By Rabbi Michael Short
The 'Bircas Kohanim (Priestly Blessing)' gives concise and beautiful expression to the thought that Israel and the Church, owes all to G_d who shields his people from all harm and grants them all things necessary for their welfare.
The simple and threefold petition that is known as the 'Bircas Kohanim (Priestly Blessing)' has been said to be the Crown and Seal of the whole sacred order by which Israel was now fully organized as the people of G_d - with this sacred order they could now march into the Holy Land.
Now it is interesting how the blessing is constructed. The Hebrew consists of three short verses, of three words for the first, five words for the second, and seven words for the third. If you add the 3, 5, and 7 together you get 15. We will cover this in a short while.
The blessing mounts by gradual stages from the petition for material blessings and protection to that for Divine favor as a spiritual blessing, And in the beautiful climax culminates in the petition for G_d's most prized gift, Shalom, Peace, the welfare in which all material and spiritual well-being resides.
Let's talk about the numbers 3, 5, 7 and 15; before we go into the explanation of the blessing. Folks, there is no way you can convince me that G_d wasn't the author of this blessing!!!!
Three - means complete, Divine Completeness, G_d's attributes are three; Omniscience, Omnipresence, Omnipotent. Three denotes Divine perfection in scriptures Three persons in the Echad, etc.
Five - is the number of Grace !!!! and of course grace means favor- Nearly all the measurements in the Tabernacle was a multiple of five!
Seven - denotes spiritual perfection, this number occupies a great deal of space in scriptures in both testaments!!
Fifteen - Add the numbers 3, 5 and 7 you get 15!!!; 3 denotes Divine perfection, 5 denotes Grace, so 3 X 5 equals Divine Grace is but one meaning. But the number of 15 means much more than that!!!; The Hebrew characters 'Yod' and 'Hey' equal 15 and that spells 'YAH' the name of G_d!!!!
He has his name written all over this blessing with Divine Perfection, Grace, Spiritual Perfection and signed by Him, like a seal to say 'Yes I wrote this !'. Praise be his name!!
It seems almost anti-climatic to talk about the blessing after all this, but G_d's word is never anti-climatic.
The first blessing refers to material blessings, the second to the spiritual blessing of Torah knowledge and inspiration, and the last blessings to G_d's compassion above and beyond what one deserves, as expressed in forgiveness of sin and the giving of peace.
So now let's look at the blessings and break them down to see what is in the cracks-
Verse 24 - The guardianship of G_d
The L_rd bless thee: with life , health, and prosperity May G_d give you the many blessings that are specified in the Torah (Deut 28:1-14)
Thee: Why is the singular used? Because G_d was speaking of Israel as one, a unity, this is of course true for the Church, as we are to feel as one organic body.
And keep thee: It could be stated 'Guard Thee'; grant thee his Divine protection against evil, sickness, poverty, calamity. The L_rd is the keeper of his people. The Rabbi's give this application to this by saying,
" May G_d guard thee from sin, and shield thee from all destructive influences that so often follow in the wake of earthly prosperity".
This is a blessing only G_d can guarantee. A King who sends a huge gift to his servant cannot guard it against robbers!!!
Another interesting thing about this blessing is it doesn't clarify what sort of increase is meant, therefore, it is understood to be that it on an individual level and the blessings is whatever you NEED!!!
Verse 25 - The Grace of G_d
His face to shine upon thee: Light in scripture is the symbol not only of happiness and purity, but also of friendship. To cause the face to shine upon one is a Biblical idiom for to be friendly to him.
When G_d's 'face' is said to be turned towards man and to shine upon him, it implies the outpouring of Divine love and salvation.
Once again the Rabbi's add their words and I think they outdid themselves on this one, they interpret the words, "make his face shine upon thee" in a purely spiritual sense, to imply the gift of Knowledge and moral insight; as "may He give thee enlightenment of the eyes, the light of the Shechianh; may the fire of Prophecy burn in the souls of my children; may the light of Torah illuminate thy home".
Gracious unto thee: This is more than 'keep thee' in the preceding verse. It's more like may He be generous unto thee, and graciously fulfill thy petition.
The Rabbi's say that this means also 'may He give thee grace in the eyes of thy fellow man, may He make thee lovable, and beloved in the eyes of others'.
Another thought here is, we now have received the blessing of prosperity, we have the peace of mind to go beyond the basic of living and can turn ourselves to study of Torah!
Verse 26: The Peace of G_d:
lift up his countenance upon thee: or 'turn his face unto thee';
turn his attention, his loving care unto thee.
give thee: literally means 'set thee'; establish for thee.
peace: 'peace in thy coming in, peace in thy going out, peace with all men.
Great is peace, for it is the seal of all blessings'.
The Hebrew Shalom means not only freedom from all disaster, but health, welfare serenity, and tranquillity; " the peace which alone reconciles and strengthens, which calms us and clears our vision, which frees us from restlessness and from the bondage of unsatisfied desire".
The Rabbi's say that, " Peace is one of the pillars of the world; without it the social order could not exist:" Also 'may he who maketh peace in His high heavens grant peace unto us' .
With this we have a two-fold duty, we are not only to be peaceful ourselves but we are also to help others to be peaceful too!!!! One may have prosperity, health, food , and drink, but if there is no peace it is all worthless.
The Sages teach, "The Holy One Blessed is He, could find no container that would hold Israel's blessings as well as Peace".
1 And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the L-RD thy G-d, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the L-RD thy G-d will set thee on high above all nations of the earth: 2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the L-RD thy G-d. 3 Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. 4 Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. 5 Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. 6 Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. 7 The L-RD shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. 8 The L-RD shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the L-RD thy G-d giveth thee. 9 The L-RD shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the L-RD thy G-d, and walk in his ways. 10 And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the L-RD; and they shall be afraid of thee. 11 And the L-RD shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the L-RD sware unto thy fathers to give thee. 12 The L-RD shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. 13 And the L-RD shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the L-RD thy G-d, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them: 14 And thou shalt not go aside from any of the words which I command thee this day, to the right hand, or to the left, to go after other gods to serve them.
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