The Good, the Bad and the Usual…

Yesterday’s ‘Parashah’ {פרשה} (weekly Torah portion) was ‘Naso'{נשא} (‘take’ or ‘carry’). This is the second ‘Parashah’ in the Book of Numbers and can be found in Numbers 4:21–7:89. ‘Parashat Naso’ is the longest weekly Torah portion in the entire Torah.

The literal meaning of the word ‘Naso’ {נשא} is ‘take’ or ‘carry’ (some translate it as ‘lift up’) and it appears in the opening verse of our weekly Torah portion:

“Take also the sum of the sons of Gershon, throughout the houses of their fathers, by their families.” (Numbers 4:22)

One of the more interesting (and creative) interpretations for this verse is found in the teachings of a Polish rabbi from the 18th century, who was part of a stream in Judaism which focused on hidden meanings of the Torah.

This rabbi was interested in the role of the word ‘also’ in this verse (‘take ALSO the sum of the sons of Gershon’). According to his method, the three sons of Levi represent the different eras in the history of the Jewish people, thorough the Hebrew meaning of their names:

Kohath (קהת) represents the time the people of Israel lived on their land under the leadership of King David and Solomon – meaning the best of times:

‘The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor shall the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him be the OBEDIENCE of the peoples.” (Genesis 49:10)

In the original Hebrew the word for ‘obedience’ derives from the same root of Kohath and is very rare in the Hebrew Bible (‘Ykahat’ {יקהת}).

Merari (מררי) represents the darkest times of the Jewish people. His name comes from the Hebrew word for ‘bitter’ or ‘bitterness’ (‘Marir'{מריר}).

And Gershon (גרשון) represents the transition time between the best of times (‘Kohath’) and the worst of times (‘Merari’), because the meaning of his name is ‘sojourner’ (‘Ger'{גר}).

In other words, the rabbi explained that usually people have the tendency to thank God for good things (‘Kohath’) and to pray to God when bad things happen (‘Merari’) – meaning people search for God during both sides of the spectrum. However, the word ‘ALSO’ in this verse teaches us the importance of God in our lives during the routine everyday life, and not just when something unusual happens.