Weekly Torah Commentary — Naso May 29, 2015

Numbers/Bamidbar 4:21 – 7:89

Most of this week’s reading deals with the offerings brought by the heads of the various tribes, when the Tabernacle was consecrated. Immediately preceding the list of the offerings is this instruction:

And God spoke to Moses saying: ‘Speak to Aaron and his children saying, “Thus bless the children of Israel, say to them: ‘May God bless you and guard you. May God’s face shine on you, and may He find favor in you. May God lift His face toward you and give you peace.'” They shall put My name on the children of Israel and I shall bless them.’ (Numbers 6:22-27)

The idea of ‘Blessings’ is a matter of daily life; from the mundane action of acknowledging a person’s sneeze, to the joy of a father giving his blessing to a prospective son-in-law. Or, from the expressions of thanks for food that has been provided to the authoritative blessing of a Jewish father over his children every Friday night. Taking the word at face-value and based on a quick scan of its use throughout biblical texts, we can say that to be blessed means 1) to be favored by God and 2)to pronounce the favor of God on someone else, such as in the commonly used, ‘God bless you’.

Aaron, the older brother of Moses, was a priest, descended from the tribe of Levi, and also a prophet. He was a gentle man, a lover of peace, often using eloquent and persuasive speech as a means of communication. It was his responsibility to offer sacrifices to God and afterwards, to lift his hands and speak a blessing over the people. In Leviticus 9:23-24 we read that after blessing the people, Aaron (and Moses) went into the tent of meeting. When they came out again, it says that Aaron blessed the people again; and the glory of the Lord appeared to all the people.

Note that Aaron bestows a blessing on the people after he, himself, has worshipped. Therefore, we derive the principle that our ability to declare blessings on others is the fruit of our personal relationship with God. Our words, according to Proverbs 18:21, carry the power of life and death. In another place we are reminded that the words of our mouth reflect the condition of our hearts. As a rotten tree cannot produce nourishing, edible fruit, neither can a soul darkened by bitterness, jealousies and the like produce effective words of blessing.

So who is the most effective at blessing others? The person who is deeply aware and profoundly grateful for all the blessings he himself has received from the Almighty. An abiding attitude of gratitude is foundational to the ability to successfully bestow life-giving blessings on others.

When we speak a blessing, we are not declaring our own favor on something or someone, we are speaking and the declaring the favor of God; in other words, we are agents communicating a blessing on the Lord’s behalf.

The power we can exercise in blessing others is not to be taken lightly. To Aaron, it was a supremely serious matter; it should be to us, as well. Our words and actions carry tremendous influence, whether we are aware of it or not.

In Tune with Torah this week = The late Maya Angelou said it this way: “The thing to do, it seems to me, is to prepare yourself so you can be a rainbow in somebody else’s cloud… But be a blessing to somebody. That’s what I think.” How are we doing at being ‘rainbows in someone else’s cloud’? How grateful are we on a daily basis for all of God’s goodness to us? How far have we come in developing the self-less-ness needed to care more about others than ourselves?

Shabbat Shalom

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