Food For the Soul
Journey Towards Peace
How do we get to a place where there is no conflict between our spiritual goals and our physical needs? In the portion of Naso, the Torah teaches us how to move from spiritual folly to inner peace. It does so by describing three laws: 1) the “wayward woman”; 2) the nazirite; 3) the priestly blessing, which concludes with the blessing for peace. First the Torah describes the law of the “wayward woman.” The Hebrew word for “wayward” (sotah) is related to the word for “foolishness” (shtut). The Talmud states, “A person does not commit a transgression unless the spirit of folly enters him.” Thus, the sotah personifies the person who acts against his or her better judgment as a result of great temptation. To discover how to overcome the state of the sotah, we look to the next portion, the portion of the nazrite, which when understood correctly is the secret to achieving the inner spiritual harmony described in the priestly blessing.
The nazirite—the man or woman who takes a vow to temporarily refrain from drinking wine, cutting hair and becoming ritually impure—is referred to as “holy.” Yet, paradoxically, the Torah teaches that at the conclusion of the nazrite period he or she must offer a sin offering. This implies that although the choice to become a nazirite was the right choice for that person at that specific time, and thus a holy choice, the nazirite way of life is not the preferred one.
In Torah’s ideal model of holiness, the human being engages with the physical world and imbues it with spirituality, creating peace between body and soul. But occasionally, in order to achieve this ideal state of holiness, a person may have to take the path of the nazirite. If one wants to ensure that he is in control, that the wine, chocolate cake or smartphone will indeed enhance his spiritual life, then sometimes he first has to disengage. He has to demonstrate that he can survive for a period of time without dependence on the specific material possession. After refraining from drinking wine for 30 days, the nazirite can return to the consumption of wine while still maintaining his holiness. Through undergoing the process of the nazirite, one can be holy while engaged in the world. He can use his possessions as tools to attain his spiritual goals, not detract from them.
The Torah provides the roadmap to journey from sotah to nazirite to the priestly blessing—from folly to control to peace and harmony.
From an article by Rabbi Menachem Feldman
From Shabbat, all days are blessed. Because Shabbat has nothing of its own. Your food on Shabbat is only that which you prepared before Shabbat. Your light on Shabbat is only that which you lit before Shabbat. To the Shabbat Queen you must come prepared. Because on Shabbat the soul of this world, the Shechinah, must rise back to her origin, to revisit her womb. All the world rises with her, as all who feel her presence know. And from that mysterious place she is infused with life, with blessing, with love to carry back to her world. So that all the forthcoming days receive their life from the day of Shabbat.
And the day of Shabbat receives all she needs for that journey from the days of the week.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Mind Over Matter
Hearing The Voice
Much as we might wish it, we cannot be allowed to hear G-d’s voice everywhere and at all times. If we could, we would be deprived of our freedom of choice. A world in which G-d’s voice is constantly heard does not challenge its population. It was G-d’s desire to create a world of Divine silence, in which, through our efforts, we can uncover G-d’s concealed voice. It is our task to take what we heard during that short period at Mount Sinai and within that small space of the Tabernacle – and each of us has heard G-d’s voice somewhere and at some time, however fleetingly – and transmit it to the rest of time and space.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe
Right now you are sitting on the tipping point of all that ever was. The size of the deed is not what matters. It is only a catalyst. One small deed could be enough to ignite a process to change the entire world. One small opening is all that’s needed, and the rest will heal itself. Whatever you do, do it with the conviction that this is the one last fine adjustment, the tipping point for the entire world.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Have I Got A Story
Does Every Day Matter?
How was your day? Fine, how was yours? Fine. How many times have you had this conversation? In how many homes across the world is this very exchange happening right now? Thousands, I would suppose. And it makes sense. After all, how earth-shattering can each day be? Many would consider it fortunate when a day passes by without drama; a regular, boring day, indistinguishable from yesterday, when you can come home and tell your spouse/parent/roommate, “It was fine.” Is that so bad? Yes. We could, and should, do better.
Our parshah of Naso continues with the theme of this entire book, “Numbers,” listing the tallies of Levite families. Unlike the rest of the Jewish people, who were counted from ages 20 to 50, the Levites were counted from ages 30 to 50. Why? Because that was the age window to serve in the Temple—a role reserved for the Levites…. from the age of thirty years and upward until the age of fifty years, who are fit to perform the service for the service and the work of carrying, in the Tent of Meeting.
Pointing out the puzzling repetitious words, “the service for the service,” Rashi explains: This refers to the music with cymbals and harps, which is a service for another service [namely, the sacrifices]. In the Temple, the staff members with the biggest job descriptions were the kohanim, the priests, who performed the bulk of the work. The Levites had few jobs, and arguably their flagship position was that of musicians. The Mishnah describes a beautiful scene of tens of Levites standing on the steps of the Temple in a grand symphony, serenading G-d on a plethora of instruments as the sacrifices were offered. The musical experience was quite systemized; the Levites would sing a different song every day of the week. All in all, it was a moving experience, meant to evoke awe in the hearts of those serving G-d in that holy place.
While the Temple is sadly no longer in service, the Levite tradition of daily song is not lost. Every day, shortly after the morning Amidah prayer, we recited the Shir Shel Yom, the “Song of the Day,” namely the chapter of Psalms that the Levites sang in the Temple in bygone days. In fact, prior to reciting the daily chapter, we say, “Today is the first day of the week, on which the Levites would chant in the Temple…”
Why am I telling you this? Well, during a talk in the summer of 1973, the Rebbe delivered a powerful message about this little-talked-about tradition. It was relevant then, and it’s just as relevant today. As mentioned, this portion of the morning prayers is called the Song of the Day. Now, conventionally, when you read that, it means, “The chapter of Psalms that was sung in the Temple on this day of the week.” But if you didn’t have all the background info we’ve just discussed, you would be forgiven for understanding the words exactly as they read: “Today’s song,” i.e., the song that today—insert day of the week here—sings.
What does that mean? What does it mean that Sunday sings? And what is Sunday’s song vs. Tuesday’s song? Ah.
This is where we go back to that boring conversation we opened with. While many will argue that Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday really aren’t different from one another, and hey, the less drama the better, nothing can be further from the truth.
After all, if G-d created Sunday, and then Monday, and then Tuesday, they must be different from one another. If they were really the same, if every boring day was just a meaningless continuation of yesterday’s randomness, different only by dint of the date on the bottom right-hand corner of your screen, then G-d essentially wasted His time creating them each separately.
The sun sets at night and rises the next morning, gifting us with a new day, a new opportunity. If G-d ordained it as such, it must be that there’s something inherently unique about today that wasn’t available yesterday and won’t be available tomorrow.
Every day has its own unique “song.” Wednesday is jazz, Thursday is classical, and Friday is a mix. You wake up to a new day, and now it’s your turn to discover its rhythm, its beat, and its tune.
What this means in plain, simple English is this: Every day is consequential. Don’t be lazy with yourself and let a day pass by, thinking, “Eh, it’s just another day. Let me put it to bed and hope for something more interesting tomorrow…This is a sad mistake. Each day is belting out a different tune, and if you perk up your ears enough, you’ll hear it. Go ahead and make every day meaningful and consequential. You may not build the Empire State Building anew every day, but you can most definitely build something of value today, tomorrow, and every day thereafter.
Rabbi Aharon Loschak