Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Naso) On a Slant!

In this week’s Parsha the Kohanim are commanded to bless the congregation with the Priestly blessings. In Israel the Priestly blessings are given each day, however our custom in the Diaspora is that it is only said during the Mussaf service on the five major holidays of the year. This blessing has fifteen words and is bestowed by the Kohanim when they ascend the platform in front of the synagogue.

The Kohanim spread their fingers and raise and stretch their hands out towards the congregation in a special way while proclaiming the blessings. The Kohanim recite a blessing regarding their command and sanctification to bestow theses blessings upon the congregation, and then the Chazan pronounces the first word of the blessing and the Kohanim respond in unison. This pattern repeats itself until the Kohanim proclaim the last blessing, Shalom – peace.

Interestingly we recite the words of the Priestly blessing each day in our daily prayers immediately after we recite our personal blessings over our unique privilege of studying the Torah.

Perhaps the connection between the priestly blessing and the Torah blessing, is because our sages tell us that Torah scholars increase peace in the world with their study and application of Torah, therefore it is a most appropriate time to recite the priestly blessing which concludes with the word Shalom – peace.

There is another instance within our prayers where we see a connection between Torah study and the Priestly blessing. The blessing the Kohanim recite before they bless the congregation ends with “and You commanded us to bless Your Nation with love.” The blessing we recite immediately prior to our proclamation of the Shema speaks about our special connection to G-d and His Torah; this blessing also ends with the word Be’ahava – with love.

These two matches between the Priestly blessing and our study of Torah demonstrate to us that both effective blessing, and success and appreciation of Torah study must be performed with a feeling of love and endearment. This will bring an aura of Shalom – peace.

The blessings of Shalom are most relevant within our homes. The status of having peace in one’s home, between spouses and children is commonly termed as Shalom Bayis – peace reigning in the home.

During a class I was presenting, a gentleman asked, “Why are Mezzuzos affixed on a slant and not upright?”

I explained that there are two opinions regarding the correct positioning of the Mezuzah case and the scroll within. One opinion is that the Mezuzah is to be placed upright whereas the other opinion holds that a Mezuzah should lay flat.

The Halachic ruling of Rabbi Moshe Isserlish, known as the Rema - the Ashkenazic codifier of Jewish Law, is to compromise between the two opinions and affix the Mezuzza on a slant, with the top part of the Mezzuzah slanted towards the room that one is entering on the right doorpost.

This situation where a compromise, which seemingly does not satisfy either opinion completely is the practical law, leads us to the following insight which gives us an additional appreciation of the Mitzvah of Mezuzah:

The Mezuzah is the first article that a person encounters before entering his home. A Mezuzah is akin to a Torah Scroll for it contains the name of G-d many times, and it serves to set the tone of the Jewish home.

Although it is not written that way in the Mezuzah, one of G-d’s names is, Shalom – peace, referring to G-d’s love of peace. We all know the importance of Shalom Bayis – peace and tranquility, in the home. There are times when there are differences of opinion and outlook between husband and wife, children, in-laws, etc.

The Rema’s ruling that a Mezuzah is placed on a slant reminds a person of the ultimate goal. When entering his home, he is to maintain the balance of Shalom; to listen to the other opinion and to be open to compromise in order to maintain the blessing of Shalom within the home.

The Talmud teaches us that the vessel and conduit that G-d uses to infuse His boundless blessings upon us is where Shalom is achieved, resides and prevails!

Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!

Rabbi Dovid Saks