Torah for the Times  

Friday, May 17 - Sivan 8, 5773 

Torah Reading: Nasso (Numbers 4:21 - 7:89) 
Candle Lighting Time: 7:50 PM

Shabbat ends: 8:58 PM  

 

Infinite Blessings

 
In this week's parsha, G‑d entrusted some very unique blessings to Aaron and his sons with which they were to bless the Jewish people. One of the few priestly functions that have survived the destruction of the Temple and that is practiced throughout the world, is the Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly blessing, which is chanted by the Kohanim during every Jewish Holiday.
 
The blessings are: "The L-rd bless you and guard you. The L-rd make His countenance shine upon you and begracious to you. The L-rd turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace."
 
These blessings are introduced with the words: "Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: 'So you shall bless the Children of Israel; saying to them..."
 
The question has been raised: The Hebrew word for "so"-koh-is not really necessary in this verse. It could have just stated: "Bless the Children of Israel," why the emphasis "so?"
 
The Midrash finds three key places where the word "koh-so" is mentioned in the Torah. When G‑d blessed Abraham that his children shall be as numerous as the "stars of heaven," He added: "Koh-So shall be your children."
 
The second place where the word "Koh-so" is mentioned is in the context of Isaac, when he was brought by his father Abraham to be sacrificed. Abraham said to his youths: "I and the lad will go yonder-"koh"-and we shall prostrate and return to you."
 
The third reference to the word "koh-so" can be found in conjunction with Jacob. When G‑d first introduced the Torah to the Jewish people, He said: "Koh-So shall you say to the House of Jacob."
 
Since the three references relate to the three Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, it follows that the power given to the Kohanim to bless the Jewish people derives from the Patriarchs in general and from the context in which the word "koh-so" is used.
 
When Abraham complained that he was childless, G‑d told him, "Gaze toward the heavens and count the stars.... koh-so shall be your children."  This conveys the following lesson. When we survey the situations where we really need a blessing, we often find ourselves doubting whether it could really help. Our situation is so dire, that we despair whether it could really help.
 
By invoking the memory of the word "so"-in the context of the blessing Abraham received from G‑d that his progeny would multiply like the stars of the heavens-it brings home the message not to take a blessing lightly. One blessing that issues forth from G‑d through the Kohain, takes us from a state of nothingness and despair to the highest "stellar" state, in terms of both quantity and quality.
 
The second lesson comes from the narrative of the akeidah-the binding of Isaac.  Abraham does not give his youths the exact location where he will be going with his son Isaac. The word koh-so implies an approximate destination, as if to say, "I don't know exactly where we are going, but I do know that I am going with this youth." And presciently he added, "We shall prostrate ourselves and we shall return to you."
 
Even when our destination throughout our long journey in exile was not clear-"koh-so"-we knew that we will always be accompanied by G‑d, and we will ultimately return whole. The blessings that we receive from G‑d through the Kohain convey the message that even when our future appears uncertain, and the blessings seem elusive, nevertheless, we can rest assured that they will come true.
 
The third and final reference to "koh-so" involves the way Torah was introduced to the women, who are described as "the House of Jacob." Why does the Torah state "So shall you say to the House of Jacob," rather than just, "Say to the House of Jacob?"
 
The answer is that when G‑d spoke to the women about the importance of Torah, it was enough for Him to speak to them in generalities. The women were capable of extrapolating as to what G‑d's intentions were. Not everything has to be spelled out for them; a mere hint suffices for the wise and sensitive. Although G‑d communicated a finite number of words, they contained infinite knowledge. The women were better equipped than the men to appreciate this. Indeed,, this ability to draw inferences and to see more than what meets the eye, is a trait that is specifically ascribed to women, in the Talmudic passage: "Greater understanding was given to women than to men." They have a greater capacity to see the larger picture in the smaller frame.
 
This message of seeing beyond the surface applies to the G‑dly blessings as well. When one surveys the blessings it can appear that they are limited. In truth, they contain infinite blessing.
 
In summary, the Priestly blessings can take us from the nadir to the stars, get us to where we are going even if it appears that we are going nowhere, and there is no limit as to their potential.

 Moshiach Matters 

Shavuot is the anniversary of the passing of King David, the ancestor of Moshiach, as Maimonides' states in his Mishna Torah: If a king arises from the House of David who meditates on the Torah and occupies himself with the commandments like his ancestor David, in accordance with the written and oral Torah, and he will prevail upon all of Israel to walk in [the ways of the Torah] and strengthen its breaches, and he will fight the battles of G‑d (defeating all the nations around him) - it may be assumed that he is Moshiach.

Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit www.moshiach.com