Bamidbar Fifteen: Sacrifices, Challah, and Tzitzit

Even though the initial plan of the exodus has taken a detour, and now a new generation will be the one that eventually makes it to the promised land, the preparations and expectations for what happens once they arrive are still intact. Now, we are told about how sacrifices will be expected to happen when there is an occasion for a peace offering or any other voluntary offering in the land. As usual, no detail is too small, from the types of animals to the amounts of grain and oil that are meant for each respective kind of offering. These are not sacrifices that are specific to the kohanim, but rather are meant to be undertaken by every person. “Every native born shall do it in this manner, to offer up a fire offering of pleasing fragrance to the Lord (Numbers 15:13).” In addition to the Israelites, resident proselytes are also able to make the same offerings, and they are accepted by God as well. “One rule applies to the assembly, for yourselves and for the proselyte who resides; one rule applies throughout your generations just as for you, so for the proselyte, before the Lord (Numbers 15:15).” I’m not sure what exactly a person needs to do or be in order to qualify as a proselyte, but I’m wondering how that principle can be applied today. Does a resident non-Jew living in Israel today have the same status, that their offerings would be accepted as well? What is a proselyte as opposed to a resident alien?

When the people arrive in the land, and they make and eat bread from the produce of the land, they are required to set aside a portion of it as a gift to God. “The first portion of your dough, you shall separate a loaf for a gift; as in the case of the gift of the threshing floor, so shall you separate it. From the first portion of your dough you shall give a gift to the Lord in your generations (Numbers 15:20-21).” This is something that continues until today, when Jewish people bake challah, the braided bread that we eat on Shabbat. A piece of it is removed and burned, a throwback to this sacrificial regulation.

Next we hear about sin offerings, both intentional and unintentional. And finally, in this jam-packed chapter, we are given the commandment to wear tzitzit, fringes, on the corners of our garments. In verses that are recited every day as part of the Shema, this mitzvah is written. “Speak to the children of Israel and you shall say to them that they shall make for themselves fringes on the corners of their garments, throughout their generations, and they shall affix a thread of sky blue on the fringe of each corner. This shall be fringes for you, and when you see it, you will remember all the commandments of the Lord to perform them, and you shall not wander after your hearts and after your eyes after which you are going astray. So that you shall remember and perform all My commandments and you shall be holy to your God. I am the Lord, your God, Who took you out of the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord your God (Numbers 15:38-41).”

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