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The Archeology Club - A Story for Parashat Naso

הכותל המערבי

A Story for Parashat Naso

* Translated by Janine Muller Sherr

Parashat Naso is the longest parasha in the Torah. In the middle of the parasha, we find a famous and powerful bracha (blessing) called “Birkat Kohanim” (the priestly blessing). Aaron Hacohen and his sons were given this mitzva to bless Am Yisrael, and till this very day, our Kohanim (priests) have continued to bless the Jewish people every morning (and, outside of Israel, on holidays) with these same words, and many parents give this blessing to their children on Friday night:

May Hashem bless you and protect you.
May Hashem make His face shine on you and be gracious to you.
May Hashem turn His face toward you and give you peace.

The Archeology Club

“This is so BORING!” whined a boy, kicking a pile of small stones. “When is this club going to end already?”

The director of the club, Dr. Gabi Barkai, was becoming more and more frustrated with this boy. Dr. Barkai is an archeologist. He researches ancient vessels and buildings that tell us about our past. Forty years ago, he organized an archeology club for 12-13-year-old kids. One day, he took his group on an archeological dig in Jerusalem. It was a site without many ancient objects, so Dr Barkai and his colleagues weren’t expecting to find anything important there.

Dr. Barkai tried to continue with his archeology lesson, but this boy wouldn’t stop interrupting him with his complaining.

“He was a huge ‘nudnik’ (nuisance),” Dr. Barkai recalls. “I didn’t know what to do with him! Finally, I said to him, ‘If it’s too hard for you to listen, go into that cave nearby and start cleaning the rocks.’”

I had assumed that the cave was empty, as were all of the caves at this site.

A few minutes later, this boy came back, and tugged at my shirt. I turned around and saw that he was holding in his hands two intact pottery vessels from the First Temple period! I couldn’t believe my eyes! He wasn’t supposed to touch these antique objects himself; he was supposed to call me. At that time, I had no idea t that this boy would soon lead me to the greatest discovery of my life!”

The boy pointed out the spot where he had found these vessels. Barkai, overcome with excitement, soon discovered countless other ancient artifacts hidden in the same location.

He sent all the children home and invited a group of professional archeologists to join him at the site. Day and night they worked together, unearthing more than 1,000 items, including pottery bowls, iron arrowheads and more than 100 silver objects from that cave.

Among all these treasures, they were surprised to find a tiny gray cylinder about two centimeters (one inch) long. After it was thoroughly cleaned, they noticed that it was actually a tiny silver scroll. Two thousand years ago, someone had written a message on this scroll, then rolled it up very tightly so that it would be difficult to open.

The scroll was sent to a special laboratory at the Israel Museum that analyzes ancient artifacts. It was so fragile that it took three years to figure out how to open it without destroying what was written inside. When the scroll was finally opened, Barkai examined it through a sophisticated microscope that was able to magnify the letters.

“Suddenly, a word jumped out at me. The first word I was able to make out was the name of the first inhabitant of the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) in Jerusalem. That word was Hashem (the Lord). Then I realized that I was holding in my hand a copy of Birkat Kohanim, the priestly blessing.”

The researchers continued to decipher this text, word after word, and were amazed to discover that this was, indeed, Birkat HaKohahim, written in an ancient Hebrew script. It was as if their great-great-grandparents, who lived during the time of the Temple, were sending them a greeting. These were the oldest verses from the Bible ever discovered in Israel.

This incredible find was another powerful proof of the Jewish people’s ancient ties to the Land of Israel, and it had a great impact on archeologists and researchers worldwide. Scholars wrote articles about this discovery, debated its significance, and even came to examine the scroll themselves. But not one article mentioned that it was all thanks to a boy who was bored one day in Jerusalem…

A Point to Ponder…

Try reading the words of Birkat Kohanim and explaining them in your own language. What makes this blessing so powerful?
What do you feel when you read it?


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