Photo of Rabbi Ettedgui

Parashat Nasso - 5775

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the second portion in the Book of Numbers. Last week we read of the five censuses that were taken and how the tribes were deployed around the tabernacle. This Shabbat, Moses is commanded to continue the census of the Levites. This time he counts the Gershonite and Merarite families and assigns them the job of dismantling the Tabernacle when they are about to begin a journey, and then assembling it when they encamp.

The Levites, and especially the Kohen family from the Levites, were given great honor in being responsible for the Tabernacle that was at the center of the camp, as well as for all the services that took place in the Temple. The word used for counting is Nasso, which also means ‘elevate, raise’. By counting the individuals and assigning them these important duties, they are elevated to be special in the eyes of the people.

In this Parasha we find a very special duty given to the Kohanim. They are told to bless the people of Israel by invoking G-d's name and pronouncing the famous Priestly Blessing over the people. The Priestly Blessing consists of three short verses totaling 15 words encompassing all the blessing a human being can hope for and ending with the blessing of Shalom, peace.

Why are the Kohanim commanded to bless the people at this point? It would seem that the Kohanim, who have been blessed with so much, being the religious and spiritual leaders of the people, are reminded to share their blessings with the people. Their special status as Kohanim is in vain if they are unable to share their blessings with the people.

I believe that there is an important lesson for us. The American Jewish community has been blessed with unprecedented blessings. In addition to sharing our material blessings with those who are less fortunate, we must feel like the Kohanim - fortunate to live in a country where we are free to live as Jews. If we can feel the pain of our brothers and sisters who live in countries where it has become dangerous to express your Judaism, and do something about it, we are sharing our blessings. When we stand with Israel, because that is our right and duty, we share our blessings.

Yevarechecha Hashem veyishmerecha, יברכך ה' וישמרך

May G-d bless you and watch over you.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram