When Doron and Naama first explained to me how a traditional WOW (words of wisdom) works at Livnot, I immediately was stuck. Normally, someone thinks about what they want to discuss in his or her own life and then finds sources from Judaism to back it up. I honestly couldn’t even begin to brainstorm, so I stayed with what I knew and started by reading this week’s Torah portion. For those who haven’t yet read the Torah portion, I’ll give you a short summary. Naso, this week’s Parsha [at the time of Alana’s program in May], starts off with the counting of the 3 main families of Levites, who acted in a sense as assistants to the high priests by performing certain temple and tabernacle duties. Next, the portion goes on to describe the laws associated with a woman suspected of adultery by her husband. After that, more laws follow, this time explaining the requirements and relevant punishments of becoming a Nazir, or a Jewish monk. Who knew we had Jewish monks right? This longest Torah portion concludes with pages and pages of the offerings given by the princes of each of the twelve tribes. And thrown in the middle, for a span of only 5 lines, is the blessing of the people by the high priests. I’ll be perfectly honest with you all, the content of this Torah portion really held no relevance for my personal life. I’m not planning on becoming a monk anytime soon, I’m not married or in a relationship and so I cannot cheat on anyone, I’m not a Levite man performing temple services, and I just couldn’t find any connection to the sacred offerings from thousands of years back. Even the priestly blessing holds no special meaning for me, as it did with Amy [another participant who also gave a WOW on the parsha that week] when she so beautifully tied in the theme of marriage to the Parsha.
What really struck me, actually, was the placement of the blessing in the text. As I said above, the majority of 8 pages of text describes an accounting, of people, of restrictions, punishments, and gifts as well. Why then should the priestly blessing be almost hidden between the Nazir restrictions and the princely gifts? Wouldn’t it make more sense for it to appear at the beginning of the portion, to catch the interest of the readers or listeners? Or perhaps at the end, where it would be more memorable? There has to be a reason for the blessing of the people of Israel placed smack dab in the middle of such a meticulous portion. That’s when I realized that the blessing is actually meant as a natural divider, a break from all of the detail-oriented laws. As it turns out, this Parsha does relate to my life at the moment, but not necessarily because of what it is being said, but rather how.
Right now, I am living in Tel Aviv. My internship program in Tel Aviv ends in July, and the most common question I get nowadays is: What are your plans after July? Whenever someone asks this of me, I have a momentary and very internal panic attack– because I have absolutely no clue what’s next. The thought of having no idea what I want to do in life scares me. In fact, I don’t even know if I want to live in the States or in Israel. So with the countdown clocking away the days until my flight home on July 21st, I have started to analyze my life; trying to look at the advantages and disadvantages of my current situation and seeing if any of those could translate into a next step. I see my internship at the turtle center as definite pro, as I at least don’t hate my internship here, and I have started to weed out obvious cons from my life–such as severing ties with friends who only create more stress and drama. This mental accounting is definitely important because I do need to sort out the good experiences from the bad and understand how to get the most out of my last 2 months here. However, this Parsha made me realize something else entirely, that every once in a while, I owe it to myself to take a break and simply appreciate the blessings around me. In fact, we all owe it to ourselves to live in the present, maybe not always, and maybe not even for a long time, but for a few moments once in a while to just exist. The priestly blessing’s significance in Naso is not in the number of lines it takes up, but rather in its perfect placement almost buried into the rest of the words. So too is it important for us to just receive the blessings all around us without deciding if something is good or bad. I can say for myself that coming to Tzfat and participating in Livnot unintentionally became the blessing in my life. For the first time in months, I stopped worrying as much about the next step and simply appreciated the fact that I exist! I know that when I leave here, I most certainly have to get back to reality and pick up where I left off, but that accounting, that virtual check-book balancing, will have so much more meaning because of one week up North.
I’d like to conclude by saying a simple thank you to everyone here for being so welcoming and open. I came to Tzfat for a breath of fresh air from the hustle and bustle of Tel Aviv and quite literally received it, not only through the crisp mountain hikes, but also through the people I have been surrounded with this last week. It was great to escape the frat house atmosphere of my program and experience a different group of internationals traveling Israel. Thank you!
-Alana Bandos, NE84