Rabbi Label Lam
Bring Blessings to the Children of Israel
Sandwiched between the Leviim (Levites) and the Nasiim (Princes) we find
the three odd guests seated at the same table. 1) The Sota, 2) The Nazir,
and 3) The Priestly Blessing! Why are these fellows clustered together? How
is our life improved by appreciating their proximity to each other?
The first part of the question is partially explained by Rashi, "Why is the
subject of the Nazir juxtaposed to the subject of the Sota? In order to
teach you that whoever sees the Sota in her hour of disgrace should become
a Nazir!" The wondrous question is, "Why should a person need to accept a
more strict spiritual regimen if they had witnessed justice being meted out
to someone who had misbehaved?
Just the opposite is true. The one who saw with his own eyes the tragic
results of devious and defiant behavior should be automatically
strengthened and less in need of the spiritual enrichment program of the Nazir.
To begin with, here are four approaches: 1) If they saw it, it relates to
them. Whatever we see is like a heavenly E-Mail. Who can afford to ignore
that? If one hears about a divorce, it is at least a clear warning to
others to reinforce their marriages.
2) When we hear that a criminal is caught, what is learned is something
more than the lesson that "crime doesn't pay!" That "fools get caught" is
another valid voice competing in the dark part of our psyche.
3) That such a barrier has been broken and sacred ground encroached leaves
us all diminished and at risk. A behavior once perceived as impossible to
now seen as real and negotiable.
4) We are sensitive and affected by our environment and we wish to remain
so. If we become overly toughened to events that offend our sensibilities
then we risk being callous to the healthy experiences of our lives. Maybe
now we can try to understand why the "Priestly Blessing" follows and fits
One of my teachers was happily skipping home on Simchas Torah with his then
young family. They were singing a lively tune to the words, "Olam Haba is a
guta zach...Learning Torah is a besser zach..." (The next world is a good
thing...Learning Torah is a better thing..." His four- year old daughter
interrupted the parade and asked her father in all earnest, "Abba, what's
Olam Haba-The Next World?"
He knew he had to address her question on a level she could comprehend. He
asked her what the most delicious thing in the world was, thinking that if
she said chocolate, then he would tell her it's tons of chocolate and if
she said marshmallows then he'd tell her how many marshmallows. She gave a
most surprising answer, though. "Davening-Praying!" He asked her where she
had learned that. She was not yet in school and all she said was, "Mommy!"
He was then able to piece the puzzle together. Where and how had she
learned such a noble thing? After the morning rush, when all the older
brothers and sisters are sent off to the bus, the mother sits with her
daughter to eat some breakfast. The mother has her coffee and honey bun and
the daughter, her chocolate milk and the same. This is a scrumptious moment.
Afterward, the mother approaches a blank wall, siddur in hand and prays.
The child notices the looks of excruciating and sublime joy on her face as
she turns her heart to The Creator. The child measures, intuitively,
remembering the sweetness of the breakfast goodies comparing the facial
expressions when it was only food and not prayerful words in her mom's
mouth. Naturally she concludes one experience must be far superior to the
The "Priestly Blessing" finds itself in the company of the lessons of the
Sota and the Nazir? (i.e. the dangers of undisciplined living and the
urgent need to recover.) Happy are those who don't spend their lives
reacting only to negative stimuli but rather place themselves in the
nurturing and inspiring company of those who living up to their leadership
role, bring blessings to the Children of Israel.
Text Copyright © 2003 Rabbi Label Lam and
Project Genesis, Inc.