Dvar on Parashat Nasso: Numbers 4:21-7:89
Rabbi Em Mueller
This Torah portion contains two parts that speak loudly to these days following the massacre in Orlando.
First, the Nazarite’s vow. We are told that it is okay to retreat from the world, to live in isolation, but only for a limited period of time. Torah is very clear that one cannot live one’s whole life disengaged from the world. In other places we are commanded to work for justice; indeed, to pursue justice. We can’t do that if we retreat.
The Nazarite’s retreat may be a time of self-reflection, of rejuvenation. I am reminded of sitting shivah for 7 days after the death of a loved one; then another 30 days of lesser mourning; and the rest of the year to begin the process of coming back to the world.
This way of mourning is similar to a Narazite’s removal from the world. By this retreat, we have time to heal; time to absorb the shock of death. We retreat into our own selves, surrounded by family and friends, in order to be safe enough to let in the pain of heart ache. Only from that darkness can we come back to life and to light.
When we do, we find our lives forever changed. The Priestly Blessing, at the end of chapter 6, graces us, telling us that God will guard us, and shine upon us, and lift us up, and give us the greatest blessing of all – the blessing of completeness, of peace.
At this moment in time, this prayer is a transition from grief to action.
May we all use this tragedy to renew our work to make this country safe for all of us, regardless of race or religion or sexual identity, regardless of age or class distinction, regardless of where we live or work.
יְבָֽרֶכְךָ֥ יְהוָֹ֖ה וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ
יָאֵ֨ר יְהוָֹ֧ה פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ
יִשָּׂ֨א יְהוָֹ֤ה פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם
May God bless you and protect you.
May the light of God shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May God turn toward you and grant you completeness and peace.
We will only have that peace if we pursue justice.