A Water from the Well blog post, Parashat Naso
Written by Rabba Kaya Stern-Kaufman
As you may already know, my husband, Steve, and I are currently in the process of moving into a new home. With great joy and a lot of lifting, we are disassembling and reassembling our material lives. As always, I find there are amazing connections between the weekly Torah portion and current activities and themes in my life and the life of the world.
This week’s Torah portion is Naso, which means to “lift up.” The term Naso is first used to describe the lifting up of the leaders of the Levite clans for the purpose of a census, but then it goes on to describe their duties as the ones who will lift and carry the sacred vessels that belong to the Tabernacle. They are to be the “holy porters,” the ones who will carry all the holy objects upon their own shoulders. These days I think that Steve has truly become a holy porter!
Up until now the focus of the Israelite community has been on the building of sacred space, the Tabernacle. Now the community comes to understand that this will be a traveling camp; one that will be disassembled and reassembled many times. No matter where or how often they move, the Levites will be the ones to bear the load. Their task as holy porters is to remain connected and grounded so that all that is holy and good can be lifted up in any place and at any time.
This too is our task. In the whirlwind of a world in flux, our traditions give us the spiritual tools to remain grounded and to lift up the holy and the good in our lives and in our communities. Every moment of gratitude deepens our roots. Every act of kindness strengthens our community. Every contribution toward justice heals our world. As we lift up the beautiful and good in one another, we shine a healing light that blesses us all.
In our tradition we recall the promise given to Abraham that our people will be a blessing to the world. And in this week’s Torah portion, Aaron and his future offspring throughout time are taught precisely how to bestow a blessing upon the people. The formula for the priestly blessing is given and it too, is an expression of ‘lifting up’ and being lifted.
Yivarekhekha Adonai v’yishmerekha, May God Bless you and watch over you
Ya-eir Adonai panav eleikha vichuneka, May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you
Yisa (same root as Naso) Adonai panav eleikha, May God’s face be lifted up to you
v’yasem l’kha shalom, and grant you peace/wholeness
I have always wondered about the image of God’s face being lifted up to a person. How is this a blessing and what does it mean? Perhaps what is implied here is that as we lift up the holy we become vessels for blessing. The real blessing is to become a blessing.
May the holy be lifted up to you and through you,