The Greater the Responsibility, the Greater the Load
נָשֹׂא: raise, carry
מַשַׂא: burden, a load
לְהַשִׁיא: to trick, to deceive
שִׂיא: elevated heights
נָשֹׂא: Raise, Carry
נָשֹׂא אֶת רֹאשׁ בְּנֵי גֵרְשׁוֹן גַּם הֵם לְבֵית אֲבֹתָם לְמִשְׁפְּחֹתָם
Raise up the head of the children of Gershon also them, according to the house of their fathers and to their families.
What makes a נָשִׂיא a נָשִׂיא? In order to be a prince, one needs to follow in the footsteps of the king. Yehudah HaNasi was not only the נָשִׂיא because of his lineage or great wealth but because of his great wisdom and closeness to Hashem.
מַשַׂא: Burden, A Load
After the חֵטְא הַעֵגֶל/the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe declared to the Jewish People:מִי לַה’ אֵלָי/whoever is for Hashem, come to me. The tribe of Levi stepped forward. By drawing close to Hashem, they were automatically raised up. Accordingly, they were the tribe chosen to do the avodah/service in the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash. The Levites were also given the special task of carrying the Mishkan from place to place, according to their מַשַׂא/burden.
The greater the responsibility, the greater the load.
So too נְשׂוּאִין/marriage has this aspect of greater responsibility. It is the husband’s responsibility to carry the burden of his wife. He has to carry her, not the other way round. In the kesubah it is stated that it is his responsibility to support her and the family with food, clothing, and jewelry.
So how do we cope with the burden of life?
For women, all they have to do is get married and their husbands will take care of them! For men, the answer is also quite simple: we make ourselves into a fitting kallah for Hashem, and Hashem marries us, so to speak, and carries us through life. Hashem betrothed us at Har Sinai, the Torah being the kesubah that we received. If we keep to what is written in the kesubah, Hashem will give us everything we need.
Just like the yoke around the neck of an ox enables it to plow a field and carry the heavy load, so too, if we place the yoke of Hashem’s kingship around our necks, we will be better equipped to carry life’s burdens.
When the Jewish People crossed over the Jordan River into Eretz Yisrael, the Talmud says that rather than the ark being carried over, it carried its pole bearers. And in Tehillim it says:הַשְׁלֵךְ עַל ה’ יְהָבְךָ/cast upon Hashem your load, and you can be sure that Hashem will bear it.
There is a story called “footsteps in the sand,” whereby when looking back through life, we see two sets of footprints in the sand, ours and Hashem’s side by side. At some sections along the way, there seems to be only one set of prints, and when we turn to Hashem and say, “Those were the most difficult times; where were you?” Hashem turns to us and says, “That’s when I carried you.”
לְהַשִׁיא: To Trick or Deceive
After Chava eats from the Tree of Knowledge of good and bad, Hashem questions her motives. She explains that the nachash/snake הִשִׁיאַנִי/tricked me. The yetzer hara tricked her into desiring to be like G-d, to know good and bad. In other words, he falsely raised her up.
The second time this root appears in the Torah is when Kayin gets angry after Hashem accepts his brother Hevel’s offering over his. Hashem then turns to him and says: אִם תֵּיטִיב שְׂאֵת/if you raise yourself up, it will be good. According to the Seforno, Hashem is saying to Kayin: “If you rise above your yetzer hara, it will crouch before you, but if not, it will crouch at your door.” Deep down, the desire of the yetzer hara is not to trick us, but rather for us to be its master.
We can also perhaps say that Hashem so to speak tricks us into getting married through the agent of the yetzer hara. He has implanted in us a strong desire for women, and if not for this desire, and ignorance of what marriage really entails, we would never willingly get married!
שִׂיא: Elevated Heights
There are two types of raising up, one good and one bad.
Take, for example, an athlete competing for an Olympic gold medal. His sole motivation is to be the best, to raise himself above everyone else. He conditions himself to believe he is number one. He acts god-like, thinking that everything in life exists to serve his goals. He has allowed himself to be tricked by the yetzer hara, where the yetzer hara rules him and he is not its master.
This person will have a hard time in marriage if he continues to think like this. Instead of carrying and supporting, his focus will be the exact opposite, expecting his spouse to support him in achieving his goal of being number one.
Now we can better understand what Rashi is explaining by connecting the Sotah woman and terumah/tithes to the kohanim. Rashi says that by holding back the gifts that one must give to the kohen (one of Hashem’s ways of supporting his chosen tribe), the miser will nevertheless have to come to the kohen to bring his Sotah wife suspected of adultery. The one who does not recognize the need to support and carry Hashem’s chosen tribe will undoubtedly be in a marriage where he is not supporting his wife either. He is a taker and not a giver. The one who sees life as “everything is here to serve me,” takes from life and takes from his wife. Surely, that wife is going to be looking elsewhere for the love and support that her husband isn’t providing.
The real prince, and the real champion of life, is the one who chooses to be elevated by Hashem. He takes on the burden of life, he carries the load, as Rashi says on the verse הֵם נְשִׂיאֵי הַמַּטֹּת/they were the princes of the tribes, i.e., the ones who were the police enforcers in Egypt, who took the main blows from the Egyptians when the Bnei Yisrael slackened in their work. By taking on the extra responsibility, Hashem raised them up to be נְשִׂיאִים/princes. So too, when we take on life’s responsibilities, when we get married and raise a family and carry the extra load, then Hashem raises us up from being a single, self-focused taker to the much loftier position in life of giver.
The kohanim conclude the נְשִׂיאַת כַּפַּיִם/the Priestly Blessing with יִשָׂא ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וֱיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם/may Hashem lift His face towards you and give you peace. This is the ultimate blessing that we are all seeking — the peace that comes with the knowledge that we are not alone, that it is Hashem who raises His face towards us and carries us on eagle’s wings to the lofty heights of life.
1 Bamidbar 4:22.
2 Sotah 35a.
3 Tehillim 55:23.
4 Though the source of this story is not from the Torah, the notion that Hashem carries us is evident from the Gemara in Sotah.
5 Bereishis 3:13.
6 See Ohr HaChaim to Bereishis ibid., where he mentions that the lashon hints to raising oneself up.
7 Bereishis 4:7
8 See Rashi to Shabbos 146a, s.v., כשבא, where he explains השיאני to refer to marriage.
9 See Rashi to Bamidbar 7:2.
10 Bamidbar 7:2.