Note: At present, the Torah readings within Israel are different from those outside Israel. This will continue for a short time and is due to the way the holidays fell this spring on the Hebrew calendar. Since most of my readers are in countries outside Israel, I am following that schedule for the commentaries.
Numbers 4:21 – 7:89
In this week’s Torah portion we are introduced to the Aaronic blessing.
“Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying, ‘This is the way you shall bless the children of Israel. Say to them: “The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace. So they shall invoke My name on the sons of Israel and I then will bless them.” (Num. 6:23–27).
Many of you may be familiar with this blessing but did you notice the last verse? We call it the Priestly blessing or the Aaronic blessing. In reality, it is God’s blessing on His people delivered through the priestly line. ‘…I then will bless them…’
Our words have great influence in the lives of those around us, and spoken blessings can bring hope, encouragement, and direction to others. I believe that our society is sorely lacking in the art of blessing others. This practice alone could have a powerful impact on the ills of our world.
A spoken blessing is a positive, Biblical statement that invokes the blessing of God in the life of another. Our words have potential to do good or to do harm. The Bible speaks directly about the power of our words in verses such as these:
- “Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof” (Proverbs 18:21).
- “Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones” (Proverbs 16:24).
- “Heaviness in the heart of man maketh it stoop: but a good word maketh it glad” (Proverbs 12:25).
While the blessing of the congregation of Israel was a task bestowed on the priestly line, it is also a template for how we can bless other people. I believe that cultivating an attitude of blessing is far more important than we realize. Sadly, cursing other people has become much more common than blessing them. To curse is to call evil or injury down on someone; to wish them harm or misfortune. It is the very opposite of blessing. And our choice in life is to bless or to curse, to call forth goodness or to call down evil.
This choice goes beyond a formula of words for the choice between blessing or cursing someone else is a matter of the heart. Whichever way we choose, we are unveiling the state of our inner being. If we bless, we are living according to the commandment ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If we curse others, we reveal a dark and sinister heart attitude.
The priestly blessing recorded in Numbers 6:24–26 provides us with an excellent example of a Godly blessing: “The Lord bless you, and keep [guard, protect, compass about with a hedge of safety] you: The Lord make his face shine upon you, and be gracious unto you: The Lord lift up his countenance [give full attention in a favorable way] upon you, and give you peace [wholeness, health, security, serenity, well-being, contentment, harmony; an absence of negative stress, disturbance, tension, and conflict].”
One of the most worthwhile habits you could cultivate is the habit of blessing which includes but is not limited to:
thinking the best of others, instead of being critical and/or judgmental
looking for the good in others, instead of focusing on their weaknesses or failures
having their best interests at heart instead of thinking just of yourself
celebrating others’ successes and good fortune without resentment or jealousy
By developing the habit of blessing others with my words, I reap the benefit of gradually creating a positive, inspiring and godly character.
Years ago I knew a young woman who was competing for the title of Miss Teenage America. In the interview portion of the competition, she was asked this question by one of the judges: If you could choose, would you rather be a baseball or a baseball bat?
Without hesitation, she replied, “I’d choose to be the baseball bat so I could propel someone else to achieve success.”
That reply won her the title.
In Tune with Torah this week = have you blessed anyone lately? Whether in your own mind or aloud, have you spoken the blessings of God into anyone else’s life? It could be as simple as this: you see someone driving recklessly. Choose: will you say, ‘Dear God, grant him wisdom and help him get to his destination safely’?
Or will you sit back and criticize (a form of cursing)?
The choice is yours.