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Parshat Naso


Naso opens with a second census of the Levites "...from the age of thirty years up to fifty, all who are subject to service in the performance of tasks for the Tent of Meeting." The parsha continues with a discussion of restitution--both spiritually and literally--when "...a man or woman commits any wrong toward a fellow man thus breaking faith with the Lord...". (Shabbat Mom does not currently have the energy for a gender-political discussion about the "water of bitterness" that a suspected adulteress, though not her male counterpart, must drink.) Naso also mentions the Nazirite who would vow "to set himself apart for the Lord, he shall abstain from wine and any other intoxicant....(and) no razor shall touch his head; it shall remain consecrated until the completion of his term as nazirite of the Lord." In the midst of this parsha (that ends with the long and repetitive description of each tribe chieftain's offering at the Tabernacle) we read the following:

"The Lord bless you and protect you! The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you! The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace!"

This is the threefold priestly blessing that G-d instructs Moses to teach Aaron and his sons and their descendants. (The accompanying priestly hand gesture was famously adopted by Leonard Nimoy, a Kohen, for his role of Spock on Star Trek.) These resonant words, once read at the Tabernacle and later at the Temple, are said aloud today in synagogues and in Jewish homes (including Shabbat Mom's) every Friday night when we bless our children, laying hands upon their heads to do so. This simple but profound spoken wish for G-d's protection unites us with our Jewish past and with our Jewish future.

Shabbat Shalom!

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