The parsha Naso, which follows the Festival of Shavuos, distinguishes
itself as the longest parsha in the Torah, comprising no fewer than
It has been pointed out that Psalm 119, the longest of the psalms,
also has 176 verses (eight verses, each beginning with the 22 letters
of the Hebrew Alphabet).
It has also been noted that the longest tractate of the Talmud, Bava
Basra, contains, you guessed it, 176 pages!
The Baal Shem Tov, whose yahrtzait we just observed on the first day
of the Festival of Shavuos, taught that nothing happens by chance. If
a leaf flutters in the wind and lands in a particular location it is
by Divine providence. However, the Divine plan in nature is not easily
discernable. The word for nature in Hebrew is teva, which actually
means “submerged.” That is so because the truth and reality of G-d’s
plan for every detail of the universe is submerged beneath the
surface. It takes a spiritual “deep sea diver” to discover this Divine
But Torah is different.
The word Torah is related to the word for light. In Aramaic the word
for Torah is Oraisa, which means “that which brings light.”
Furthermore, the Torah is described in the book of Proverbs as a
source of light. This metaphor suggests that those things which may be
concealed and submerged within nature are clear and exposed in Torah.
The fact that these three distinct Torah texts share the same number
of verses/pages is no coincidence and conveys a profound message.
What is it about these three texts that convey a uniform message
related to the number 176?
On the level of remez, the hints that are associated with gematria,
the number 176 is the numerical value of the word l’olam-forever.
RAISING OUR HEADS
The parsha of Naso is always read in conjunction with the Festival of
Shavuos, the anniversary of the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It
begins with the words “Naso es Rosh,” which is translated as “take a
census” or “count the heads.” However, a more literal rendition yields
the following translation: “Lift up the heads.”
This has been interpreted as an allusion to the Torah, which uplifts
our heads. Without Torah, our minds engage the world of natural
wisdom, science, philosophy, history, business, etc. In short, this is
the level of knowledge within human reach. With Torah, however, our
minds are elevated and allow us to grasp G-dly knowledge which
transcends nature. Every time we engage in Torah study our minds are
elevated, and through the elevation of our minds our bodies and
personalities are uplifted as well.
The Talmud (P’sachim 68b) records a statement of the sage Rabbi Yosef
concerning the virtue of the Holiday of Shavuos:
“If not for this day that caused it, there would have been many
Josephs in the marketplace.”
Rashi explains that what he meant was that, as a result of this
special day in which the Torah was given, he became uplifted and
Why did Rabbi Yosef feel uplifted because of Torah?
The answer, of course, is that Torah doesn’t just inspire and guide
us; its unique aspect is the manner in which it raises our intellect
to a higher plane.
What is it about Torah that makes it so unique in relation to other
disciplines, that endows it with this power to elevate the one who
The answer lies in the word l‘olam, which conveys a double message
based on two possible translations of this word.
The first translation is “forever,” as we say in the Boruch shem
prayer after the Shma, “Blessed is the name of His glorious kingdom
G-d is eternal. As He created the laws of nature, G-d is not bound by
them. So while created beings are, by definition, ephemeral because
they have a beginning and must therefore have an end, the Creator, who
has no beginning, also has no end. Whereas creation exists because of
the act of creation, G-d just exists because He must exist. His
existence is absolute; he must exist. Our existence is circumstantial;
we just happen to exist.
The same is true of the Torah, which is Divine wisdom. It too must be
eternal because, as Maimonides writes, “G-d and His wisdom are one,”
Thus, the number 176, which is equivalent to the word l’olam, is
associated with the parsha that speaks of the elevating character of
Torah. What elevates us above the rest of the world of knowledge is
that Torah is inherently eternal because it springs from the Eternal
Thus, Parshas Naso with its 176 verses highlights the power of Torah
to elevate us.
This is further buttressed by the fact that it consists of eight
verses for each letter of the alphabet. The number eight is a
transcendent number, because it goes beyond the number seven, which
represents the cycle of nature. The number eight is connected to
Moshiach, in whose time the harp in the Beis HaMikdash will have eight
strands as opposed to King David’s harp. The letters of the alphabet
correspond to all of our faculties, “from a to z,” as they say. By
repeating each letter/verse eight times we elevate ourselves to a
higher transcendent level.
L’OLAM – TO THE WORLD
The word l’olam also has an alternate meaning: “To the world.” In
other words, the same Torah that is so other-worldly, was directed to
and relates to our very temporal and limited world. Torah, by
contrast, is both divinely eternal and eminently relevant.
This is in contrast to all other areas of knowledge; the more abstract
and ethereal the knowledge, the less it can relate to everyday,
mundane and quotidian life.
This duality of Torah is expressed in Psalm 119.
Psalm 119 is unique. It is the most powerful, passionate and lengthy
expression of King David’s love for the Torah. In this psalm, King
David speaks simultaneously of the wondrous and infinite nature of
Torah and how the Torah was so relevant to his life; indeed,
This psalm thus expresses the dual nature of Torah and of the word
l’olam-ethereal and ephemeral, infinite and finite, elusive and
Incidentally, the word l’olam appears nine times in Psalm 119, more
than in any other chapter in the entire Tanach (except for Psalm 136,
where the same phrase “ki l’olam chasdo” is repeated 26 times).
L’OLAM-THE ETERNAL BOND WITH THE JEWISH PEOPLE
There is another manifestation of the Divine power of eternality. It
is the relationship G-d has with the Jewish people and, through them,
to the entire world. This relationship is expressed by the Beis
HaMikdash-the Holy Temple. We see this in the initial commandment of
G-d to build a Sanctuary: “Make for Me a sanctuary and I will dwell in
them.” The word “them” here refers to the entire Jewish people, who
were betrothed to G-d for all eternity through the medium of the Beis
This relationship is described by the prophet Hoshea (2:21): “And I
will betroth you unto Me l’olam-forever.”
In general terms, this relationship began at Sinai. It was advanced
when the Mishkan was built and further enhanced through King Solomon’s
construction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. When G-d chose Jerusalem
and the Temple Mount in particular as the site for the Temple, it was
established from above as the eternal city and location for G-d’s
special home. No other place could ever be designated as G-d’s
dwelling place and the place to which we bring all our offerings.
Indeed, since the construction of the Beis HaMikdash, all of our
prayers are directed there and ascend to heaven through that site.
The eternal nature of the Holy Temple was restricted to the spiritual
realm. Since the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, we do not have a
physical structure in which heaven and earth come together.
This will be remedied with the coming of Moshiach, who will build the
third, final and permanent Beis HaMikdash.
BAVA BASRA: THE THIRD TRACTATE AND BEIS HAMIKDASH
Where is this notion of a permanent dwelling place in the Third Beis
According to a talk of the Rebbe (Seifer HaSichos 5752 – Parshas
Mishpatim) it is in the Tractate called Bava Basra.
The section of the Mishna and Talmud called Nezikin-Damages contains
one long tractate that has been divided into three parts, which deal
with torts, theft, commerce, partnerships, neighbors, inheritance,
contracts, etc. In short, this three-part tractate deals with Jewish
criminal and civil law involving property.
The three sub-tractates are called, Bava Kama-first section, Bava
Metzia-middle section and Bava Basra-last section, respectively.
According to the Zohar, the three tractates correspond to the three
Temples. Bava Basra represents the third and final Temple that will
never be destroyed because it will be built by Moshiach, about whom
the prophet Ezekiel writes that he shall be the nasi-leader l’olam
Collectively, these tractates, called Nezikin-damages, deal with
conflict and damage which are obvious symbols of the division and
dysfunction of Galus-exile. Study of each tractate that focuses on how
to repair our broken and conflicted relationships brings us closer to
the Messianic Age and the Final Redemption. It follows that the final
section of this “trilogy” deals and provides us with the final blow to
exile that enables Moshiach to build the third Beis HaMikdash. In
addition, Bava Basra contains many of the sages’ teachings concerning
the events to transpire in the Messianic Age.
Thus Bava Basra, dealing as it does with the ultimate Redemption and
the final and permanent Beis HaMikdash, has 176 pages; the numerical
value of the word l’olam-eternal.