Parsha Nasso - Lifting ourselves up

Parsha Insights by Rav Yisrael Smith

The last aliyah of this week's parsha presents us with a great spectacle - the twelve day parade of the nsi'im, the leaders of the twelve tribes, bringing their offerings for the inauguration of the mizbeach. This series of offerings follows the completion and inauguration of the mishkan by Moshe Rabbeinu that was completed on Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Once the building of the mishkan was finished, the nsi'im, who had waited to make their offering, were left with nothing to offer. Rashi says they reasoned that whatever the people did not supply they would bring. However the people were generous and willingly supplied all the needs of buidling the mishkan.

The Mei Shiloach teaches us that what the nsi'im did at this point was at once an act of holy chutzpah and at the same time an act of humility. They realized that they had been left out of the building of the mishkan and desperately wanted to be a part of it. They saw the tremendous amount of vessels and materials that the levites would have to carry through the desert so they decided to offer carts and oxen to pull them to transport the mishkan and to literally take a weight off the shoulders of the levites. This act of brotherly love was however only part of what made this gesture so incredible.

The nsi'im knew that up until now only offerings that were requested by Hashem were accepted to for the buidling of the mishkan and their offering was not on God's list, in fact the list was complete. To suggest that Hashem accept something after the job was finished was a bit chutzpadik.

The key to their success is the words of the verse 'and their offering before the Lord...a cart for every two nsi'im', they made a joint offering.

The Izhbitzer points out when two people do something together, when two sages agree on one opinion, Hashem in turn agrees with them and supports them. They were humble enough to make their offering in pairs and this made Hashem include their offering in the list of things for the mishkan. We see this when Hashem expressly tells Moshe to accept their offering.

The message here is so important! Sometimes it seems like we're up against an insurmountable wall, Hashem has decreed something that makes us feel left out and often in these situations communities or couples bicker and fight as to how to resolve the situation. But all it takes is a little compromise, even just two people cooperating can bring Hashem to change his mind and support their efforts.

This my friends is the key to geula too. Let us join together with more ahavat Israel and jutual support and bring Hashem round to realize that the time for complete geula is now.

Good Shabbos!


Reb Sholom's Treasures אוצר רב שלום

Parshat Naso

This Shabbos is as the chassidim say, [in Yiddish] "der Shabbos noch Shavuos". The word 'noch' means 'after', and it also means 'still' and also 'more'. Thus "der Shabbos noch Shavuos" literally means, the Shabbos following Shavuos, but it also suggests that we are still connected to Shavuos. Chassidim who did not spend the Shavuos holiday with their Rebbe, would usually travel to be with their Rebbe for the Shabbos after Shavuos, "der Shabbos noch Shavuos". Indeed the themes of Shavuot are easily found in this week's Parsha, Naso. We will just touch on some of these a bit further on.


There is a Midrash which says that Hashem, before giving us the Torah, alluded to Moshe Rabbeinu, that our commitment of "na'asseh v'nishma" -- we will do and we will listen", would only last for 40 days. (As we all sadly know, 40 days after receiving the Torah we made a golden calf.) Yet Hashem gave us the Torah! What does that mean?

One way of putting it is as follows. As sincere as the commitment which you are making right now may be, you will have to renew it in forty days. Otherwise you might end up making an idol. The all important structure which you need to accomplish your goals, including your spiritual goals, could also become your prison. You could get trapped in it, ‘chas v’shalom’!

Breaking the structure is not the answer. However, not providing the structure with the power of renewal, could be its death warrant. At the end of 40 days, we need a particularly strong renewal. We need to examine how we have been living with the Torah. We need to go back to the place of oneness and trust where we can with one unified heart once again say, "na'asseh v'nishma" -- "we will do and we will listen". We need to return to the place where the vitality of Hashem’s words are recognizably and vividly nourishing us both physically and spiritually. We need to return to the place where our words to one another are healing and loving, where the exchange of our breaths warms the world.

Another interesting point which can be derived from this Midrash is that Hashem is giving us His Torah, giving us Himself, completely, even though our commitments are basically short term. In the Talmud we learn that Hashem is saying : 'no matter what please don't stop studying my Torah'. Hashem is always present, waiting to be with each one of us in the learning of Torah. And even if instead of moving up the spiral, we sometimes move down, Hashem is still there. All we need to do to find Him is to continue studying the Torah, no matter what. There is Hashem’s Light in it. There is Hashem’s Voice in it. You can see it and you can hear it. Just as today you can hear everyone’s cry for unity. It is Hashem’s cry!

We have learned that in order to receive the Torah we had to attain the unity of being like one person with one heart. We find the call for unity in our parsha as well. At the beginning of our parsha we learn about the work of the Gershuni family of the Levite tribe, performed in the Mishkan. At the end of the Parsha, we learn about the dedication of the Mishkan by the princes of each of the tribes. Concerning the Mishkan we have learned that if even one little peg was missing, the Shechinah would not dwell in it. Just like a sefer Torah that is not complete and perfect, cannot be used for public Torah reading, because on a certain level that means that there is a Jewish soul which is not represented in it, likewise, each part of the Mishkan, down to the last peg, represents the souls of the Jewish people, and the Shechinah dwells among us only when all the souls of Knesset Yisrael, the community of Israel, are all present.

We have also learned that each individual is meant to be a personal sanctuary for the presence of Hashem. To do this we need to have and maintain the integrity and fidelity of our sanctuaries. When something goes wrong we need to do the necessary 'tikkun' fixing work. And so we find a number of instructive teachings related to this in our parsha.

The mitzvah of verbal confession, known as 'viduy' is presented in this parsha. Doing 'tshuvah', repenting, involves four steps, as is explained in the Rambam: one must stop doing that which is wrong, regret the past, commit not to do it again, make appropriate amends, and make a verbal confession - Viduy dvarim.


It is interesting that the Torah teaches us this mitzvah of Viduy - verbal confession and expression of regret, in the context of 'gezel', the sin of robbing; even though viduy is required for all transgressions! Why is this so? The Chidushei Hari"m answers as follows: all the powers and talents which Hashem has given to us, have been given to us for the purpose of serving Hashem. Imagine you lend me your car to deliver some food to a needy family and instead i drive away on a three day vacation. Not only did i not do what i was supposed to with the car, i also stole the car. If i use my intelligence, which is a gift from Hashem, to deceive or rob, or to gain personal honor, or if i use my verbal skills to hurt or shame someone, for example, then not only am i committing a particular transgression, i am also stealing from the gifts and taslents which Hashem has given/loaned me.


We also learn in our parsha about the Sotah, the married woman who is suspected by her husband of committing adultery. She may have or she may not have done so. Her husband had warned her 'do not seclude yourself with so and so', but she secretly did hide from her husband, with this other man. The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that this Torah portion is also a metaphor about our relationship with Hashem, which is likened to a marriage. Similar to the jealous husband Hashem has warned us not to have any other gods. But how can we possibly hide from Hashem, after all there is no place which is void of G-d? Regardless of where you may try to hide, you are always in the presence of Hashem! The Rebbe explains: in the Talmud (Sotah 5a) it says concerning the boastful and haughty person, "I and he, cannot live in the same place." The boastful person is so to speak 'hiding' from Hashem, for Hashem chooses not to see him.

How then is the relationship restored? The Rebbe explains that if the letters of the Torah are engraved in this person's heart, then his hiding is merely an external matter, and the relationship can be repaired easily. However if the words of the Torah are not engraved in the heart, if this person and the Torah are not one, i.e. his haughtiness is running deep, then he is quite hidden and distant from Hashem. However even such a person can do a 'tikkun' - fixing, by means of complete self nullification before Hashem. By doing this 'tikkun', we attain an even higher spiritual level than we had been on before.


"wysiwyntf" -- what you see is what you need to fix -- !

Immediately following the teachings about the Sotah, we learn about the Nazir. The Nazarite is a man or woman, who has taken the vows to be a Nazir for a certain period of time. He or she may not drink any wine, eat any grapes nor partake of anything from the vine. Nor may the Nazir become 'tamei' through any contact with a dead person. The Nazir is also prohibited from cutting his/her hair of the head. There is an argument in the Talmud whether or not it is good to be a Nazarite; is it a holy thing to do or is it sinful? Regardless of which opinion is right, we do see that the Torah is giving us this optional mitzvah. The question is, when is it appropriate to be a Nazir?

The Talmud says that from the juxtaposition of the laws of the Sotah and the laws of the Nazir, we learn that "anyone who sees a Sotah in her decadence, should separate himself from wine." [the word 'nazir' means 'separate', and 'nezer' means 'crown'..... thus the Nazir is one who has separated from wine and from tummah, and at the same time the uncut hair is referred to as 'the crown of his G-d upon his head'] This suggests that one who sees the Sotah in her decadence, should realize that they themselves are somehow close to comitting such a transgression, and that is when they should take on the vows of being a Nazir, so that they will acquire a greater measure of self discipline.

Hashem is loving us all the time, and He is holding up a mirror for us to look at ourselves. -- Our holy Rebbes, the holy Baal Shem Tov ztz”l, whose ‘yahrtzeit’ is on Shavuot, and his students after him, zy”a, are all teaching, that whenever you see something negative in someone else, you must know that you too possess this same quality or behavior, in one way or another. The reason you got to see it in someone else is because Hashem is showing you what you need to fix in your own self. Otherwise, Hashem would not arrange for you to see someone else's faults. So before jumping on the next person you see someone doing something you don't approve of realize that "wysiwyntf" -- what you see is what you need to fix -- !

May we be blessed to see only good in each other and in ourselves, and if you do happen to see something negative ....



Reb Shlomo's Torah

The portion of this week is called “Nasso”, and it starts off "Nasso Es rosh B’nei Gershon Gam hem”. Remember the Levi’im themselves were also divided into three tribes: Gershon, Kehas and Merari.

Ok, this Shabbos begins "Nasso Es rosh B’nei Gershon Gam hem”, lift up the heads from the family of Gershon. But everybody knows that Gershon comes from the word to be driven out. So the Shabbos after Shavuos we are reading "Nasso Es rosh B’nei Gershon”, G-d says lift up the head of those who think they are driven out.

Now listen to something very strong here.

First of all, it should never happen Chas v’shalom, when people just don’t stay together it’s called Gerushin, divorce, but Gerushin actually means to be driven out from the house. So we find the word Gerushin between a husband and wife, but the first time we this word is when Adam was driven out from paradise. It says “Vayigaresh Es HaAdadam”. This can mean he drove him out or also it can mean he divorced him. And then by Kayin when he killed his brother, G-d told him ‘you are going to have to run all over the world, you’ll never find a place’. So Kayin says to G-d “Heyn Gerashta Osihayom”.

Okay, I really want you to concentrate.

Reb Leibe’le Eiger says there are two kinds of people. If I was never in a certain place, that means you cannot say I was driven out. Here we are talking about one of the families of the Levi’im. The Levi’im were chosen to be there. And yet, one of the families was called Gershon and Gershon means that I was driven out.

What was their story? Something always went wrong with them, it just didnt work out. They wanted so much to connect and it just doesn’t gp. so what do you do? So G-d says to Moshe “Nasso Es Rosh”, lift up their heads. Reb Leibe’le Eiger says the deepest depths. What does it mean ‘lift up my head?’

Imagine I am 5 foot 8, so my thoughts are on the level of 5 foot 8, right. If someone says to me ‘lift up your head’ that means suddenly my thoughts should be on the level of 6 foot2, but this isn’t where it’s at. G-d says to Moshe ‘lift them up high’. What does it mean to lift up my thoughts high? To lift up my thoughts high means to suddenly realize that whatever happens to me is much deeper than I think it is, it’s much higher than I think. A person has o realize one very important thing. Imagine if after G-d drove Adam out from paradise he would have given up. If he would say ‘okay that’s it, G-d doesn’t want me to be in paradise I might as well become and nimal’. Where would we be? Obviously he realized it’s got to be deeper than that, it’s got to be deeper than that.

So Reb Leibe’le Eiger says one thing. What we we walking away with from Shavuos? What is a person taking with him after standing at Mt. Sinai? The deepest deaths there is.

I want you to know something very strong.

Someone came to the holy Rizhiner and he says ‘I’m leaving’. So the Rizhiner says ‘what are you taking with you. What are you taking with you?’ So Reb Leibe’le Eiger says after you stand at Mt Sinaiwhat are you taking with you? You see, as strong as it is, maybe you don’t even need Mt Sinai to show you how to get close. Maybe in order to get close I can get myself a little paperback book and here Moshe Rabbeinu tells me to raven strong, keep Shabbos, get strong and get close to G-d, maybe this would be enough. You know what I need Mt. Sinai for? I need Mt Sinai for when I am absolutely driven out. When I am mamesh giving up. I’ve tried so hard my whole life; this is the two billionth time I’ve tried to become a Yiddele. I swore to myself I’ll do this, I’ll do this, and I’m giving up all the time. So suddenly, when I stand on Mt Sinai I realize gevalt, who knows what kind of great plans G-d has for his people, Gevalt, what do I know. What do I know? and above all what makes me think that I’m driven out from G-d, maybe I’m driven in.

You see, the deepest depths of Mt. Sinai is that it’s not only that G-d is telling me what to do and what not to do. The deepest depths of Mt sinai is that I know that G-d is dealing with me. Everything is important, everything is important, what do I know what I am doing in this world. And even if you don’t know but you are aware that you don’t know of this, “Nasso Es Rosh”, lift up your head, you know you’re whole outlook has to be completely different, your head has to be somewhere else.

So Reb Leibe’le says the essence of the kedusha of Shevet Levi is that this is their holiness. They were on the level to lift up their heads, and you are driven out and suddenly you realize you were never driven out, you were never driven out.

You see, when Moshiach is coming G-d won’t take us back to paradise, but siddenly we will realize paradise was here the whole time. That’s all there is to it.