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    I have no relations – Naso

    There are some really sad funerals. One of the saddest is when there is no-one there apart from the deceased, the rabbi and the Chevra Kadisha officials.

    I have conducted a few funerals like that. In one case the deceased actually left her house to me for the benefit of Jewish children, and over a few years I used the funds for various educational and youth organisations.

    At the time she died, none of the beneficiaries knew of her bequest. Otherwise they would presumably have made certain they or someone on their behalf attended the funeral. In the event, I was there, she was there, the burial society people were there – and no-one else. She had no close relatives and apparently no friends. It is hard to believe that a person had no family at all, but that is the fact.

    I think of this lady when we come to Parashat Naso and read that someone who commits a wrong must make restitution to the family of the victim (Num. 5:6-8). The sages wonder why the text goes on, “But if the man (i.e. the victim) has no kinsman”. How, they ask, can an Israelite have no kinsman? A possibility is that the Torah is talking of a proselyte who has no heirs.

    Why, though, was it regarded as so improbable that an Israelite would have no relatives?

    One answer may be that there is a saying, Kol Yisra’el achim, “All Israel are brothers” (Tanchuma Naso 3). All members of the Jewish people are thus an extended family. No-one is without relatives in a metaphorical if not a literal sense. Members of the total Jewish family would be happy to acknowledge and embrace every other member whom they know of.

    (There are even some non-Jews who are aware of this Jewish comfort zone; someone once told me, “I want to become Jewish because I have nobody and I know that Jews are a big family and look after each other”).

    How can a Jew appear to be without relatives? Perhaps they had their own reasons for choosing to be isolated; consequently, other Jews did not know the person existed and were unable to open their hearts and arms to them.

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