Who Blesses by Donny Manas


Buried in Parshat Naso (6:22-27), Birkat Kohanim (the Priestly Blessing) is introduced, with the instruction to “tell Bnai Yisrael” appearing twice.  That is why Ashkenazim still use it on special occasions outside of Israel, and in Israel every day (Sephardim recite it every day even outside of Israel).  What is the significance of these blessings that prompted the Torah to make sure we continually use them?

As most commentaries explain, the first part of the blessing is for material possession and wealth.  The second part of the blessing is for spiritual growth and development.  The third part of the blessing is for Hashem to continue to have more compassion for us than we deserve, and that He should express that love by forgiving us of our sins, and by giving us peace.

 A very strange statement follows these blessings.  Hashem says that ושמו את שמי על בני ישראל ואני אברכם, “they should place My name on Bnai Yisrael, and I will bless them.”  If the Kohanim were blessing the Jews for Hashem to give them all these things, wouldn't Hashem’s role be to actually give us wealth, spiritual proficiency, and peace?

Rav Aron Tendler helps us understand this by explaining that the first blessing is aimed at making us realize that our material wealth, physical well being, and natural abilities come from Hashem, and that He gave it to us for a reason.  The second blessing is aimed at making us realize that we have a responsibility to elevate ourselves through our every thought and action.  The third blessing is aimed at making us realize that we have a say in Hashem's level of compassion, and also in the world’s level of compassion, both toward us and toward them.  The way we increase compassion in the world is by using the other blessings correctly.

It is no coincidence that having “enough” money, spiritual growth, and peace all comes from within.  Hashem concludes these blessings by teaching us that if we simply notice Hashem's name and hand in all we have and in all that we do, we will then realize that we have already been blessed not only with health and wealth, but also with the teachings of Hashem.

If Igor Says So by Dr. Joel Berman

A Non-Kohen’s Blessing by Sam Wiseman