Parashat Naso Torah Reading: Numbers 4:21-7:89
This week's Torah reading contains one of the most moving, and well-known, biblical passages. God instructs Aaron and his progeny, the Kohanim/Priests:
"God spoke to Moses, saying: Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: 'This is how you will bless the Israelites, saying to them:
May Adonai bless you and keep you; may Adonai cause the Face of the Divine to shine upon you; may Adonai lift the Face of the Divine to you, and give you peace.
Let them place My name upon the Israelites, and I will bless them'" (Numbers 6:22-27).
The sentiments expressed in this blessing are beautiful: the blessing God bestows on the Israelites is actually the blessing of intimacy with God. My God bless and keep you (and the "you" is in the singular, not the plural .... which is clearer in the Hebrew than in English); being bathed in divine light, and peace.
Most intriguing to me is the phrase: "May Adonay lift the Face of the Divine to you..."
Lift the Face of the Divine?
How can God be in a position to lift the face of God to a human?
There are so many characteristics of God that we assume there is universal agreement on: God is omnipotent (all-powerful). God is omniscient (all-knowing). God is "up" in Heaven. God is "everywhere."
Everywhere . . . somehow, when I was a kid in religious school, hearing these premises for the first time, it never occurred to me that "everywhere" included below me. There isn't supposed to be anything earthy about God, right?
And yet, the prayer for the State of Israel in our prayer book opens with the words: avinu shebashamayim, tsur yisrael . . . Our Father in heaven, Rock of Israel.
And as we stand to recite the progression of short blessings called the "Amidah" we recite: Tsur Yisrael, kumah b'ezrat Yisrael . . . rock of Israel, arise in aid of Israel . . ."
It seems that everywhere is really everywhere . . . God's presence is all around us, ready for us to perceive if we are ready to let it in. The blessing in this week's Torah reading is God's offer of what amounts to an all-encompassing divine embrace.
Rabbi Amy Levin
has been Torat Yisrael's rabbi since the summer of 2004 and serves as President of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Rhode Island.