Friday, June 14, 2019 /11 Sivan, 5779
Parashat Naso Numbers 4:21-7:89
This week is the anniversary of my Bar Mitzvah – the first Torah portion I ever studied and read from the Torah. And, it is a great portion – so each year when it comes around, I allow myself a little moment of waxing reflectively and appreciating the genius of this week’s portion.
The Parasha is Parashat Naso – the second portion in the Book of Numbers. Included in the section is a census of our people, the rules for the Nazir – one who takes a vow of abstinence, and the famous Birkat Kohanim, the blessing of the priests. Back when I became a Bar Mitzvah, I was fortunate to read the famous blessing as my portion, and it has remained over the years to be a precious text to me. In fact, I have had the text embroidered on several of my Talits over the years.
Note the text, “May God bless you and keep you. May God shine light upon you and be good to you. May God take notice of you and grant you peace.” (Num. 6: 24-26) Though translations may vary a little, the majesty and poetry of the text is permanent and patent, and the inspiration in the blessing never fails to lift me, and others.
Perhaps, that is the message of this magical text. We are yearning for inspiring, clear and honest messages which can touch and uplift us. That is what we expect from our religious teachings, uncomplicated expressions, which, without need for explanations or rationales, simply move us.
Although scholars have spent eons studying, analyzing and parsing this text (note in Hebrew that the first line is 3 words, the second is 5 and the third is 7; each line has two verbs and one subject; it operates on alliterations of shins and sins, and more), the poetry continues to hold its own against all attempts at dissection. Sometimes a perfect message is just perfect – such as a Shakespearian verse or a speech by Abraham Lincoln.
Thus, the text is emblazoned on my shoulders when I wear my favorite Talit. And more, the text is seared into my memory from my Bar Mitzvah, and at every bris, wedding and Bar Mitzvah I am privileged to conduct. To me, there is hardly a better message:
“May God bless you and keep you. May God shine light upon you and be good to you. May God take notice of you and grant you peace.”
Rabbi Doug Kohn