Shabbat Naso 5779

The most famous passage in this week’s Torah portion, Naso, is the priestly blessing, Birkat Kohanim. We use it liturgically in the repetition of the ‘Amidah, and it forms our regular blessing of children at Shabbat dinner. Its magnificent conclusion is the ultimate blessing–that of peace.

Thus, it is noteworthy and somewhat ironic that this blessing appears in Sefer Bemidbar, Numbers, the first Biblical book with such great emphasis on war. Last week, we read about the formation of the Israelite community as they marched, with tribes placed strategically according to their military repuations. As we move through the Numbers narratives, Israel will encounter one fighting campaign after another. What, then, does the Torah mean when it blesses us with peace, which will prove to be so elusive in the Israelite experience (past and present)?
One year after the publication of his book Letters to My Palestinian Neighbor, Yossi Klein Halevi sat for another interview with David Horovitz, the editor of Times of Israel, to reflect on some of the responses he received. For this interview, he had a partner. Perhaps the contemporary meaning of “peace” can be mined from that conversation. On Shabbat morning, we’ll see how we can understand the term, both in its Biblical context and in our own day.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise