Torah Portion: Naso(Take) (Numbers) B’Midbar 4-7
Haftorah Reading: Judges 13:2-25
This Torah portion is the largest section we read during the year totaling 176 verses. In it we read of the census taken of the Levites, the woman suspected of being unfaithful to her husband, the Nazirite Vow, the priestly blessing and the confession of sin.
I emailed a paper to all of you here tonight written by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks entitled, “The Blessing of Love.” This article deals with the priestly blessing. I emailed the article to you to give you time to think about how it might apply spiritually to us in our lives today. I want us to take a few minutes to talk about this paper. The priestly blessing is found in Numbers 6:24-26. This is the blessing said by father’s over their children at the beginning of the Sabbath each week and one of the oldest prayers in scripture. In each line the second word used is the intimate holy name of G-d. In the first part of each line we read of action by G-d, bless, make His Face shine, and turn His face toward. The second part of each verse speaks of the effect of that action, giving us protection, grace and peace. These effects also go deeper as we progress.
I would like us to look specifically at the final and most intimate blessing, “May the L-rd turn His face toward you.” What do these words convey? What makes us more than a face in a crowd or a grain of sand on the shore? We are G-d’s children. He is our Father. He cares for us. Many times I believe we feel no one cares, no one even notices us. We are invisible. These words tell us that is not true. G-d knows us. He loves us. He cares for us. Even the word used here, the holy name of G-d, expresses that. It is the Hebrew word for G-d that gives us that intimate, loving, caring side of the Father. This can free us from the impulse to make ourselves important by striving to do more or be more to earn G-d’s love. G-d loves us. He is looking at us. His face is turned toward us. He holds us in His arms as our Father and that faith can carry us through what nothing else can. The Maker of the universe knows us by name, cares for us and turns His Face toward us. So when we bless our children it should touch them to know that G-d cares for them, He is with them and loves them.
Now I want to talk about the question I sent out this week concerning repentance. In Numbers 5:7 we read where a person who has sinned must confess his sins before G-d. However, it does not mention repentance. Why is that? What motivates us to repent? Do we have a choice? Do we repent to escape punishment for our sins? Do we repent because we are told to or because G-d’s word tells us to? These questions take us to a place of confronting why we repent. Repentance is always our choice. G-d does not force us to repent. If we repent because of some external pressure from someone or for a reward is that true repentance? I believe that true repentance comes from only one place. We repent because of who we are as G-d’s children. We are saying, “Father I can’t live without you! I repent because I cannot live without a relationship with You.” We do it, not because we are commanded to, but because we cannot bear being separated from Him, not out of fear of punishment or hope of a reward. We do it not because we are told to but because we must. Repentance on this level will change our lives. We don’t return to our old ways, our old sins because of our deep love of the Father. Our relationship with G-d is expressed in how we live our lives. True love of the Father means our lives are devoted to pleasing Him. That is all the motivation we need.