Many years ago, one of my students celebrated his Bar Mitzvah with Parashat Naso. I remember his reading of Torah as if it were this morning. M. was called to Torah, and all of us – the rabbi, his parents and me, his teacher and gabbai sheini, leaned in to help as needed with his blessings and reading of Torah. We leaned in because even with hundreds of hours of practice we were not sure what would happen.
M., the Bar Mitzvah had an undiagnosed, but very serious reading and learning disability. I use the word disability cautiously though, because although M. really couldn’t read well – he loved with a heartfulness beyond what most of us can imagine. And on this day his love filled the room. The words he had practiced over and over, flowed – and stumbled a little – and then flowed again from his lips.
יְבָרֶכְךָ יהוה, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
יָאֵר יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
יִשָּׂא יהוה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם
We all breathed out – and our eyes leaked – as M.’s face lit up with joy and pride as he began his blessing after the reading. Whenever I meet M., for he still lives here, near his parents, a young man in his mid-20’s now – he always wants to “talk Jewish” – and so we do. M. has a faith and a pride in being a Jew that overflows every minute.
Why am I telling this story? The Sefat Emet has a teaching about this blessing. He teaches that from this blessing we can better understand the following Midrash, “As they lift their faces towards Me, so I will lift my face toward them.” He teaches that the tiniest bit of service, of our avodah, is accepted by God as if it were much greater. The Sefet Emet teaches this to help us understand the final words of this blessing found in Naso, “and may He give you peace.” Shlemut, shalom is wholeness, which the Sefat Emet calls, “the inner point of truth.” He calls God Shalom, “for God is the wholeness of all.”
Imagine. A single moment, a single mitzvah contains all of God – God’s Wholiness cannot be divided – we are not particles but fractals of God’s Being. So the smallest of moments can contain the infiniteness of God. M., in his few moments of reading this blessing, opened all of our hearts to this law of Theo-Physics!
And I have carried a small fractal of M.’s joy ever since. The other evening I watched America’s Got Talent – a young man was led in by his mother. He was autistic and blind, and conversation with him was not easy. But, oh my, when he sat down at the piano and played – and then sang, it was another M. moment. The angels lifted their wings and pirouetted around this young man – in sheer joy at the strength and beauty of his voice. A moment of joy.
Naso then, for me, reminds me to savour, to revel in the tiniest of moments, and know even in those moments – maybe because they are moments, I might be privileged to sense God’s Oneness.
We learn in Naso, as hopefully we will in marriage, to appreciate the small daily attentions and regard for our beloved other and thus for God. Not so much the grand gestures of torrid fiction and Hallmark – but the small attentions and moments of shared quietude, is where we feel the others love and know all is right with the world. For this moment.