This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Naso (5767)
This week's Torah portion contains eleven negative and seven positive commandments, one of which is the 'Blessings of the Cohanim'.
The Cohanim are the priestly tribe; basically, all Jews who are direct descendents of Aaron (Moses' brother). And the blessing they give is: "May G-d bless and protect you. May G-d shine His face to you and grace you. May G-d raise His favor and give you peace." (11:24-26)
But, at first glance, this is not so understood. Aren't blessings in the hands of G-d? How can people bless?
On the other hand if we read the Torah carefully we can see that G-d gave Abraham, the first Jew, and all his descendents after him (i.e. all the Jews) the power to bless (Gen, 12:2). So what is so special about the Cohanim?
To understand this, here is a story heard from Rabbi Yehuda Leib Groner who in the forty some years he served as chief personal secretary for the Lubavitcher Rebbe, witnessed many miracles. Here is one of them.
The Rebbe was truly the Moses of this generation and just as Moses' main job was to take the Jews from Egypt and give them the Torah, so the Rebbe spent thousands of hours and billions of dollars saving Jews from their problems and spreading Torah.
Besides sending emissaries and opening 'Chabad Houses' throughout the world for this purpose every Sunday he would stand for hours in his headquarters in Brooklyn and hand out dollar bills and blessings to the tens of thousands of people that waited patiently in line.
Everyone that passed before the Rebbe was affected positively in some way. Some were encouraged to give charity, others to learn Torah and many adapted a completely Jewish lifestyle. For some it took years before the change was noticed but some were affected immediately as in the following story.
This woman was an estranged mother with several mouths to feed that had saved up money for a year to fly from her home in Israel to seek advice from the Rebbe in Brooklyn.
Her story was a sad one indeed. Over five years ago her husband had simply disappeared. At first she thought he had been kidnapped and even called the police. But when they checked the house for a clue they discovered that all his clothes and belongings together with two large suitcases were also gone. He had abandoned her.
She was devastated. He had always seemed content, didn't have any bad habits, addictions or even debts that would make him do such a rash thing. They had an ideal home; there was no reason for him to leave. But after several weeks of waiting in vain for him to knock on the door again, it became clear that he wouldn't.
He was gone.
So the poor woman, who was not religious at all, began going to various fortune tellers and 'seers' for advice and comfort. But it wasn't long before she discovered them to be empty pretenders and eventually she became attracted to the local Chabad house and found true Jewish spirituality.
She sent her children to Chabad schools and it wasn't long before she too was becoming more and more observant.
But now the problem of her missing husband was magnified; according to the Torah she was an 'Aguna'; a 'living widow' and was forbidden to re-marry until her husband either appeared and divorced her or could be proved dead.
Her only hope was the Lubavitcher Rebbe. She heard that he was a great miracle worker who lived only to help people, especially Jews. If anyone could free her it would be him.
So she saved money, dollar on dollar until she finally had enough for a round-trip ticket, put her children up with her parents and flew to Brooklyn. She would go every Sunday to 'dollars' …. No matter how long it took, until the Rebbe helped her. She simply could not go on like this.
She arrived in Brookly on Friday morning, spent the Shabbat as in Crown Heights and early the next day got in line. Finally, an hour later it was actually happening! She was standing before the Rebbe pouring out her heart.
"My husband left me alone with our children over five years ago. It's very hard for all of us. Please, Rebbe, please give me a blessing or tell me what to do."
The Rebbe waited for her to finish, gave her a few dollar bills and said.
"Here is money to give to charity in Israel. You must return home immediately. Your husband will be waiting for you there. Bracha v'Hatzlacha."
She took the dollars and before she knew it the line moved on and she was pushed outside. She realized what she had to do. She returned immediately to her host's home contacted her travel agent and he very next day she was on a flight back home.
It happened so quickly it was almost as though she had never left but as the taxi pulled up to her address, there, standing on the front porch with his suitcases was … her husband!
When he saw her in the taxi he ran to meet her, crying and begging forgiveness.
They sat on the front porch and he tried to explain. He didn't really know why he left back then but suddenly yesterday he was overcome with such guilt, remorse and longing for the beautiful life that he abandoned ...... that he realized his tragic mistake. He packed his things and returned.
She wasn't really expecting this and was overwhelmed. One thing for sure, it was the Rebbe. Whether he caused her husband to repent or not wasn't important. But now, as she came to her senses she realized there was another problem.
She was now an observant Jew while he remained just as they were years ago…. completely ignorant of Judaism. It would be impossible for them to continue together.
But to her total amazement he readily agreed to any conditions she set. He swore he would go to classes and do whatever the Rabbi told him… anything. Indeed, the main reason he ran away in the first place was because he had no meaning to hold him down.
And so it was. He began attending classes, in a very short time he completely changed all his priorities in life and actually enjoyed every minute of it! Joy and peace returned to their household.
But the story wasn't over.
Several years later trouble again struck. The woman suddenly became crippled. Her legs simply did not work and she couldn't stand on her own two feet.
They went from doctor to doctor sparing no costs but after all, even the best professors couldn't seem to pinpoint the problem. It was incurable.
Finally their local Chabad House director urged them to write to the Rebbe and the strange answer was soon in coming. The Rebbe wrote:
"Her husband's Tefillin and the Mezuzot should be checked and the results given to ……. the doctor!"
Without hesitation he gave his Tefillin and Mezuzot to be checked and the results came quickly; they were all 'kosher'. All the letters, parchments etc. were completely in order.
The only problem was some minor fault in the sinews used to sew up the leather boxes of the Tefillin.
Of course the sinews were corrected. But now was the problem of giving the results to the doctor. What would the doctor care about the results of a Tefillin check? He probably didn't even know what Tefillin were!
But to everyone's surprise the doctor immediately understood the message. He had extensive tests done on the ligaments in her legs and, sure enough, that was the problem and the solution was soon in coming.
So, because of the Rebbe's blessing both her husband and her health were returned.
This explains our questions.
Chassidut explains that this physical world is filled with imperfections, confusion, disease and even the opposite of life, while the 'higher' spiritual worlds (Heavens) are pure, perfect and alive. That is why all the 'other' religions stress the heavenly afterlife.
But interestingly, the Torah puts almost no emphasis on these upper worlds; indeed, they aren't even mentioned in the Pentateuch!
Because the job of the Jewish people; what we were 'Chosen' for, is to bring heaven 'down' here on earth; to perfect THIS world.
And that is what is meant by BLESSING. Just as the Rebbe did when he 'found' the woman's husband and cured her ailing legs; he drew 'blessings' into this world from the spiritual realms.
In fact, this, to some degree, is in the ability of every Jew (That is why we pray nineteen blessing three times a day). And even to every gentile that prays to the Creator (see http://ohrtmimim.org/Torah_Default.asp?id=939 ).
But the Blessings of the Cohanim had something special.
Their blessings not only drew down the spiritual but they had the ability to to HASTEN and Protect all the blessings of everyone else in the world.
Much like how the Rebbe's blessing brought immediate and complete results.
And this is only a preparation to how it will be when the Moshiach builds the Third Temple and Cohanim will again serve and bless in full force.... even more than ever.
Indeed, then the full potential and blessing of this physical world will be revealed for all to see. Then truly the blessings of the Cohanim will fall on ALL mankind.
"May G-d bless and protect you. May G-d shine His face to you and grace you. May G-d raise His favor and give you peace."
We just have to do everything possible to bring…
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