Being a Conduit for God’s Blessings

In some modern circles, the Priestly Blessing is seen as an anachronistic rite, both because it is a ritual associated with the long-gone Temple and because it does not fit neatly into an egalitarian mindset. After it, it was assigned to a particular group within the Jewish people who were designated to act as agents of God’s blessings and not to the Jewish people as a whole: “And the Lord spoke to Moshe, saying, ‘Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: Thus, shall you bless the children of Israel…” (Numbers 22-23)

The question of assigning the ritual of blessing the children of Israel to a specific group of people is not a new one, as is indicated in the following midrash:

‘Thus, you shall bless’ – [The sages raise a question regarding this command from the following verse:] ‘Look down from your holy dwelling place, from the heavens, and bless Your people Israel…’ (Deuteronomy 26:15) Said the people of Israel before the Holy One Blessed be He: Master of the World, you assign to the kohanim (the priests) to bless us? We desire you to bless us directly, as it says: Look down from Your holy place! The Holy One Blessed be He replied to them: ‘Even though I said to the kohanim to bless you, I stand with them and bless you.’ This is why the kohanim spread out their hands [making the shape of a window when they recite the blessing] – that is to say, that the Holy One Blessed be He stands behind them, and, so it says: ‘There he stands behind our wall, gazing through the windows peering through the lattices.’ (Song of Songs 2:9) What is to be found between the fingers of the kohanim? [Namely, how are we to understand this verse?] ‘Peering through the lattices’ – When the kohanim’ extend their hands, [it is as if God is ‘peering through the lattices.] So, it says: ‘Thus, shall they bless the children of Israel’ (adapted from Tanhuma Naso 8)

When the kohanim offer the priestly blessing [daily in Israel and on holidays outside of Israel], there role is one of being a human conduit for God’s blessings, providing a window, as it were, for “God’s light” to shine through. This is an interesting paradigm for all of us to think about. While the priestly blessing is one of the few remnants of the ancient Temple ritual which is still preserved in our religious lives [and to mind should be preserve as such], the idea of being a conduit for God’s blessing is one which can be shared by all Jews (and, in fact, all people). Perhaps it is time for each of us to see ourselves as conduits of God’s blessings on earth, and act accordingly, bringing through our deeds God’s light to the world.

About the Author
Mordechai Silverstein is a teacher of Torah who has lived in Jerusalem for over 30 years. He specializes in helping people build personalized Torah study programs.
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