By Rabbi Michael Short
23 Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them, 24 The L-RD bless thee, and keep thee: 25 The L-RD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: 26 The L-RD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. 27 And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.
G_d wishes to bless his people.
Through whom shall the blessing come?
Who is worthy enough to inspire in Israel the realization that it must lift itself to meet, to receive, to deserve, G_d’s blessing? Which human vessel is exalted enough to be the medium through which
His blessings can be poured out upon ‘His people Israel with love’? Hillel says: Be among the disciples of Aaron the Kohen, who was a lover of peace and a pursurer of peace, who was a lover of people and drew them close to the Torah. The answer of course is Aaron and his descendants- The Kohanim (priests). But the question remains, however, what was it about Aaron and his family that
made G_d vest in them the privilege of being that conduit through which His blessings flow.
A little background here; in all history, only two people earned selection to the priesthood by their own merits: Aaron and Phineas. All the rest are members of the family.
Because Aaron loved his people Israel, he fostered a peace that was directed toward the purpose of recognizing only one G_d, one Torah, and one law; Aaron was declared Holy by G_d, therefore his holiness is one of the traits G_d looks for, and Phineas was so over wrought by his love for Israel that he killed Zimri, a leader in the tribe of Simeon and a Midianite princess named Kazbi, and thereby stopping the plague that was killing the people for their sins. You will find that in Numbers 25. We will discuss these two attributes, holiness and love, a little later.
We call it the Aaronic Blessing, the Jews have different names for it. In fact there are three names; 1) Bircas Kohanim (Priestly Blessing); 2) Nesias Kapayim; literally, raising the hands; we will have more on this later 3) Aliyah LaDuchan; means ascending to the platform.
Now the two attributes; holiness and love. The Priestly Blessing is the only blessing that mentions a factor other than the physical performance of the Commandment – with love – It seems that love is as much a part of the blessing as the text, the upraised hands and spread fingers. In fact in Judaism, if the priest doesn’t have love for the congregation , he is asked not to ascent the Duchan.
What did Messiah say about love for one another and holiness?
34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.
1 Pet 1:15-16
15 But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy in all manner of conversation;
16 Because it is written, Be ye holy; for I am holy.
1 Pet 2:5
5 Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to G-d by Yeshua Messiah.
Basically, G_d is saying if you are not Holy and if you don’t have love for one another, then you can’t bless or be a blessing. We get our holiness through the Messiah, because he is holy and we are a part of him.
Just like the Kohen, who get their “holiness” through Aaron, because they are a part of him.
G_d chose the Priest’s to bless Israel, but how does the Priest’s get blessed?
The answer can be found where G_d told us in Gen 12:3
3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.
At first G_d used the Patriarchs to bless people, but if you look at the way the Patriarchs blessed you will find it was on a one to one type of blessing. If you look at the type of blessing, you can see that the Patriarchs were endowed with discernment by the Rauch HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit, YES, even Judaism relates this attribute to the Patriarchs, because they always blessed according to the person. Case in point is Jacob blessing his children.
But the Kohen blesses the whole Nation so it appears that they are not equipped with this attribute of the Holy Spirit; so how does the presence of the L_rd come about.
I’m glad you asked!! In the Temple, the High Priest wore the Choshen and Ephod, the Choshen had twelve stones with the name of each tribe, and set in the shoulder straps of the Ephod were two stones with six names inscribed in each. I will quote the Rabbi’s here and explain the significence of these two items.
“At the time when the Kohen Gadol was dressed in the Choshen (breastplate) and Ephod(an apron-like garment), the DIVINE PRESENCE rested with him”.
The Divine Presence is known as the Shechinah, well we don’t have a Temple and the garments of the High Priest are no longer available, so how does the Divine Presence appear today?
There are six scriptural requirements for the saying of the Priestly Blessing.
1) In the Holy Tongue (Deut 27:11-26 and Joshua 8:33-35)
2) While standing (Deut 27:12 and Deut 21:5)
3) With Raised Hands (Lev 9:22)
4) With the Ineffable Name(Numb 6:27 and Deut 12:5,( this was only in the Temple))
5) Face to face (Num 6)
6) In a high voice (Num 6 and Psalms 113:4)
We could do a teaching on each of the six but for right now I will try to center in on just two of them. Number 3 and 4, with Raised Hands and the Ineffable Name.
RAISED HANDS: When the Kohen raises his hands, and separates his fingers and pronounced the Ineffable Name, the Shechinah rested on his finger-tips. When this was done in the Temple (and this is the only place the Ineffable name is to be used), the Kohen would raise his hands as high as he could above his head.
But now the Temple is gone and they can’t say the Ineffable Name, the Kohen only raises his hands shoulder high to indicate that the absence of the Shechinah.
In Shir HaShirim Rabbah the Rabbi’s explain the verse, “He is looking through the windows, peering through the Lattices (Song of Songs 2:9)
9 My beloved is like a roe or a young hart: behold, he standeth behind our wall, he looketh forth at the windows, shewing himself through the lattice.,
refers to G_d who stands behind the Kohanim and looks at Israel through the spaces between the fingers(Lattices).
Also the Song of Songs 2:8 is used to explain how the Shechinah of G_d leaps and skips like the Deer from Synagogue to Synagogue
8 The voice of my beloved! behold, he cometh leaping upon the mountains, skipping upon the hills.
Another aspect of raised hands is in response to a blessing that feels like we are overflowing with love and the movements of the hands expresses this joy and love. Raising the hands is a symbol of a heart pouring forth blessings and joy from a treasure trove of happiness.
Raising the hands is not a sterile act, it must be a whole-hearted expression of the hope and blessings which are hidden in the soul. An ocean of inexpressible joy issues from a pure soul; and the purer the soul, the purer the blessing. Praise be to G_d!!
This is the Divine Name of twenty-two letters, this name is made up of several names; and is composed of ‘hey,yod,hey’ – ‘hey,vav,hey’ – ‘yod,hey,vav,hey’; that means ‘He was’, ‘He is’, ‘He will be’; it is an indication of G_d’s eternality.
But the part that is of most interest, or at least should be to believers in the Messiah is that it contains three occurances of ‘Pey, Samach’. This is an Aramic equivalent of the Hebrew ‘Beit, Kaf’, which means ‘Palm of Hand’. The Aramic word means multicolored garment, which is an attribute of G_d- ‘He clothes the naked’.
But the interesting part of this is what the Rabbi’s say; ” Perhaps the appearance of the word ‘pey,samach’ three times within the twenty-two letter name is an allusion to the tripartite nature of the blessing recited with raised palms”.
As believers in the Messiah we see it as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit!!!!
We see it as a triple blessing of the three members, from the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
The Father, the source of all blessings.
The Son, the channel of all blessings.
The Holy Spirit, the witness of all blessings.
As I said before, we could do a two week teaching on the twenty-two letter name alone. But let’s leave that for another time.
Someone go to Numbers 6:23-27, what do you see there – three blessings, right?
The Rabbi’s say these three blessings correspond to the three Patriarchs; Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
23 Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying, On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel, saying unto them,
24 The L-RD bless thee, and keep thee:
25 The L-RD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee:
26 The L-RD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.
27 And they shall put my name upon the children of Israel; and I will bless them.
Pri Tzaddik refers to the Patriarchs with the verse from Eccl 4:12
12 And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Jacob, the last of the Patriarchs, combined Abrahams virture of kindness, with Israel’s personification of Power, into an unbreakable cord of splendor.
Jacob is called the “chosen one among the Patriarchs”, because he combined the virtures of Abraham and Isaac with his own into the three ply cord- making their heritage eternal.
Alternatively, the Rabbi’s say that the triparite nature of the Priestly Blessing corresponds to three classes of people, the righteous, the average and the wicked.
May HaShem bless you, is said to be the righteous.
May HaShem shine his face on you, is for the average people for although G_d always looks at people and their deeds, he does not necessarily do so with shining countenance.
May Ha Shem left his face to you, is for the wicked, for G_d ordinarily would avert his gaze from sinners.
But Rabbi Dover Shalom offers another explanation of the phrase triparite in the Torah, and I think his is one of the best. In the Torah the blessing contains three verses but at times it the three should be recited as ONE!!! Praise his name.
Three in one, have you ever heard of such a thing!!! Echad!!
I realize this is a lot of background and we haven’t even started the blessings
By Rabbi Michael Short
The ‘Bircas Kohanim (Priestly Blessing)’ gives concise and beautiful expression to the thought that Israel and the Church, owes all to G_d who shields his people from all harm and grants them all things necessary for their welfare.
The simple and threefold petition that is known as the ‘Bircas Kohanim (Priestly Blessing)’ has been said to be the Crown and Seal of the whole sacred order by which Israel was now fully organized as the people of G_d – with this sacred order they could now march into the Holy Land.
Now it is interesting how the blessing is constructed. The Hebrew consists of three short verses, of three words for the first, five words for the second, and seven words for the third. If you add the 3, 5, and 7 together you get 15. We will cover this in a short while.
The blessing mounts by gradual stages from the petition for material blessings and protection to that for Divine favor as a spiritual blessing, And in the beautiful climax culminates in the petition for G_d’s most prized gift, Shalom, Peace, the welfare in which all material and spiritual well-being resides.
Let’s talk about the numbers 3, 5, 7 and 15; before we go into the explanation of the blessing. Folks, there is no way you can convince me that G_d wasn’t the author of this blessing!!!!
Three – means complete, Divine Completeness, G_d’s attributes are three; Omniscience, Omnipresence, Omnipotent. Three denotes Divine perfection in scriptures Three persons in the Echad, etc.
Five – is the number of Grace !!!! and of course grace means favor- Nearly all the measurements in the Tabernacle was a multiple of five!
Seven – denotes spiritual perfection, this number occupies a great deal of space in scriptures in both testaments!!
Fifteen – Add the numbers 3, 5 and 7 you get 15!!!; 3 denotes Divine perfection, 5 denotes Grace, so 3 X 5 equals Divine Grace is but one meaning. But the number of 15 means much more than that!!!; The Hebrew characters ‘Yod’ and ‘Hey’ equal 15 and that spells ‘YAH’ the name of G_d!!!!
He has his name written all over this blessing with Divine Perfection, Grace, Spiritual Perfection and signed by Him, like a seal to say ‘Yes I wrote this !’. Praise be his name!!
It seems almost anti-climatic to talk about the blessing after all this, but G_d’s word is never anti-climatic.
The first blessing refers to material blessings, the second to the spiritual blessing of Torah knowledge and inspiration, and the last blessings to G_d’s compassion above and beyond what one deserves, as expressed in forgiveness of sin and the giving of peace.
So now let’s look at the blessings and break them down to see what is in the cracks-
Verse 24 – The guardianship of G_d
The L_rd bless thee: with life , health, and prosperity May G_d give you the many blessings that are specified in the Torah (Deut 28:1-14)
Thee: Why is the singular used? Because G_d was speaking of Israel as one, a unity, this is of course true for the Church, as we are to feel as one organic body.
And keep thee: It could be stated ‘Guard Thee’; grant thee his Divine protection against evil, sickness, poverty, calamity. The L_rd is the keeper of his people. The Rabbi’s give this application to this by saying,
” May G_d guard thee from sin, and shield thee from all destructive influences that so often follow in the wake of earthly prosperity”.
This is a blessing only G_d can guarantee. A King who sends a huge gift to his servant cannot guard it against robbers!!!
Another interesting thing about this blessing is it doesn’t clarify what sort of increase is meant, therefore, it is understood to be that it on an individual level and the blessings is whatever you NEED!!!
Verse 25 – The Grace of G_d
His face to shine upon thee: Light in scripture is the symbol not only of happiness and purity, but also of friendship. To cause the face to shine upon one is a Biblical idiom for to be friendly to him.
When G_d’s ‘face’ is said to be turned towards man and to shine upon him, it implies the outpouring of Divine love and salvation.
Once again the Rabbi’s add their words and I think they outdid themselves on this one, they interpret the words, “make his face shine upon thee” in a purely spiritual sense, to imply the gift of Knowledge and moral insight; as “may He give thee enlightenment of the eyes, the light of the Shechianh; may the fire of Prophecy burn in the souls of my children; may the light of Torah illuminate thy home”.
Gracious unto thee: This is more than ‘keep thee’ in the preceding verse. It’s more like may He be generous unto thee, and graciously fulfill thy petition.
The Rabbi’s say that this means also ‘may He give thee grace in the eyes of thy fellow man, may He make thee lovable, and beloved in the eyes of others’.
Another thought here is, we now have received the blessing of prosperity, we have the peace of mind to go beyond the basic of living and can turn ourselves to study of Torah!
Verse 26: The Peace of G_d:
lift up his countenance upon thee: or ‘turn his face unto thee’;
turn his attention, his loving care unto thee.
give thee: literally means ‘set thee’; establish for thee.
peace: ‘peace in thy coming in, peace in thy going out, peace with all men.
Great is peace, for it is the seal of all blessings’.
The Hebrew Shalom means not only freedom from all disaster, but health, welfare serenity, and tranquillity; ” the peace which alone reconciles and strengthens, which calms us and clears our vision, which frees us from restlessness and from the bondage of unsatisfied desire”.
The Rabbi’s say that, ” Peace is one of the pillars of the world; without it the social order could not exist:” Also ‘may he who maketh peace in His high heavens grant peace unto us’ .
With this we have a two-fold duty, we are not only to be peaceful ourselves but we are also to help others to be peaceful too!!!! One may have prosperity, health, food , and drink, but if there is no peace it is all worthless.
The Sages teach, “The Holy One Blessed is He, could find no container that would hold Israel’s blessings as well as Peace”.
1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the L-RD thy G-d, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the L-RD thy G-d will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the L-RD thy G-d. 3 Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. 5 Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. 6 Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. 7 The L-RD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. 8 The L-RD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the L-RD thy G-d giveth thee. 9 The L-RD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the L-RD thy G-d, and walk in his ways. 10 And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the L-RD; and they shall be afraid of thee. 11 And the L-RD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the L-RD sware unto thy fathers to give thee. 12 The L-RD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. 13 And the L-RD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the L-RD thy G-d, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: 14 And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.