Monday, May 13, 2013

Parashat Naso - The Priestly Benediction

This week in Parashat Naso, we read about the Priestly Benediction. Today, the Jewish Priests, the Kohanim, have no "Temple", but there is still a service that is available to them in today's synagogue, and that is blessing the members of the congregation with the Birkat ha-Kohanim (Numbers 6:24-26):

"The Eternal shall bless you and protect you!"
"The Eternal shall deal kindly and graciously with you!"
"The Eternal shall bestow his favor upon you, and grant you peace!"

The blessing is actually 3 separate ones. The first blessing, "The Eternal shall bless you and protect you", refers to material wealth and success. It's not just about gaining, it's also about being protected from loss. The second blessing, "The Eternal shall deal kindly and graciously with you", refers to spiritual development. Hopefully, you'll understand what the right path in life is, and, of course, an excellent Torah student. The third blessing is a blessing for peace. It's a hope that you're 'chosen' by God to live a life filled with peace. To live a blessed life, one that is filled with material growth, intellectual growth, and spiritual development, one would also need the gift of peace.
In the days of Moses and Aaron, the Priests were born.  It was a matter of inheritance. But, one of the most important changes over the years, was to remove rank by birth.  Leadership was attained through learning. 

But this blessing has come a long way. Jewish parents no longer needed Kohanim to bless their children. On Shabbat, especially, parents are now able to become like the Priests, and bestow the blessing on their own children.
Becoming closer to God doesn't require a special place or a special person. You can bless your children yourself, and make the experience an intimate one. Time to take charge of your own Jewish lives. 

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