Politics & Parsha: “Shul Politics Like Never Before”
Each week IPA Deputy Director of Public Policy Howie Beigelman takes a look at the weekly parsha and discusses it in a way you may never have seen. Any hashkafic, halachic or political opinions are personal and do not reflect the official psak or policy of the OU.
Naso 5771: Counting Blessings
The cosmic & kabbalistic reasons as to why G-d needs to bless through an intermediary is beyond the scope of this blog (or its author). But the blessings themselves are first mentioned in this week’s Torah portion. Known as the priestly blessings, because it was the kohanim, the priests – who G-d commanded to bless the people, the blessings themselves, once the sole province of Aaron, as High Priest and his descendants, has been appropriated by parents to bless their children each Sabbath, to the bride and groom on their wedding day, and, well, you get the idea. If there’s a blessing to be given, often, at least part of it is from the priestly playbook.
That’s partly because they are all encompassing blessings: we are blessed with G-d’s protection, His Divine light and favored by His countenance. Finally, we are blessed with peace. The commentaries note that all the material and spiritual bounty in the world is worthless without protection from thieves and useless without peace.
Indeed, that is why even the most radical (in a good way) proponents of “small g” government and their equally radical proponents of expansive “big” government agree: the prime directive of any government is protecting its citizens. Both from outside invasion but also domestically, policing against crime, fraud and even the simple, boring, breach of contract. In a strictly Lockeian world, that it’s only role. With peace, in a more liberal understanding of political theory, government can work to ensure education and basic economic needs: food, clothing & shelter. In the more libertarian view, individuals and families are able to best procure all that themselves, so long as they are secure in their own safety.
These are the same basic blessings offered by the priests, at G-d’s request. With just one difference. G-d works backward, so to speak & provides first the basic needs, then the spiritual, and because G-d is G-d, peace can be last. G-d’s guarantee of peace is ironclad so He need not provide it first. He can allow economic success first because if G-d is watching, it is never in jeopardy.
In our national lives, but also in our communal ones, this is our task. Peace. Basic necessities. Educational opportunity. Safety. Security.
What all that means in our local synagogue is different than what it means for our local police. And what it means for our military isn’t same as what it means in a family.
We, unlike G-d must provide peace first, but we must always remember that our goal is to do for our communities and countrymen what G-d asked Aaron to pray He provide for his (and His) communities and countrymen.
Words to consider, ideas to ponder — politics & the parsha.