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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Words in the Desert: Brides and the Torah Portion of Nasso

This week's Torah portion continues the counting of the Jewish people (specifically the Levites), and contains the laws of the Sotah (wayward wife) and the Nazir (the holy nazirite, who abstained from wine and from cutting his hair). It also describes the completion of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and the offering of the princes of each one of the Twelve Tribes.

In the middle of the Torah portion, Rashi makes a fascinating comment on the following verse:

1. And it was that on the day that Moses finished erecting the Mishkan, he anointed it, sanctified it, and all its vessels, and the altar and all its vessels, and he anointed them and sanctified them.

א. וַיְהִי בְּיוֹם כַּלּוֹת משֶׁה לְהָקִים אֶת הַמִּשְׁכָּן וַיִּמְשַׁח אֹתוֹ וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ וְאֶת כָּל כֵּלָיו וְאֶת הַמִּזְבֵּחַ וְאֶת כָּל כֵּלָיו וַיִּמְשָׁחֵם וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתָם:

RASHI: And it was that on the day that Moses finished: Heb. כַּלּוֹת. On the day the Mishkan was erected, the Israelites were like a bride (כַּלָּה) entering the nuptial canopy.

The comparison of Israel as G-d's bride, entering the nuptial canopy, sounds familiar. The giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai is often compared to our wedding with G-d. Here, however, the Torah discusses a much later event, after the giving of the Torah, the sin of the golden calf, and the forgiveness we received on the following Yom Kippur.

In life, we have more than one opportunity to be like a bride entering the nuptial canopy. As Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches, every moment is an opportunity to start again, from the beginning, in a brand new relationship with G-d and with the world.

Perhaps that is why the Torah specifically used the word כַּלּוֹת in the plural instead of כַּלָּה in the singular. To be a Kalah does not need to be a one time thing. Each of us can be Kalot, starting anew again and again, just as we will receive the Torah again, just like the first time, on Shavuot.

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