The Three-Fold Blessing of Presence
This week we read the second Torah portion in the book of Numbers, Naso, which includes a variety of instructions ranging from priestly organization to the ordeal of jealousy to the voluntary-but-binding vows of the Nazirite. It is a kind of catch-all parshah, but it is a portion raised to the status of greatness by one particular passage.
Just before the princes of the people bring offerings to mark the beginning of formal worship in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness, God instructs Moses to tell Aaron and his sons, the Kohanim, to bless the people. He ordains a famous formula for that blessing, which we know as the Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Blessing. This three-part sequence has become the most famous benediction of all:
“May God bless you and keep you.
May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you.
May God’s face be lifted up to you and place upon you peace.”
In Naso, God makes it clear that this is quite a blessing indeed, adding that it is through this that the Kohanim will “Place My Name on the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk on Naso 5776
Add a Little Light
This week we read the Torah portion of Beha’alotecha in the Book of Numbers. It begins with a description of the menorah, the lamp that burned in the Tabernacle in the Wilderness and later in the Temple in Jerusalem, our people’s central worship places for God. That golden menorah was a way to keep track of the days of the week—a new light was lit each day from Sunday through Friday until, finally, all seven branches shone on the holiest of days, Shabbat.
Each day, we added a bit more light. Each day, our ancestors added to the illumination of God’s holiness. Each day, they remembered to bring just a bit more brilliance into their lives. And finally, on the Sabbath, all their light truly shined.
Read more: Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Weekly Torah Talk on Beha’alotecha 5776