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Parashat Nasso - 5773

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the portion of Nasso - the longest parasha of the year.

It begins with he completion of the census of the tribe of Levi, and the assignment of each Levi family's responsibility in carrying the Tabernacle and all its vessels when they are on the go.

Nasso also contains the famous Priestly blessing that is recited during the Reader's Amidah every day. There is a custom that when a Kohen is present, he has the privilege of going up on the Bimah and reciting the Priestly blessing upon the congregation. In Yiddish it is called "Duchaning". In Ashkenazi communities it is done usually on Festivals and High Holy Days, while in Sefardi and Israeli synagogues, it is done every Shabbat and holidays.

What is this blessing all about? G-d tells Moses to instruct the children of Aaron (the Kohanim) the way they should bless the people. The blessing consists of three short verses. The first verse has three words, the second five, and the third has seven words, or 15 words all together. I will concentrate just on the first verse, which you all know from blessing your children and family every Friday evening:

"May G-d bless you and protect you."

The question is asked - If a person is blessed by G-d, why does that person need to be protected? Isn't that part of the blessing?

Two interesting answers:

  1. When a person is blessed in spirit or in material possessions, that person needs to be protected from those who may envy or wish to do harm to him/her because of those blessings.
  2. When a person is blessed, he/she needs protection from himself/herself. He/she may become selfish and arrogant and not use those blessings in a good way. Will those blessings make him/her forget that they are from G-d?

This point is also found in Psalm 30, where King David says:

"Once, while at ease I thought, I am so secure, nothing can shake me."

But troubles did descend upon David. He yearned for the days when things were good.

Thank G-d, we are blessed. But we all know how quickly things can turn. We need Hashem's protection to remain healthy, to enjoy our life, family and community. The first verse of the Priestly blessing reminds us to count our blessings and use them by being a blessing to others.

May you all be blessed.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram