Breaking Down the Blessing by Nachum Fisch


This week’s Parashah is Parashat Naso, the longest Parashah in all of Torah. One of the many items contained in the Parashah is the Berachah that the Kohanim are commanded to give to the Jews. This Berachah is a threefold one, dealing with the things that Hashem should do for Bnei Yisrael, ranging from keeping them safe to having His shine upon them. Why is there such variety in the Berachah, and why are there many different aspects? Wouldn’t it be enough to simply say, “May Hashem bless you?”

Many reasons have been given to explain this. One is that each part of the Berachah is referring to different people. Even with this particular explanation there are many variations. A classic one  explains that the first line,“YeVarechecha Hashem VeYishmerecha,” “May Hashem bless you, and keep you” (BeMidbar 6:24), is referring to businessmen, and that they prosper and preserve their profits; the second line, “Ya’eir Hashem Panav Eilecha ViChuneka,” “May Hashem make His face shine upon you, and be gracious to you” (6:25), is referring to intellectuals and those concerned with spiritual matters, who would appreciate the ability to become further enlightened; and, the third line of the Berachah, “Yisa Hashem Panav Eilecha VeYaseim Lecha Shalom,” “May Hashem lift up His countenance towards you, and give you peace” (6:26), is referring to people in the government and peace-keeping forces, who benefit more so than the average person from peace.

While this idea may be an interesting one which seems to fit, a second explanation may add a deeper understanding. Instead of an independent entity, Birkat Kohanim needs to be looked at as a part of an entire Parashah.  All of Parashat Naso can be viewed as a reflection on married life. There are the negative parts, like suspected adultery in an Ishah Sotah, but there are also the positive parts, which are reflected by Birkat Kohanim. The individual parts of the Berachah all focus on different aspects of a good, healthy marriage, whether it be Shalom Bayit, job security, a strong connection in understanding each other, or other things. Taken together, we have the elements that form the good that is the backbone of a healthy marriage: appropriate blessings and the wisdom to use them properly, mutual respect, and peace – that is, more than the absence of argument, but rather an extension to an all-encompassing, common good.

Sotah and the Source of Holiness by Alex Feldman

There is Stealing and There is Stealing by Rabbi Steven Finkelstein