How We Build Character

How We Build Character

Jun 4, 2011 By Marjorie Lehman | Commentary | Naso

Parashat Naso begins with the appointment of the Levite families of Gershon and Merari to take care of the Mishkan, the Israelites’ portable sanctuary in the desert. While Aaron and his family were given the responsibility of overseeing the actual service of God in the Mishkan, the descendants of Gershon and Merari were defined as mere helpers, charged with the role of caring for the structure of the Mishkan, its cloths, its equipment, its posts and their sockets, its planks, pegs, and furnishings. I have always wondered—why did God divide up the care of the Mishkan in this way?

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God and the Designated Hitter

God and the Designated Hitter

May 22, 2010 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Naso

I guess I set myself up for the question.

You see, I believe Judaism has something to add to how we live our lives, secular and religious. There is a depth to Jewish thought, practice, and literature that, if we welcome it, can color our existence with a hue of holiness that can help us see even the most trivial of actions and thoughts in a different, divine light. I consider this one of the greatest gifts of Jewish tradition. It is a relevant and meaningful tradition because it adds meaning and relevance to each step of our day.

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Becoming Builders

Becoming Builders

Jun 6, 2009 By Marc Wolf | Commentary | Naso

I imagine that all of us have noticed that the only thing unequivocally going up right now is the number of pundits—professional and amateur—who are chiming in on what it is that economic indicators seem to be telling us. At kiddush in my shul, in airports, on television, and certainly on the Internet, anywhere you turn there are people pontificating about where the economy is headed. While you will certainly hear no projection here, in my own reading what caught my eye were two economic indicators that focus specifically on construction and building.

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Finding Political Guidance in the Torah

Finding Political Guidance in the Torah

Jun 7, 2008 By Arnold M. Eisen | Commentary | Naso

We Jews are up to our necks in political concern these days, in part because power and influence are ours to an unprecedented degree. How shall we think about these matters? Is there a Jewish approach to politics in general, and to these sorts of issues in particular?

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Finding God’s Presence

Finding God’s Presence

Jun 10, 2006 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Naso

By Rabbi David Greenspoon (RS ’95)

The ancient rabbis were close readers of the Bible, and developed a whole lexicon on how texts were read. Contemporary readers of rabbinic midrash frequently note how the exegetical methods of the rabbis so often presaged modern literary theory. For instance, the rabbis suggested that close proximity of biblical texts, samchut parshiyot, lent itself to appreciating a deeper message from the Bible.

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Priestly Love

Priestly Love

Jun 10, 2006 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Naso

At the heart of Parashat Naso stands the text of the priestly blessing. Numbers chapter 6, verse 22–26 relates, “The Lord spoke to Moses: Speak to Aaron and his sons: Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them: The Lord bless you and protect you! The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you! The Lord bestow God’s favor on you and grant you peace!” The text of this benediction is known asbirkat kohanim, the blessing of the priests. It is best known in the context of the priestly service called dukhenen.

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What Does a Blessing Require?

What Does a Blessing Require?

Jun 11, 2005 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Naso

At the core of Parashat Naso, one finds the Priestly Blessing.

Associations abound with these simple and precious words: a sentimental vignette of one’s grandfather removing his shoes, enwrapping himself wholly in his tallit, and proudly echoing the words of this biblical formula; or perhaps it is a memory from one’s Bar or Bat Mitzvah in which the rabbi graciously placed his or her hands on you and recited these words; or maybe your personal association is with the blessing of children recited each Shabbat evening. And while our images connected to the Priestly Blessing may abound, rarely do we think about the profound meaning behind these words that play such a central role in our tradition.

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Our Rendezvous with God

Our Rendezvous with God

Jun 11, 2005 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Naso

The completion of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, like the construction of the Temple by Solomon centuries later, restricts the locus of God’s presence to a single sacred space.

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Blessings of Peace

Blessings of Peace

May 29, 2004 By Melissa Crespy | Commentary | Naso

In a world filled with continual violence, where killings of Americans, Israelis and Iraqis by horrific means have become, to our great sorrow, daily items in our news – we ask ourselves: When will peace come? When will we be able to turn on our television sets, read our newspapers, and learn that no more bloodshed has occurred, that former enemies are speaking to each other, and parents can go to sleep at night knowing that they will find their children alive in the morning?

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The Dangers of Religious Surrogacy

The Dangers of Religious Surrogacy

Jun 14, 2003 By Joshua Heller | Commentary | Naso

This week’s parashah, Naso, includes one of Judaism’s most time–honored liturgical texts, the priestly blessing.

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Choosing a Different Jewish Path

Choosing a Different Jewish Path

Jun 14, 2003 By Matthew Berkowitz | Commentary | Naso

Two weeks ago, one of my students remarked that it is difficult to be a student of Torah. When he told a friend of his that he learns Torah on a regular basis, the friend responded in an astonishing and belittling way: “What are you, some kind of born-again Jew?” After hearing of this student’s experience, I conducted my own informal survey asking other students how friends and family have responded to their personal journeys of Jewish learning. Across the board, I was told that the perception was negative.

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Change From Within

Change From Within

May 25, 2002 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Naso

The pronounced and unsettling shift to the right in western Europe springs from several sources. But feeding them all is the residual power of the nation–state as a determinative factor in ethnic identity. The mega–trends of immigration, globalization and European unification have triggered in many a deep–seated fear of the loss of their national character.

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Redeeming the Sotah

Redeeming the Sotah

May 25, 2002 By Lauren Eichler Berkun | Commentary | Naso

This week we read about the disturbing ordeal of the sotah, a woman suspected of adultery by her husband. The elaborate account of the sotah procedure is at once magical and horrifying. The priest concocts a potion, chants a curse, and forces the woman to drink the spell-inducing water which will testify to her guilt or innocence.

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“May the Lord Protect and Defend You.”

“May the Lord Protect and Defend You.”

Jun 17, 2000 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Naso

In older Jewish cemeteries, you will often come upon a tombstone decorated with a pair of hands. They are often juxtaposed near the top, arched in a triangle with fingers noticeably apart. The symbol of hands positioned to administer the priestly blessing designates the grave of a Kohen, a putative descendant of Aaron, the first high priest. As ancient Jewish art often does, the image embodies midrash in visual form. And since the priestly benediction is the centerpiece of this week’s parashah (6:24–26), I wish to reflect on the far–reaching meaning of this midrash.

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The Gifts of Jewish Unity

The Gifts of Jewish Unity

May 29, 1999 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Naso | Hanukkah

We modern readers have little patience for repetition. To us it marks the absence of novelty and we hurry on. The end of this week’s parasha is a particularly trying instance: an extended list of twelve tribal chieftains dedicating the Tabernacle cult each with his own gift. But the gifts are absolutely identical: “one silver bowl and one silver basin, each filled with choice flour and oil for cereal offerings, one gold ladle filled with incense and the same number and kind of sacrificial animals (Jacob Milgrom, JPS Torah Commentary, Numbers, p. 53).” Individuality expresses itself barely in the fact that each leader is duly named and allotted his own day for bringing his gift. But the Torah feels obliged to repeat with relentless persistence the details of each gift, adding up to a numbing total of 76 verses of unrelieved sameness (Numbers 7:10–86).

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Jewish Law and “The English Patient”

Jewish Law and “The English Patient”

Jun 14, 1997 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Naso

As the Pentagon struggles with the issue of adultery in the military, Americans feast on the photography and melodrama of the film The English Patient. Never have our moral fault lines been so discomforting. Garlanded in Academy Awards, the the film is a straightforward story of adultery in the army, albeit the British in North Africa in World War Two. Ironically, it ends up making a case for the Pentagon’s view that adultery can endanger the security of the military (with Count Amalfi desperately bartering his maps of desert paths for a German place to rescue his injured lover Katherine Clifton), though only after a long, glossy tale of passionate romance.

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Who Was Nethanel Ben Zuar?

Who Was Nethanel Ben Zuar?

Jun 1, 1996 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Naso

You will indulge me, I hope, if I stay with the minor biblical figure of Nethanel son of Zuar, leader of the tribe of Issachar, for another week.

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Naso

Naso

Jan 1, 1980

21 The Lord spoke to Moses: 22 Take a census of the Gershonites also, by their ancestral house and by their clans.

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Naso

Naso

Jan 1, 1980

2 There was a certain man from Zorah, of the stock of Dan, whose name was Manoah.

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