The blessing of Shalom
Naso (Take) B’midbar/Numbers 4:21-7:89
Haftorah Reading: Judges 13:2-25
This afternoon we study a very important Torah portion. At first glance Naso seems to be a portion of disconnected subjects. We read the account of the Levitical families of Gershon and Merari and their tasks to carry part of the Mishkan when the Israelites journeyed from place to place. We read of the sota or the wife whose husband became jealous and accused her of being unfaithful. We also read of the laws of the Nazarite. Next is the priestly blessing. This prayer has been used by faiths other than Judaism. It is the oldest prayer in the world still being used today. This prayer is followed by a listing of the gifts brought by the princes of each tribe at the dedication of the Mishkan.
The exact same gifts were brought by each tribe. This begs the question, why does Torah repeat this listing of gifts twelve times? Usually the principle of using a minimum amount of words to describe an event plays throughout the Torah. This rule seems to breakdown here. Would it not have been easier to list the gifts one time and then apply it to the leader of each tribe?
These questions that come up during the reading of this portion each have a connection to one specific topic. This is the major topic that G-d is getting through to His people and to us today. By including each person and each person’s gifts there would be no room for jealousy. Peace would reign as each person was treated the same.
Last week we touched on the priestly blessings. Today, I want to take a deeper look at this ancient prayer found in Numbers 6:24-26. I want us to explore what it means to each of us spiritually. In Numbers 6:26 we read, “the L-rd turn His face towards you and give you peace.” It is no accident that the final word in Hebrew of this prayer is shalom. Usually when we hear the word peace or shalom we think of it as the absence of war, or a time of calm and restfulness.
However, in Hebrew this word goes much deeper than this. Its meaning covers things like completeness, harmony between diverse people and harmony between different parts of a complex system.
Think of it as the thread of grace coming from the Father that connects us all in our individual roles. Think of creation in Genesis 1. After each day of creation G-d saw it was good. However on day seven G-d says His creation was very good. (Genesis 1:31) Everything was in its place and was working together in harmony. When this comes together shalom or peace will reign. Peace is that state when all things, including us, are in our place doing our job, fulfilling our role. That is when peace reigns.
So, as we look back over this portion we can begin to see G-d’s hand in bringing peace even in difficult places as between brothers like the Levites mentioned here. No one was set above the other and each had a unique place in G-d’s plan. Each man was mentioned and their identical gifts to illustrate that G-d loved each one equally and held each one of them in His hand.
We know this is a difficult concept for human beings to grasp. Israel’s history shows it over and over as does our own. Conflicts arise over who is the strongest, who has the most power, who will lead, who is the smartest, and the list goes on and on.
Here we see real world situations, like jealously between husband and wife, between tribes, and between brothers. I think we can all identify and see ourselves in these verses. Humans are constantly striving to be number one or to be in charge. In these verses G-d is giving us the cure first so we should be prepared to deal with the sins that so easily beset us.
It is no accident that one of the names of G-d is peace. It is no accident that each of us have heard over and over that Yeshua is the Prince of Peace (II Thessalonians 3:16, John 14:27, Roman’s 1:7b) These verses, as well as others, should point us to this concept of peace that we read about in our portion today in the priestly blessing. It is an elusive idea but one that we must guard. Too often we have seen people or denominations go to war over who is the favorite of G-d, who is right and who is wrong.
These questions are sure to arise. However, what is most important is how they are settled. What do we do in our own walk when conflict arises? These verses tell us that G-d is the G-d of peace. Our struggle will be how to settle differences without destroying a person, a denomination or a family. G-d has given us a blue print here in how to walk through conflicting relationship. G-d is Peace. This must be our goal in our own walk.
Bless each of you as you walk through a fractured world, country and even faith. We are to bring peace not hate.