In the middle of Parshat Naso, we encounter the mitzvah of Birkat Kohanim, the blessing given by the Kohanim to Bnei Yisrael on a regular basis (daily in Eretz Yisrael and on the Chagim in Chutz la’aretz).
An interesting question discussed by the acharonim centers on who this mitzvah is commanded to. At first glance, the answer to this question seems obvious- the commandment is directed to the Kohanim to bless the rest of the nation. Yet, the Minchas Chinuch quotes a number of acharonim who suggest a fascinating alternative- in addition to the commandment for the Kohanim to bless Am Yisrael, there is a parallel commandment for Am Yisrael to be blessed by the Kohanim. In part, the mitzvah obligates each and every person to ensure that he is blessed by the kohanim, taking any necessary steps to make sure that the brachot occur.
While a number of practical ramifications result from this unique understanding of Birkat Kohanim, I once heard from Rabbi Dovid Bashevkin a powerful hashkafic message that underlies this interpretation of the mitzvah. He suggests that according to these commentaries, a major aspect of this mitzvah is for each Jew to feel blessed, and to recognize the blessings in their lives.
We all have many blessings in our lives- be it our families, our relative health, our parnassa, children, etc. It is normal for us, however, during the stresses of day-to-day life, to look past these blessings and focus instead on the areas of our lives that are challenging or difficult, on the things that we are missing. Yet this mitzvah comes to remind us to take stock of what we do have in life, and to appreciate all that G-d has given us. We are commanded to become the recipients of the Kohanim’s blessing to help us remember how truly blessed we are-to focus on the goodness in our lives.
This message is an important one that we, as parents, must relay to our children. Our kids are growing up in a time of tremendous materialism and affluence. The basic standards of living in the US and Israel are the highest they have ever been. As parents, we also work extremely hard to take care of our children’s every need, and to make things as easy as possible for them. Our kids are privileged to generally grow up in an environment where they are cared for, both materially and emotionally, surrounded by loving family. They truly are blessed, in so many ways.
Of course, not everything is perfect. All children have to deal with their share of challenges, problems, frustrations, and disappointments. We aren’t meant to ignore that reality- we must face it head on, and help our kids navigate through their challenges. But fundamentally, we must strive to make sure that our children grow up with a deep recognition of all the wonderful things that they have been given, and how blessed they truly are. This recognition will foster a personal sense of appreciation and gratitude, a critical component in each child’s journey towards a caring, unselfish adulthood.
Birkat Kohanim is an inspiring mitzvah with many beautiful messages that emerge from it. One of these messages is the directive towards the nation of Bnei Yisrael to be blessed, and to feel blessed. To focus on the tremendous good in their lives, and to appreciate all that they have been given. This is a fundamental message that we must always keep in mind- and make sure to impart to our children throughout their lives as well.
Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom!