Imagine if you would be privileged to gain an audience with the Gadol HaDor to receive his personal blessing.
Now imagine if you would be offered an opportunity to gain a personal blessing from G-d Himself.
The Birkas Kohanim that is conferred upon us is not the personal blessing of the Kohanim, but the conveying of Hashem’s intimate wish for us.
The Rambam writes:
Do not wonder: “What good will come from the blessing of this simple person?”, for the reception of the blessings is not dependent on the priests, but on the Holy One, blessed be He, as it states: “And they shall set My name upon the children of Israel, and I shall bless them.” [Numbers 6:27] The priests perform the mitzvah with which they were commanded, and G-d, in His mercies, will bless Israel as He desires. (הלכות תפילה פ"טו ה"ז)
The Tur explains the law that calls for the priests to express this blessing בקול רם, in an ‘elevated voice’, not as simply referring to their decibel level, but more significantly to saying it with the realization that it is also being articulated, בקולו של רם, together with the voice of the ‘Elevated’ One - Hakados Boruch Hu, Himself.(או"ח קכח)
May the L-rd bless you and watch over you.
May the L-rd cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you.
May the L-rd raise His countenance toward you and grant you peace.
So this blessing is the ‘mother of all blessings’, an utterance from G-d Himself, and we can only imagine what profound wishes G-d is bestowing upon us. Yet, when analyzing this most magnificent expression, it speaks in broad and vague terms. There is nothing detailed. No promise of bountiful crops, no promise of spiritual attainment, no promise of children. Just a generalized bracha of ‘Bu-Ha’, בּוּ"הָ -ברכה והצלחה!
Rashi breaks these three verses down into three very succinct ideas.
The first verse asserts that your possessions will be blessed and protected.
The second verse attests to G-d smiling upon you radiantly, granting you favor.
Lastly, the third sentiment is an assurance that ‘He will suppress His wrath’.
The first idea is easily relatable. We will have financial success and security. But what does it mean that G-d will then smile upon us? What benefit is it to us if we cannot see it anyway? How does that impact on us in a tangible way? And finally, if G-d is indeed shining His countenance upon us then why would we ever need the last promise that He will tolerate us and contain his anger?
The Midrash and many earlier sources assert that each of the three blessings correspond respectively to the three patriarchs, Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov.
Every child, to develop healthily, needs to sense three things: his material needs are provided for; that there is someone looking after him who cherishes him; that even when he falters, he will be tolerated.
This is true about adults, communities, and nations too.
We have observed this past week how an unfortunate act of brutality exposed the raw nerve of a significant segment of our society who feels neglected and not provided for properly, isolated and unappreciated, and not tolerated fairly - victims of bias and hatred.
It was our patriarchs who reflected in their lives and deeds, the very nurturing, concern, and tolerance of our Father in Heaven.
Avrohom revealed to the world at large, and specifically to his progeny, the enormity of G-d’s kindness. He taught us to realize that G-d provides, and that most often, when we feel ourselves lacking our needs, it is the result of our own misperceptions.
Yitzchok, never once complains, nor ever utters an iota of anger or disappointment in the face of the challenges he faced. He rolls with the punches; whether dealing with a taunting brother, Yishmael; the abuse at the hands of Avimelech and the Plishtim, who attempt to foil time and again his industrious efforts; his errant son Esav, never exhibiting frustration or anger towards him, trying his best to win him over with love.(שם משמואל שמח"ת)
What was his secret? How did he have the fortitude to overcome these many disappointments?
It is because he sensed G-d peering at him lovingly, smiling encouragingly, never leaving any room for doubt or angst. Wasn’t that evident in Yitzchok’s courage to loyally ‘stretch his neck out’ towards the knife his father wielded, with joy?
Yaakov faced a myriad of tribulations, fears and disappointments. Although on occasion he succumbed to reacting angrily, nevertheless he held it together displaying remarkable tolerance. Whether it was his forbearance in his interactions with his devious father-in-law Lavan; in his quiet patience with his own children’s feud, waiting to see how the contention between them would resolve; or in his dealing with the letdown of Shimon and Levi in the episode of Dinah and Shechem; or his handling of Reuven’s inappropriate interference with Yaakov’s bed.
Rashi whittled down the numerous interpretations in the Midrashim inherent within this ‘blessing from G-d’, to its most essential intention.
We must believe and sense we have everything we need. We must see the smiling eyes on the face of G-d that illuminates our lives even when it is cloudy. We must know that G-d has much tolerance for us, forever holding out hope to seeing our greatness.
מתי יגיע מעשה ידי למעשי אבותי, when will our actions reach those of our fathers?
We must exhibit these traits towards our children, family, friends, community, and world at large, to effect in kind, G-d’s favor towards us.
It is in our hands to create a world where G-d’s countenance will shine upon all.
צבי יהודה טייכמאן