Parshat Naso by Jeroen Reuven Bours.
To know what a blessing is, is a real blessing.
As everything in the Torah has been interpreted and discussed over the ages, the Birkat Cohanim - Priestly Blessing, is no different. It’s also easy to take this blessing for granted and forget its profound meanings. Isaac Arama, the author of Akedat Yitzhak asks: Why do we have humans deliver these benedictions to us and not HaShem himself? - Upon which R. Ishmael observes (Talmud, Hullin): The additional phrase: “I will bless them…” refers not to all of Israel but rather to the priests engaged in blessing Am Israel. Rashbam does not go along with that thinking and believes that the priests weren’t commanded to bless Israel but rather “to invoke the blessing on them”. God would respond to their prayer by blessing Israel. Overtime, we see the sages reducing the status of the Cohanim even further. For in Sifrei and Sifrei Zota the discussions amount to the danger of the priests seeing their honor of blessing Israel, as mere duties because they are being rewarded by being blessed at the end. That is the danger of interpreting “I will bless them…” as - I will bless the Priests. Abravanel to the rescue. He considers the word Barech - blessing, to be a homonym. When it is used by God it eminates the good, whatever that good is. When it is used by mankind towards HaShem, then it is mere praise. (David blessed the Lord - Chronicles 29). A child, before eating a cookie praises the Lord. There’s no need to add a divine blessing to a cookie. Praise is more than enough. Rabbi Hirsch points out that the Torah clearly wished to rule out the notion that any priest was given special status: “The priest who blesses is but an instrument, a medium through which the benediction is expressed…” Do we even need Cohanim, one could ask? One answer, from Rabbi H.Y. Polak suggest that HaShem debated the need for help from Moses when he returned to the mountain as if to point out that there is a clear responsibility that mankind has; a duty to purify himself and herself and their society through the right conduct. May I then suggest that a blessing coming from HaShem directly or through the Cohanim is not just a promise but also a reward? Let’s look at the blessing a little closer. When you look at the blessings from a typographical way and center each seperate line above one another, you’ll see the shape of a pyramid. With other words, the message spreads. It’s as if the blessings are a wave that fans out over Klal Israel. The first blessing is for material things like life and sustenance, and children. Once we aquire those we require a blessing to safeguard those ‘material’ things. The second blessing is a spiritual one. Often discussed, the words “the shining of His face” are to be believed the light that the Torah illuminates. Sforno: “May your eyes be illuminated by the light of His face to see wonders in His Torah and His works after you obtain your needs through His first blessing.“ The third blessing is much discussed for its sentence: “HaShem lifts up his face to you.” If the Birkat Cohanim grow in importance with each blessing, then why is the sentence; ”lifting up His face” more important than “shining His face upon you“? Rashi reads this as: “…suppressing His anger.” He sees the word - Yissa ‐ as an expression of - removal. Just like in “…the Pharaoh will lift up your head from off you.“ - Rashi considers the words - His face ‐ to be a face of wrath. Still, the word “shine” easily outshines the word “face“! The answer lies in that the word ‐ face ‐ all through the Torah can be found expressing compassion, anger and other feelings. So here, in this blessing, HaShem shows His feeling towards man and women. Here, HaShem forgives us. And as for us common people? - we can bless all we want as long as we understand that it’s a form of praise. Next time you sneeze in public and a nice old lady says: “Bless you!” - remember that she should have said: “God bless you“. He’s the only One who can.