Naso
Rabbanit Sally Mayer

Parshat Naso: Why Do We Go To Extremes? Rabbanit Sally Mayer is the Rosh Midrasha of Midreshet Lindenbaum‘s Maria and Joel Finkle Overseas Program Parshat Naso describes the option to become a nazir, prohibiting oneself from drinking wine (and even eating grapes!), cutting one’s hair and participating in the funeral even of the closest relatives. …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Naso 5781 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Civil Unrest in Israel and the Blessing of Peace”

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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.

 

Shabbat Shalom.

Parshat Naso (Numbers 4:21 – 7:89) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –  What is the real meaning of love? And why is it that the Priest-Kohanim, the ministers of the Holy Temple and Torah teachers of the nation, must administer their priestly benediction “with love”? What has “love” to do with their specific leadership …

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Tamar Green Eisenstat

Parshat Naso: Wine or Wine not? Lessons from the Negligent Nazir Tamar Green Eisenstat (Midreshet Lindenbaum 1991) is a New York-based attorney and student at Yeshivat Maharat. This week’s parsha, Parshat Naso, includes an in depth look at the ascetic life of the Nazir, including instructing us on how a person becomes a Nazir, what …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Naso 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Renewing our Vows” with God

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Renewing our Vows” with God

We’re on the balcony of my Ohr Torah Stone office in Gush Etzion, overlooking Highway 60, the road which the Jewish people would take, as they were oleh regel – as they ascended to the Beit haMikdash – three times a year; the road from which the Romans conquered and pillaged Jerusalem; the road on which we, the Jewish people, reconquered Jerusalem, as well as the environs of Gush Etzion all around us.

It’s the road of Jewish history, right outside my office, and you’re all welcome to come and visit it in person.

“Vayehi bayom kalot Moshe lehakim et haMishkan.” It is the day on which Moshe finishes the construction of the Mishkan, after seven days of taking it apart and putting it back together again. Numbers 7:1 

Rashi comments on this verse, Kalat ktiv, that it’s written as “kalat.” Rashi on Numbers 7:1 You see, Rashi’s version of this verse is different than ours; we have a vav in the word Kalot, but Rashi has it without a vav. For Rashi, the word means, “kalat ktiv” – it’s like a bride and groom.  Rashi is trying to explain why it is that Moshe, a man, a leader north of 100 years old, needs to deconstruct and reconstruct the Mishkan for a week. After all, he’s not the moving company, responsible for moving the Mishkan from place to place. There’s a message that Rashi is trying to communicate, in his very cryptic language, and that is that the Mishkan is not an end in itself, but a means to an end: to create sacred moments in time with God.

And therefore, what Rashi is highlighting is that Moshe has to take it apart and put it back together again to signify to the Jewish people that the structure is only important when we imbue it with relevance and holiness.

This is exactly the message that the prophets give to the priests when they say “be careful,” when the Temple was being abused and becoming not a place of holiness, but rather of idol worship, as happened at various points in history.

And Rashi is trying to highlight the fact that the Mishkan represents the relationship between the bride and groom. It’s for this same reason that every bride and groom has Sheva Brachot. What is Sheva Brachot? Sheva Brachot is the ma’ase nisu’in – it’s the act of marriage. It’s the responsibility for seven days to take apart the marriage and renew it, to highlight that the institution of marriage itself is not the mitzva. There’s no special bracha on the marriage; it’s what you do with the marriage. That’s what’s critical, that’s what’s important. 

And therefore Rashi says, Moshe takes apart the Mishkan and puts it back together again, like a Chatan and Kallah, as a Chatan and Kallah “renew their vows” for seven days, to highlight that what’s important in a marriage is not the institution, but what we do with the institution, how we infuse it with relevance. 

What an important message for all of us. It’s important for us on two levels. Because of corona, our weddings are looking so different now than they did not so long ago. It’s no longer about the pomp and circumstance, it’s about understanding the meaning and the beauty. It doesn’t matter if the wedding is in a hall with 500 people, or in a backyard with 50 people. What counts is the message of “kalat,” the message of consecrating a relationship between a bride and groom. 

What counts, as we read this parsha, is how we re-consecrate our relationship with God. It’s about taking it apart, evaluating, where are the weaknesses, and where are the strengths, and rebuilding our relationship to God. Or, as we journey through this age of corona, to remind ourselves of the opportunity even during tragedy to renew our relationship with God, to create a renewed bond, a renewed relationship, a new face. Because ultimately, our commitment to a relationship is what imbues the structure with holiness and purpose.

Shabbat shalom.

Shabbat Shalom: Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin  Efrat, Israel – This week’s reading of Naso describes the “Sota,” the woman who acts immodestly. At the very least, she sequesters herself alone with a man despite the fact that her husband warned her against seeing that person. She therefore undergoes the test of the …

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“Parsha and Purpose” – Shavuot/Naso 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Shavuot, God and Creating Eternal Holiness”

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“Shavuot, God and Creating Eternal Holiness”

Did you ever wonder why, when it comes to the holiday of Pesach, Sukkot, or Rosh haShana or Yom Kippur, there are specific mitzvot to do- whether it’s eating matza and maror, sitting in the sukka or shaking lulav and etrog, hearing the shofar, or fasting. But when it comes to the holiday of Shavuot, which concretizes our relationship with God, there are no particular commandments! Eating cheesecake is not a biblical commandment. Why are there no particular commandments for the holiday of Shavuot?

I believe there is a deep message here for us. First, the acknowledgement of the fact that our relationship with God, which is fully celebrated on Shavuot, cannot be limited to a particular basket of commandments. It’s the way we engage with God every single day that’s important.

We take out 25 hours – or outside of Israel we take out two days – to reflect upon that perspective: that Shavuot is about the way we talk to our neighbors, how we fill out our tax forms, how we interact with our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, our parents. 

And that’s why it’s not limited to specific commandments. To highlight the fact that Shavuot requires us to realize that our engagement with God is based on our entire weltanschauung on life.

It is God who creates the holiness on Mount Sinai, and therefore when God leaves, the holiness dissipates. But in  the Temple, it wasn’t God alone that created the holiness; the holiness was created by the partnership with the Jewish people. Likewise our synagogues: the holiness may emanate from God, but that holiness is created because the energy of the community, the energy of the people. And when holiness is created in partnership, between God and the Jewish people, that holiness is eternal.

What an important message for us! We are the ones who guarantee the eternality of the holiness. We guarantee that holiness lasts forever. We play a role in the future of the Jewish people, in the future of society, and even – according to Rav Kook – in the future of God, in the future of God’s role within this world. 

And therefore Shavuot is not limited to a particular commandment. Holiness created in partnership with God lasts forever, and holiness that is created by God alone just lasts for a moment. 

What a power we have, the capacity to change the world! Let’s recognize that as we celebrate this holiday of Matan Torah, this holiday in which we also – in Israel at least – read on Shabbat the Parsha of Naso, of rising and playing a leadership role in our relationship with God, and let us understand that we need to take a moment back on Shavuot and ask ourselves how each and every one of us can change the world around us, can transform ourselves, and in the process, transform society around us. 

Chag Matan Torah Sameach, Chag Shavuot Sameach.

Shabbat Shalom: Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “When a man or woman shall commit any sin that people may commit, to do a trespass against the Lord, and that person be guilty; then they shall confess their sin which they have committed…” (Numbers 5:6–7) According to Maimonides, this verse, which …

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