What gives the words of Bircas Kohanim such power is their simplicity and beauty
“Speak to Aharon and his sons, saying: This is how you should bless Bnei Yisrael, say to them.” (Bamidbar 6:23)
n 1979, archaeologists discovered two tiny silver scrolls in a cave outside the walls of Yerushalayim. They were so fragile that it took three years to figure out how to unroll the parchments without causing damage. The scrolls were amulets, containing, among other texts, Bircas Kohanim. They were scientifically dated to the last days of Bayis Rishon and the time of Yirmiyahu Hanavi. Ours is a heritage of blessing (Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, Covenant & Conversation).
I don’t have specific times when I bentsh my kids. It’s more when the mood hits me.
My son was heading on an overnight trip during bein hazmanim with a group from our shul. As he hefted his knapsack, he asked me to bentsh him. I closed my eyes as I murmured the brachah, davening he should be safe and enjoy himself.
We shared a smile as he headed out the door.
Then Yitzi bounced up. “Hey, bentsh me, too! So what if I’m not going on a trip?” So I did.
Of course, then Shloimie wanted a brachah, and then one of my marrieds who had stopped by asked for one as well. When I’d finished, obviously the grandchildren needed brachos from Savta, too.
I think I broke my blessing record that morning, rivaling only Erev Yom Kippur.
What gives the words of Bircas Kohanim such power is their simplicity and beauty. The first verse refers to material blessings. The second, interpersonal. The third highlights the relationship between us and Hashem. He’s our Parent. He cares.
The name “Hashem” used in the blessings (as opposed to the name “Elokim”) signifies the individual relationship Hashem has with each of us. This connection allows us to use the word “You” when referring to Hashem. We matter as individuals, because G-d cares for us as a parent for a child.
Incidentally, that’s one reason why Bircas Kohanim is in the singular. Faith means I believe that G-d cares about me, and I’m here because He wants me to be. I know He’s looking out for me, as I look toward Him.
It was sweet and moving. And I was touched to realize that I had different kavanos when bentshing each child. The actual words may have been the same, but the feelings that flowed from my heart toward them reflected the individual connection I share with each of them alone. From Mommy to you, with love.
The blessing the Kohanim say before this mitzvah is unique — it concludes with the word “b’ahavah — with love.” This last word doesn’t appear in any other blessing over the performance of a mitzvah.
Normally when we fulfill a mitzvah, we’re doing something. But when the Kohanim bless the people, they’re not doing anything themselves, but are acting as channels through which Hashem’s blessing flows into our lives. Only love does this.
Love means that we’re focused, not on ourselves, but on another. Love is selflessness, and only selflessness allows us to be a channel through which flows a force greater than ourselves.
To bless, we must love. And to be blessed is to know that we are loved by the One vaster than the universe, Who nonetheless turns His face toward us as a parent to a beloved child.
To know that is to find true spiritual peace.
Two days later my son was showing us pictures of the tiyul. I looked at the pictures of bochurim rappelling down cliffs jutting over Yam Hamelach, hiking through narrow ravines, and bungee jumping into lakes, and was just grateful to be sharing this with him after he’d returned home safely. (And grateful that my shul had arranged the trip with appropriate precautions.)
Then one picture caught my eye. It wasn’t the sheer face of a cliff or the rushing rapids of the Yarden. It was a magnificent picture of the sun rising over Midbar Yehudah, turning the bare, barren hills into gilded slopes. And against that background, in stark contrast, stood a line of men covered with talleisim, bentshing Bircas Kohanim in front of the minyan.
The desert stretched beyond the horizon, a swath of endless emptiness. But the Kohanim, their hands outstretched, spoke of full potential.
Because no matter where a Yid may go, even when the situation seems barren and devoid of life, Hashem is forever sending His brachos.
From your Father, with love.
(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 845)
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