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Naso
How were the princes appointed? Print E-mail
Friday, 25 May 2018

In Parshat Naso (Bamidbar 7:2) we read: “The princes of Israel (nesiim), the heads of their fathers’ household, brought offerings; these were the princes of the tribes, they stood by during the counting.

According to Bamidnar Raba 12:17, the princes of the tribes were the officers (shotrim) who were appointed over B’nei Yisrael while they were slaves in Egypt as it says in Shmot 5:14, “The officers of B’nei Yisrael were beaten- those whom Pharaoh’s taskmasters had appointed- and were told, ‘Why have you not completed your quotas of brick making as you did yesterday and before neither yesterday, nor today?’”

Shmot Raba 2:20 adds: The officers took the beatings in place of B’nei Yisrael so that the nation as a whole would be spared. From here we see that the officers of Israel were ksherim, good people who gave themselves over to suffer on behalf of B’nei Yisrael and endured the beatings of the Egyptian taskmasters. Therefore, these officers merited to have Ruach Hakodesh, Divine Spirit.

In Bamidbar 11:15 God said to Moshe: “Gather seventy men for Me, from among the elders of Israel, men whom you know to be the people’s elders, and its officers, and you shall take them to the Tent of Meeting and they shall stand there with you.”

Rashi states that Moshe knew these men since they were the same appointed officers over Egypt for the body breaking labor. Let them be appointed now, in their greatness, just as they suffered when they were oppressed.

We see from here that the princes did not appear out of nowhere. Rather, they worked hard protecting B’nei Yisrael and each and every one sincerely earned his title.

We see a similar phenomenon in Israel today. Many of our leaders were oppressed in their country of origin as they fought for the rights of the Jews to study Hebrew and make aliya. Later, when they were finally able to make aliya, they naturally became leaders in the State of Israel. Two personalities who specifically stand out are Yuli Edelstein and Natan Sharansky, both prominent Prisoners of Zion who made aliya and eventually served in the Knesset. Yuli Edelstein is now the speaker of the Knesset while Natan Sharansky is the Chairman of the Jewish Agency. Just like the nesiim, after all of their suffering they were granted the opportunity to become true leaders of Israel.

 
Who was Shimshon’s mother? Print E-mail
Sunday, 04 June 2017

In the Haftara for Parshat Naso, we read the beginning of the story of Shimshon (Shoftim 13:2-25).

The story begins with the words: “There was a certain man of Tzorah, of the family of the Danite, and his name was Manoach; his wife was barren and had not given birth.”

What stands out here is that the man’s name is mentioned but his wife’s name is not.

In the Talmud, Bava Batra 91a, Rav Chanan bar Rava said in the name of Rav: “Shimshon’s mother was Tzlelponit (Hatzlelponi)”, a woman who is mentioned in Divrei Hayamim I 4:3.

The Gemara asks why it is necessary to list the names of women whose names are not specified and then answers that these facts are stated as a response to the heretics who may ask why their names were not listed. Rashbam explains that we can tell the heretics that these names were transmitted to us through the oral tradition.

What is the meaning of the name Hatzlelponi?

According to Bamidbar Raba 10:5, she is called Hatzlelponi since she saw the angel (who looks like a shadow- tzel) and the word tzlel means angel as it is a vision, just like a shadow. Since she was righteous the angel appeared to her.

If an angel is like a shadow (tzel), then why is the word tzlel used, why isn’t she named Hatzelponi instead of Hatzlelponi?

The answer in Bamidbar Raba is that since the angel appeared to her twice, once in the city and once in the field, the word angel is used in her name in the plural form. The first time the angel told her that she is barren however she will give birth and that the child will be a Nazir. The second time the angel returned to her after Manoach’s prayer and then told Manoach: “Of everything that I spoke to the woman, she should beware… (Shoftim 13:13).”  In other words, the angel came specifically to see Manoach’s wife and to deliver the message directly to her both times.

At the end of the Haftara we read (Softim 13:24) “The woman gave birth to a son and she called him Shimshon, the lad grew and God blessed him…”

We see from here that the words of the angel did come true.

Manoach’s wife is listed by Otzar HaMidrashim as one of the 23 most righteous Biblical women in Israel.

In Psikta D’Rav Kahana, seven barren women are listed: Sara, Rivka, Rachel, Leah, Manoach’s wife, Chana and the City of Jerusalem.

In the same way that our Biblical mothers were finally able to give birth, may we continue to see more children being born in Jerusalem. As these six women were no longer called barren, may the city of Jerusalem never again be without her children surrounding her.

 
Male and Female Nezirim Have the Same Obligations Print E-mail
Friday, 29 May 2015

Sponsored by Sharona and Josh Halickman in Honor of Michael Schwartz’s Bar Mitzvah

In Parshat Naso, Bamidbar 6:2-6 we read: “Speak to B’nai Yisrael and say to them: if a man or a woman sets apart a vow, a nazarite vow, to set himself/herself apart for God. From new or old wine, he/she must abstain. Vinegar made from new wine and vinegar made from old wine he/she may not drink; anything steeped in grapes he/she shall not drink; moist grapes or raisins he/she shall not eat. As long as he/she is a Nazir, from anything made of the grape-vine, from seeds to skin, he/she shall not eat. As long as he/she is under nazirite oath a razor shall not pass over (to touch) his/her head. Until he/she completes their days as a Nazir to God, they shall be sacred, he/she shall let the hair of their head grow long. All of the days that he/she is a Nazir to God, he/she shall have no contact with the dead…”

Usually when we think of a Nazir, we think of a man (Shimshon from this week’s Haftara is the most famous Nazir). However, there was a famous Nezira (female Nazir), Queen Helene, the queen of Adiabene, near Assyria who lived in the first century, CE and converted to Judaism together with her family.

We learn about Queen Helene’s time as a Nezira from the Mishna, Nazir 3:6:  “One who made a vow for a prolonged period and completed their nazirite spell and afterwards came to the Land of Israel, Beit Shammai say: they must continue as a Nazir for thirty days. Beit Hillel say: they must be a Nazir all over again. Queen Helene whose son went to war, said, ‘If my son returns safely from the war, I will be a Nezira for seven years!’- her son came back from the war, and she became a Nezira for seven years; at the conclusion of the seven years she came up to the Land of Israel, Beit Hillel instructed her that she had to be a Nezira again for seven more years; but at the end of the seven years she became unclean and she found herself a Nezira for twenty-one years. Rabbi Yehuda said she should not have been a Nezira for more than fourteen years.”

Queen Helene was a well respected woman and the Mishna has no problem using her as an example of what happens when someone becomes a Nazir outside of the Land of Israel.

The Mishna teaches that since Chutz La’aretz was considered ritually unclean, one could not observe nezirut outside of the Land of Israel and therefore had to go up to the Land of Israel in order to fulfill their vow of nezirut.

There was no distinction between women and men. Once a nazirite vow was made by a woman or a man, it had to be fulfilled in the Land of Israel.

 

 
Birkat Kohanim- Every Day in Jerusalem Print E-mail
Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Birkat Kohanim- Every Day in Jerusalem

 

In Jerusalem, as well as in many other parts of Israel (excluding certain cities in the north who only have the custom on Shabbat) we are blessed by the Kohanim every day.

 

In Chutz LaAretz (outside of Israel), Birkat Kohanim (The Priestly Blessing) is only recited on the Shalosh Regalim- Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot and Yom Kippur.

 

The Sefer HaChinuch states that the Mitzvah of Birkat Kohanim, where the Kohanim bless the Jewish people at Shacharit, Musaf and Neilah is in force everywhere, at every time.

 

Why isn’t Birkat Kohanim recited every day or at least on Shabbat in Chutz LaAretz?

 

Over the years of Galut (exile), different issues arose which prevented or deterred the Kohanim from performing Birkat Kohanim. Some of the questions that came up were: Are the Kohanim pure enough? Are they really Kohanim or did they lose their lineage? Is there enough Kavanah (intent) during the Tefila? Can Jews in Galut be happy on a regular basis or are they too concerned with making a living and are therefore only happy on the holidays?

 

Rabbi Aryeh Tzvi Frummer z”tl, h”yd (1884-1943), Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivat Chochmei Lublin who was killed in the Holocaust wrote in his work Eretz HaTzvi that according to the Talmud, Eruvin, the Kohen can’t perform Birkat Kohanim if he is drunk. When one is in exile, it is as if they are drunk since their thoughts are all confused. It would therefore not be proper for them to lead Birkat Kohanim. However, on Yom Tov they are in a state of happiness and are not involved in the confusion of exile so leading Birkat Kohanim on the holidays would not be a problem.

 

Can those who are not in shul or not even in Israel still benefit from the daily Birkat Kohanim that is recited on behalf of Am Yisrael?

 

We learn in the Talmud, Sotah 38b: Adda said in the name of Rabbi Simlai: In a shul whose attendance consists of only Kohanim, all of the Kohanim ascend to recite Birkat Kohanim. The Gemara asks: To whom is their blessing addressed if no other congregants are present? Rabbi Zeira said: It is addressed to their brothers who are working in the fields and therefore can’t come to shul.

 

Even though Birkat Kohanim is not recited in Chutz La’Aretz aside from on the holidays, the Jews throughout the world who can’t move to Israel for whatever reason or the Jews in Israel who are unable to attend services every day due to health or work related issues may still be included in the blessings of the Kohanim in Jerusalem every day.

 

How ironic that a Charedi rabbi who lives in Jerusalem yet strongly opposes the Zionist State of Israel suggests that Jews who live in Chutz La’Aretz should ask a Kohen in Jerusalem to have them in mind during Birkat Kohanim. If we didn’t have the State of Israel would Kohanim really be able to pray freely on behalf of Am Yisrael?

 

Sometimes we take the fact that we have the State of Israel and the united city of Jerusalem for granted, another reason why we need the blessings of the Kohanim.

 

The last words of Birkat Kohanim state: “Viyasem lecha Shalom”, May God establish peace for you.

 

On this Yom Yerushalayim we pray that Israel will be at peace with her neighbors and that the different Jewish communities within Israel will be at peace with one another.

 

 
Don’t Turn Your Back on a Blessing Print E-mail
Friday, 17 May 2013
In Parshat Naso, Bamidbar 6:23, God speaks to Moshe regarding the Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) saying: “Speak to Aharon and to his sons, saying: This is how you shall bless (tivarchu) Bnei Yisrael, saying (amor lahem) to them…”

 

Why is necessary to have both “tevarchu”, bless them and also “amor lahem”, say to them?

 

According to Rashi, “amor lahem” refers to the fact that everyone must hear. It is not enough for B’nai Yisrael to be blessed, they must hear the blessing.

 

In Bamidbar Raba 11:4 we learn: Do not bless them with haste and rushing, rather with concentration (kavana) and a whole heart (lev shalem).

 

We see from here that the Kohanim must have a tremendous amount of kavana when they are blessing us and we must listen carefully in order to receive their blessing. According to the Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chaim 128:23, during Birkat Kohanim, the members of the congregation should face in the direction of the Kohanim, look down and concentrate on the words (we should not turn our backs to the Kohanim).

 

The Gemara in Chagiga 16a states: Rabbi Yehuda the son of Rav Nachmani, the spokesman of Reish Lakish expounded: Whoever gazes at three items causes his eyes to dim: a rainbow, a prince and Kohanim.

 

When was the part about not gazing at the Kohanim in effect? When the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) was standing and the Kohanim were on the platform and blessing the entire nation with the “Shem HaMeforash”, the Ineffable Name of God. Under those circumstances, the Divine Presence rested upon the knuckles of their outstretched hands.

 

Tosafot point out that even without the Beit HaMikdash, it is forbidden to gaze at the Kohanim during Birkat Kohanim so as not to be distracted from what they are saying.

 

We see from here that today we don’t look directly at the Kohanim since looking at them could ruin our concentration. It is very important for us to focus on the blessings that are being showered upon us.

 

May we all be blessed with the blessings of the Kohanim:

 

May God bless you and protect you

May God cause His countenance to shine upon you and favor you

May God lift His face to you and grant you peace.

 

 
The Married Woman’s Hair Covering Print E-mail
Friday, 01 June 2012

The Gemara in Ketubot 72a states that the source for a married woman’s hair covering is found in Parshat Naso in the section dealing with the Isha Sotah (wife who is suspected of being unfaithful) which would mean that it is a Biblical prohibition for a married woman to leave her home with her head uncovered.

 

It is written in Bamidbar, Naso 5:18: “The Kohen shall station the woman before God and expose the woman’s hair (ufara et rosh haisha), and place, on her palms the meal offering of remembrance; it is a meal offering of jealousy and there will be in the Kohen’s hand, the bitter, lethal waters.”

 

Rashi states that he disentangles the plaits of her hair to humiliate her. From this we derive that, for daughters of Yisrael, a bare head is debasing.

 

Rambam does not feel that a married woman’s requirement to cover her head is Biblical as it is only hinted to in the Torah and therefore he would qualify it as Rabbinic.

 

Tosafot explains that a married woman is not required to cover her head at home or in her own courtyard.

 

Rabbi Zeira explains in Ketubot 72b that if women were required to cover their heads even within their own courtyards “then you will have not left our father Avraham a daughter who will remain living with her husband!” In other words, if you are so strict then there will be no more reputable women left.

 

Some women may choose to be more machmir (strict) and cover their heads all of the time. The key here is that the women must have the opportunity to learn the leniencies and stringencies and make an educated decision of how they are going to observe the Halacha in a way that they are comfortable with.

 

 
The Importance of Saying "I'm Sorry" Print E-mail
Friday, 03 June 2011

Parsha Points- Naso by Ariel Freda, a student at Midreshet Devora

 

Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone in their life time at some point or another will do something wrong. By nature, we as human beings are built to fail sometimes, and that is exactly what we do. However, part of the beauty in Judaism is the concept of tshuva, which allows us to come back from things that we have done wrong.

 

In Parshat Naso, God tells Moshe: “When a man or woman commits any of the sins against man to act treacherously against God, and that person is [found] guilty,  they shall confess the sin they committed…” This seems very clear. Anyone who sins and is proven to be guilty needs to admit that they have done wrong. When we study the concept of tshuva , we see different steps such as recognition of the sin, repentance, correcting the wrong of the sin, sacrifice, mikvah, and confession (vidui). You would think that after having already corrected one’s behavior and making things better it would be enough. Why does one need to verbally admit the sin committed?

 

It is very easy for people to just say the words “I’m sorry” and be done with the situation. However, when we are forced to verbalize something, we reach a whole new level of reality in which the sin that has been committed becomes something a little more tangible for us to deal with. We admit things so that we know that they are real. By not verbalizing or confessing the sin or wrongdoing, it is as if we ignore it entirely and don’t apologize, specifically, for that sin. When we verbalize what we have done, our sincerity increases.

 

What does all of this mean?  Why do we confess our sins? Why does God need to hear our sins being confessed? He is God after all, He knows everything. He knows how sorry we are for the sins we commit whether we admit it or not. But we do not do vidui for His sake, we do it for ours. Doing vidui helps us understand the wrongs we have committed so that we are able to complete full tshuva and recognize the essence of what was done wrong.

 

We live in a world where many people say “I’m sorry” whenever they can and think that is enough. We need to be able to truly see what sins and wrongs we commit as well as admit our wrongdoings not just to the other person and not just to God, but to ourselves. In this way we can have a complete tshuva and get just that much closer to making this world an even more suitable dwelling place for God.

 

Ariel Freda is from Seattle Washington. She is enjoying her time at Midreshet Devora and she is looking forward to attending Yeshiva University’s Stern College and Sy Syms School of Business in the fall.

 

 

 
In Search of Shimshon Print E-mail
Friday, 21 May 2010
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Parshat Naso describes the Nazir, a man or woman who voluntarily takes upon themselves three restrictions: They are forbidden to eat or drink grape products, their hair may not be cut and they may not be contaminated by a human corpse. 

The Haftorah from Shoftim, Chapter 13 recounts the story of Shimshon, whose mother was told by an angel even before his birth that he must live his life as a Nazir.

 

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to stand in the territory of Dan “between Tzora and Eshtaol” (Shoftim/Judges 13:25), where Shimshon’s family lived as we traveled on a journey “In Search of the Plishtim”, beginning in Tel Bet Shemesh where “the spirit of God began to resound in Shimshon (Ibid)”.

 

One may ask why in Shoftim 13:24 the pasuk states: “The woman gave birth to a son and called him Shimshon”, without an explanation of where the name came from.

 

1. The name Shimshon is obviously from the root “Shemesh”, sun and therefore may not have needed a further explanation.

 

2. The sun was a Canaanite and mythological god and the Navi may not have wanted to associate with that allusion. The city of Bet Shemesh actually gets its name from the Sun god. I wonder how many residents of Bet Shemesh today are aware of that!

 

3. In the Gemara, Masechet Sotah 10a Rabbi Yochanan said: Shimshon is called by the name of God, as it is stated in Tehilim 84:12: “For the Lord God is a sun and shield: the Lord will give grace and honor: no good thing will he withhold from those who walk uprightly”. Just as God protects the entire world, Shimshon protected Israel in his generation.

 

4. According to Maharsha, the suns rays can be harmful or beneficial. Shimshon’s activities helped the Jewish people and punished the Plishtim.

 

Since his mother knew what his mission would be she gave him the name Shimshon.

 

As we visited the cities of the Plishtim, we became increasingly aware of how small Israel is and how close the Plishtim lived to B’nai Yisrael.

 

Shimshon’s strength frightened the Plishtim but did not remove them and they continued to control the Land until the reigns of Saul and David.

 

We can learn from Shimshon the famous lesson from Pirkei Avot, The Ethics of Our Fathers: “Lo Alecha HaMlacha Ligmor”, “You are not required to complete the task, yet you are not free to withdraw from it”.

 
A Prayer for Peace Print E-mail
Tuesday, 29 May 2007

The Birkat Kohanim (Priestly blessing) is publicly recited outside of the land of Israel on the major holidays while in the land of Israel it is publicly recited every day as well.

The blessing is found in Parshat Naso (Bamidbar 6:24-26) and is made up of three units:

1.”Yivarechecha HaShem VeYishmerecha”, May God bless you and protect you.

2. “Ya’er HaShem Panav Eilecha Viychuneka”, May God make His face shine upon you and be gracious to you.

3. “Yisa HaShem Panav Eilecha Viyasem Lecha Shalom”, May God lift up His face upon you and give you peace.

Nehama Leibowitz brings different opinions to help us understand what Birkat Kohanim is all about:

The first section- “May God bless you” according to Rashi refers to your material goods. The words “and protect you” refer to the fact that not only should you have these material goods, but plunderers should not take them away.

HaAmek Davar adds that this blessing can mean different things for different people. For a student of Torah, their success would be in their Torah study. For a business person their success would be in business” A Torah scholar should be protected from becoming too high on himself, a businessperson should make sure that his wealth doesn’t become a stumbling block for him.

The second section, “May God make His face shine upon you” is described by Bamidbar Raba 11:6 as the light of Torah. God should enlighten your eyes and heart in Torah and grant you children learned in Torah (In Mishlei the Torah is compared to light). The third section “May God lift His face upon you and give you peace” goes beyond the material and the spiritual. In the end peace is the most important thing.

Let’s hope and pray that God will bless us with our material and spiritual desires and may there be peace in the land of Israel and throughout the world!