Weekly Torah Portion – Parashat Hashavua Naso
Contributed: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor
This week’s reading, Parashat Naso, is the longest single portion in the Torah, containing 176 verses.
The man shall bring his wife to the Kohen. (5:15)
Rashi notes that the Torah presents the laws of sotah, whereby the man is compelled to bring his wayward wife to the Kohen, following the laws of Matnos Kehunah, gifts to the Kohen. This teaches us that one who refrains from giving the Kohen his due, will end up coming to him with his wife. To quote the words of the Midrash, “A door which is not open for charity is open for the doctor.” One close student of Horav Elazar M. Shach, z”l brought him five thousand dollars to be dispersed for charity. When Rav Shach queried him concerning the source of the funds, the man related the following story.
A certain talmid chacham, Torah scholar, was to undergo a surgical procedure. The surgeon’s fee was five-thousand dollars. One of the friends of the talmid chacham was able to appeal to the Kupas Cholim, an organization for the sick and needy, to underwrite the surgery. After the procedure, the talmid chacham gave his friend one hundred dollars to give to Rav Shach for the benefit of charity. After about an hour, he returned with another forty nine hundred dollars, explaining, “When I came home and related to my wife that I was giving one hundred dollars to charity, she felt I was wrong. In truth, I had saved five-thousand dollars. Therefore, I should contribute the entire amount of the surgery to tzedakah.”
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When Rav Shach heard this, he said, “Please invite this couple to my home. If this is the way they act, I would like to bless them.”
The Kohen shall inscribe these curses on a scroll and erase it into the bitter waters. (5:23)
Ordinarily, the Torah prohibits us from erasing Hashem’s Name. In this circumstance, in order to promote marital harmony, Hashem allows His name to be erased. Interestingly, much of the discord that is manifest in a marriage originates in foolishness. The following story, which occurred with Horav Elazar Menachem M. Schach,zl, is anecdotal and certainly not the standard. Nonetheless, it demonstrates how far some people will go to propagate nonsense. Once, a young married student approached Horav Moshe Aharon Stern,zl, regarding a marital problem. Rav Stern was a man who was not only a great talmid chacham, Torah scholar, and tzaddik, he was also known for his unique ability to reconcile discord between husband and wife. The young man complained that he had not had a moment’s peace since he had gotten married. Every night he would study practical halachah in the Mishnah Berurah. His wife, however, did not agree with this practice, claiming that this is not what she had expected when she married him. She had sought a yeshivah student who devoted himself totally to lomdus, in-depth analysis, of the Talmud and its commentaries.
The young man explained that since he spent an entire day engrossed in such study, he wanted to delve in halacha l’maaseh, practical law, at night. Unfortunately, this dispute was destroying the very foundation of their marriage.
Thinking that he had “heard it all,” Rav Stern naively assumed that a simple conversation with the young woman would solve the problem. Therefore, he went to the young couple’s house and endeavored to explain to the woman the significance of practical halachah. The young woman listened patiently and respectfully, but was unmoved by the Rav’s words. “Rebbe, it might all be true, but this is not what I expected of him. I sought a lamdin, not a posek!” Her ideal was not in halachic arbitering; it was in in-depth analysis. Rav Stern left the home in a deep quandary. How could he help this couple?
A short time afterward, Rav Stern was speaking with Rav Shach and shared this troubling incident with the venerable sage. Rav Shach told him to send the young woman to him, asking, if possible, for Rav Stern to join them. Rav Stern immediately notified the young woman that Rav Shach wanted to see her. She was, of course, flustered and nervous, but one cannot say no to the gadol hador, preeminent leader of the generation.
They went to Rav Shach’s home and were immediately ushered into his private study. Although the anteroom was filled with many people seeking an audience with the Rosh Hayeshivah, this young lady took precedence. As the two entered the study, Rav Shach dispatched his attendant to bring in refreshments, specifying that the serving plate should have two types of pastry on it. When the cake was brought in, Rav Shach directed the young woman to eat from the first piece. He then told her to eat from the second slice of cake. The young woman was a bit taken aback by this strange request, but respectfully complied.
As she finished the second piece of cake, Rav Shach asked her to tell him the difference between the two slices. As she stared back incredulously, Rav Shach explained, “I assume you know how to bake, so I want you to tell me the ingredients that comprise each piece of cake.” Very timidly, she responded, “It seems to me that the piece on the left has a bit more cocoa, while the piece on the right has more sugar than its counterpart.” “Very good,” Rav Shach said, “Please continue. What other differences do you notice between these pieces?” The discussion continued about baking and the various techniques for making delicious pastry, with the young woman demonstrating a broad knowledge of the subject. Rav Shach finally concluded the conversation, saying to the young woman, “I see that you have expert knowledge of baking. I suggest that you return home and direct all of your attention to cooking and baking – and leave the decisions regarding your husband’s learning to him.” It did not take long for the Rosh Hayeshivah’s words to penetrate her mind. She covered her face as she suddenly sensed the truth behind his words. From that time onward, the couple’s relationship changed drastically, as respect, peace and harmony began to reign in their home.
I am sure that Rav Shach’s response to the young woman might “rattle” a few people – both men and women. When you think about it, however, he dealt with the issue in a most brilliant manner. His practical approach to their differences was the catalyst for resolving them.
This is the law of the Nazir on the day of the completion of his vow. (6:13)
At the conclusion of the Nazir’s term he brings a sacrifice. The reason for this korban is enigmatic. Usually a sacrifice of this sort is a sin-offering, but how did the Nazir sin? One would think that at the completion of such a mitzvah, whereby the Nazir dedicates himself to Hashem on such a lofty spiritual plateau, that a Korban Chatas, sin-offering, would certainly not be necessary. Rabbeinu Bachya explains that since it appears that the Nazir is distancing himself from Hashem, he must bring a korban. Actually, he is only returning to his original state, but perception is what counts. If people might perceive him as faltering in his spiritual progression, he is to offer a korban as penance. Apparently, appearances are significant in regard to spiritual matters.
Horav A. Henach Leibowitz, Shlita, maintains that although our actions may very well be within the parameters of halachah, the mere appearance of impropriety is in itself a sin. Indeed, everything we do, regardless of its nature, has an impact on us. Because of our position as Klal Yisrael, we have a certain status to uphold, a specific standard to which to adhere. The way we eat, speak, or dress must be consistent to standards for an individual who is a member of Klal Yisrael. If it even seems that we are acting inappropriately, then we have sinned.
We may add that this is especially true in regard to parents and their relationship vis` a `vis their children. At times, we act in a manner that might fit into our “comfort zone” of respectability. Our children do not always realize this, however, and will either derive the wrong message from our actions or lose respect for us. Unknowingly, we continue along our merry way, blatantly disregarding what might be misconstrued by those nearest and dearest to us. Parents must bear in mind that they are constantly on the public stage with their children serving as the captive audience. We should seek their applause, not criticism.
The Princes of Yisrael brought offerings…they were those who stood over the counted. (7:2)
The Nesiim, Princes, each offered sacrifices in honor of the inauguration of the Mizbayach. They each brought an identical offering. Yet, the Torah records each one’s offering, emphasizing the individuality of each. The Ramban adds that each Nasi maintained a different kavanah, intention, in his offering. Hence, the Torah records each Nasi’s korban separately, to underscore his individual thoughts. Horav Simcha Zissel Broide, zl, derives from here that two actions, albeit identical, which are the result of two different machshavos, thoughts/intentions, are considered two distinct actions. In other words, since the Nesiim each had different intentions, the korbanos are viewed as being distinct from any other. It is all in the mind. Every individual thinks in his own unique manner. Even if the result of two individual’s way of thinking coincides, their thoughts are not analogous, thus creating two different representations of thought. This is to be noted from a statement made by Chazal in Zevachim 7a. According to Rav Chisda, if one slaughters a Korban Todah, thanks-offering, in the name of his fellow’s Korban Todah, it is deemed invalid, because it falls under the rule of Shinui Kodesh, transferred holiness. Although both animals were holy and destined to be slaughtered as a Korban Todah, my Korban Todah is not my friend’s Korban Todah and vice versa. Each person possesses his own individual faculties which creates a distinction in actions. Hence, it is as if he slaughtered the animal for a completely different korban.
We should add that this type of individuality should be respected in all people. A mechanech, educator, is mandated to recognize each student’s individuality and uniqueness: “Chanoch l’naar al pi darko,” “Raise a child according to his way” (Mishlei 22:6). Shlomo HaMelech teaches us the most important maxim in education: every child must be raised and taught as an individual. The overall objective is the same: the child should grow up to be a G-d-fearing observant Jew whose actions will be pleasing to his Maker and to the society in which he lives. The practical method by which we are to guide each individual to reach the intended goal, is not the same. There are varied proclivities and temperaments, as well as intellectual and emotional potential that must be considered. Each student, or siblings in a family, must be guided commensurate with his own unique qualities. Only then can we hope to achieve success in this noble endeavor.
And the Kohen shall take from the earth that is on the floor of the Mishkan. (5:17)
The leader of Klal Yisrael, regardless of his eminent stature, should be able and prepared to learn from everyone – regardless of his simple or lowly position. The Kohen takes from the “dirt” of the Sanctuary. Its obscure and humble origins notwithstanding, it is the lesson that counts.
From wine and hard drink he shall abstain. (6:3)
Horav Sholom, z’l, m’Belz says that a drunk is worse that a sinner. The drunk, looking through his stupor, sees the entire world as straight. He sees nothing wrong. He will, therefore, never repent. We may add that this applies equally to those who have intoxicated themselves with life’s materialism. They can no longer see things in their true perspective.
To his father or his mother…he should not make himself impure. (6:7)
The Sochatshover Rav, z’l, explains why a Kohen may be metameh, defile himself to his relatives, while a Nazir may not. The Kohen receives his sanctity as a result of his family lineage. He owes them. The Nazir reached this pinnacle on his own accord. He owes nothing to anyone. Likewise, the Kohen Gadol is not metameh to relatives, since his position is achieved by his own accord.
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Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom