And God spoke to Moses saying: ‘Speak to Aaron and his children saying, “Thus bless the children of Israel, say to them: ‘May God bless you and guard you. May God’s face shine on you, and may He find favor in you. May God lift His face toward you and give you peace.'” They shall put My name on the children of Israel and I shall bless them.’ (Numbers 6:22-27)
That Hashem chose to commit the responsibility to bless Israel to the Levites conveys to us the importance of this particular blessing which continues to this very day. Descendants of the Levites (Cohanim) present in synagogue on Shabbat morning ascend the platform in front of the Torah Ark and at the appropriate time in the morning service, raise their arms over the congregation and repeat these same words, just as they have been repeated for centuries.
Let’s take a closer look at how the Holy One of Israel wanted to see His people blessed.
“THE LORD BLESS YOU AND KEEP YOU”
1. The word “bless” means to confer well-being or prosperity
2. The word “keep” means to provide and care, to guard and
protect. Like a shepherd guarding and providing for his sheep, these
words call upon God to keep watch over Israel, which indeed He does continually.
B. “THE LORD MAKE HIS FACE SHINE UPON YOU, AND BE GRACIOUS TO YOU”
1. To “make His face shine” is an idiom describing God’s smile of favor upon His people.
The same term is used elsewhere: Psalm 31:16 and 80:3
2. To “be gracious” means to bestow favor, especially that which
C. “THE LORD LIFT UP HIS COUNTENANCE UPON YOU, AND GIVE YOU PEACE”
1. To “lift up His countenance” is a way of expressing His affection for His people;
it also implies His pleasure and approval.
2. The word “peace” is not just the absence of war, but a
positive state of rightness and fullness of well-being;
this promise is to the nation as a whole, but also to each individual.
That God entrusted Aaron and his sons with the responsibility to pronounce this blessing over His people throughout all generations is evidence that He wanted Israel to have a regular reminder of His love and providential care over us.
There’s something further to learn from this. God has also given us the power to bless one another. Parents in particular — and grandparents — have not only the privilege but the responsibility to bless their offspring. This is different from praying for your children.
When we pray for our children, it is usually in the form of specific petitions regarding a need we perceive they have in their lives. To bless them is a bit different. We have been given the power to proclaim blessings over them – blessings IN KEEPING WITH Hashem’s Torah and its principles.
For example, we can bless our children to walk in His ways, to be lovers of His Torah and to grow in such virtues as kindness, mercy, compassion, etc. The act of blessing must never deteriorate into some form of mental or verbal manipulation, G-d forbid! Rather, we bless them with good health, with success in their endeavors, with good friends and godly companions, and such things as will enable them to develop into spiritually mature human beings.
When we bless our children or our friends in such ways, we imitate Avinu Malkenu (our Father, our King) who expressly made known to us through His Torah the value and the power of the spoken blessing.
In Tune with Torah this week = I bless you with health, spiritual and material prosperity, and an ever deeper relationship with the holy One of Israel. Now it’s your turn; formulate your own blessing for your husband or wife, for your children, grandchildren, friends, neighbors – whomever you’d like to bless. How about all of them? Let’s make this a Shabbat of blessings!