו – שהיה רץ אצל אברהם והשטן סובכו ומערבבו באילנות כדי לעכבו.

 [11] [כדוגמאות אין ספור, למשל]: רשי הושע ח:דהשירו – עשו שרים ד”א הסירו את זה ממלוכ’ והמליכו את זה ובספר המסור’ מוכיח כן שחברו במסורה כתבין ש’ וקריין ס’ ופתרונו ס’. מא יח:כז – כי שיח וכי שיג לו; רלבג – שיח… והנה שיח שרשו נשח, כמו פיח שרשו נפח, והרצון בו שהעקר כחו, כמו: ונסחתם מעל פני האדמה (דב’ כח:סג), כי הס’ והש’ ישתתפו מאד בהוראות התיבה אשר הם בהם. רבינו בחיי בר’ ב:יט –הסוס קל התנועה ושמח לקראת המלחמה והעלה שמו סוס מלשון שישה כי ס’ מתחלפין ש’.

[12]  וי”א שגם המלים החדשות שבל’ משנה (כגון גשר, גרמא, סימן, קביעות) רובן היו בשימוש בע”פ, וזה שנמצאו במקרא היא רק מפני שלא הזדמן להן צורך לשימוש בתנ”ך. ראה יריעות שלמה (הקדמה, ד:), ובמה שהביא מרד”ק ומזרחי שם.

[13]  רש”י במ’ יא:ח – שָׁטוּ – אין שייט אלא לשון טיול אישבני”ר [טיול להנאה] בלא עמל.

[14]  מצ”צ ש”ב כד:ב – שׁוּט – ענין ההליכה אנה ואנה, וכן: מִשּׁוּט בָּאָרֶץ (איוב א).

[15]  רש”י ישע’ לג:כא – אֳנִי שַׁיִט – אניה השטה במים.

[16]  מצ”צ יר’ ה:א – שׁוֹטְטוּ – ענין ההליכה אנה אנה, וכן: מִשּׁוּט בָּאָרֶץ (איוב א).

[17]  מצ”צ איוב א:ז – מִשּׁוּט – ענין ההליכה אנה ואנה, כמו: שָׁטוּ העם ולקטו (במדבר יא).

[18]  זכ’ ד :ב.

[19]  ישע’ מא:יט.

[20]  שמ’ כה:ה.

[21]  אסתר ה:ב

[22]  רש”י יחז’ כז:ו – משוטיך – הם שרחבים בראשם שמנהיגין בהם האניה, ריימ”ש בלע”ז.

[23]  מצ”ד יחז’ כז:כו – הַשָּׁטִים אֹתָךְ – מנהיגי הספינה המשיטים אותך.

[24]  איוב ה:כא.

[25]  מצ”צ מ”א יב:יא – בַּשּׁוֹטִים – הוא כעין שבט, כמו: שׁוֹט לַסּוּס (משלי כו).

[26]  מצ”צ נחום ג:ב – שוט – שבט ושרביט, כמו: שׁוֹט לַסּוּס (משלי כו).

[27]  מצ”צ יהושע כג:יג – ולשוטט – ענין שבט, כמו: שׁוֹט לַסּוּס (משלי כו), ונכפלה ל’ הפעל.

 [28] ע’ במד”ר כ :כב.

[29] Aside: it is interesting to note that the root for the word “police” in לשון הקדש is שטר, possibly pointing to a compound of שט –deviation—and טר – guarding (as in לא תטר, usually translated as “do not bear a grudge,” but which literally means “do not guard [hatred]”, as every instance of the root שמר in בנין קל is rendered by the Targum with a derivative of טר [e.g. Ex. 34:11]).

[30] [אלו הן ההופעות היחידות, חוץ מהמובא לקמיה]: בְּכָל שָׁאטְךָ בְּנֶפֶשׁ (יחז’ כה:ו). נָקָם בִּשְׁאָט בְּנֶפֶשׁ (שם כה:טו). מִכֹּל סְבִיבֹתָם הַשָּׁאטִים אוֹתָם (שם כח:כד). בַּעֲשׂוֹתִי שְׁפָטִים בְּכֹל הַשָּׁאטִים אֹתָם (שם כח:כו). בִּשְׁאָט נֶפֶשׁ (שם לו:ה).

[31] [ובספר חק נתן (ב”ק ה.) קישר בין ‘שט’ ל’שטות’]: נכנס בו רוח שטות… ל’ בזיון – שטות; תרגום ויבז עשו: ושט.

[32] מורה נבוכים ג:כב – ראה בלעם… באמרו לו: הִנֵּה אָנֹכִי יָצָאתִי לְשָׂטָן (במ’ כב:לב). ודע ששטן נגזר מגזרת: שְׂטֵה מֵעָלָיו וַעֲבוֹר (משלי ד:טו), רוצה לומר שהוא מענין הנטייה וסור מהדבר מפני שהוא המטה מדרך האמת.

[33] ובדומה לפעלים ‘סור’ ‘פנה’, ‘נטה’, שפעם מציינים סיבוב כלפי יעד ופעם להתרחק ממנו.