Sending blessings into the world
May 17, 2013 | 8 Sivan 5773
Hands can be a conduit for holy work. Consider the experience of holding the hand of someone who is sick or having your own hand held in a time of need. Or the feeling when an infant wraps her hand around your finger. Or the desire to strengthen aging parents when reaching out to help them do something as simple as getting out of a chair. While we certainly could also explore hands as a conduit for violence, the focus of this week's parasha, Naso, is on the ancient priestly benediction which continues to have meaning thousands of years later.
Adonai will bless and protect you
Adonai will deal kindly and graciously with you.
Adonai will bestow God's favor upon you and grant you peace.
Usually we think of blessings going one way - From the Source of Blessing to us. But the Birkat Avraham, a Hasidic text, suggests that the blessings go both ways. We receive God's blessing and protection when we focus on the quality of our "worldy endeavors," "Torah study" and "prayer." In turn, we send love and blessing into the world through our spiritual and physical actions.
It turns out that the rabbis have written their own versions of this three-fold blessing. Rabbi Jonathan Slater translates one such blessing:
"May YHVH bless you in all your dealings, and protect you from Lillith, storms, impurities and zephyrs, demons and dangers; May YHVH shine the pleasance of His face on you in your engagement in Torah, and reveal to you its hidden secrets, and guard you; May YHVH shine the pleasance of His face on you in your prayer, and bring peace to you in all your quarters." (Targum Yonatan)
Rav Avraham, looking more deeply and personally into this benediction, offers his own prayer: "You instructed the Priests to bless us in all dimensions, physical, material, spiritual. Through them, Your desire for our good flows into the world. If only I could feel it; if only I could sense Your love always. I know what to do, but it is so difficult; still, I will try. I dedicate my whole being to You, accepting all that is right now as an expression of Your love. All I do, is for Your sake, dedicated to you. I am saved" (Transl. by R. Jonathan Slater).
Each of us has the capacity to transmit blessings each and every day even as we long to receive the blessing of Divine Love. Shabbat Naso approaches just following the Festival of Shavuot and the giving of Torah. One of the greatest gifts we have received is Shabbat. As you kindle the Shabbat candles, consider the use of your own hands in ushering in Shabbat and in reaching out to your partner, children and grandchildren in blessing and love. Blessed is the Source of Blessing for loving us and for planting in us the longing to love and be loved. May is blessing take root in our lives at this very moment.
Rabbi Nina J. Mizrahi