Our Torah portion this week contains a very famous blessing which has been used throughout history to bless our people at times of joy and celebration. This blessing is used at weddings, baby namings, brises and b’nai mitzvah ceremonies. Parents use this blessing every Friday night to bless their children on Shabbat, and throughout the Jewish calendar year, this blessing is used to invite God’s grace and love on the entire community of Israel.
The blessing is often referred to as the Priestly Benediction, as it was extended over the Israelites by the priests according to the explicit laws of the Torah. As it is written:
May God bless you and protect you!
May God’s countenanced shine upon you and be gracious to you!
May God bestow favor upon you and grant you peace!
Thus, shall they invoke My name on behalf of the Israelites and I will bless them.
This is one of the few blessings that is used liturgically by Jews and Christians alike, and whenever I bless a bride and groom in a mixed faith ceremony, it represents a very special way to extend a blessing that evokes a shared connection to God through sacred text.
As we read this blessing from the Torah scroll this week, we might consider the many ways that we can extend blessings to the world around us. May our hands reach out to bless those who need us and our hearts extend blessings of love and kindness to the brokenness that surrounds us.