Naso

“Parsha and Purpose” – Naso/Beha’alotcha 5782 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Losing Our Youth: The Mistakes In Sefer Bamidbar That Continue To Plague Us”

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. 

Parshat Naso (Diaspora) and Parshat Beha’alotcha (Israel)

“Losing Our Youth: The Mistakes In Sefer Bamidbar That Continue To Plague Us

Sefer Bamidbar: an amazing book that speaks to us about the journey of the Jewish People on its march to its destiny in the Land of Israel.

It begins with a counting and how to travel into the Land of Israel – which are communal in nature – but with a focus on “ish ish“, the unique gifts that every individual possesses. [1:4]

It continues with how to move the Tabernacle [Chapter 2], and with new institutions such as the Pesach Sheni: the opportunity to offer a second Pascal sacrifice in the Land of Israel, for those who are unable to offer the first Pascal sacrifice at the beginning of the holiday of Pesach. [9:1-14]

But a series of events then occur that delay the Jewish people from entering the Land of Israel and actualizing their opportunity to be a nation with their own destiny.

These events stem from a lack of respect for the recognition of the holiness of the other.

For instance, Aharon and Miriam challenge the unique qualities of Moshe. [Chapter 12]

The Jewish people misunderstand the gift of materialism when it comes to the mannah [11:6] and remember the alleged delicacies that they had in Egypt. [11:5]

Their fundamental misunderstanding of the Land of Israel and its importance takes place in Parshat Shelach [Chapters 13 and 14]. Then we read of the rebellion against the leadership of Moshe and Aharon [Chapters 16 and 17]; and then a challenge between the nations of the world – represented by Balak and Bil’am – and the people of Israel. [Chapters 22-24]

As I read these stories, I am reminded that they deter us from actualizing our potential.

And I ask myself, haven’t we learned from the Book of Bamidbar?

How can it be that Orthodox Jews have forgotten how to talk to each other?

How can it be that the great dynasty of the Sefat Emet, the great dynasty of Ger, has forgotten how to talk to each other, to the point that there are fights between various groups and the police are compelled to intervene on Shabbat?

How can it be that we have forgotten how to talk to other Jews, particularly when we don’t agree with the way they celebrate their Judaism?

How can it be that on Yom Yerushalayim, when we celebrate the gift of receiving the Land of Israel and a united Jerusalem, that there is a small group – and I stress just a small group – of people who have forgotten the responsibility to treat minorities, to treat Muslims, with respect and dignity?

Haven’t we learned from the Sefer Bamidbar?

What pains me even more – and what even depresses me – is the fact that our young people are watching and listening.

Our young people are seeing that often what is important to us are the minutiae of Judaism and not the meta narratives.

And they don’t want to be part of such a Judaism that is so interested in minutiae that it forgets the major ideas that are part of our Holy Torah.

Sefer Bamidbar: the responsibility for us to march to our destiny; to watch what comes out of our mouth, to teach our children and grandchildren how to respect the other: other Orthodox Jews, other Jews in general and other people.

Sefer Bamidbar, which teaches us the responsibility to look at things in this world and recognize their greatness.

We don’t step away from materialism; we engage it through the prism of holiness.

The messages found in the parashot of Naso and Beha’alotcha, the idea of finding inner peace, the Birkat Kohanim and the responsibility to march to our destiny while respecting the other.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shabbat Shalom: Parshat Naso (Numbers 4:21-7:89) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –”And the Lord spoke to Moses saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and to his sons saying so shall you bless the children of Israel; say to them, may the Lord bless you and keep you…’” (Numbers 6:22-27) There are very few passages of the …

Read more

The Worship of God; An Individual Demand Rabbanit Moriah Taasan-Michaeli is a fourth-year fellow in the Susi Bradfield Women’s Institute of Halakhic Leadership (WIHL) A quick overview of our portion might leave us stunned – the portion contains a long sequence of varied topics, each of which is rich in detail and requires a thorough …

Read more

“Parsha and Purpose” – Bamidbar/Naso 5782 
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“The Book of Ruth and Receiving the Torah: Respecting the Humanity of Others”

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. 

Parshat Bamidbar (Diaspora) and Parshat Naso (Israel)

“The Book of Ruth and Receiving the Torah: Respecting the Humanity of Others

On the holiday of Shavuot, we read Megillat Ruth, which focuses on the same period of history as the Book of Shoftim (Judges).

In fact, the Gemara tells us that the two books were written by the same author. [Bava Batra 14b]

And that’s why when you look at the books of Ruth and Shoftim, you will see that they have similar styles of language and similar themes.

In fact, Josephus, when he counts the books of Tanach, merges the Book of Ruth and the Book of Shoftim into one.

And there are several important contrasts between them that create a parallism.

The first is the way in which each book concludes:

בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֔ם אֵ֥ין מֶ֖לֶךְ בְּיִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אִ֛ישׁ הַיָּשָׁ֥ר בְּעֵינָ֖יו יַעֲשֶֽׂה׃
It was in these days, there was no King in Israel,
and therefore, everyone does what they want.

[Judges 21:25]

וְעֹבֵד֙ הוֹלִ֣יד אֶת־יִשָׁ֔י וְיִשַׁ֖י הוֹלִ֥יד אֶת־דָּוִֽד׃
And Oved begot Yishai, and Yishai begot David.
[Ruth 4:22]

In the former, anarchy reigns. In the latter, we read of the origins of the Davidic dynasty, answering the challenge at the end of the Book of Shoftim and heralding the Jewish People’s ultimate destiny.

Additionally, the Book of Shoftim is filled with stories of people who are anonymous, who are treated as objects.

For example, we will never know the name of Yiftach’s daughter, who pays the price for the narcissistic actions of her father. [Judges 11:30-40]

We will never know the name of the pilegesh of Giv’a who is abused, raped, killed, and then cut up into many pieces. [Judges, Chapter 19]

The Book of Shoftim treats people as objects, to the extent that sometimes their basic needs – food and water – aren’t provided, and they perish.

Professor Dr. Yael Ziegler explains that the Book of Ruth – and indeed, I think why we read it on Shavuot – is a “tikun” (a response) to what happens in the Book of Shoftim. [“Ruth: From Alienation to Monarchy”, 2015, Koren Publishers]

Because in the Book of Ruth, we move from people who are anonymous, and we give them names.

We move from people being on the periphery, to the center of history, and to lives that have purpose.

Let’s look what happens to Ruth; let’s look what happens to Naomi: they were anonymous. They were cast aside. [Ruth, Chapter 1]

But then it takes a leader like Boaz, who doesn’t speak much in the book, but does something more important: he actively listens. [Ruth, Chapter 2]

And because he actively listens, he’s able to help the woman who is collecting the abandoned sheaves and allow her to become the matriarch of the Davidic dynasty.

In contrast, there’s another character in the Book of Ruth who is not willing to listen to Ruth or Naomi. He is referred to as “Ploni Almoni” (the Hebrew equivalent of “John Doe”). We don’t even learn his name; he is simply known as “Anonymous”. [Ruth 4:1]

This is because he thinks that leadership is about speaking, not about listening.

The Book of Ruth highlights the fact that in Judaism, the credo is to actively listen.

Yes, “Na’aseh”, but also “v’nishma”. [Exodus 24:7] Yes, we have to do, but actually, we have to listen.

We have to evaluate the situation.

The credo of the Jewish people is about “Sh’ma Yisrael”, it’s about listening. [Deuteronomy 6:4]

Torah she’b’al Peh, the entire Oral Tradition, is built on the words “ta sh’ma”, come and actively listen.

We follow the mandate of Beit Hillel and not the mandate of Beit Shammai because Beit Hillel listened to Beit Shammai and only then shared their opinion. [Eruvin 13b]

We read the Book of Ruth on Shavuot, because if we are to celebrate a relationship with God, we must begin by actively listening.

We have to follow the message of Boaz.

We have to understand that the credo of the Jewish people is to actively listen.

Regarding members of our family: it’s not enough to love them, we have to respect them.

And regarding the Jewish people: it’s not enough to love them; we have to respect them, we have to actively listen.

The Book of Ruth, a response to the anonymity of the Book of Shoftim.

The Book of Ruth, which gives names to otherwise anonymous people, and which treats people not as objects but as human beings.

And all of this begins by listening to them.

And through that, the Mashiach is born.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach.

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. …

Read more

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

“Civil Unrest in Israel and the Blessing of Peace”

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. 

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 …

Read more

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 …

Read more

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

“Renewing our Vows” with God

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Ut elit tellus, luctus nec ullamcorper mattis, pulvinar dapibus leo. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. 

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 …

Read more