Parashas Naso

In the middle of this week’s parashah, the Torah presents the threefold blessing that Hashem told the Kohanim to convey to the Jewish People. The second blessing is as follows (Bamidbar 6:25): “May Hashem shine His countenance upon you and show graciousness to you.” The Midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah 11:6 gives this blessing the following interpretation: “May Hashem implant within you the mindset of treating each other with graciousness and compassion.” The Midrash supports this interpretation with another verse (Devarim 13:18): “… so that Hashem … will grant you compassion ….” The Maggid brings out the idea behind the Midrash with an analogy. If a generous person is approached by an average pauper, he will give the pauper a routine donation. But if the same generous person is approached by his own son, struggling through hard times, he will extend special help: He will provide a means enabling his son to earn an honorable living for his entire life, either by arranging for his son to learn a trade or by setting his son up in business. Hashem deals similarly with us, His kindred people: He provides us a means enabling us to support ourselves – namely, the Torah.
When we involve ourselves in Torah and mitzvos, we gain blessing. Thus it is written (Devarim 11:26-27): “Behold, I set before you today blessing and curse: the blessing, if you heed the commandments of Hashem your God, which I command you today.” One of the key mitzvos through which we gain blessing is the mitzvah of showing compassion to others, and Hashem aided us in performing this mitzvah by giving us the wherewithal to help others and implanting within us a natural desire to do so. Thus, in connection with Hashem’s statement to Avraham that he “will be a blessing” (Bereishis 12:2), the Midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah 11:2 describes Hashem telling Avraham: “Behold, I have now passed blessing on to you; whomever you bless will be blessed.” In the same vein, Hashem tells Avraham elsewhere (ibid. 22:17) “ברך אברכך”, which we can interpret as meaning “I will bless you with [the power of] blessing.”
In Bereishis Rabbah 33:3, the Midrash presents a teaching along similar lines. It is written (Tehillim 145:9): “Hashem is good to all, and His compassion is upon all His works.” The Midrash remarks: “Hashem is good to all, and He gives of His compassion to His creations.” That is, Hashem graciously instilled within us some of His own Attribute of Compassion, so that we have a natural tendency to help each other. And by exercising this tendency, we gain merit for ourselves. Thus, in connection with Devarim 13:18 (“… so that Hashem … will grant you compassion and treat you with compassion,” quoted in part in the Midrash in Bamidbar Rabbah with which we began), the Gemara in Shabbos 151b teaches: “Whoever is compassionate to others is treated from Above with compassion.” Tehillim 117 hints at the same message. Tehillim 117 (in its entirety) states:
Praise Hashem, all you nations; laud Him, all you peoples.For His compassion is great toward us, and Hashem’s truth endures forever. Halleluyah.
We can read the phrase כי גבר עלינו חסדו (for His compassion is great toward us) as meaning for He loads His compassion upon us, and then interpret the rest of the psalm as describing the result: Hashem will ultimately come to our aid with true deliverance. In the same vein, in Tehillim 40:12, we plead: “Hashem, do not withhold You compassion from me; may Your kindness and truth always protect me.” Here, we are asking Hashem to ensure that the infusion of His compassion that He granted us will always remain with us, and that, as the Gemara in Shabbos says, our compassionate acts toward our fellow men will lead Him to treat us with compassion.
Yirmiyah 31:19 encapsulates the idea we have presented. In this verse, Yirmiyahu describes Hashem as saying: “Is Ephraim not My dear son, the child I delight in? For whenever I speak of him, I surely remember him further. Therefore My innards are stirred on account of him – I will surely show Him compassion (רחם ארחמנו).” Hashem is saying: “I do not only bear My people in mind when they ask something of Me. Rather, I seek to arrange that I remember them further on, for I know that later they will need My help again. Therefore רחם ארחמנו – I implant within them the attribute of compassion, so that they will perform acts of compassion, and thereby lead Me to treat them with compassion in like fashion.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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