Naso 5773 – Gilayon #799

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Parshat Nasso

May the lord bless you and guard you.

May the lord light up his face to you and grant grace

to you.

May the lord lift up his face to you and give you


(Bemidbar 6:24-26)


R. Shimeon

b. Halafta said: The Holy One, blessed be He, found

no vessel that could contain blessing for Israel save that of peace, as it is

written: 'The Lord will give strength unto His people; the Lord will bless His

people with peace'.

(Mishnah, Uktsin 3,



R. Eleazar

said in the name of R. Hanina: The disciples of the

wise increase peace in the world, as it says, And all

thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy

children. Read not banayik [thy children] but bonayik

[thy builders]. Great peace have they that love Thy

law, and there is no stumbling for them. Peace be

within thy walls and prosperity within thy palaces. For my brethren and

companions' sake I will now say, Peace be within thee.

For the sake of the house of the Lord our God I will seek thy good. The Lord will give strength unto His people, the Lord will bless His people with peace.

(Berahot 64a)


There are some who think that

world peace will be built only through a single hue of opinions and characteristics,

and therefore when we see scholars investigating wisdom and the Torah view, and

the research leads to multiple views and methods, they think that this causes

arguments and is the antithesis of peace. The truth, however, is different. True

peace cannot ever be achieved unless it is through the multiplicity of

peace. The multiplicity of peace is that all views and methods should be

considered, and that it will become evident how each has its place, each

according to its value, its place and its subject.

(From: HaRav Avrahm

Yitzchak Hacohen Kook zt"l:

Olat Reiyah, p. 330)




`           In

memory of David ben

Yitzchak and Chana Beer


hair is a crown of glory; it is attained by the way of righteousness"

(Proverbs 16:31)




Thus shall you bless the children of israel

On the priestly benediction and the parental blessing



In memory of my

father and teacher, David Ben Yitzchak

and Chana,


passed away in ripe old age on the 8th of Sivan, 5772,


from whom I was privileged to receive the


Benediction every Shabbat for almost 101 years.

Our parasha contains many mitzvoth related to the

Tabernacle and Temple

procedures, but only the mitzvah of Birchat

Kohanimthe Priestly Benediction – has

continued until this day to be part of the daily religious reality of the Holy

Service. Even though we have no authentically certified kohanim,

this function of blessing Israel

is performed in the synagogue by Jews who have a presumption (hazakah) of priesthood. Similarly, in later

generations, the Priestly Benediction has found its way into the Jewish home as

part of the "Blessing of the Children". This custom of the father,

and often the mother, blessing their children upon returning from the synagogue

on Sabbath Eve, is spreading, both among Sephardim and Ashkenazim. (In some Ashkenazi

communities in Holland and Germany, this

is done also on Shabbat morning and Motsei Shabbat).

Before dealing

with the details of the blessing, attention must be given to its essence. Nehama Leibowitz raises the

question raised by many commentators before her – Why is this mitzvah

assigned to the priests: "So shall you bless"

(6:23) – after all, the source of the blessing is the Holy One, blessed

be He, as is clearly stated in the text: "May the Lord bless you" (Ibid, 24) "And I shall bless them" (Ibid., 27). She quotes, among others, Don

Yitzchak Abarbanel. In answer to the question, he

distinguishes between three categories of blessings: 1. The

blessing with which God blesses Man: "This is the giving and the goodness,

as in 'And the Lord blessed Avraham'" (Bereishit 24:1). 2.

The blessing with which Man blesses the Holy One: "And this is

glorification and praise, as in 'David blessed the Lord'". 3. The

blessing with which one Man blesses another: "This is a prayer and request

for mercy upon the recipient, that the Holy One shower upon him of His

blessing. And this is what is referred to here: 'Speak unto Aharon

and his sons, saying: So shall you bless the Children of Israel, say to them.'" R.

Moshe Alshech adds a psychological aspect, pointing

out that a function of the priests is to prepare the hearts of the Children of

Israel for receiving the blessing, i.e., to prepare them spiritually and

psychologically for the true giving, that of the Holy One. Nechama

Leibowitz sums up the subject with an important

twofold message: "Whoever considers the priests to be persons with

independent power to benefit or hurt him, sees the blessing as a magical

instrument, and he has no place in the Torah of Israel […] but he who

disparages the Priestly Benediction and claims that he has no need for it – has

disparaged one of the Torah's commandments." As one educated in Western values,

who sees in rationalism a supreme principle, I have no problem accepting Nechama Leibowitz's first message

– we should not rush to spiritual leaders in anticipation of receiving answers

to our needs. God has the answers. In Yeshaayahu Leibowitz's sharp idiom: "One who attributes to the

blessing of the tsaddik or the sage power and

influence, is suspect of having a point of view which smells of magic and

idolatry […] It is not within the power of any man, even a priest, to bring

blessings upon another. The priest is a representative appointed to pray that

God bless Israel."

However, Nechama Leibowitz's

message has another part, one that adds a modicum of complexity to the matter.

In her view, the second extreme view, in which we depend solely on our ratio,

is no less problematic. Sometimes we need the mediation of a spiritual

personality to help us open up spiritually and psychologically, and to prepare

our hearts for receiving the blessing of the Lord, and this is not to be taken


The Priestly

Benediction is composed of three parts, and the Sages point out that the

blessing increases in importance and in the degree of goodness which will be

showered upon the blessed. This is reflected in both content and in form

(increasing number of words). Some exegetes claim that the recipient of the

blessing also bears a certain responsibility for ensuring the efficacy of the

blessing. So may we conclude from the comments of the Netziv,

head of the Volozhin yeshiva and author of the "Haemek Davar" commentary, on

the first blessing: "May the Lord bless you and guard you" (6:24): " "Bless you":

This applies to every man, each receiving his appropriate blessing … the

student of Torah – in his study, to the merchant – in his business. "And

guard you": For every blessing requires vigilance lest, forefend, it

become a hindrance, the Torah scholar requires safeguarding from pride and desecration

of the Name, etc., and its simplest sense – that it not be forgotten. An owner

of possessions requires safeguarding lest his wealth become a detriment, as in

the cases of Korach and Navoth

the Yisraelite, etc. And in its

simplest sense, safekeeping from theft and loss". The Netziv cautions us against pride and acquisi-tiveness

and sends here a clear moral message – in every blessing there is a hidden

danger – that it is liable to led to superciliousness to the point of disbelief

in the Almighty and abuse of people, and therefore the recipient of the

blessing is in need of special guarding.

The Lord's

face is mentioned in the second and third benedictions: "May the Lord

light up his face to you" and "May the Lord lift up his face to you".

Our Sages explained the terms "Lighting up the face" and "Lifting

the face" of the Lord in various ways. King Solomon had long ago noted

that man expresses the thoughts of his heart through his facial expressions,

and that in every interpersonal relationship there is a great degree of mutuality

– a person reacts to the other according to what he absorbs from him: "As

face answers to face in water, so does one man's heart to another" (Proverbs 27:19). In other words, the

attitude of another to ourselves may be a reflection

of our attitude to him. Studies in developmental psychology show that if

the mother keeps a straight face and does not smile in reaction to her baby's

smile, after a certain period of time the baby will enter a condition of

emotional disconnection and apathy. To return to the Priestly Benediction, we

can read in the verses the message of mutuality; the recipients also bear responsibility

for what is taking place. In order to merit the blessing of the Holy One,

blessed be He, "lighting up His face" and "lifting His face",

we have to light up our faces in the Torah and lift our faces to peace.

And now to the "Blessing of the Children". R. Yissachar Yaakobson, in his book:

'Netiv Binah' (1978), reviews the origins of the custom, from

its beginning in the 17th century until our times. The custom is

first mentioned in the volume "Maavar Yabok" by R. Aharon Berchia Modena (d.1639),

an Italian mystic. Alongside Kabalistic reasons we detect again the element of

mutuality. Both sides 'win' – he who blesses and he who is blessed:

And by laying

the hand on the little head he is blessed, as is written (Bereishit 48:14) "…Israel

stretched out his hand" and it says (Ibid

20) "and he blessed them on that day, saying…" the hands

hinting at the blessing because the human hand contains 15 components, equal to

the 15 words of "May the Lord bless you etc'". This is to say, may

the blessings of these three verses lie upon your head, and the custom to bless

on the holy Shabbat, especially on Shabbat eve, is a secret of the Sabbath

Queen… and in the secret of the neshamah yeteirathe additional soul­ – that the

blessings fall upon the one who blesses and the one who is blessed, and yet

more, because there are no Satan and scourge on Shabbat to contest the blessing

…and it is a supreme need to bless the children on Shabbat, and if he has a

daughter, she too is included in the blessing, especially on Shabbat eve. And

the wise person will understand on his own that our

words carry truth.

In the siddur of R. Yaakov b. Zvi

Emden (1698-1776) an additional reason,

also Kabalistic, is cited; on the Shabbat eve "the sheafa

[emanation of spiritual abundance] comes down" and the conduits of

blessings open up, and through the young children in particular, who have not

tasted the taste of sin, the sheafa will

spread yet more.

In the "Sefer HaHayyim", composed by

the brother of the MaHaRaL of Prague, another reason,

one belonging to the category of "revealed knowledge", is given: On

weekdays, the father, out of anger, is liable to curse his children, therefore

he hastens to bless them on the Shabbat, when all are relaxed and happy, so

that the blessing will cancel out the curses, as is written "And the Lord

changed the curse into a blessing."

It seems that

today, in many homes, the parental blessing constitutes a moment of closeness

and of tightening the connection between parents and children made possible by

the gathering of the family in the home. In the words of Dr. Wehrman in his book "Haggei Yisrael U'Moadim" [Festivals

of Israel and Days of Appointment]: "The custom of blessing the children

seems to be based upon the idea of 'a rest of peace and tranquility' which is

supposed to permeate the Jewish home on Shabbat. Peace and tranquility between

husband and wife and between parents and children." A study of the source

reveals that from its inception in some communities the custom applied also to

mothers and daughters. For example, in R. Emden's siddur

it is written: "My teacher used to kiss his mother's hands on Shabbat Eve …in

order to prepare her for the emanation of blessings from her hands." And

in our generation, R. Yaakobson notes: "This custom

is highly appropriate for renewal, not because of the Kabalistic reasons which

are unintelligible to the ordinary Jew, but in order to honor–especially on

the beginning of the Shabbat– the mother, who bears the responsibility of all

the Shabbat preparations."

R. Yaakobson concludes with the following: "This

beautiful custom has not yet spread to all the Jewish communities, but the Jews

of Germany were most meticulous in its observance." As a daughter of Orthodox

German extraction, I was privileged to receive blessings on Shabbat Eve and on Motsei Shabbat from both parents, and I have been

privileged to pass on this custom to the next generation.

Chana Manne a clinical psychologist, is Head Psychologist in Ziv

Medical Center

in Safed, and lives in Kiryat




They shall carry it on their shoulders – Man and State

The relationship between the political and social

organization (the state) and the individual in the state is the greatest and

most encompassing and deep relationship vis-à-vis the significant

elements of human existence; it is as also possible to speak of the

relationship between state and society.

The state, social organization, and everything connected

with them – from the struggle for positions of power to politics in its broader

sense as discussed by political thinkers from ancient times until the present –

the significance of this entire great subject, with all its complications

and complexity is entirely instrumental.

The state is nothing but a tool and means for the

accomplishment of valuable goals involving the fulfillment of basic human needs

such as justice, education, health, culture, worship of God, etc. No instrumental

mechanism can achieve these goals. The state is important only in that it

allows the individual who is obliged to realize values to realize them. The

state itself should never be required or expected to realize values.

Similarly, regarding the holy service of the Tabernacle we

read, They shall carry

it on their shoulders. Man bears his obligations upon his shoulders in

two senses, and he must make great efforts to fulfill them. The vessels and

devices such as the "wagons" and the "cattle" only carry

the strips of cloth, screens, panels, stakes, sockets, bars, columns, and so

forth which are in no way part of the holy service. These merely create the

framework upon which the holy service depends. That service can only take place

when there are human beings who are prepared to trouble themselves to freely

take upon themselves the serious normative proviso of They shall

carry it on their shoulders.

All over the world people misunderstand the relationship

between the instruments and values. Blindness to this relationship is beginning

to take hold upon us as well. It is moving us towards a nationalistic-fascistic

mood in the social, political, and national realms, in which collective

existence becomes an end in itself.

This matter finds symbolic expression in the Tabernacle

service: the Tabernacle's holiness is symbolically represented by the vessels

kept in the Tabernacle, such as the Ark,

the table, the menorah, and the two altars. These items were not moved in

wagons or even carried by draft-animals, rather They

shall carry it on their shoulders.

That is the metaphor – what does it represent? It says that

instruments such as political sovereignty, sovereign power, social mechanisms,

etc. are incapable of realizing the values of human existence. These values can

only be accomplished by man himself; they are not problems relating to the form

of social existence, rather they are the problems of man in society.

(Y. LeibowitzSheva Shanim shel Sihot al Parashat HaShavua pp.



Readers React:

In the Shabbat Shalom issue for Parashat Emor, the passage "If

your enemy falls, do not exult" (Proverbs

24:17) is presented as deploring joy at the fall of our enemy. [The

reader is referring to the selection from Rav Soleveitchik's essay quoted in "Sod HaYachid V'HaYachad"] This

interpretation is not viable because the following verse expresses fear lest

the Holy One, blessed be He, "avert His wrath from him" – indicating

that the enemy is still alive. We are fortunate to have access to the Keter Aram Tsovah. In the Keter, the verse under discussion is part of a quartet of

verses with strong thematic connections that clarify the meaning of the verse. "Wicked man! Do not lurk by the home of the righteous

man, do no violence to his dwelling," an appeal to the wicked man not to

attack the righteous man. "Seven times the righteous man falls and gets

up, while the wicked are tripped by one misfortune." – because

(an explanation from the wicked man's perspective why he should not attack) the

righteous man recovers from repeated missteps, whereas as single misstep of the

wicked will end badly. (Therefore, you, the wicked man) "If your enemy

(the righteous man) falls, do not exult; if he trips let your heart not

rejoice, lest (a negative development from the wicked man's perspective) the

Lord see (that the righteous is in trouble) and be displeased, and He will avert

his wrath from him (from the righteous)".

In the following unit it says "The

lamp of the wicked goes out", and further on there is an appeal not relate

to the wicked as to the righteous. Shmuel HaKatan lived during the period of the destruction of the Temple, and it is

reasonable to assume that he quotes the passage "If your enemy falls"

in order to encourage the nation in the face of the Romans and the heretics who

rejoiced over the falling of Bat-Zion. Perhaps the choice of this great Torah

scholar to compose the benediction against the heretics derived from an

attitude of deep respect for the composition of prayers throughout the

generations. Compare this to the composition of prayers in our day: The Prayer

for [Living] Parents during Yizkor, prayers for the

Bar/Bat Mitzvah, the prayer of the parachutist. Perhaps Shmuel

HaKattan was chosen because he radiated faith that

not we, but our enemies, the heretics, shall fall.

Respectfully, Gideon Ehrlich



Leiser, editor of "Shabbat Shalom"


Many thanks to

Mr. Erlich for his letter. It seems to me

difficult, however, to maintain that understanding "If your enemy exults,

let your heart not rejoice" as disapproval of exultation over the death of

our enemies is untenable. Mr. Erlich's interpretation

contradicts all other Bible exegeses, and therefore his argument seems somewhat

pretentious. Yet more: were we to accept his interpretation to be possible, it

would be yet more difficult to argue that bringing this verse as the central

statement of Shmuel HaKatan

in Pirke Avot is directed

towards the Romans and the heretics in an effort to encourage the people; it

does not seems feasible to assume that the Sages composed Tractate Avot as an ethical code for the Romans!

Rabbi Soleveitchik's

understanding of the discussion in Berachot seems to

me to be a more reasonable one:


There were great Torah scholars in the Raban Gamiliel's generation other

than Shmuel HaKattan. It

would seem, then, that Rabin Gamliel's choice of Shmuel HaKattan was based on his character

rather than on his scholarship.


The continuation of the story relates

that Shmuel HaKattan had a problem

with the benediction which he had composed; when he served as cantor "a

later year", he forgot the benediction.



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