Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Naso 5775

The Torah Portion of Naso 

Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

The Torah Portion of Naso is usually read immediately after the holiday of Shavuot, and it is the longest portion in terms of the number of its verses, to hint to us that after receiving the Torah we need to increase in learning and to strengthen ourselves.  Also the Midrashic explanations, as well as the explanations in the Zohar on this Torah Portion, are very extensive.

The Torah Portion of Naso, as already mentioned, is the longest Torah Portion and has 176 verses.  

And also in the book of Psalms, the longest chapter is chapter 119 which has in it 176 verses.  In addition, the longest tractate is Baba Batra, and it has 176 pages. In the name of the Gr"a it is stated that in truth the tractate of Baba Batra is the longest in terms of the number of pages which it has;  however, the  tractate of Berachot is the longest one in terms of the number of words. 

"Count the number of the sons of Gershon, also them". (Bamidbar 4:22)  

The Ohr HaChama explains, why does it say "also them"?  The sons of Levi in the order of their birth are Gershon, Kehat, and Merari, that is, Gershon is before Kehat.  But in the order of their carrying of components of the Mishkan (Tabernacle), the carrying done by the sons of Kehat is written about in the Torah Portion of Bamidbar - before the carrying done by the sons of Gershon, because the items carried by Kehat were the most holy items.  So in order to not cause us to err and say that the sons of Gershon were excluded from the general class (of sons of Levi who were honored by being given the task of carrying components of the Tabernacle), it was therefore written "also them", because also they were highly honored.  

"And they shall confess their sin". (Bamidbar 5:7)

The law of Vidui (confession) is written in the context of stealing from a convert: "And they shall confess their sin" (Bamidbar 5:7). And why was this written in the context of stealing from a convert?  The reason is that every sin is a type of theft, because Hashem created man to do good acts, and if so when he sins he is stealing from the Holy One Blessed Be He.  (from the Sefat Emet)

"...any man, if his wife go aside..."  (Bamidbar 5:12)

In the section about the Sotah it is written, "...any man, if his wife go aside...".  (Bamidbar 5:12)
In connection with this verse, the Sages say that a person does not sin unless there enters into him a spirit of foolishness.  [Translator's note: This is based on the linguistic similarity between the Hebrew word "Tisteh" (in English: "go aside") and the Hebrew word "Shtut" (in English: "foolishness").] 

"...and the woman shall say "Amen, Amen".  (Bamidbar 5:22)

There are those that learn a hint from this verse, based on the concept of Roshei Teivot (initial letters).  The Hebrew lettters which spell the word "Amen" are "Aleph", "Mem", and "Nun". "Aleph" is the initial letter of the words "Arba Kosot" (referring to the "Four Cups" of wine which we drink at the Passover Seder).  "Mem" is the initial letter of the word "Megillah" (referring to the Book of Esther which we read at Purim).  "Nun" is the initial letter of the words "Neir Chanukah" (referring to the Chanukah candles that we light).  These are the Mitzvot that women are also required to participate in, because also they played an important role in those miracles (of Passover, Purim, and Chanukah).

"To take a Nazarite vow". (Bamidbar 6:2) 

Rashi explains that the reason the passage about the Sotah is adjacent to the passage about the Nazir is to tell you that everyone that sees a Sotah in her disgrace should take upon himself to abstain from wine.  And this presents a difficulty, because a Nazir needs to bring a sacrifice for causing himself to abstain from wine, as the Rabbis said, that he sinned against his soul by causing himself suffering by abstaining from wine.  And the explanation is, that what is meant by saying that someone who sees a Sotah should abstain from wine is that he should not drink a lot to the point of drunkenness. (from the Riv"a) 

"And the first days shall fall aside". (Bamidbar 6:12)

 This is a hint, to every person who is trying to bring himself closer to Hashem, and the evil inclination puts him down, by saying "you are a sinner and doing repentance will not be effective".  The verse says "And the first days shall fall aside" (Bamidbar 6:12); he should not think about what occurred in the past, but rather should start anew, and strengthen himself.  And so we say in one of the prayers: "from now until eternity"; that the main point is that we need to strengthen ourselves so that "from now until eternity" we will behave correctly. (from Mussar teachers)

The blessing given by the Kohanim (Bamidbar 6:24 - 6:26)

In the blessing given by the Kohanim, there are 6 blessings:  "May He bless you", "May He guard you", "May He illuminate His countenance for you", "May He be gracious to you", "May He turn His countenance toward you", and the last one is related to Shalom (peace): "May He establish peace for you".  The first fiive blessings correspond to the Five Books of the Torah, and above all of them is Shalom (peace), because without peace, it is not possible for these blessings to be actualized.  (from the Gr"a) 

The blessing given by the Kohanim (Bamidbar 6:24 - 6:26)

Before performing this Mitzvah, the Kohen says a blesssing:  "... and has commanded us to bless the people of Israel with love".  Where is it written in the Torah that Hashem commanded the Kohanim to bless them "with love"?  There are those that say, that without love the blessings cannot be actualized.  In support of this viewpoint is what Rashi says about the words "saying to them" (Bamidbar 6:23). The word Hebrew word "Amor", which means "saying" in English is written out fully, including a "Vuv".  [Translator's note: the word could have been written with three letters "Aleph", Mem", "Reish", but instead it is written "Aleph", "Mem", "Vuv", "Reish", which is a longer way of writing it.]    This indicates that the blessing given by the Kohanim should not be said in haste and confusion, but rather with concentration and intention.  (from Maharitz Chayot Sota Daf 39)    And there are those that say that it is written in the Zohar that in the case of a Kohen whom the congregation hates or who hates the congregation, the Kohen would be endangering himself if he lifts up his hands (to say the blessing given by the Kohanim), and therefore they established in this blessing prior to the Mitzvah, that he should bless his people with love.  And therefore, if he is unable to overcome his natural inclinations and to remove the hatred from his heart, he should leave the synagogue prior to "Retzei" (the part of the Shemoneh Esrei prayer which precedes the blessing given by the Kohanim).  (from Mishnah Berurah section 128, based on the Acharonim) 

"And I will bless them".  (Bamdibar 6:27) 

In the blessings given by the Kohanim, it is not specified in the verse with what Hashem will bless us, etc. (The Sages explained, that "May He bless you" is with wealth,  "And may He guard you", is from damaging influences, etc., but these are not stated explicitly in the Torah.) The Gaon Rav Yosef Chaim Zonenfeld ztz"l says, that the Kohen himself doesn't know what is lacking for each individual, so it would be possible for him to bless someone with wealth and it wouldn't be good for him to have that, because "there is wealth which is guarded for its owner to his detriment".  The Holy One Blessed Be He said to the Kohen "You will say 'May He bless you', etc.", "And I will bless them" (Bamidbar 6:27).  I will bless each and every one with what is beneficial for him.

The Gifts of the 12 Princes

Each of the 12 Princes  brought the same sacrifices and offerings.  If so, why does the Torah repeat and detail the sacrifices and offerings of each one of the 12 Princes?  The reason is to emphasize that each one had his own special intentions in bringing his gift. And in the Midrash it is written that each and every tribe had a tradition handed down to it from Yaakov Avinu about what would occur to it until the Days of Mashiach, in the context of that tradition, each Prince brought his gift.  

Pirkei Avot - Ethics of the Fathers

It is written in Pirkei Avot (4:2)  "Mitzvah Goreret Mitzvah"  (in English, "One Mitzvah drags another Mitzvah after it").   Why isn't it written "Mitzvah Maviah Mitzvah" (in English, "One Mitzvah brings another Mitzvah")?  The reason is that sometimes there are all kinds of delays.  For example, in a Brit (Circumcision ceremony), the people need to wait until the Mohel arrives.  And this waiting is in and of itself also a Mitzvah.  And that is why the word "Goreret" ("drags") is used, that the Mitzvah is dragged out.  (from HaGaon HaRav Reizman)

The Seven Rabbinic Mitzvot  

The seven Rabbinic Mitzvot are: 1. Hallel, 2. the Holiday of Purim, 3.  Eruvin, 4. Blessings over enjoyment, 5. Lighting the Shabbat Candle, 6.  the Holiday of Chanukah, 7. Netilat Yadayim (ritual handwashing).  These can be remembered by means of Roshei Teivot (initial letters) based on the letters Shin, Mem, Ayin, Bait, Nun, Yud, which spell the words "Sh'ma B'ni" (which means "Hear my son"), as follows:
Shin - is the first letter of Shevach (praise) which refers to Hallel.
Mem - is the first letter of Megilla, which refers to Purim.
Ayin - is the first letter of Eruvin.
Beit - is the first letter of Birkat Hanehenin, Blessings over enjoyment.
Nun - is the first letter of Nair (Candle), for the Candle of Shabbat and Chanukah.
Yud - is the first letter of Yadayim, for Netilat Yadayim (ritual handwashing).

The Torah Portion of Naso has 176 verses, 7 positive commandments and 11 negative commandments.  Haftora: "Vayihi ish achad m'tzara" (Shoftim 13)  

Pirkei Avot, Chapter 2 (second cycle).

May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.
Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat Hagaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

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