In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, God provides Moses with instructions on how Aaron and his sons should bless the Israelites. This blessing, which is often referred to as the Priestly Benediction, is delivered by rabbis at weddings, anniversaries, birthdays, and celebrations of bar/bat mitzvah and baby naming ceremonies. It is also recited by parents at the beginning of Shabbat as a way of invoking God’s blessing upon their children. The words of this ancient blessing can be found in Numbers 6:22-27:
May the God bless you and protect you!
May the God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you!
May the God’s face be lifted towards you [in favor] and grant you peace!
This ancient blessing has long been recited with hands extended over its recipients. According to our sages, the Shekhinah (God’s presence) was said to rest in the space between these extended hands. Thus, in every generation, all priests, rabbis, and parents who have chosen to bestow blessings through these powerful words became intermediaries or vessels of the Divine spirit.
Another powerful idea associated with these words is that they are stated in the second-person singular. This is significant because the blessing was originally recited over all of the Israelites as a collective community. Here we come to embrace two important ideas.
Firstly, the language of this blessing serves to remind us that we are one people, and we share a collective destiny. Secondly, we are reminded that the Divine blessing is not generic. God sees and cherishes us as individuals. We each have needs, dreams, and yearnings, and as we receive this blessing, it remains unique to each of us as we receive it.
As this week continues to unfold, may you be blessed with Divine protection, abundance, and peace.