Blessings for Everyone
The Sedra of Naso continues where we left off from last week, completing the final head count of the Jewish People. There are also two fascinating areas of Jewish Law that come up, that of the Sotah and that of the Nazir. The Sotah is a lady who is acting in a way in which we might think she had committed adultery and her faithfulness must be established before the marriage relationship can be resumed. The Nazir is a person that makes a promise in the name of God, to refrain from wine and cutting their hair. This person has taken upon themselves 30 days to be more devoted to God, helping to enhance their spiritual life.
Naso also contains the very well-known priestly blessings, chanted by our Cohanim on every festival, and in Israel every day.
Within the frame work of Jewish Law there is a very interesting question asked by our Rabbis. What if you have in a shul only 10 people, and all those people including the Chazzan are Cohanim. What would they do? If there was a hidden camera in that shul it would make for an amusing scene, watching all 10 men ascend to the Ark and blessing what is essentially a room full of empty chairs. Could such a scenario make sense?
The most famous of our Halachick sages Rabbi Yosef Caro in his formidable work the Shulchan Aruch instructs that this exactly what should happen. All 10 men would wash their own hands and continue with the priestly blessing. What is the reason for such a strange ruling?
We could say that this is simply our tradition and that we must always follow the set prayer service even in circumstances like this, but he says something much more profound. He suggests that they are blessing all those people that are busy working in the fields.
We are in shul, praying hard concentrating on our relationship with Hashem, but Halacha dictates that we also bless those who are not there. The special blessings that emanate through our Cohanim come from God himself and everyone should be able to receive God’s blessings.
There is much we can learn from this, and in fact so much of our law is based around the entire community. We place so much significance on looking after each other, to perform mitzvot and commandments with others in mind, ensuring ever person has the opportunity to fulfil them.
But with the priestly blessings we take it a step further, extending them even to those who are not in shul. In our fast moving society where so much of the world is about ‘me’ and ‘my’ existence, we need constant reminders to look over shoulder and give a helping hand or a prayer to our neighbours.