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The Flow of Paradox
by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

>>> Listen to Audio Lecture here 

There is a golden thread that runs through every Torah portion, weaving its seemingly unrelated sections into one multihued tapestry. In this audio meditation on the Torah portion of Naso, Rabbi Ginsburgh interlaces the many strands of the Hebrew word naso, weaving them into a flowing explanation of our own ability to create a holy, profound manifestation of paradox.  

he name of our Torah portion, Naso, means, "to lift." As suggested by the name of the portion, Naso, the appearance of this word and concept in our Torah portion is disproportionately high. The first appearance of the word naso is in the context of lifting the heads of the Levites--to appoint them to perform their service in the Tabernacle.

The Priestly Blessing

The second meaning of the root naso in our Torah portion is in connection with the Priestly Blessing (Birkat Kohanim), also called Nesi'at (from the root naso) Kapayim ("Lifting of Palms"). When the priests utter the Priestly Blessing, their palms are lifted and fingers outstretched in a precise manner. With his heart open to God and his palms uplifted toward heaven, the priest becomes a conduit for Divine energy and abundance.

The blessing flows from the heart of the priest to his arms, palms and fingers. The Priestly Blessing is composed of three stages:

  • The first blessing "May God bless you and guard you," is God's physical blessing on Israel.

  • The second blessing, "May God shine His countenance on you and give you grace," is God's inspiration upon Israel.

  • In the third, climactic blessing, "May God lift up His countenance to you and give you peace," we once again have the root naso. In this context, naso refers to the lifting of God's countenance.


Lifted Countenance: Forgiveness

Our sages explain that to lift up countenance is to forgive. (In the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Mercy we also find the root naso in conjunction with forgiveness of sin). When we forgive (lift our face to) others, and attempt to clarify the good intentions that motivated their negative acts, God in turn does the same for us. He lifts His face, as it were, and lifts up our transgressions to see them in a positive light. Once the positive motivation in our transgressions is clarified, God forgives us and even incorporates our transgressions within Him. In this way, God ultimately takes responsibility for our evil. This dynamic, which can be applied to ourselves and in our relations with others, is the climax of the Priestly Blessing.


The Prince in our Souls

At the end of the Torah portion of Naso, the Torah details the sacrifice brought by each of the princes of the twelve tribes in honor of the inauguration of the Tabernacle. Each of these princes is called a nasi, which is from the root naso. Each prince has already been appointed as a leader of his tribe. As such, he has been lifted to a lofty position. When the Mashiach reaches his highest level, he becomes the ultimate, most uplifted nasi.

The Tabernacle was dedicated during the first twelve days of the month of Nissan. On each of these days, we read the Torah portion of the nasi whose offering was brought on that particular day. Following the reading, we pray that the spiritual lights of the tribe of the day shine upon us and our descendants. In this way, the Torah affords us the opportunity to identify with each tribe and its nasi. Everyone has his mission in life, his own particular spark of Mashiach. When we uplift ourselves to connect to the nasi of the tribe, we are connecting to the spark of Mashiach within us.


To Lift Up Opposites

Paradox is a concept basic to Kabbalah. The most basic paradox is the paradox of God, Himself.  The Hebrew for "paradox" is nesi'at hafachim, from the root naso. Literally, nesi'at hafachim means the "lifting of opposites." This is the ability to lift up apparent opposites, unite them and synthesize them. For this reason, the word for marriage, nisu'in is also from the root naso. The secret of marriage, and of everything related to the root naso, is the secret of lifting up and synthesizing two opposites to manifest a holy and profound union based on paradox.


The Flow of Naso

The first step in the ability to manifest paradox is the willingness to lift our heads to be appointed to our purpose or mission in life. We then must strive to lift our hands – our actions -- to be a conduit for God's Divine energy flowing through us and out to the world. The next step is to forgive ourselves and others, taking ultimate responsibility for our transgressions. This accomplished, we can merit to manifest our princehood, the Messianic spark within us.


The Secret of Naso

What Lifted



Accept appointment to mission


Become conduit of Divine blessing


Forgive and accept responsibility for transgressions


Awaken Messianic spark


Manifest the synthesis of paradox




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