Parshas Naso

Fast ...


G-d spoke to Moshe saying, "Command the Children of Israel and send out from the camp anyone with tzara'as, zav--any person who is spiritually impure--male and female you should send out of the camp ..." (Vayikra 5:1-3)
This verse reiterates that the camp that traveled in the desert was very holy, because, as the verse finishes, G-d "dwelled within them." However, leave it to the Ba'al HaTurim to make a comment in passing that turns, what at first seems to be a simple posuk, into a story unto itself:
"Male and Female you should send ... Just as Adam, Chava, and the snake were expelled from Gan Aiden ..."
On the other hand, the connection makes sense: it was Adam and Chava, with the help of the snake, who brought death, and therefore spiritual impurity, into the world. In fact, the Kabbalists explain, after Chava's interaction with the snake and her subsequent eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, she had the halachic status of a zavah--a level of impurity resulting from an involuntary, impure emission.

This is why procreation was forbidden to the first man and woman until after Shabbos, which would have acted like a mikvah for them, purifying them. And this is why Kayin was born--the result of not waiting for the purifying powers of the first Shabbos. According to the Kabbalists, it was this, not the actual eating from the tree itself that led to their expulsion from the garden.

The Ba'al HaTurim continues:

" ... The section about the Sotah (Suspected Adulteress) follows because the interaction with Chava caused his [the snake's] thighs to fall off, as it says, 'On your stomach you will go ...' "
As the Torah will soon teach, one of the punishments for adultery and a result of drinking the bitter waters prescribed (to verify the status of the suspected woman), was that the legs fall off the adulterers. This, the Ba'al HaTurim reveals, was a reason for why the Original Snake lost his own legs, which once allowed him to stand up and walk vertically.

Another interesting point. However, the Ba'al HaTurim is not finished yet. He adds the following:

"The section of the nazir follows this, because the fruit Adam HaRishon ate was grapes."
This, the Talmud, also states in Sanhedrin (70a). Overall, there is a difference of opinion as to exactly which fruit was the "Forbidden Fruit," but the truth is, Kabbalah shows how it was all of them together. Even still, the vine, the grapes, and the wine they produce very much symbolize what Adam did wrong in the garden, and the spiritual damage one can cause and suffer as a result of misusing the physical world. This is why wine plays such a major role in Kiddush and other holy events--as part of a rectification, and as a way of channeling the spiritual energy of wine.

Furthermore, as Tradition teaches, wine symbolizes da'as, specifically, Da'as Torah (Torah Knowledge). This is alluded to by the fact that the word "sod" (60+6+4=70) which often refers to Kabbalah itself, is equal numerically to the word "yai'in," wine (10+10+50). Of all the damage Adam sustained from eating from the tree--Aitz HaDa'as (Tree of Knowledge)--the most serious damage was to Adam's "da'as." No longer did he live on the level of True-and-False, the level of absolute clarity, but fell instead to the level of Good-and-Bad, a more subjective reality.

So, in the end, what may have seemed at first to us as a simple posuk describing a technical procedure about how to manage people who are spiritually impure, is really (with the help of the Ba'al HaTurim) a profound allusion to the moment in history that dramatically altered the course of mankind's history. Understanding its message is already an important key to using its insight to further rectify Adam's sin.

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G-d spoke to Moshe saying, "Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them: If a man's wife go astray (sisteh) ..." (Bamidbar 5:11)
Thus begins the famous mitzvah of the sotah, the suspected adulteress, and all the controversy surrounding this mitzvah, such as, "Why does it only apply to a woman, and not a man?" We have addressed some of these issues in the past, and for now, I would like to focus on a comment that Rashi makes, which serves to expand the idea of the sotah into broader application.

As we know, in a Sefer Torah, the words appear without their vowels. For this reason, words can often be read in more than one way, with slight vowel changes. Thus, the word "sisteh" (astray) can be read "sishteh" (insane), which allows for a play on the word and a deeper interpretation: A person does not sin until a spirit of insanity enters him. In other words, though the parshah is speaking about a woman who was found in seclusion with a man not her husband, the rabbis interpret this to refer to any Jew that strays from G-d.

After all, we do see many times that the prophets compared the Jewish people, when they strayed, to a woman of ill-repute. This does not mean that the nation became involved in forbidden physical relationships; it meant that the Jewish people adopted philosophies in life other than Torah's. And if the giving of Torah is viewed as wedding ceremony, then it is not too far a stretch of the imagination to assume that G-d can play the role of the "jealous husband" as well.

The main point of the statement is: a person has to be crazy to sin. But then again, insanity is a relative concept. Well, yes and no. "Sane" and "insane" are just two end-points on the same line, separated by varying degrees of sanity and insanity. The closer one approaches sanity, the more sane he is; the reverse is obviously also true.

However, the discussion becomes frighteningly relevant when we replace the term "insane" with "subjectivity," and "sane" with "objectivity." After all, being "sane" means being "in touch" with reality, and "insanity" is the result of being complete "out-of-touch" with reality. Hence, the more in-touch with reality one is, the more objective/sane he will be.

But if there is no Ultimate, Objective Reality, then every version of reality, by definition, becomes subjective. This would mean that there really is no ultimate sanity either--a scary thought. It is an even scarier version of daily life, one which we experience first-hand, when we encounter a G-d-less society.

This is what the rabbis really mean by their statement: A person does not transgress, unless he or she is weak in his or her belief in G-d. This is why the word for "fear" is the same as the word for "seeing" (yireh), emphasizing that true fear of G-d is just the result of a heightened awareness of G-d's presence in daily life, and of His concern for our behavior.

One of the most remarkable aspects of human behavior is the commonly held belief that, if something is really there, we'd "automatically" see it. In other words, if G-d was really active in daily life, would we not be able to notice Him, without even trying, and regardless of our beliefs?

Well, not so fast. Let's think about that one a bit. Have we ourselves not seen people less in touch with reality than we are, and do things, quite obliviously, that we ourselves would never do? And when we see them behave in this manner, we shake our heads sympathetically and intone, "Poor person ... He's not mentally well ... he's totally out of touch with reality."

What we don't know and realize is that G-d may do the same for us. We might transgress G-d's will on some level, and feel no sense of shame or urgency to correct our behavior. But, as the rabbis emphasize in this week's parshah, that is only because we have lost touch of reality--G-d's reality. If we knew better, we'd do better.

However, as the parshah also relates, eventually reality catches up with us, just as it did with the sotah. Eventually, over time, all wrongs get righted, one way or another; eventually reality sinks in. And if it does before we have a chance to do teshuvah, then, like the sotah, we're forced to stand there in complete terror and amazement, as to how we could be so short-sighted to risk so much, for so little.

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G-d spoke to Moshe saying, "Speak to Aharon and his sons and tell them, 'This (koh) is how you will bless the children of Israel...'" (Bamidbar 6:22)
In Eretz Yisroel, it is a daily occurrence. Outside of Eretz Yisroel, it is a highlight of the Yom Tov service. Either way, the Torah source for Birchas Kohanim--the Priestly Blessing--is in this week's parshah, in the verse above. On this verse, the Ba'al HaTurim says the following:
"This (koh) is how you will bless ..." This is to allude to the merit [of the Akeidah when Avraham said] "I and the lad will walk until there (koh) ... (Bereishis 22:5); and "thus (koh) will be your seed" (Bereishis 15:5); and "as G-d has blessed me thus (koh)" (Yehoshua 17:14). "koh" (chof, heh) has the numerical value of twenty-five which is how many letters are in "Shema Yisroel." As well, the language of blessing occurs in the entire Torah twenty-five times, as does the word "shalom" (peace) ... (Ba'al HaTurim)
What the Ba'al HaTurim does not mention is that the word "koh" is the final half of the word "aiyekah" (aleph, yud, chof, heh) the question G-d posed to Adam after he ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The first part of the word is "aiyeh," which means, "where," as if to say, "Where is chof-heh, or, twenty-five?" But what kind of a question was that?

As one would expect, when it comes to the eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the answer is deep. According to the Arizal, "koh" is another word used to refer to the Shechinah--the Divine Presence. This is why so many verses from the books of the Prophets begin with the words: Ko amar Hashem (So says G-d ...).

However, as the Ba'al HaTurim mentioned above, the numerical value koh is twenty-five. And, it turns out that something else equals twenty-five as well: yehi (10+5+10), from the verse that resulted in the creation of the original, supernal light of existence. This was the light that G-d called "good," expressing the intrinsic role this light plays in bringing the purpose of creation to fulfillment (the twenty-fifth word in the Torah is the word light itself!).

Therefore, the number twenty-five is a direct allusion to the Original Light of creation, and, the Divine Presence. This is why the Shema has twenty-five letters, to allude to the Supernal Light of creation, and the Divine Presence we are supposed to invite down by learning Torah and doing mitzvos. The Shema sums up the Jewish commitment to bring G-d into the world, and the light of His Torah.

And when Avraham left behind Yishmael and Eliezer to go "koh," it was to the Divine Presence that he headed. As the Midrash explains, it was the Divine Presence that pointed the way to the holy place upon which the Akeidah was supposed to occur.

And this is also why the verse for Birchas Kohanim makes use of the word, "koh," to indicate the role of the kohanim in bringing down the Shechinah and the blessing that results. In fact, the Shechinah used to reside on the fingers of the kohanim while they blessed the people, which is why we don't look directly at them during Birchas Kohanim.

So, therefore, Moshe was instructing the kohanim about more than just how to perform the service. By using the word "koh," Moshe was, letting them know what would be happening during the blessing itself, namely, that they would become somewhat of a spiritual "perch" for the Divine Presence to come down and send blessing to the people.

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G-d spoke to Moshe saying, "Speak to Aharon and his sons and tell them, 'This is how you will bless the Children of Israel: G-d will bless you and protect you; G-d will make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you; G-d will lift His face toward you and place upon you peace.' " (Bamidbar 6:22)
This blessing may be one of the shortest of all, but it includes much, as Rashi explains:
G-d will bless you ... So that your property will increase; and He will protect you, so that robbers will not come and steal from you ...

G-d will make His face shine upon you ... He will show you a friendly countenance ...

And be gracious to you ... That is, may He grant you favor ...

G-d will lift His face toward you ... May He suppress His anger.

Furthermore, one can assume that the order of the blessings represents a build-up to an ultimate level of human success. Thus, the first part of the blessing deals only with material wealth and physical protection--the most basic elements of daily physical survival.

The second blessing, however, focuses on: May G-d cause His Divine Presence to shine upon you when you study His Torah and may He grace you with wisdom, understanding and knowledge of His Torah (Targum Yonason). Even when we fulfill the mitzvah of Talmud Torah, still, success in this area also depends upon help from Heaven.

The third part of Birchas Kohanim prays for: May G-d always pay attention to your prayers and grant you peace wherever you are (Targum Yonason). Hence, it is one thing to pray to the Master of the Universe; it is another thing altogether to have the Al-mighty pay attention to your prayers, and answer them. Prayer takes a lot of self-discipline, in order to remained focused on G-d the entire time and to pray as if one is really talking to G-d (which he is)--which is why one needs help from G-d in this area as well.

But above all, one needs help from G-d to achieve peace. For, as the Talmud states:

Everyday the yetzer hara gets up to kill a person, and if G-d didn't help him, he would lose the battle. (Kiddushin 30b)
--which is why world peace is also not so easily achievable. There is even a special prayer at the end of the Shemonah Esrai prayer (in many siddurim), and it goes like this:
"May it be Your will before You, our G-d and G-d of our fathers, that no person become jealous of me, and that I don't become jealous of others; that I don't become angry today, and that I don't anger You. And may You help me against my yetzer hara ..."
--and grant me peace from the "battle," not by giving in to the yetzer hara, but by rising above it, and by learning how to channel its energy in a spiritual direction. For, there is no greater peace in life than overcoming instinct in favor of a moral truth, and it is this that makes us a worthy dwelling for the Divine Presence and its holy light.

Have a great and "uplifting Shabbos,

Pinchas Winston

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