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Tabernacle inauguration offering and priestly blessing

  • ParshaRabbiSaar
Parshat Nasso is the longest of the 54 portions of the Torah, holding a record 176 verses. Many matters are discussed in it, mainly and most lengthy, the inaugural offerings of the “Nessi’im”, the chief heads of the 12 tribes, each bringing a ceremonial offering on behalf of their tribe.
by Rabbi Sa'ar Shaked, Beit Emanuel Progressive Synagogue | Jun 02, 2017

It is a repetitive catalogue, very detailed, making the point that all tribes had contributed equally to the establishment and the initiation ceremony of the Tabernacle; thus it truly belongs to the entire nation.

This reading is also famous because we use it as a reference point during Chanukah, a festival which echoes the original inauguration ceremonies taking place in our parshah. On each of the eight Chanukah days, we read from this story.

During the first seven days, we read about two Nessi’im each day, and on the eighth day, which is the “Zot Chanukah” itself, we read the final five in one go.

The clear majority of the commandments described in our parshah, are rooted in the reality of the Tabernacle and the social order of that ancient agricultural society.

Nothing of that order exists as a practical reality among Jews, since the destruction of the Temple. However, there is one exception to this - a very significant one, namely the priestly blessing (Numbers 6:22-27).

Till our days it is still a vibrant, authentic and actual part of our liturgy. It is interesting to witness how, out of hundreds of verses in the Torah which deal with the many details of the Avodat Korbanot, worship through sacrifice, and out of the many matters described in this parshah, only those six verses, sealing Chapter 6 of the book, only those verses became meaningful and reflective in the religious daily practices of generations of Jews.

It is among the last remnant of the priestly culture and almost the last duties to be fulfilled by people who hold a family tradition of being a “Cohen”, a priest.

The blessing itself is known as “the Triple Blessing”, HaBracha HaMeshuleshet, based on its three lines.

The first one is aimed at bestowing the blessing and to keep it. The commentaries say it refers to the material blessing which enables one the availably to engage with Torah - this and the sustenance of that material blessing.

The second verse leads us to the next level, namely the illumination of Hashem and His merciful love.

Finally, the last line is the upliftment and the eternal blessing of peace, the ultimate quality and attribute of Hashem, as it is said: “Great is the peace that Hashem’s name is peace.”

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