Naso - Being True to Yourself

by Rabbi Shefa Gold

So shall they put my name upon the Israelites and I will bless them.

The Blessing

At this time of Naso we give and receive the great and ancient Priestly Blessing. Our arms are outstretched above the tumult of our lives and our hands imitate the cloven hoofs, invoking the power of the animals of our shepherding ancestors who bless this world through us. Through this blessing, God’s name (which means the Divine essence) rests on us.

The privilege of carrying the name/essence of God into the world is the greatest blessing we can bear. It is giving and receiving at once. It is the pure state of becoming and being a blessing. When I carry that essence consciously, every moment begins to sparkle with meaning. Even moments of suffering, moments of terror, even the moment of my death … each moment is received by a heart that is as vast as the sea and alive with compassion. Carrying that Divine Essence is like being a drop that knows the ocean within it. The Divine name/essence makes us infinitely large, certainly big enough to hold whatever life gives us.

God commands the priests (and the priest or priestess within each of us) to bless each other with these words:

May God bless you and guard you.

May God shine his faces upon you and grace you.

May God lift up his face to you and give you peace.

So shall they put my name upon the Israelites and I will bless them.

May you be filled with the divine flow and may its essence transform you so that you are protected from your habits of distortion.

May the fierce and loving light of God shine through all illusions of self, dissolving the walls that seem to keep out the miracle of grace.

May the face of God that is hidden in everything remove its mask and reveal the truth of our connectedness. And may the love that shines through the face of all things give you peace.

The Spiritual Challenge

Naso describes a spiritual challenge that all of us must at some point endure. This challenge is symbolized by a woman who is accused of adultery by her jealous husband. She undergoes a test to determine if she has indeed been unfaithful.

Each of us is that woman, married to the divine essential mystery. Our relationship to that mystery is dynamic and complex: dynamic, because we are always moving in and out of connection – remembering, forgetting and remembering again; complex, because the ego is oftentimes engaged in a subtle or not-so-subtle practice of deception.

In the ordeal that Naso describes we ask the truth to make itself known, even if it will make us uncomfortable. We ask to cut through the web of self-deception in order to discover if we have truly "gone astray."

When I was a child I had frequent stomachaches. I was outwardly very shy, but had an active inner life. As a teenager, I began to notice a pattern to my stomachaches. Whenever I had something to say and didn’t say it, the unsaid words would immediately go to my stomach. My body wouldn’t let me withhold my truth without paying the price. My body became a strict teacher, and I listened to its signals in order to find my voice. I was the woman who had gone astray, set back on my path through the power of a fierce love.

The spiritual challenge of Naso is to receive the ordeals of our own lives as agents of Truth. Through them we are tested, humbled and refined. Our defenses are stripped away. We are distilled to our essence. My vow is to use everything that comes to me in service to the Truth, to let the force of life cut through the web of self-deception that I weave. If I have been led astray by my fear or delusion, I ask the force of life’s circumstance to put me back on track

This is no small request. If you make such a request you must pay attention and be prepared to receive the response in the everyday circumstances of your life.

I have learned that this relationship to life can only be personal. I do not have permission to see someone else’s life this way or to interpret their hardship as a gift. Compassion is the correct response to the suffering of others. The perception of my own ordeal, however, may be transformed into a force of healing and truth.

Guidance for Practice

Sit quietly for a few minutes and quiet the mind by focusing on the breath. Close your eyes and see the pathway of your own life’s journey, spiraling up a great mountain. Stand at the summit and look down on the landscape of your life. Find the path that you have traveled. Trace it from birth through childhood, adolescence into adulthood, imagining what the landscape looks and feels like viewed from a long perspective. Then, let your attention be drawn to a particular point on the path, a place of ordeal. Call up an image of yourself at that point of ordeal and pour out your compassion on the one who you were. Slowly and clearly speak to her the words of the Priestly Blessing:

May God bless you and guard you.

May God shine his faces upon you and grace you.

May God lift up his face to you and give you peace.

Return now to the summit and say a prayer of gratefulness for your path. The most powerful and transformative prayer you can say is simply, "thank you." At first the words might ring hollow, but as you keep saying, "thank you," the sound in your voice will begin to change and the words will be filled up with the hidden meaning which emerges from that point of ordeal on your journey. Stay at that summit of gratefulness for a few minutes, noticing the feelings in your body. Return your attention to the breath.