Bless! And be blessed
“Blessed are you God…that you have sanctified us with the holiness of Aharon and have commanded us to bless…with love.”
[A kohen’s blessing before reciting the verses in Numbers 6:24-26]
I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. [Genesis 12:2]
In this week’s Torah reading, the three-part priestly blessing is given top billing. In a Torah scroll, it’s even set apart with an inverted letter nun inscribed at the beginning and at the end.
The Talmud says that every kohen that recites the priestly blessing receives a blessing (Sota 39b). To bless is to be blessed. There is no greater blessing than being a blessing to others.
Before giving the blessing, the kohanim recite: “Blessed are You God…that has sanctified us with the holiness of Aharon.” And at the end, they also say that they bless “with love.”
The kohanim thus invoke the special holiness of their ancestor Aharon, head priest of the Israelite nation. Aharon’s love of others caused the whole community to love each other. When people would argue, he would tell each opponent how the other person is upset because he doesn’t want to argue with him or harm him in anyway. That is, Aharon told each person that the other loves him. So in the end, they made peace and actually did love one another.
And so the kohanim bless “with love.” The halacha requires that they be loving, and the possession of that quality is the blessing they receive.
The kohanim bless the Jewish people, and the Jewish people bless the world. This is our blessing that Avraham received from God:
I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. (Genesis 12:2).
And it is clear for all to see that the spiritual heritage of Avraham’s life continues to generate ripples of blessings to the world until this very day, as evidenced by the influence of his descendants, the Jewish people.
For example, see http://www.jinfo.org/ or https://www.jpost.com/christian-news/israels-blessing-to-the-world-460920 or http://rabbisacks.org/greatness-jewish-watch-rabbi-sacks-remarks-2017-olami-summit/
We give,* and that is our gift.
*To appreciate the centrality of giving in Judaism, see the book “Giving – The Essential Teaching of the Kabbalah” (Urim Publications 2020).
This book is my translation of the essays of Rabbi Yehuda Ashlag (Baal Hasulam). Baal Hasulam is the greatest modern explicator of the Kabbalah. This book also contains a new commentary by Rabbi Avraham Mordechai Gottlieb, who is a disciple of the son of Baal Hasulam. His classes in Hebrew can be watched on the youtube channel ברכת שלום.