Mordechai Silverstein

You’ve got to have heart

The priestly blessing is actually an intricately orchestrated ritual. It must be done standing; it must be done in Hebrew; it must be done word by word prompted by the shaliakh tzibor (the prayer leader); the kohen’s hands must be configured in a certain way and their hands must be covered by their tallises so that their hands are not visible to the congregation since the blessing flows through their hands. All of these detailed regulations (and more) are teased out of God’s command to Aharon, his sons and the Kohanim of future generations:

The Lord spoke to Moshe: ‘Speak to Aharon and his sons: Thus, shall you bless the Children of Israel. Say (Emor – alef, mem, vav resh) to them: The Lord bless you and protect you! The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you! The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace! Thus, they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them. (Numbers 6:22-2.7)

Many of the details mentioned above are born of a very close reading of the words of this passage. One, in particular, caught my eye this year. The word “Say” (in bold letters) is spelled in the text of the Torah using a full consonantal spelling (ktiv male – namely, the word could have been written without the vav, but here it has been included). That addition “vav”, metaphorically representing “wholeness”,  served as the impetus for the following midrash:

Thus, shall you bless the Children of Israel: ‘Say to them.’ – “Say (amor)” is written fully. The Holy One Blessed be He said to the priests: ‘Just because I told you to bless Israel, you should [not] bless them [as if] in forced labor (coerced) or in haste (just to do one’s duty). Rather bless them with whole-hearted devotion (kavanah), so that the blessing will be wholly upon them. This is why it says: “Say” (with a full spelling), so that a person needs to wish his fellow peace fully (with complete sincerity). (Adapted from Tanhuma Naso 10)

The kohanim when they bless the people are conduits of God’s will and should act accordingly. They are there to spread God’s love and should do it with a whole heart. Similarly, this lesson is one which resonate for those of us who are not kohanim, since all of us should ultimately see ourselves as agents of God’s blessings others as well.

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.
Related Topics
Related Posts