Pop Quiz: How many sacrifices did each nasi bring for his inaugural offering?
by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
It is well known to all that anything which we have on a constant basis loses some of its importance and special status. When we have something which is rare and infrequent, however, it takes on greater significance. Although this is human nature, we have to think of ways to make ourselves appreciate what is constantly there, too.
An example of this is Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessings, which we receive everyday during the Shaharit prayers. Although it is only fifteen words and takes under a minute to say, it is a berachah which is so special and so unique because it comes from the Almighty Himself. When the Kohanim bless the people, they are the conduits for the Divine Presence to bless us. Therefore, they cover themselves with the taleet, so that we shouldn't gaze at the Divine Presence which rests on their hands. Whenever a great saddik comes to town, we run to get a berachah, waiting many hours if need be, and rightfully so. Here, we have the Creator of the world blessing us with wealth and protection, Divine countenance and grace, and most importantly, with peace and tranquillity. Shouldn't we be waiting expectantly and attentively to get this berachah?
Whenever guests come from different communities that don't do Birkat Kohanim everyday, (only on major holidays) they are so excited to be able to get such a bonus of a blessing. Both the Kohanim saying the blessing and the rest of us receiving it should realize what a treasure we have in this berachah, and should give it the respect it is due. Let us count our blessings and also make them count! Shabbat Shalom.
REWARD AND PUNISHMENT
"But if the woman had not forfeited her purity and is pure then she remains untouched and shall conceive seed." (Bemidbar 5:28)
In Parashat Naso we are taught a most encouraging lesson. The Torah tells us about a married woman who is suspected of being unfaithful. She is tested with a special drink prepared by the Kohen. If she was really unfaithful, she will die. If she was innocent she lives. However, not only does she live, but the Talmud (Berachot 31) says that one opinion says if she was unable to conceive and have children, now she will. Another opinion says that if she had difficulty giving birth up until now, she will give birth easily. All agree that she will be blessed.
There is a great question here. Why is she blessed? This is a woman whom the Torah says was warned by her husband not to go into private seclusion with this man. She went so far as to rebel against her husband by going into seclusion. We know this is so, because if she didn't, she is not even tested with the waters. So why is she blessed?
Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian says we have here a fundamental lesson. This woman was low enough that as a married woman she went so far as to go into seclusion despite being warned. It must be she had a great fire of desire burning in her! Why didn't she do the final sin? We must say that when it came to the moment of truth, she conquered her desire and "did not become impure" and "tehorah hee- she is pure!" What a great victory! She might be held accountable for disobeying her husband and must make teshubah. However, Hashem will reward her fully for her great act of self control. Hashem does not hold back reward for any good act we do, even if it is mixed in with something less than good. Shabbat Shalom.
ONE HAND WASHES THE OTHER
Speak unto Aharon and unto his sons saying: So you shall bless B'nei Yisrael" (Bemidbar 6:23)
Hashem commands that His blessings be conferred only by the Kohanim. Rav Moshe Shternbuch suggests a practical reason for this. Regrettably, many people posit that the Kohen and his present day counterpart, the Torah scholar, are supported by the community without any reciprocity.
Many individuals believe that if an individual is not "working" in the way that they are, he is not contributing to the community. This notion is, of course, categorically wrong. The sustaining power of Klal Yisrael is manifest only through Torah and Torah scholars who devote their lives to its study and dissemination. This also applies to each individual Jew's material success. Torah scholars should be viewed as vehicles for channeling blessing to Klal Yisrael. Consequently, they share as equal contributors to our material success. They should be recognized accordingly.
Rav Shternbuch indicates that the text of the blessing, "And He commanded us to bless His nation, Yisrael, with love," which is recited by the Kohanim prior to Bircat Kohanim, enhances this idea. The blessing is contingent upon the love and harmony that exists between the Kohanim and the rest of the people. If there exists no mutual respect, then the blessing will not thrive. The Kohanim must recognize those who support and sustain them, and the people must, in turn, pay tribute to the Kohanim who are responsible for their blessing. (Peninim on the Torah IV)
"From new or aged wine shall he abstain" (Bemidbar 6:3)
The laws of a nazir apply only to a person who accepts them upon himself; why did the angel tell Shimshon's mother that she should not drink wine? (See Shoftim 13:2-25)
Many parents set ambitious goals for their children and expect them to live by lofty standards. Unfortunately, they fail to realize their own need to live in accordance with the same standards. Parents are the role models for their children, and they must themselves exhibit the conduct they want their children to adopt.
The angel was giving Shimshon's mother an important lesson in raising children. He told her that the son she would bear was destined to be a nazir. In order for him to properly observe his restrictions, it was necessary that she, too, take on the restrictions of a Nazirite, and thus be a living example for him. (Vedibarta Bam)
Answer to pop quiz: Twenty-one.
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