“Would that all the LORD'S people were prophets!” ***
I had an unusual - and frankly - a disturbing experience, which
I would like to share with you. I trust that every reader would be able to
relate to that experience in his/her own individual and particular way.
However, those who are progressive Jews – like me - would, no doubt, share
my feelings and thoughts.
For many years now, way before I was ordained as a rabbi, I
developed a habit of greeting fellow Jews with various blessing in Hebrew
which consisted of phrases from various Jewish teaching, including the
bible, which I had found to be the most fascinating book, to say the least.
That habit was the result of learning in middle school the
Jewish proverb “Heve mekabel kol adam besever panim yafot” (loose
translation: Greet each person with a pleasant demeanor. Pirkei Avot
1:15) I remember visualizing streets in Tel-Aviv with multitude of
pedestrians walking and greeting each other with smiling faces. Well, that
never happen in reality, but non-the-less I began to practice that until it
became a habit, which have lasted to the present day.
To my recollection, every person I came in contact with smiled
and blessed me back with the same phrase, or another. That is, until a
I was shopping in a store located in predominantly Jewish
neighborhood. I passed by an orthodox Jew with a white beard and a typical
attire, whose cart was blocking my way, while he was examining a product –
no doubt to see if it was Kosher. I placed my hand gently on his shoulder
and said to him: “Yevarckecha Adonai Veishmerecha” (May God bless you and
(That blessing is from the book of Numbers 6:24. It is a phrase
from a triple phrases blessing - the Birkat kohanim (A priestly blessing).
Today it is uttered during temple services by Jews who believe they are
descendants of the priesthood tribe of Israel.)
That Jewish man turned towards me with glowing eyes and a wide
smile, and thanked me for blessing him. I felt fulfilled, and as always -
elated. He noticed that his shopping cart was in my way and he moved it
aside. I proceeded on my way. Suddenly, I heard him calling after me:
“Are you a Cohen? (priest.)” I turned and saw that he had still maintained
his broad smile. “I’m a Kohen, Levi and Israel” I declared, and then I
proceeded: “I am a human being.” I could see the expression on his face
changing from a broad smile to one of confusion. “But, are you a Kohen?!”
he insisted to know. “I’m a human being.” I repeated. He definitely looked
disappointed. I shrugged and proceeded on my way.
The second time around I saw him, was when I stood in line to pay
the cashier. He passed by me and recognized me. He stopped and said to me:
“I thought you were a Kohen.” “I’m not a Kohen according to Jewish
standards,” I began. “But as I had told you, I’m a human being. Does that
mean you do not accept my blessing?” He did not expect it, I could tell,
because his answer was not immediate. “Well, but you’re not a Kohen.” He
finally said. “Does that mean that you consider my blessing “Pasul”
(invalid)? “But you’re not a Kohen!” He repeated in a declarative poise. “I
thank God for making just a human being!” I told him with a smile. “But
you’re not a Kohen.” he mumbled again and proceeded to push his cart away.
The only thought that popped into my mind in the aftermath of
this experience was: “We Jews need to make peace among ourselves, and love
one another as we are, first, before we could make peace with the Arabs.”
***About the headline:
The spirit of God rested upon two individuals – Eldad and Meidad
– in the Israelite encampment during their journey in the Sinai desert. The
two individuals were not from the priestly tribe. A young man saw them
prophesizing in the camp. He hurried to Moses’ tent and told him what he
had seen. Moses’ protégé, Joshua, was at the tent with Moses at that time,
and he interjected, encouraging Moses to shut in the two “imposters” – away
from the rest of the Israelites.
Here is how Moses responded to Joshua.
“Are you jealous for my sake? would that all the LORD'S people were
prophets, and that the LORD would put His spirit upon them!' (Numbers 11:29)
May every one of us – earthlings - become a leader for the sake
of unifying the world with peace and harmony.
Rabbi Dov Gottesfeld
Rabbi Dov Gottesfeld
Temple of the Arts
8440 Wilshire Boulevard
Beverly Hills, CA 90211
T: 323 658 9100
W: www.templeofthearts.org http://www.bhtota.org/