A Water from the Well blog post, Parashat Naso
Written by Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
When I arrived at my yoga class this past week at Shilo Farm, I was about to close the barn door behind me when I saw a sign that said, don’t close the door, look up, new life! I looked up and there at the top of the door was a nest with the tiny heads of hungry baby birds peeking out. There- lifted up above me, yet in the line of sight, tender and vulnerable new life that opened and uplifted my heart.
I am always delighted to find connections between the weekly Torah reading and my daily experiences. Well, it turns out that this week we are reading a section of Torah called Naso- which means to lift up. In this section of the wilderness journey, three Levite families are tasked with disassembling and then carrying all the parts of the Mishkan/Tabernacle upon their shoulders, lifting up the holy pieces whenever the Israelite camp moves forward. When the camp finds a new footing, these same people then must re-assemble the Tabernacle. This is not an easy task.
To hold aloft the sacred when in a time and place of transition requires inner strength and patience.
The Mussar Masters teach us that to be able to bear something is a spiritual quality. In Hebrew it is called savlanut, which not only means to bear something, but also means to have patience. The capacity to bear what is holy, and to lift it up, no matter where we find ourselves, is a sacred task. And it is the spiritual work we are all engaged in every day.
Mark Margolius writes: As our ancestors prepared to leave Mount Sinai, they likely wondered how they could preserve the sense of deep connection and trust they’d experienced in that place, as they encountered the inevitable challenges and setbacks of the journey ahead. They had already built the Mishkan, the Tabernacle, as a kind of portable Mt. Sinai to accompany them in their travels. But only in this parashah, as they learn the skills of “lifting” and “bearing” the components of the Mishkan—the “weight of life”—do they learn how to maintain that deep sense of connection and holiness in the midst of everyday living.
For us, many days bring horrific news. I ask myself: how can I bear this without tuning out and disconnecting from others? How can we bear this? In seeking guidance, I look to Torah and I see this week, the image of the Levitical priests bearing the Tabernacle through the wilderness. I wonder, if we, like the Levitical priests, can find the strength to lift up the sacred for all to see as we journey through our wilderness? In doing so, perhaps we can re-establish our spiritual center as a people, as a country, as one humanity.
In this portion of Torah, we see that by lifting up the sacred, by remaining focused on what is holy and allowing that to guide us, we can make it through this unpredictable place we find ourselves. Of course, it is easy to get lost in the wilderness during a sandstorm when all the signposts, few as they are, are obscured by blowing wind. And we are surely living through such a time of disorientation and blowing wind. But Torah is always our compass. And it matters where we place our gaze. As the sign at the barn door at Shilo Farm says, don’t close the door, look up, new life!
Friends, new life is always calling. May we each find the strength and patience to bear the holy, to lift up the sacred, and lift up one another in the process. This is the power of a Jewish community.