Dvar Torah Naso 2007 – 5767 דבר תורה נשא

We read in this week’s portion the laws of a Nazir. A Nazir is one who takes upon himself a vow not to drink wine, not to cut his hair and not to come in contact with a dead body. If he accidentally came in contact with a corpse he becomes defiled and after fulfilling the rituals of being purified again he must bring a sacrifice in the Temple. The reason the Torah gives for this sacrifice is: VECHIPER ALAV ME’ASHER CHATA, “…and he will atone for having sinned.” (Num. 6,11)

What was his sin? Firstly, he accepted upon himself greater restrictions than the Torah commanded. This should be commendable. Secondly, he was defiled accidentally. Why should he be considered as having sinned? He did everything right.

Rabbi Elazar in the Talmud states that he sinned in that he prohibited upon himself drinking wine which is permitted. (Naz. 19a) He further states that if he is considered a sinner because he prohibited himself from drinking wine how much more so does he sin when he fasts unnecessarily.

From this we see the opinion of the Rabbis that one should not expand on the Biblical or Rabbinic prohibitions. What is permitted should not be prohibited. It is no pious act to be stricter than Halacha calls for.


Dvar Torah Naso 2006 – 5766 דבר תורה נשא

In the Birchat Kohanim which we read this week the third part ends with the words: VEYASEM LECHA SHALOM, “…and give you peace”. (Num. 6,26) This is the greatest blessing one can have, for without peace one cannot enjoy any of the other fortunes he may have. It does not matter whether the peace is between nations or between individuals. Without peace the blessings cannot be enjoyed.

Chazal tell us: HARO’EH KEDERAH BACHALOM YITZPE LESHALOM, “If one sees a pot in his dreams he should expect peace.” (Yalkut Shimoni, Yeshayahu 429) This is a strange statement. What does a pot have to do with peace?

Two of the most opposite things in this world are fire and water. They cannot exist together. The water will extinguish the fire or the fire will evaporate the water. Yet if you put a pot between them they both can exist. The pot brings peace between these two opposing substances. The pot symbolizes the ability to make peace.

A person should always try to be the go between two people who are having difficulties. The Birchat Kohanim is given over to the Kohanim, descendents of Aharon Hakohen because he is known as a Rodef Shalom, one who perused peace. One should always try to emulate him.

One word of caution! Sometimes the pot can burn and become black. One must be careful how he approaches this deed.

Dvar Torah Naso 2005 – 5765 דבר תורה נשא

The Kohanim are instructed to bless the people. Do they have a special power that they can give blessings more than anyone else? When we read the wording of the Torah we see that the blessings do not stem from the Kohanim themselves but rather come from Hakadosh, Baruch Hu.

The Torah says: VESAMU ET SHMI AL BNEI YISRAEL VA’ANI AVARCHEM, “And they will place My name on the Children of Israel and I will bless them.” (Num. 6,26) We see from this Pasuk that, although the Kohanim had the Mitzvah of blessing the people, the actual blessing came from Hashem. The question that may be asked is, what is the function of the Kohanim if Hashem will be blessing the people?

Rashi has two interesting explanations to the verse. First he says that Hashem will agree with the Kohanim in their blessing. This Rashi obviously says to avoid the question that we asked. The question may still be asked, what is the function of the Kohanim if Hashem will also bless them. Isn’t Hashem’s blessing enough? Perhaps the answer is that Hashem wanted the people to recognize the importance of the Kohanim and we should show them respect because they are doing Avodat Hashem, the service of Hashem.
Rashi offers another entirely different explanation. The Pasuk does not mean that Hashem will bless the people but rather if the Kohanim bless the people, then Hashem will bless them, the Kohanim. When people show kindness to others and when they bless them, then Hashem recognizes the kind deed and blesses the people for their action.

Dvar Torah Naso 2004 – 5764 דבר תורה נשא

When the Mishkan was finished we read in today’s Sidra that the Nesi’im, the leaders of each tribe brought sacrifices. Every day a Nasi of a different tribe brought his Korban. Each Korban that was brought every day was identical to the one brought the day before and every Nasi’s Korban was like the others. In describing the Korban the Torah repeatedly depicts an exact account of what the sacrifice consists. Twelve times the Torah duplicates the wording describing the Korban although they were absolutely identical. Why was this necessary?

The Midrash Rabbah (Num. 13,14) says that although each of the leaders brought the same Korban their intentions were different. Each had a different meaning in bringing the Korban and each leader gave it a distinct significance.

This has great implications. Many people perform the same act and it may seem that they have the same intentions. Yet we learn here that we must never judge a behavior simply by its looks. There can be vast differences in meaning even in two acts that seem identical. The Nesi’im brought the same sacrifices but each sacrifice had a different implication.

We all know the admonition of Pirke Avot: VE’AL TADIN ET CHAVERCHA AD SHTAGI’A LIMKOMO, “do not judge your friend until you are in his situation”. This means that we cannot always understand the reason for someone’s action.

Dvar Torah Naso 2003 – 5763 דבר תורה נשא

Towards the end of this week’s Sidra we read that the Mishkan was erected and the leaders of the tribes brought sacrifices. Every day another tribe was given the honor and the leader of that tribe was selected. The first tribe was that of Yehuda and the one who was honored to bring the sacrifice was it’s Nasi, Nachshon ben Aminadav. (Num. 7:12)

Why was the tribe of Yehuda first and why was Nachshon ben Aminadav selected to represent the tribe? Yehuda was first because when his brother Binyamin was in danger of remaining in Egypt and becoming a slave to the viceroy, Yehuda was the one who stood up for him. He thus demonstrated his leadership and so his tribe was picked first to use the Mishkan.

Nachshon had his own credentials. When the Jews were camped by the Red Sea with the Egyptians pursuing them, it was Nachshon who showed his faith in Hashem and jumped into the waters even before they parted. By showing his faith, he too demonstrated strong qualities needed for leadership.

We are often faced with strong conflicts and difficulties. We must show our faith and our leadership abilities and take the necessary steps although they may seem dangerous. By doing what we know is correct we will have the support of Hashem and will succeed where others fail.

Dvar Torah Naso 2002 – 5762 דבר תורה נשא

We read the Birchat Kohanim in this week’s Sidra. The Kohanim are told to bless the people with a threefold Beracha. That is why the Chazzan says in the repetition of the Amida, Baberacha Hameshuleshet, which means in the triple Beracha. Why are there tree Berachot? Could not one general Beracha have been sufficient?

The truth is that not everyone would be satisfied with the same Beracha. People have different needs and everyone wants a Beracha that would be suitable for them. A Talmid Chacham wants a Beracha that has to do with his ability to learn and understand. A businessman wants a Beracha that he should succeed financially. A plain worker wants a Beracha that his boss treat him right and that he gets a decent salary. Everyone has his or her own needs.

That is why the Beracha of the Kohen is in three parts. It is to provide for different needs. The first part is for people who work and for businessmen. The blessing is that they prosper and that their financial gains be preserved. The second part is for spiritual people and for academicians. They need that Hashem shine His face upon them and give them insight and understanding, wisdom and intelligence. The third part refers to people who are in government or in the army or in the police force. For them the blessing is that Hashem protect them and give them peace. Peace from without, that is, no enemies, and peace from within, that is, no political quarrels.

The Kohanim invoke the blessings of Hashem upon us and Hashem knows the needs of each and everyone of us.

Dvar Torah Naso 2001 – 5761 דבר תורה נשא

The Torah instructs Moshe to count the number of men in the family of Gershon of the tribe of Levi and to instruct them that their duties when traveling will be to carry the curtains of the Mishkan. At the end of last week’s portion (beginning of chapter 4), Moshe was told to count the people in the family of Kehat of the tribe of Levi and instruct them to carry the items in the KODESH HAKADOSHIM.

The question asked by many commentaries is why were the instructions given first for Kehat and then for Gershon when Gershon was the eldest. The answer usually given is to show respect for the Aron Hakodesh that Kehat had to carry. That is more important than giving honor to Gershon who was the eldest.

The next question then follows, why was the honor of carrying the Aron Hakodesh given to Kehat and not to Gershon the eldest. Here the answer is given to show that Torah does not come as an inheritance. One must learn Torah himself and earn the ability of having Torah through his own efforts.

From this we learn how important it is for everyone to put in all his or her effort to study and to learn. You can inherit good traits and ability from parents but the knowledge, the information, the facts – these are things each individual must learn by himself or herself. There is no operation to open your mind and pour in the knowledge. There is no pill you can swallow and get the data. Hard work and persistence is the only way to get that.