Shabbos Parashas Naso

This week’s parashah presents the threefold blessing that Hashem told the Kohanim to convey to the Jewish People. The third blessing is as follows (Bamidbar 6:26):
May Hashem lift (ישא) His countenance up toward you and grant you peace.
The Maggid notes two other verses in Scripture where the word ישא (which denotes lifting or carrying) appears in connection with the four-letter Divine Name (ה'):
1. Tehillim 24:5: He will bear a blessing from Hashem, and righteous kindness from the God of his salvation.
2. Devarim 28:49: Hashem will carry over upon you a nation from afar, from the end of the earth, like an eagle swoops – a nation whose language you will not understand.
He goes on to expound on these three verses as a group.
Consider how a teacher deals with his student, or a father with his son. If the teacher sees that the student listens and accepts discipline, he will occasionally admonish the student to stir him to greater diligence in his studies. But if the teacher sees that the student is like a deaf person and pays absolutely no attention to his studies, he will not bother to admonish him at all, because he knows that it will not help. Accordingly, Shlomo HaMelech advises (Mishlei 19:18, homiletically): “Discipline your child when there is hope” (homiletically rendering כי as when rather than because). When there is hope that the child will listen, it is right to discipline him, but if not, discipline is pointless.
Hashem deals with the Jewish People in the same way. In days of yore, when we were well settled in Eretz Yisrael, we had a system of Torah law courts with judges and enforcement officers to deal with violations of Torah law, including capital offenses. But when we strayed and were sent into exile, this system ceased to operate. Our sinning got so out of hand that the system of Torah justice was worn down. In this vein, the daughter of Zion laments (Yirmiyah 4:31): “Woe is me now, for my soul has been wearied from the killers.”
The three verses in which the word ישא appears in connection with the four-letter Divine Name reflects three modes through which Hashem deals with the Jewish People. The verse in Tehillim, which speaks of blessing, reflects how Hashem dealt with us in the days when the Beis HaMikdash was standing and we followed Hashem’s instruction and observed His commandments. During this period, Hashem handed blessing out for us to take. The verse from our parashah, which speaks of peace, reflects how Hashem dealt with us while we were still dwelling in Eretz Yisrael but began to stray from the Torah path and sin. Hashem then admonished us and punished us, either directly or by means of the prophets and the Torah courts. We were all clearly told what offense on our part prompted the discipline, and we were thereby led to take matters to heart and repent our evil ways. As a result, peace was restored between us and Hashem. The verse from Devarim, which speaks of oppression by a foreign nation, reflects how Hashem began dealing with us at the time the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed. Our enemies killed many thousands among our people, but we no longer had prophets and judges to tell us clearly what we were being punished for. In the words of Mishlei 27:22, it was if we were ground in a mortar and pounded with a pestle, but our foolishness was not removed from us.
It is in regard to this situation that the Torah tells us that Hashem will carry over upon us a nation from afar, from the end of the earth, like an eagle swoops – a nation whose language we will not understand. Yirmiyahu conveys a prophesy describing the situation in similar terms (verse 5:15): “Behold, I am bringing upon you a nation from afar … a powerful nation … whose language you will not know, so you will not understand what they say.” We will not understand what message our oppressors are conveying to us, and we will not recognize what evil ways we have to mend. Our state will be like that of a sick person who is taking harsh medicines but is not under a doctor’s supervision. Who knows if he will be cured?
Yirmiyahu laments (verse 8:22): “Is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no doctor there? Why has the health of the daughter of my people not recovered?” We can interpret this verse homiletically as depicting the situation we have just described. Yirmiyahu marvels over the fact that we have undergone great afflictions but they had no effect on us. He then explains why: There is no doctor there. And then he describes the outcome: We have not recovered. Because we have no prophet to tell us why the afflictions have come upon us, we have not mended our ways.
In the first chapter of Mishlei, Shlomo HaMelech describes wisdom lamenting in the streets. And he presents the reason (verse 1:24): “For I have called out but you refused, I stretched forth my hand and no one listened.” On the surface, it seems that the two halves of this verse are saying the same thing in different words. In fact, however, there is no repetitiousness. The first half of the verse describes speech, while the second half describes an outstretched hand. Shlomo is describing the matters that we have discussed. Initially, the rebuke we received from the prophets was of great benefit, for it called to our attention the sins we had committed. The prophets admonished us with their mouths, not with their hands. But eventually we started refusing to listen, and then Hashem sent against us enemies who admonished us with their hands rather than with their mouths. No words were being said, and no one could hear why we were being subjected to the afflictions. As a result, no one was aroused to repent right away from his improper ways.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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