Weekly Torah Commentary — NASO May 30, 2014

Numbers/Bamidbar 4:21 – 7:89

One of the highlights of Parshat Naso is the Priestly Blessing. The text of this blessing, which the Kohanim (priests) bestow upon the Jewish people, concludes, “May God turn His face to you and give you peace” (Numbers 6:26).

In Psalms 29:11 we read, “God will bless His nation with peace.”

The Jewish people — “His nation” — are composed of three categories of people: Priests (Kohanim), Levites (Leviim), and Israelites (Yisraelim). The Hebrew acronym of the words “Kohanim,” “Leviim,” and “Yisraelim” spells the word kli, which means “vessel.” Therefore, we derive the insight that the Jewish people as a nation are called to be a vessel of God, a living, corporate sanctuary of His presence. And the fulness of God’s blessing is enjoyed only when there is peace among the brethren.

The same idea is communicated in Psalm 133: Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity….for there the Lord commanded the blessing – life forever!

Our Sages offer four primary pieces of advice on how to achieve peace with others:

1) Make honoring God the purpose of all we do. If our daily activity is for the honor of God, and not for the sake of boosting our own ego, we can see one another as part of the same team, each one contributing his part to the goal of demonstrating God’s goodness in the midst of a needy world.

2) Train ourselves to look for the good in others. We are all flawed people but rather than being threatened or intolerant of differences, let’s focus instead on the positive qualities in others, just as we hope they will do towards us. It takes no effort to be a fault-finder; it takes maturity to consistently see the good in others.

3) Focus on the reward for making peace, as an incentive to pursue it. For example, suppose a friend of yours urges you to make peace with someone you really can’t stand. Your initial reaction is to immediately turn down the offer. Then the person asks, “What if I give you $1000? Or $100,000? Do you think you could try?” The reality is, my friends, that if we understand how much it means to God that we strive to live in peace with each other, and how much blessing He will release in response, the reward for making peace far outweighs any financial motivation. And that reward follows us into the World to Come.

4) Making peace sometimes requires us to humble ourselves for the greater good. The urge to be “right” is an emotional tyrant at times. It feeds the divisions and conflicts between people. My late husband of blessed memory said often, “It is better to be kind than right.” When all is said and done, more people are remembered — and loved — for their kindness than those who insisted on being “right” all the time.

In Tune with Torah this week = do you need to make peace with someone? Have you been avoiding it? putting it off? This shabbat is the perfect time to stop procrastinating and take at least a first step towards restoring a sense of unity between you. May we all have the courage and the grace to be peacemakers in this world.

Shabbat shalom

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