20 May 2021 Parshas Naso: A Triple Blessing
In this week’s parsha, Parshas Naso, the Torah records the text of the Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessings, recited by Aharon and his sons, the Kohanim, for all generations, as they lovingly bless the Children of Israel with Divine grace.
And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to Aharon and to his sons saying, So you shall bless the Bnei Yisrael, say to them: יְבָרֶכְךָ ה’, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ, May Hashem bless you and protect you; יָאֵר ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ, May Hashem cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you; יִשָּׂא ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם, May Hashem raise His countenance toward you and grant you peace; and I will place My Name upon the Children of Israel, and I will bless them (Bamidbar 6:22-27).
In regard to this moving and impactful series of blessings, Rabbi Shalom Rosner writes, “When Birkat Kohanim is recited by the chazan (every day in chutz la’aretz and when there is no kohen present in Eretz Yisrael) during the repetition of the Amida, he prefaces the verse with an introductory prayer that begins, ‘Bless us with the threefold bracha’.
“Why is Birkat Kohanim called a threefold bracha when there are three verses, but actually six blessings – two in each verse? Rav Mordechai Willig shlita answers that each verse contains one twofold blessing, totaling three brachot (each with two components). What does this mean?
“The first blessing, May Hashem bless you and protect you, is about wealth. As Rashi explains, Hashem should bless us with material wealth and preserve and protect that wealth. Every blessing must be protected. HKB”H might bestow something upon us, but if we misuse it, then it can turn into something terrible – not a bracha at all. The bracha is that Hashem should provide for us, but also protect us to make sure we use our wealth properly, in our service of Hashem, not in pursuit of our desires… A bracha of material wealth must be accompanied by protection against its corrupting desires.
“In regard to the second blessing, May Hashem cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you, what is the ‘shining’ of Hashem’s ‘countenance’? This refers to the light of Torah… The bracha is that Hashem should light up our life with Torah. However, just like wealth is a double-edged sword, Torah can also be a double-edged sword. The more Torah we know, the more responsibility we have to act in a way that is fitting for it. If we are viewed as Torah scholars and do not act in an appropriate manner, then we desecrate Hashem’s Name. We have to be careful that our Torah learning and knowledge does not cause us to become arrogant. Therefore, the blessing for Torah knowledge must be balanced by a bracha that we find favor with others.”
And what of the final, concluding bracha – יִשָּׂא ה’ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם, May Hashem raise His countenance toward you and grant you peace?
Rabbi Rosner writes, “The first bracha relates to a material pursuit, and the second to a spiritual pursuit. The third and final bracha is a synthesis of the first two. We ask that we will be able to properly balance between the material and the spiritual – a difficult balance to achieve. We therefore ask for peace and tranquility,” so that we may indeed achieve our goals in a pure and holy manner.
“Birkat Kohanim is thus indeed a threefold bracha, but each bracha requires a specific counterbalance, ensuring that our blessings are not misused but properly channeled in order to enhance our service of Hashem” (Shalom Rav, v.II, p.195-196).
We hope and pray that Hashem will bless us in both the realm of gashmius (material wealth) and ruchniyus (spiritual wealth). We hope and pray that Hashem will bless us with wealth and guard it so it won’t be lost. However, these blessings themselves are not sufficient if we do not know how to properly protect, utilize and channel the blessings in the service of G-d and the service of fellow man.
One evening, as Ha’Rav Avrohom Yaakov ha’Kohen Pam zt’l (1913-2001, Rosh Yeshiva Yeshiva Torah Vodaas) left a wedding hall, he said to the musician, ‘Thank you for your wonderful music.’ The musician smiled and replied, ‘Well, that’s my job!’ R’ Pam responded, ‘I’ll tell you what to do. From now on, when you play your music, have in mind that you want to fulfill the mitzvah of bringing joy to the chassan and kallah, to their families and friends.’ The musician did not understand how his work could be considered a mitzvah. ‘But I am getting paid to play music!’ he replied. ‘It doesn’t matter,’ said R’ Pam, ‘it still can be a mitzvah!’
“Similarly, R’ Pam told his dentist, ‘I envy you. You do chessed all day. People come to you in pain and you make them feel better.’ The dentist replied, ‘It’s a fringe benefit of the profession and the work that I do.’ ‘You are wrong,’ said R’ Pam. ‘Your profession is to do chessed with people. A fringe benefit of that is that you earn a living while doing chessed!’” (Rav Pam, Artscroll, p.368).
As we receive the Birkat Kohanim, let us remember that while G-d promises to do His part and bless us, we must do our part and utilize well all of our blessings.
The great Reb Simcha Bunim m’Peshischa zt’l (1765-1827) would say, “Our decisions in life must be as strategically calculated as a person playing chess. See to it that any move you make is not later regretted” (Great Jewish Wisdom, p.121). May we indeed be blessed by the threefold blessing of the Birkat Kohanim, with the realization of the final blessing, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם.
,בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום