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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Skorka

Nasso - The priestly blessing

In this parashah appears the formula by which the priests were to beseech God for a blessing on the people of Israel. The priestly blessing is a claim to God to care for and keep safe all the members of the people, to turn God’s face on each person with devotion and grace, and to grant them peace (Numbers 6: 22-27).

The biblical vision understands that everything that happens in existence is a consequence of God’s action at work in the life of the human being. The one who performs good will receive good from the Creator and the one who destroys will receive destruction. Therefore, the blessing is a cry to God to safeguard the fruit of the efforts of all those who struggle to do something constructive in their lives, that those who seek God’s presence will find it, and that peace, the last word of the prayer, come to every one of them. The blessing invokes God, but at the same time it cries out to the conscience of those seeking blessing. It is the same cry and the prayer that the psalmist sings about (Psalm 67), inspired by the message of this blessing.

The use of this prayer in the times of the first Temple is evidenced on two small plates of silver discovered by the archaeologist Gabriel Barkay in the valley of Hinnom in Jerusalem, upon which the blessing is engraved. The Manual of Discipline (Serekh haYahad) of the Dead Sea sect of the first or second century BCE, discovered at Qumran (2.2-4-DSSE 73), narrates that when new members of the congregation were received they were blessed by the priests with a blessing that is an exegetical modification of the one that appears in this parashah.

For thousands of years in the communal daily prayers as well as in the blessings of parents to their children these words were repeated. The descendants of the priests invoke God´s blessing on the congregation at various times according to the diverse customs of each community, preceded by a blessing that concludes by saying: "You have instructed us to bless the people of Israel with love."

Love and peace are central in the recitation of this blessing; without them existence becomes a vacuous and tortured reality.

Shabbat shalom!


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