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Bamidbar (Numbers) 4:21-7:89|
Haftorah - Judges 13:2-25
Interestingly, this week's Torah portion Naso, is the longest single reading of the year, with 176 verses in the Parsha. Coincidentally (and I don't believe in coincidences), Psalm 119, is the longest in the Book of Psalms and also contains 176 verses. And further more, Baba Batra, the largest tractate of the Talmud contains 176 pages.
So what do they have in common other than their size? This Parsha is usually read the Shabbat after Shavu'ot - the festival that celebrates the giving of the Torah. After receiving such a gift, we were overwhelmed with the immensity of it's contents (both the written and oral traditions). Let us say that the measure of this immense size (176) repeats itself throughout our Torah tradition. By the way, the Gemmatria or numerical value of the phrase Kimanhig Hagadol - the Great Ruler, an allegory to G-d Himself, is 176.
The news of the hour is the results of the Israeli elections on Wednesday. As of this writing, 99.9% of the vote has been counted with a tiny majority going to Benyamin Natanyahu. The press and Jewish leaders around the globe, are analyzing the election results and everyone seems to be coming up with the same response, Natanyahu won the election without a real consensus as to direction. We are told that the nation is evenly split between pursuing the Rabin/Peres Peace Plan, and demanding security before commitment to peace with the PLO.
In a worse case scenario, if the Palestinian Authority were to establish a Palestinian state next to Israel, with the intention of destroying the Jewish State, the Israeli Arabs would still be relatively safe. They will not suffer the same viciousness and hatred that the Jewish population would. To equate the same value to the Arab vote and the Jewish vote would be foolhardy.
At the same time, it is easy to be in the opposition. Natanyahu will now be faced with the pressure of national leadership and international demands. How he will stand up to the immense pressure of leading a government that must contend with the frustrations of compromise, has yet to be seen.
So how do we, who love the State of Israel and ultimately want real peace for all nations in the Middle East, react to the burdens of leadership that this new government must bear?
First let us understand what peace is. Our Rabbi's teach us that the B'nai Yisrael - the Children of Israel - had totally assimilated into Egyptian society and were almost entirely devoured by Egyptian culture. It was only by the merit of three qualities that the Children of Israel were worthy of leaving Egypt.
1. Lo Shinu Sh'mom - they didn't change their names,
These three aspects of national culture - names, language and dress, manifest the character of the nation.
The culture of our nation is present in our Hebrew language (that is why I keep using Hebrew words in these articles). The definition of "Peace" in English (Webster) is - "the freedom from disturbance, war or hostility". In other words, the absence of aggressive behaviour. But in Hebrew, the word "Shalom" means something else entirely, it means "harmony, completeness, well-being". A very big difference.
In the English culture, true feelings between parties are irrelevant. What is relevant is that aggressive behaviour is not displayed. This is called being civilized, and while admirable, it is not the same as peace.
In Jewish culture, inner feelings are extremely relevant. If one does not display one's true aggressive disposition, that may be virtuous, but it is not peace. Peace is a harmonious relationship between people or nations. Not acting aggressively falls very short of "Peace".
To achieve this, we must do two things: first we must lend our shoulders to our new Israeli leadership, we must become part of the process regardless of where we reside; second, we must "pray" for peace, real peace. One that combines physical and spiritual prosperity into a greater goodness - "Shalom" - a sense of harmony, contentment and wholesomeness for all parties.
In our Torah portion, we find the key to both these objectives.
The Torah says, "V'livnay Kehat Lo Natan (Agalot)...B'katef Yisa'u - And to the Children of Kehat, he did not give (wagons)...on the shoulder shall they carry it." The phrase B'katef Yisa'u - on the shoulder shall they carry - is grammatically vague. It could equally be translated as - they shall be carried by the shoulder.
The duty of the B'nai Kehat - the children of Kehat (a family of Levities from Kehat, one of the three sons of Levi) was that they were to carry the Holy Ark during the B'nai Yisrael's journeys in the desert. The Ark was a large case which contained the two square sapphire tablets containing the Ten Commandments and was made entirely of gold. Rabbi David Feinstein points out that with its golden castings, the golden cover and the two golden "Cherubim" on top, it is estimated that the entire configuration weighed about four tons. Obviously, if only four Kehatites were able to carry it without the aid of wagons, they must have had a substantial measure of Divine assistance.
This was one of the many daily miracles that occurred before the Children of Israel in the desert. To have seen these four men, being carried by the burden upon their shoulders, must have been a wondrous sight.
The weight on the shoulders of Benyamin Natanyahu is awesome. And we the Jewish nation must lend the strength of our shoulders to his. Natanyahu claims that the peace process will continue but with certain deviations. How he will manage to "carry" this burden is an overwhelming thought. Let us hope and pray that like the B'nai Kehat and our support, he too will be carried by his burden and Hashem's Divine assistance.
Our second objective is to achieve Shalom. This too, is revealed in our Parsha, with the three fold blessing, given by the Priests to the B'nai Yisrael - the Children of Israel. They are;
"Yevarchecha Hashem Vishmerecha - May Hashem bless you and safeguard you."
"Ya'er Hashem Panav Eylech Vichuneka -
May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you."
"Yisa Hashem Panav Eylech V'yasaym L'cha Shalom - May Hashem lift His countenance towards you and establish for you Shalom - Peace."
The first blessing relates to material affluence. The second, relates to spiritual well-being. The third, blends the two and brings them to a new plane, Shalom - peace. As I said before, let us hope and pray that the peace that all parties will seek, will be one that combines physical and spiritual prosperity, which will manifest into a blessing of harmony, contentment and wholesomeness and that all parties will achieve.
Yehi Shalom - Let there be "Shalom."
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