By Rabbi Mark Melamut
Parshat Naso (Numbers 4:21 – 7:89)
Guilt, jealousy, vows, and finally, blessings and gifts, are just a sampling of the main areas of focus in this week’s torah reading. As a young, Jewish boy growing up in the deep south, Mobile, Alabama, to be precise, I’ve always felt pride in my Jewish roots and in some aspects of my particular upbringing. Though the priority of importance placed upon manners and politeness were never my main priority, friendliness and being deliberate and careful (some say, slow) about how we move through the motions of life remain part of who I am (as well as manners and politeness too, don’t worry Mom). I was taught as well that it is customary to not show up as an invited guest empty handed.
Right before the ancient biblical Tabernacle is sanctified, the familiar Priestly blessings (“May G-d bless and protect you….”) is bestowed upon the people. They now officially have a new, albeit portable, spiritual home. Following the blessings, come the gifts. One by one each of the chieftans of Israel, the heads of the ancestral houses, “knock on the door” with their gifts. Each one brings the same exact gift – one silver bowl and basin, both filled with flour and oil, one gold ladle with incense, and several animals. Is this too much of the same, or just right, because each gift comes with just the right mix of varied, individual and appropriate blessing?
- What blessing and gift can you offer your host this Shabbat and in the following week?
- Is it the blessing or the gift that counts?
- If a guest were to bring you a silver bowl and golden ladle, what would you hope it were filled with?
Rabbi Mark Melamut