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Parshat Naso (5764)
This week's section concludes the counting (NASO) of the Levites begun in the
end of last week's section.
But this is strange.
In last week's section G-d began the command to count all the Jews with the word
'Lift' (Num. 1:2). But He only used it once. The usual word for 'counting', and
the one G-d used in the rest of that section is "Po'ked".
Why is it that when G-d tells Moses to count the Levites, He returns to the word
Not only that, but 'Naso' doesn't really mean to count, it means 'to LIFT UP'?
Perhaps we can understand this better from this following story:
In the days of the Third leader of Chabad, the Tzemach Tzedik (Rabbi Menachem
Mendel 1789 –1866), the lands in Russia were controlled by ruthless, power
The town of Lubavitch happened to be under the jurisdiction of a particularly
savage 'Poritz' (Baron) that from time to time revealed a sadistic pleasure for
inventing cruel decrees on 'his' serfs… especially the Jewish ones.
Secretly they all, Jew and gentile alike, prayed that he. at least, always be
occupied in hunting or drinking and leave them alone, or at best die and leave
them alone permanently.
One day the Tzemach Tzedik called to one of his faithful Chassidim and made an
"Go to the Poritz ….. and tell him, in my name, 'It's time you changed!'"
The Chassid looked with disbelief at the Rebbe. Suddenly he felt he was going
to faint. It was difficult for him to breathe, his knees began knocking and he
felt dizzy. Perhaps he had heard incorrectly. But no! It was no mistake!!
"But Rebbe! How can …? That is…. There are guards… with dogs! … and more at
the castle door!!!! I'll be killed ….!!!!"
But he knew that the Rebbe never made a mistake.
"Don't worry" The Tzemach Tzedik continued, "I will give you a special 'Name' (a
Cabbalistic word) that will protect you from all evil. You have absolutely
nothing to worry about.
The Rebbe taught the Chassid how to pronounce this word, what to think when he
said it and finally, when he was sure that the Chassid knew it, told him to set
off as soon as possible.
The Chassid returned home (for what he hoped would not be the last time) told
his wife he would be gone for a day or so, kissed his children and set off in
the direction of the Poritz's castle.
After an hour he began to see the huge building looming in the distance through
the forest trees and mist. He was frightened but he continued walking.
Suddenly he got a glimpse of the guards with their dogs. Thank G-d they were
far away and he was downwind so the dogs didn't smell him. He stepped behind a
tree, peeked out and said the 'name' the Rebbe taught him.
They came closer and closer, the dogs sniffing the ground before them. But they
passed some fifty yards away and didn't notice him at all.
Nevertheless he wasn't taking any chances. He waited till they were sufficiently
far away and again set off in the direction of the castle, trying to be as quiet
and quick as possible and saying the name over and over as he went.
But as he neared the massive castle door he said it with even more fervor.
Standing there at attention were two huge, armed guards with two large dogs at
But strangely the guards suddenly turned to one another and began a lively
conversation while their dogs just lay there panting as though they sensed
The Chassid stepped gingerly by them, pushed the door open and entered. There
sitting on a plush chair, drinking a glass of vodka with a smoking cigar
dangling from his fingertips and one foot on the table sat the dreaded Poritz.
He turned toward the door to see who entered.
"What the….! Who are you!! How did you get into my CASTLE?!!" He screamed with
anger and disbelief as he rose to his feet and put his hand on the handle of his
gun. But the Chassid, already accustomed to miracles, calmly straightened
himself and said,
"My Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedik of Lubavitch, says it is time for you to change!"
It was as though someone threw a bucket of cold water on the Poritz. He took one
step back and his body shook as though awakened from a dream.
He lowered his head for an instant, then looked up deeply into the eyes of the
Chassid and said ….. "Yes".
The Chassid, realizing his mission was complete, turned on his heels, again
resumed saying the 'name' the Rebbe had given him and walked quietly out the
door past the guards and finally back to Lubavitch.
But interestingly enough, the moment that the Castle was far behind him and he
didn't need the name, it simply slipped his mind and no matter how he tried he
could not remember even one letter of it!
Several months later a rumor had it that the Poritz went on a hunting excursion
alone and his horse returned a few days later without him! A search was made
with no results. All trace of him had been lost as though the ground had
swallowed him up.
Then, a while after that, a disheveled, long-haired man appeared in Lubavitch
from nowhere, sat in the shul (synagogue), opened a book of Psalms and didn't
It wasn't long before all the older Chassidim discovered that it was none other
than … the evil Poritz himself!
The evil Poritz was a Jew!!!
He had been born into a Jewish family but somewhere down the line had fallen
into the hands of the Church and once in their clutches he not only changed his
religion but transformed into an anti-Semite to boot.
But when he heard the Chassid gave him the message of the Tzemach Tzedik he
Not long after, the elder Chassidim appeared as a group before the Rebbe with a
"If the Rebbe has the ability to completely change the stone-heart of the
Poritz… then, please, do the same with us! Open our hearts as well so we really
have true love and fear of the Creator!!!"
The Rebbe replied: "When a shepherd tends his flocks he can't personally run
after every stray sheep. That would deplete all his energy. Rather he whistles
and throws small stones or sends his dogs to bring them back. But if
occasionally a sheep happens to falls into a deep pit and it is possible to save
it… then the shepherd has to do the job himself."
This explains our question. The word "NASO" means to lift up.
As we explained in last week's essay, the job of Moses (and the Moses of every
generation) is to spiritually 'lift' all the Jews so their ONLY interest is to
do the will of the Creator. That is why the GENERAL command to count the Jews
given in last week's Torah portion said to 'lift' them.
But when it came time to count the Levites G-d again used the word "NASO" to
indicate that they must be given additional powers (like the Chassid in our
Because the job of the Levites was to influence, and elevate all the Jewish
people to devotion to G-d and Moshe His servant.
Today this is relevant to each and every one of us. Today each and every Jew
must assume the task of the Levite; we must sanctify not only ourselves but the
entire world around us.
It is not sufficient one 'lifting' we need an additional one; additional power
and inspiration to go outside of ourselves and change the world around us. As
the Maimonides says, when he discusses Moshiach in the end of his work, is the
goal of all Judaism.
This is the obligation and the privilege that the Rebbes of Chabad (like the
Tzemach Tzedik in our story) put on their Chassidim and today on all of us:
To do all we can to reveal…. Moshiach NOW!!!
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