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Two Minutes of Torah: Naso - God's Protection

There's an e-card that reads: “If you want to insult me or disrespect me that's fine, do it to my kid, my husband, my family or friends and I will unleash a level of crazy that will make your nightmares look like a trip to Disney.” Now whatever the merits of this card might be it does reveal a certain truth; we will accept a level of hardship and suffering for ourselves that we would not accept for the people that we love. We want to protect those people that we care for in a way that we don't sometimes protect ourselves.

In the Torah as God lays out the commandments for Moses it is clear that there are some commands about the way that we behave in relation to God and there are other commands about the way that we behave in relation to our fellow person.

In this week’s Torah portion we read about how God reacts in the case of a commandment relating to our fellow person. It says that “Adonai spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to the Israelites: When a man or woman commits any wrong toward a fellow man, thus breaking faith with the Lord, and that person realizes his guilt, he shall confess the wrong that he has done. He shall make restitution in the principal amount and add one-fifth to it, giving it to him whom he has wronged” (Numbers 5:5-7).

God sets up a system that is structured to ensure compensation for the person who has been wronged and sinned against. The wrong is committed against another person but the repercussion is that the person doing the wrong, sinning, has broken faith with Adonai. While we might conceive of our behavior purely in relation to the person that we have wronged it is clear that for God this is a breaking of faith and it goes beyond just that person. It is evidence of the fact that God is there to protect us and God's commandments are set up as protection for one another and the way that we treat one another. Most importantly it demonstrates that God is not only interested when we sin against God, but God also cares passionately about these commandments and justice.

The restitution that is made initially is about compensating the person, only then does it talk about the sacrifice which God expects as well. The fact that there is restitution to the person and a sacrifice to God reveals that when we do harm to another person, when we sin against another person, we don't just harm our relationship with that person but we also harm our relationship with God. And then, in the aftermath of our transgression, we need to repair both relationships in the way that we behave moving forward.

God is there to protect us in this commandment, but it is also a reminder to all of us that God is watching the way that we treat one another and expecting us to treat each other in a way that is appropriate and fitting for God's chosen people.

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