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Parashat Naso: Blessings

Yeverechacha Adonai v’yishmerecha. Yaer Adonai panav elecha v’chuneka. Yisa Adonai panav elecha vayasem lecha shalom. The Priestly Blessing. Have you heard these words before? Maybe at synagogue or a Jewish celebration?

In this week’s Torah portion, Naso, G-d commands the priests to bless the Israelites, “The Lord spoke to Moses: Speak to Aaron and his sons: Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. May the LORD bless you and guard you - May the LORD make His face shed light upon you and be gracious unto you – May the LORD lift up His face unto you and give you peace (Numbers 6:22-26).”

This was to be a blessing given not from G-d alone, but from priest to Israelite, from person to person. We were meant to bless each other, specifically at the times we brought our sacrifices. There is a special power in that. Having the power to bestow blessings on one another. Perhaps in times of hardship, and perhaps in times of joy and thankfulness. It is not just up to G-d to provide blessings. We don’t have to depend on G-d to do this act. We can also act to bless ourselves.

Originally, the Priests said this blessing over people who brought their sacrifices to the Temple. Now it is often recited during the Amidah, as well as many joyous life cycle events such as Brit Milot, Baby Namings, and Weddings. We also say this blessing over our children before Shabbat dinner. Over time the light of the Priestly Blessing has not lost its strength. It has remained a beacon of protection and hope for all the Jewish people in need of it. A reminder that we are not alone, that we are safe, that even if might not feel like it at the moment, G-d is there.

At your Shabbat dinner table, think about the blessings you have experienced in your life. What they meant to you and how they impacted you. Now, think about the power of blessing others. Think about what that could do. Specifically think for a moment of what it feels like to take the time to gather a blessing or a wish for someone else and bestow it on them. What would you say? What would our world be like if we truly took the time to bless others, or even to wish the best for others. Perhaps we would treat each other more kindly. Perhaps there would be more compassion, understanding, and love.

Shabbat Shalom!

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