09 Jun 2022 Parshas Naso: Eternal Dividends
This week’s parsha, Parshas Naso, contains many fascinating topics, including: the Sotah (woman suspected of infidelity), the Nazir (the one who abstains from certain physical pleasures and foods in his quest for holiness), Birkat Kohanim (the Priestly Blessings), and the princely contributions to the Mishkan as part of the Chanukas Ha’Nissim.
And yet, the following dvar Torah focuses on none of these more “major” topics in the parsha. In an inconspicuous pasuk (kevi’yachol!), towards the beginning of the parsha, we read:
וְכָל–תְּרוּמָה לְכָל–קָדְשֵׁי בְנֵי–יִשְׂרָאֵל, אֲשֶׁר יַקְרִיבוּ לַכֹּהֵן לוֹ יִהְיֶה – And all that is raised up of all the holies that the Children of Israel bring to the kohen, it shall be his (Bamidbar 5:9). Of which gifts that are brought to the kohen is the Torah speaking about? Rashi (ibid) answers that the pasuk is speaking about bikkurim, the first fruits of the shivat ha’minim which are brought up from the fields to the kohen.
And then the next pasuk tells us: וְאִישׁ אֶת–קֳדָשָׁיו, לוֹ יִהְיוּ; אִישׁ אֲשֶׁר–יִתֵּן לַכֹּהֵן, לוֹ יִהְיֶה – A man’s holies shall be his, and what a man gives to the kohen, it shall be his (5:10).
It is compelling to note that in both verses, the final words are: “לוֹ יִהְיֶה, it shall be his”. When a person gives bikkurim to the kohen, “it shall be his.” Whose shall the gifts be?
On the simple level of pshat (understanding), the pasukim are referring, of course, to the kohen. What he is given, “shall be his.” Once the landowner gives the first fruits to the kohen, they are no longer his (the landowners), but they have now become the possession of the kohen – they shall be his.
However, given the ambiguity of the phrase “they shall be his”, the verses can be explained as teaching us the following important life lesson.
Rabbi Dr. Abraham J. Twerski zt’l teaches, “How different Torah concepts are from secular concepts! A person who has a vast amount of money in the bank is considered wealthy because he owns that money. But if all the money remains in the bank and is not shared with others, the person is merely a shomer (watch guard), who has the money for safekeeping. He does not demonstrate ownership until he shares the money.
“This is what the Torah tells us in this week’s parsha. ‘That which a person gives to the kohen shall be his.’ As long as one hoards his money (or other material matters and goods), or exchanges them for personal possessions, it is not really his! It is only when he gives of it to others that he demonstrates that he indeed once owned it (R’ Yehoshua Trunk of Kutna, 1821-1893).
“The human being is a composite creature, comprised of an animal like body and ‘something else.’ The ‘something else’ is the aggregate of those traits which are unique to man. The accumulation of goods is, therefore, not a uniquely human feature.”
Animals in the wild also collect goods (food, shelter, shade, leaves, branches, a burrow etc). However, as a general rule, animals do not share their possessions with others, nor do they willingly sacrifice for other animals. To accumulate, and then to share, is a uniquely human characteristic and trait.
“When we share our possessions with others we are exercising our humanity. Giving to others is uniquely human and defines us as spiritual beings.
“Perhaps this is the message of this pasuk, ‘That which a person gives to the kohen shall be his.’ Only what we give to tzedaka,” what we give away for mitzvos, what we pass on to others for chessed, is truly ours. (Twerski on Chumash, p.282).
While material matters in this world come and go, and all of life and the goods we amass here are fleeting, what is truly “it shall be his,” are the donations, contributions, acts of chessed and charity we give to others. For in giving away our material goods to others, we acquire eternity for ourselves. Hence, that mitzvah shall truly “be his.”
Henny Machlis a’h taught, “Let’s say you have $100 and suddenly there’s a knock on your door and it’s a poor person. You take $10 out of your wallet and you give it to this poor person. How much money do you have left? It sounds like a joke, right? What’s your answer? Probably you’ll say ‘$90.’ No, you have $10 left. Why? Because the other $90 you are going to spend on your groceries, you’re going to pay your bills, you’re going to waste it on whatever. But those $10 that you gave to the poor person, they stay with you forever and ever and ever” (Emunah with Love and Chicken Soup, p.160-161).
To illustrate this idea, Rabbi Dr. Twerski relates the following instructive story: It is related that a Jew held a high ministerial position in government, and some anti-semites sought to discredit him before the king. They told the king that this Jewish minister had embezzled huge sums of money from the royal coffers. Although the king did not wish to believe this, he nevertheless asked the Jew for an accounting of his possessions.
When the Jewish minister presented the figure, the king said, “This cannot be. You own far more than what is recorded here.’ The Jew responded, ‘Your Majesty, I know why you requested an accounting of my belongings. My enemies have slandered me to you to make me suspect in your eyes. If Your Majesty were to believe them, you will confiscate everything I have and all that I own. When Your Majesty requested an account of my possession, I calculated how much I gave to charity. That can never be taken from me, hence that is my only real possession and my true worth” (Twerski on Chumash, p.282).
When we live a life of giving as the Torah instructs us to do, then we will merit to see the promise of: “וְאִישׁ אֶת–קֳדָשָׁיו, לוֹ יִהְיוּ – A man’s holies shall be his”, with the acquisition of infinite blessings from the One to Whom the whole world, and all that is in it, is truly His.
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,