“May G-d bless thee and keep thee”
“May He cause His countenance to shine upon thee and be gracious unto thee”
“May HaShem lift His Face unto thee and grant thee peace” (Deut. 6: 23-26)
G-d conferred upon our patriarch Abraham the privilege of bestowing blessing “And you shall be a blessing…” (Genesis 12:2). That honor was passed on to Isaac and then to Jacob. In this week`s parsha, HaShem instructs Moshe to bequeath this privilege to Aaron and all his descendants–the Kohanim, in perpetuity. To this very day, the Kohanim bless us during the services on our Holy Days. In the land of Israel however, the Kohanim bless the congregation every day. The cantor chants this blessing every morning during the repetition of the Amidah, and we recite it in our daily prayers as well.
On the eve of every Sabbath, in the glow of the candlelight, it is this blessing that every parent imparts to his child. How fortunate we are that we are able to bless our children with the very words that were given to us by G-d Himself through His Torah. Moreover, when we pronounce the Priestly Blessing, we connect to the millions of souls who preceded us, as well as to our Heavenly Father Himself.
The blessing is composed of three parts. The first contains three words in memory of the patriarchs; the second, five words, anchoring us to the Five Books of Moses; The third, seven words, reminding us of the seven heavens, and asking G-d to shower us with His bounty.
Prior to imparting the blessing, the Kohanim themselves have to recite a blessing, the last word of which is “love,” teaching us that a pre-condition to imparting a blessing is that one`s heart be overflowing with love. We, the Jewish People, are called “Mamlechet Kohanim–a Priestly Kingdom”, and each and every one of us should always strive to convey blessings to one another, especially now, in these difficult times when so many people are hurting.
Meaning of the Blessings: The first blessing is for health and sustenance, but we need G-d`s blessing that we not abuse that gift, so we conclude the blessing with “Yishmorecha” — May G-d protect you. The second blessing is that G-d illuminate our minds with the holy teachings of His Torah and allow us to find favor in everyone`s eyes so that we might share His teachings. The third blessing is that G-d look upon us with compassion, forgive our sins, and grant us peace. The word “peace” is the very last word in the blessing, teaching us that without peace, everything is worthless and pointless. It is precisely for this reason that the daily Amidah and the kaddish prayer end with a blessing for peace. If there is any one generation that can appreciate the critical importance of peace, it is ours. May G-d grant us peace speedily in our own day.
In this week`s parsha it is written: “And they shall confess their sin that they committed” (Numbers, 5:7). The question is obvious–one can only confess a sin that one has committed, so why the redundancy of language (“that they committed”)?
The Torah is here to teach us that the mistakes that we make in life, the sins that we commit, are not born in a vacuum. They stem from deep roots, so if we are to confess, it is not just verbal platitudes that are required, but genuine soul searching. The parsha teaches us that if we really want to elevate ourselves, if we really want to change and become better, more spiritual individuals, as painful as it may be, we have to go through this process honestly, without rationalizations. We must ask ourselves. What led me to stray from this path? How is it that I have become so lost? Once we come to grips with that and discover the answer, it will become possible for us to uproot that negativity from our hearts and embark upon a new course. That’s what tshuva repentance is all about.
This parsha reminds every individual that they have a unique mission in life. The portion opens with the words. Count the children of Gershon also. The word also jars. What does it mean? The children of Gershon had the responsibility of carrying the curtains and other heavy items of the Tabernacle. At first glance, one might think that to be charged with such a menial task is to be labeled a schlepper, a porter. Therefore, the Torah tells us, count them also, reminding us that the children of Gershon were as important as those who had the responsibility of carrying the Holy Ark. It’s not what we do but how we do it that counts. It`s the love and dedication that we invest in a task that makes the difference. This is a vital lesson for us to absorb. Instead of envying what others are doing, instead of looking upon ourselves as schleppers, we should realize that if we fulfill our responsibilities with sincerity, we will be uplifted and achieve our unique mission in life. G-d judges us by our efforts, by our faith, by our commitment, as it is written, according to the effort is the reward.
This lesson is reinforced at the end of the parsha where the offerings of the princes of the tribes are recounted. Each prince brought the exact same gift, but instead of stating just that, the Torah repeats it twelve times, once again teaching us that it is not only what we give, but the manner in which we give it that is significant, so while each tribe offered the same gift, their kavanah–thoughts and emotions were different. Thus, we all recite the same prayers, but each of us has our own special way of expressing them, and that is what renders us unique. We never need to compete. We never need to strive to be someone else. We need only strive to fulfill our own potential, to realize our own mission, and that is how we will find favor in the sight of G-d.
By: Rabbi Osher Jungreis