Naso

Torah Fax
Friday, June 13, 2003 - 13 Sivan, 5763

Peace

The first Torah portion that is read after the holiday of Shavuos is this week’s parshah of Naso. It is a well known rule of thumb in Jewish thought that nothing occurs by chance, certainly not matters relating to Torah. Accordingly, the fact that we read this portion immediately after Shavuos, the Holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, must have significance.

The name of the Parshah, Naso, which can be literally translated to mean “uplift,” tells us that Torah is more than just knowledge and a code of behavior. It has the capacity to elevate us and the physical world around us. Torah is not just an intellectual pursuit, or even an elixir for our souls, it is directed to our bodies as well. It has the ability to transform even the most physical aspects of our existence.

Delving a bit deeper into the parshah, we see at least four distinct themes discussed. Each of these themes revolves around the singular idea of peace, shalom. This, too, is related to the general idea of Torah, as our sages declare: “The Torah was given to bring peace to the world.”

The first level of shalom is the peace that must exist between ourselves and our Creator. This peace is highlighted at the beginning and end of our Torah portion where it discusses the efforts the Jewish people made in building the Mishkan, the desert sanctuary. G‑d’s closeness to us, represented by the Divine presence in the Mishkan (and, very soon, in the Third Temple!) can only be brought about by the performance of Torah and Mitzvos. A Mitzvah is a composite of the G‑dly and the material, the Divine Will to do an act with a physical object (take for example the Mitzvah of tefillin). This meshing together of the spiritual and the physical, bridges the gulf that exists (read: makes peace) between the infinite Creator and finite beings.

A second essential form of peace is that which must exist between husband and wife, the next theme discussed in the parshah. A threat to domestic harmony undermines G‑d’s very relationship with the world. In the words of the Talmud: when a man and woman divorce, the altar itself sheds tears for them. As mentioned above, the Temple is the center of G‑d’s presence on Earth, reflecting His closeness with his creations, and the center of the Temple is the altar. If there is disruption of families, the altar sheds tears, meaning G‑d’s very presence in the world is weakened.

The third form of peace is the unity that exists between body and soul. Thus, the third theme in the parshah is the Nazir, the person who tries to distance himself from wine and other pleasures. The Nazir considers his body to be not a help but a hindrance in his service of G‑d and therefore wants to disallow certain permissible pleasures. When the time comes to end his period of self deprivation, the Torah requires the Nazir to bring a number of sacrifices, one of them being a sin offering. The Talmud teaches that - notwithstanding his altruistic intentions in curbing his earthly pleasures - he must atone for his act of self deprivation. In reality, the body and the soul are not enemies, but complementary components in the service of G‑d.

The fourth theme in this week’s parshah is the priestly blessing, which underscores the sentiment of love and concern for the well being of others. Appropriately, this blessing concludes with the word shalom. This blessing is a dramatic way of expressing the fourth and most crucial form of peace - peace between one person and another.

Rabbi Akiva says that love between one another is a major principle in the Torah. In the words of Hillel, love between people is the very essence of the entire Torah. Especially in these trying times in Israel, and around the globe, we pray that the message and blessing of peace from our parshah materialize immediately. Indeed, the ultimate objective of the Messianic Age is to bring peace - both between man and man and between G‑d and His world, making G‑d’s presence realized throughout creation in the most manifest way. May this happen for the Jewish people, and the entire world - now.
The first Torah portion that is read after the holiday of Shavuos is this week’s parshah of Naso. It is a well known rule of thumb in Jewish thought that nothing occurs by chance, certainly not matters relating to Torah. Accordingly, the fact that we read this portion immediately after Shavuos, the Holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, must have significance.

The name of the Parshah, Naso, which can be literally translated to mean “uplift,” tells us that Torah is more than just knowledge and a code of behavior. It has the capacity to elevate us and the physical world around us. Torah is not just an intellectual pursuit, or even an elixir for our souls, it is directed to our bodies as well. It has the ability to transform even the most physical aspects of our existence.

Delving a bit deeper into the parshah, we see at least four distinct themes discussed. Each of these themes revolves around the singular idea of peace, shalom. This, too, is related to the general idea of Torah, as our sages declare: “The Torah was given to bring peace to the world.”

The first level of shalom is the peace that must exist between ourselves and our Creator. This peace is highlighted at the beginning and end of our Torah portion where it discusses the efforts the Jewish people made in building the Mishkan, the desert sanctuary. G‑d’s closeness to us, represented by the Divine presence in the Mishkan (and, very soon, in the Third Temple!) can only be brought about by the performance of Torah and Mitzvos. A Mitzvah is a composite of the G‑dly and the material, the Divine Will to do an act with a physical object (take for example the Mitzvah of tefillin). This meshing together of the spiritual and the physical, bridges the gulf that exists (read: makes peace) between the infinite Creator and finite beings.

A second essential form of peace is that which must exist between husband and wife, the next theme discussed in the parshah. A threat to domestic harmony undermines G‑d’s very relationship with the world. In the words of the Talmud: when a man and woman divorce, the altar itself sheds tears for them. As mentioned above, the Temple is the center of G‑d’s presence on Earth, reflecting His closeness with his creations, and the center of the Temple is the altar. If there is disruption of families, the altar sheds tears, meaning G‑d’s very presence in the world is weakened.

The third form of peace is the unity that exists between body and soul. Thus, the third theme in the parshah is the Nazir, the person who tries to distance himself from wine and other pleasures. The Nazir considers his body to be not a help but a hindrance in his service of G‑d and therefore wants to disallow certain permissible pleasures. When the time comes to end his period of self deprivation, the Torah requires the Nazir to bring a number of sacrifices, one of them being a sin offering. The Talmud teaches that - notwithstanding his altruistic intentions in curbing his earthly pleasures - he must atone for his act of self deprivation. In reality, the body and the soul are not enemies, but complementary components in the service of G‑d.

The fourth theme in this week’s parshah is the priestly blessing, which underscores the sentiment of love and concern for the well being of others. Appropriately, this blessing concludes with the word shalom. This blessing is a dramatic way of expressing the fourth and most crucial form of peace - peace between one person and another.

Rabbi Akiva says that love between one another is a major principle in the Torah. In the words of Hillel, love between people is the very essence of the entire Torah. Especially in these trying times in Israel, and around the globe, we pray that the message and blessing of peace from our parshah materialize immediately. Indeed, the ultimate objective of the Messianic Age is to bring peace - both between man and man and between G‑d and His world, making G‑d’s presence realized throughout creation in the most manifest way. May this happen for the Jewish people, and the entire world - now.

Moshiach Matters

Question: Does Judaism view the Messianic era as a supernatural time? Answer: Well, there definitely are sources that would imply so. According to the Midrash, in the Messianic era, plants will yield their produce on the same day they are planted; entire trees will be edible, not only their fruit; and even non-fruit-bearing trees will bear fruit. The Talmud describes the Messianic era as a time when the earth will produce delicacies and silk clothing, when wheat stalks will tower like palm trees and grains of wheat will grow as large as an ox’s kidneys. (Ketubot 111b). To be continued - from www.askmoses.com

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