Monday, May 21, 2007

Table Talk -- Naso 5767

Democracy and equality play crucial roles in American life. In fact, our founding fathers openly declared one of their most cherished “self-evident beliefs” that “all men are created equal.” While we might hope for that belief to be true, in the words of George Orwell, “some animals are more equal than others.” Money, prominence, power and influence do affect decisions and actions in the real world. In politics, this has the unwanted effect of alienating most normal people, who come to believe that what their leaders do in the halls of power has very little to do with them and their needs. And unfortunately, they’re often correct.

Yet, God takes great strides to avoid that pitfall – to whatever degree possible – in the sphere of Jewish religious life. When commanding the Kohanim – the priests – to give His blessing to the Jewish people, God tells them, כֹּה תְבָרְכוּ אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – “So you shall bless the children of Israel.” What does the word כה teach us?

Rabbi Yisrael of Modzitz explains that God instructs the Kohanim to bless the people as they are, without giving preference to one individual or group of people over another. If you think about it, that’s precisely the way our Kohanim bless the members of the community: they stand together, covering their eyes from the looking at the people, and bless the congregation as a whole. In this way, every Jew receives God’s blessing, and not only the wise, or righteous, or wealthy.

This reminds us that while we might not always realize it, at least in God’s eyes, all Jews really are created equal.