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TORAH FOR THE TIMES 
 
 
 
Shabbat Schedule:  Friday- Shabbat, June 2-3, Sivan 8-9
 
Friday, June 2 - Erev Shabbat
Torah Reading :  Naso, Numbers 4:21 - 7:89
Haftora: Judges 13:2 - 25
 
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 8:04 PM
Shabbat Ends: 9:13 PM 
 
Pirkei Avot - Chapter 1
For more on Pirkei Avot, insights and commentaries, click  here 

 
 
 
B”H
  
NASO
TORAH AND NATURE
 
 
The Priestly Blessing
One of the central sections in this week’s parsha, which we read right after the Holiday of Shavuos, celebrating the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, is the Birchas Kohanim, the Priestly blessing.
Rabenu Bachye provides several explanations for the division of this blessing into three parts:
First, there are three categories of Jews: Kohanim, Levi’im and Yisraelim. These blessings were directed to all segments of Jewry.
Second, the first verse consists of three words which correspond to the three Patriarchs. This invokes the merit of the Patriarchs. The second verse contains five words which correspond to the Five Books of Moses, given in the merit of the Patriarchs. The third verse contains seven words which correspond to the seven heavens.
 
The Jewish Leap Year
Rabenu Bachye then quotes the Talmud’s discussion of the procedure for declaring a Leap Year, in which there is also a division into three, five and seven.
The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar. A lunar year is approximately 11 days shorter than a solar year, which can pose some problems. One example is the scheduling of the Holidays. Over the course of a few years the Holidays would revolve around the seasons absent a calendar adjustment. That would be untenable since the Holidays must conform to the seasons. For example, Passover must be in the Spring. To synchronize the two calendrical systems the courts periodically convened to decide whether the circumstances of that year warranted adding an extra month of Adar to bring parity between the lunar and solar calendars.
The Mishnah states that the court must begin its deliberations with three judges present. If the majority decides that the necessary circumstances are present the court adds another two judges to the panel, for a total of five. Once this larger panel agrees that the year should become a “Leap Year” the court adds on two more judges for a total of seven who then must declare that year to be a Leap Year.
The Talmud (Sanhedrin 10b) states that the three, five and seven judges correspond to the three verses of the Priestly Blessings which contain three, five and seven words.
 
What’s the Connection?
To understand the connection between the institution of the Leap Year with the Priestly Blessing we must first discuss the power of the courts to declare a Leap Year.
The Jerusalem Talmud makes an astounding claim in this regard. When the court added a month to the year, time itself was affected with a concomitant impact on the very physical nature of the world. A person’s biological system would reverse itself when the court decided to add on another month thereby reducing the biological age of that person! This power wielded by the Sanhedrin is the power of Torah.
In addition to being G‑d’s instructions how to live our lives, Torah is also the very blueprint of creation. The Zohar and Midrash state that when G‑d created the Universe He first consulted the blueprint of Torah and then created the world. If it is in the world, it must be in the blueprint. If the blueprint is changed then the world too must change.
Based on this premise we are left with a conundrum. On the one hand, Torah is the instrument of creation and thus transcends the world and is not subject to its limits and constraints. This is why anyone, at any time of the year, who studies the laws pertaining to a Kohain serving in the Bais Hamikdash during Passover, for example, it is as if he were performing that very service. Torah resides beyond the parameters of time and space.
On the other hand, Torah was introduced into our realm and given to us to refine and enrich our lives and the world at largewithin the framework of our natural existence. And it is our reality, which is not necessarily the reality of Torah, towards which the Torah is directed. We therefore shouldn’t try to perform a Mitzvah by way of miracles.  Torah was “sent down” here to our world; to relate to and guide our world and experiences within their natural and limited parameters.
However, Torah itself remains above the natural world and occasionally makes its transcendent nature enter into our world and alter its pathways.
 
Prayer and Torah: Two Stories
There are two stories that contrast the difference between the power of prayer and the power of Torah. During a drought in Israel, the Jews sought out a saintly man named Choni. He drew a circle around himself and told G‑d he would not leave until it rained. He stood in prayer for three days. Finally the rain descended in droplets. Choni argued with G‑d that the droplets were insufficient. The rain then descended in torrents. Again Choni protested the excessive rainfall. Finally the rain descended in the correct measure.
There is a contrasting story in the Zohar describing how Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai caused it to rain by simply delivering a Torah discourse on the words, “How good and pleasant when brother dwell together.” The rain descended in the right measure without delay.
Chassidus explains that if one has the command over Torah, as Rabbi Shimon certainly did, he is empowered to alter nature just as he can do with prayer. Furthermore, Torah’s power is superior to that of prayer as seen in the two foregoing stories.
 
Power of Torah Vested in the Declaration of the Leap Year
Torah’s power to alter nature can also be found in the role of the courts to adjust the calendar by adding another month to the year thereby “stretching” time, as it were. And, as mentioned before, the decision to add the extra month actually alters the parameters of time and even a person’s biological clock.
Where do we find precedent for the power of Torah to channel G‑d’s supernatural powers into this world? Where do we find that Torah itself occasionally allows its transcendent nature to extend into and even override the world of nature?
 
The Parallel to the Priestly Blessing
The answer is the Priestly Blessing.   
The Priestly Blessing is qualitatively different from all other blessings. In Chassidic literature it is taught that a blessing cannot alter nature. However it can clear the way for hidden resources to be channeled into a person who, for some reason, was not able to access those resources.
A Beracha, the Hebrew word for blessing, can also be translated as a channeling instrument that allows energy to flow unobstructed from one source to another. A blessing changes nothing. It simply enables the free flow of positive energy that has already been allocated.
Prayer, on the other hand, does have the power to create new channels. Many of our prayers are prefaced with the words, Yehi Ratzon, May it be the will…, which can also be rendered “may there be the creation of a new will.” We entreat G‑d, “even if You previously expressed Your will for us to suffer, please change Your will and bring us relief.”  In other words, we are asking G‑d to change nature.
However, there are many conditions that the prayer must meet for it to be effective. A prayer must be heartfelt and the person must be worthy and possess special merit so that his or her prayer will incline G‑d to accede to the request and alter His will.
The Priestly blessing, however, enjoys the benefits of both worlds. It enjoys the power of a blessing that is not dependent on the worthiness of the recipient. It also possesses the power of prayer to change nature. This is the exact same power Torah possesses.
And it is this component of the Priestly Blessing that sheds light on the power of the courts to alter the nature of time.
The very same dynamic of the Priestly Blessing (divided as it is into three sections of 3, 5 and 7) applies to the Jewish court when engaged in determining the length of the year. They too plug into the transcendent source which allows them to exercise the power vested in them by the Torah to alter the year with all the profound changes that entails.
 
A New Alignment: The New Natural
The Messianic Age will see many changes. Even Maimonides, who declares that the Messianic Age will follow the rules of nature, concedes that a time will come when our world will become a different world. For example, Maimonides writes that all jealousy will cease. What, may we ask, is it that will alter the nature of the world? If miracles were to be part of the Messianic Age dynamic then it would be clear that nature would change just as it did at the Exodus from Egypt. Even though Maimonides asserts that the Messianic Age will not change nature, he himself claims that certain natural traits will be forever altered.
The answer here is that Torah represents the true nature of reality. It is just that our reality and the reality of the Torah are not in perfect alignment during our state of exile. We therefore need Torah to refine us within our reality. Only in certain situations do we see the Torah’s reality superimpose itself on our reality.  We can see it with the Priestly Blessings, the institution of the Leap Year by the courts and by Sages of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s caliber who may summon rain through Torah study.
In the Messianic Age the world will finally be so refined and elevated by the cumulative effect of our Mitzvos that the way we experience nature will be fully aligned with the nature of Torah. The changes will not be from supernatural causes; instead, they will represent a reordering of things that will be the new natural.
   
 
  
Moshiach Matters:  
 
The teachings of Chassidus explain the great spiritual gains of our descent into exile. Thus it is written, "I will thank You, G‑d, for You have been angry with me." When Mashiach comes, Israel will thank G‑d for the exile, for they will then appreciate the great gains that it brought about.
At the same time, this knowledge must not dampen (G‑d forbid) one's will and desire to leave the exile. One should cry out, and truthfully so, "for we hope for Your salvation all day long."
This means that a Jew is expected to house two opposites simultaneously. On the one hand he is expected to believe that there is something good in exile, and on the other hand he is expected to cry out from the bottom of his heart that he wants to get out of it.