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 approach is 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 so well.
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 other. “Davening”
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.