A blessing with love

ברכת כהנים בכותל. צילום: פלאש90
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Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

At the end of such a chaotic week, the weekly Torah portion offers consolation. In the Naso parasha, the famous priestly blessing appears:

"May HaShem bless you and protect you,

May HaShem shine his countenance upon you and be gracious unto you,

May HaShem lift up his countenance towards you and give you peace." (Numbers 6:24-26)

Blessing, protection, a shining divine visage, graciousness, peace.

For thousands of years, parents have been blessing their children with these words on Shabbat eve. At the end of the Amidah prayer, the kohanim also articulate this blessing before the congregation and it is instructive to pay attention to how the blessing is introduced. Someone from the congregation cries out "kohanim!" at which point the kohanim cover themselves in their talit and say: "Blessed art Thou HaShem our God, King of the universe, who... commanded us to bless the nation of Israel with love." The end of this blessing is rather astonishing. In other blessings, we do not say, for example, that we have been commanded to light Shabbat candles "with love" or that we have been commanded to eat matzah "with love." But in order to bless our fellow Jews, we must open our hearts with love. This is the kohen's pre-condition for bestowing the blessings of abundance and goodness upon the people. We too, through a positive attitude, generosity of spirit, and fellow feeling, can bring blessings into the lives of everyone around us.

Rabbi Moshe Grilak writes that the priestly blessing is a daily exercise for all of us. A permanent exercise that teaches us about love. In an era of charlatans who offer fake magical cures, in an era when you never know where your charitable contribution really goes, this Torah portion reminds us that in every synagogue in our neighborhood, every morning, this powerful blessing is given, at no charge and with love.

Shabbat shalom.

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