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Parshas Nasso - Filling Up the Tank                   11 Sivan 5782

06/10/2022 08:07:18 AM


James Patterson’s popular collection of books filled with enduring fictional characters has made him one of the world’s bestselling authors. In addition to his many stand-alone thrillers, non-fiction, and romance novels, he is also famous for several quotes and proverbs. One such quote that I read off a tea bag (that was attributed to – ”Unknown”) that grabbed my attention is: “Don’t depend on others to give you strength…. Find it within yourself.”

When I initially read this, I thought this was a beautiful concept for Judaism in general. I know that people need inspiration and motivation from others, but I always felt that being self-motivated, searching for and finding our own answers to life’s challenges, will last longer over time. When a person works on him/herself to find appropriate ways to succeed, the success rate is far better than receiving it elsewhere. The name of this week’s Parsha is Nasso, a word which has multiple meanings in addition to the meaning within the context of the parsha – ‘to lift’.  Every one of us needs ‘to lift’ ourselves up, to carry our own existence. This really defines Patterson’s proverb and shows a consistency within the Torah. As we are all aware, there is always an alternative or even opposite understanding of every segment of the Torah. The following is not necessarily opposite but perhaps a complimentary approach to whether strength should come from within or from someone else.

The Torah in this week’s Parshas Nasso states in Bamidbar 6:23 "דבר אל אהרן ואל בניו לאמר כה תברכו את בני ישראל, אמור להם"  “Hashem spoke to Moshe thus saying: ‘Speak to Aharon and his sons, thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them’ ”. This is the introduction to what we refer to as the Birkas Kohanim, the priestly blessings. The Birkas Kohanim are recited by Sephardic Jews everyday of the year in Israel and abroad, while Ashkenazim have the Kohanim recite the brachos every day in Eretz Yisrael, but outside of Israel, it is recited only on the yomim tovim. The decision not to have Birkas Kohanim in the diaspora, with the exception of the Yom Tovim, is that the Kohanim need to be B’Simcha - with joy - in order to bless. Living in the diaspora there are always worries and concerns; only through the joy of a Yom Tov would the Kohein reach the level of joy necessary to give the brachos.

Reb Shlomo Lunchitz, in his classic commentary Kli Yakar, focuses on the last two words ‘Amor Lahem’ - say to them - and explains the significance of these words. He quotes the Sifri 6 143 that says: “… from here we learn the Chazan calls out each word to the kohanim, the text of the blessings.” The traditional reason for this is the kohanim need help to ensure they say the proper words. But on a deeper level, it is the Chazzan who is the channel which first ‘pulls the blessing through the pipes’, so to speak, from the source of blessing. The blessing is poured onto the heads of the Kohanim, instilling them with the power to bless. At first the Chazzan says to the Kohein that Hashem will bless the Kohanim to make them a solid vessel full and instilled with Hashem’s blessing. Afterwards, the Kohanim pour out the blessing from their full essence to the empty vessels of the people. But if the Kohein was not blessed first, then it would be pouring from one empty vessel to another.

With this explanation we can better understand what it says in Bereishis 12:3: "ואברכה מברכיך, ומקללך אאר"     “I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you, I will curse”. It should have said I will curse those who curse you, just as stated in the bracha. Rather, Hashem indicates that the Kohein who blesses the people will himself first be blessed by Hashem. This is necessary in order to give the power and essence of the blessing to the Kohein so as to relay the blessing to the Jewish people. But in the case of the curse, it is only after the fact when someone has cursed you will Hashem then curse that person in retribution. Hashem does not give the ability of giving a curse so that they should have what it takes to curse someone else, only through the blessing does that work. Therefore, the Gemara in Chullin 49a states that the Chazzan first dictates to the Kohein; only then can the Kohein bless the people.

From this we can determine that receiving strength from others is not necessarily a bad thing. We should, of course, always try to muster up strength within ourselves.  Nevertheless, when it comes to spiritually infusing someone with a blessing from Hashem, we first need Hashem to bless the giver so that the giver is able to appropriately bless the receiver.  Today all of us need strength, wisdom, and blessing. Chaza”l teach us that we should not take a blessing lightly - even if it comes from an Am HaAretz. I therefore want to give a Bracha of strength, encouragement, heavenly assistance, wisdom and fortitude to our holy congregation and community. May we all be zocheh to merit all of the Birkas Kohanim, hearing the blessing directly from them at the third Beis HaMikdash, speedily built in our days. Amen!       

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

P.S. The length of this week’s message reflects the shortened week after the Yom Tov of Shavuos. 

Mon, December 11 2023 28 Kislev 5784