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
NOW LET'S GO ON TO THE BLESSINGS...
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