יְבָֽרֶכְךָ יְהוָֹה וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ
Yevarekhekha Adonai v’yishmerekha.
May the Source of Life bless you and protect you (Numbers 6:24).
The most ancient Jewish prayer that we still know and recite today appears in this week’s Torah portion. It is known as בִּרְכַּת כֹּהָנִים Birkat Kohanim — the Priestly Blessing and also as בִּרָכַּת הַשָׁלוֹם Birkat Hashalom — The Blessing of Peace:
YHVH spoke to Moses, saying: speak to Aaron and his sons and tell them how to bless the Children of Israel. They shall say:
May YHVH bless you and protect you.
May YHVH fill you with light and grace.
May YHVH’s countenance be lifted towards you and fill you with peace.
In this way, you will link my Ineffable Name to the Children of Israel, and I will be blessing them (Numbers 6:22–27).
The instructions are clear: Aaron and his sons are to be conduits so that Divine energy, and goodness can flow into the Children of Israel.
In Jewish mystical thought, the direct energy of God is too great for a body to bear. The unmediated light of God is compared to the light and heat of the sun. The sun’s light and heat sustain us, but the light is too strong to stare at directly and too much of its heat will burn us. A modern analogy is that of electricity. The direct current from the power plant will fry all of our appliances — transformers are required to reduce the current, sometimes down to a trickle, so that it runs our motors or charges our batteries without blowing them up. This is one way that the earlier deaths of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu (Leviticus 10:1–2) are explained: When they entered the sanctuary illicitly, they were not prepared to be conduits of the great energy of life, creativity and consciousness that is God. It was more than their systems could bear.
Our mystics hold that because the Creator wants us to live, the immense and potentially destructive energy that fuels the universe is transformed and reduced, like the sun’s rays, so that it sustains our lives rather than destroys them.
As partners in creation, we humans are assigned the task of being conduits and transformers of this Divine energy. This is our holy challenge. We can curse as well as bless, destroy as well as create. Being a conduit for blessing requires caring attention and constant choice. I hope to take the life energy that flows through me and transform it as skillfully and lovingly as I can so that what emerges from me is a source of blessing, encouragement and inspiration to others. Through my words and actions, I want to be a vehicle for creativity, life and goodness. It’s a wonderful skill to practice, like practicing a musical instrument until you can reliably produce beautiful sounds with it. Like most of us, I have a lot of work to do until I’m really good at being a channel for blessing.
There is a beautiful incentive for choosing to offer blessing instead of curse or choosing blessing instead of indifference. When we offer blessing to another person — and this can be as simple as wishing them well, no fancy words needed — we, too, are blessed. We are blessed by the connection we make to another, and we are especially blessed by the very energy that flows through us in the act of blessing.
When we think of ourselves as channels, we will never run dry. The blessing is not coming from us; it is coming through us. We are simply allowing the energy of life and the bounty of goodness that we are continually receiving from the Source of All to move through us; what greater goodness could we want or expect?
May we use our intelligence, love and awareness to shape, direct and articulate that energy so that when we encounter someone in need of a blessing at that moment in their life, precisely the right and needed words or gestures emerge from our beings. May we be generous with our blessings, knowing that they flow from an inexhaustible source. And may every muscle, cell and fiber of our own being vibrate and be saturated with the goodness that flows through us when we bless.