Parashat Hashavua – The Weekly Portion – Naso

JCT student Tzvi Silver on this week’s parasha.


Tzvi Silver, a student in his second year of studies towards a degree in Electronics Engineering at JCT’s Lev Campus, on this week’s parasha

This past Wednesday, as the Jewish People of Israel celebrated the forty-seventh anniversary of the freeing of our nation’s capital, a lot of politicians were taking advantage of the opportunity to “talk the talk”. At Tuesday night’s official ceremony at Yeshivat Merkaz Harav, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, promised “We are protecting the heart of the nation- we will never divide our heart… Jerusalem was united 47 years ago and will never be divided again.” The next day, at the annual Yom Yerushalayim concert at the Kotel, Economy Minister Naftali Bennett echoed a similar theme; “My brothers and sisters- On this day when soldiers called out ‘Har Habayit B’yadeinu,’ we must vow never to divide our city again, and to remember the promise ‘Im Eshkachaich Yerushalayim Tishkach Yemini‘…” he declared, before breaking into song and leading an emotional rendition of the well-known melody. Having been present at the latter, I can say firsthand that the declaration was very well received. While promises are very easy to make, as Napoleon Bonaparte famously said “The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it.” Why? Because, it’s all too easy to make promises, especially at the emotional climax of one of the happiest days on the modern Jewish calendar, but what is much harder to do is “walk the walk,” and fulfill them later.

This idea is exemplified in our parsha, where we read of the inauguration of the Mishkan. The Jewish People are given the Priestly Blessing for the first time, then we are presented with the exhaustive and repetitive list of the offerings of each of the twelve Jewish leaders. Then, we are given a final count of the total number of animals brought as offerings. Finally, in conclusion, we read:

זֹאת חֲנֻכַּת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ אַחֲרֵי הִמָּשַׁח אֹתוֹ

This is the inauguration of the altar, after it was anointed (במדבר ז:פח)

To the casual observer, nothing seems to be amiss here. However, to the dedicated reader, one who had read the previous eighty seven pesukim which describe the inauguration process ad nasueam, there is room to wonder why the passuk had to add the words “אחרי המשח אתו.” They  could either serve as an extremely unnecessary reminder of the setting of the perek, or even as a contradiction to the previous pesukim, which seem to suggest that all of the aforementioned happened during the inauguration of the Mishkan, not afterwards.

Rav Avraham Mordechai Alter of Gor, the third Gerrer Rebbe, answers our question in his flagship work, Imrei Emes. He teaches that this seemingly unnecessary and unhelpful phrase actually teaches us an important lesson in midot. The pesukim leading up to our summary one describe the service in the Mishkan on the day of its inauguration, when, through all of the spiritual and emotional highs, people were more likely to keep these teachings properly with a zeal. However, once this hallowed celebration was over, it could be more difficult to complete the avoda properly. To show that the Jewish People were able to overcome this difficult challenge, the passuk specifically says “זאת חנוכת המזבח אחרי המשח אתו- even after the inauguration was finished, the people still followed the rules of the avoda properly, as if it was still the same day that the altar was inaugurated.

I believe that the Israeli politicians who were very outspoken on Wednesday would do well to heed the warning of the Admo”r of Gor. During the amazing high of Yom Yerushalayim, it is all too easy to make promises  to keep the “עיר שחוברה לה יחדיו” together.  But, what happens the next day, “אחרי המשח אתו”? Will Prime Minister Netanyahu still feel as strongly about never dividing the heart of the Jewish People. Will Minister Bennett still stand by his promise to keep Jerusalem together as if it was his own right arm? Wednesday may have been a time of promises, but today is a time of action. At the time of this writing, half of our holy city is occupied by its approximately 290,000 Muslim residents, demanding that “East Jerusalem” be recognized as the capital of their Palestinian state. The holiest site in Judaism was closed to Jews on the forty-seventh anniversary of “הר הבית בידינו,” because of Muslim rioters. Jerusalem may not be divided right now, but she is unfortunately far from being fully united. Even the politicians who are outspoken about Jerusalem’s unity have not made enough effort to begin to unite her.

So, I repeat again, the time has come for actions, not promises. In Tehilim 137, we read:

“אם אשכחך ירושלים… תדבק לשוני לחכי”

If I forget you Jerusalem… Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth (תהילים קיז:ה-ו)

It is no coincidence that David Hamelech used this specific metaphor in the context of remembering Jerusalem. When we forget Jerusalem, we cannot begin talking, we must only take action to ensure that we never forget her again. With Hashem’s help, we will see Jerusalem completely reunited very soon, through G-d’s might and politicians’ honesty, so that she will never be forgotten ever again.