“Parsha and Purpose” – Naso 5781
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha
“Civil Unrest in Israel and the Blessing of Peace”
Parshat Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89)
“Civil Unrest in Israel and the Blessing of Peace“
We find ourselves in very turbulent times. So many of us in Israel are worried about our families, children and grandchildren as well as our colleagues and students – including those in the army – all of whom face challenging situations and are in harm’s way.
During periods of uncertainty like these, we seek perspective and guidance.
Rabbi Soloveitchik taught us that when you want insights into a current situation, you needn’t look any further than that week’s parsha.
And in fact this week, in Parshat Naso, we are introduced to Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing, through which Aharon and his children will convey God’s blessing to the Jewish People.
The Torah specifies the precise language that the Kohanim are to use:
יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ ה’ וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ׃
May Hashem bless you and protect you.
יָאֵ֨ר ה’ פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ׃
May Hashem deal kindly and graciously with you.
יִשָּׂ֨א ה’ פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם׃ (במדבר ו:כב-כז)
May Hashem bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace. (Numbers 6:22-27)
The prayer concludes with peace – the most important blessing we could receive.
For me, at this moment – as I witness families sleeping in safe rooms, students being rushed into army service, colleagues in Lod whose possessions have been torched and lives are potentially at risk – I am reminded that peace comes at a price and that true peace must ensure that Jewish blood is no longer cheap.
My father, a Holocaust survivor, was thrown out of Poland. We will not be thrown out of Lod!
The Gemara in Tractate Sotah resolves that there must be a synergy between the Kohanim, who are the conduits of God’s blessing, and the congregation, which must actively accept the blessings — whether by saying ‘Amen’, or reflecting with intent upon each utterance.
Our active response to the words וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ – God’s protecting us; and וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ – God sharing his countenance with us, is the creation and participation in a strong IDF.
But our responsibility towards שָׁלֽוֹם – peace must also include our commitment to never take the law into our own hands.
I am referring to a small group of Jews attacking innocent Arabs.
They are created, as we are, in the image of God.
Our responsibility to peace, towards our Torah values, requires a commitment to the rule of law.
As Prime Minister Netanyahu said in recent days: “Tolerating vigilantism and violence paves the way to anarchy”.
It is a total rejection of the priestly blessings that are to rest upon the Jewish people.
Please understand: there is no equivalence between isolated acts of vigilantism committed by a small number of misguided Jews and the full-blown acts of terror by Hamas and other terror organizations.
Nevertheless, as Yaakov Avinu reminds his sons Shimon and Levi, vigilantism is not acceptable. It is not part of the Jewish gestalt.
And so, as we read this parsha, we pray that these acts of violence by Jews have already ended.
I know from my colleagues at Ohr Torah Stone whose lives have been turned upside down that replacing their destroyed physical belongings will be far easier than repairing the shattered coexistence between them and their Israeli Arab neighbors.
So we pray for their shalom, both physical and inner peace.
We pray for shalom for everyone in the State of Israel, especially the residents of Israel’s embattled south, where an entire generation of children has grown up under rocket fire.
And we pray that we all merit Jews and Arbas alike in the State of Israel – God’s Priestly Blessing and the ultimate blessing of Shalom.