Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Parashat Naso: The Blessing of the Kohanim

"Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is how you should bless the Israelites. Tell them: May God bless you and watch over you...." (Num. 6:23)

The Angry Father and the Neighbor

A father was once furious with his son's insolent and irresponsible behavior. He was so angry that he banished the young man from the house.

But it was wintertime, and the son was without proper clothing. Suffering from the cold, the youth went to a neighbor's house and asked him to try to get his father to give him a proper coat.

The neighbor agreed. He approached the boy's father that he should have pity on his son and clothe him properly for the cold weather.

The father responded, "Please do me a favor, and allow me to provide a coat for my son."

The neighbor was confused. What did he mean by this?

The father explained. "Fool! You came here thinking that I should feel sorry for my son. Don't you know that I am his father, and there is nothing I want more than to help him?"

"It is only because of the boy's arrogance and laziness that I am forced to act this way. It is in his best interests that I am strict with him.

"So if you want to help the boy, why do you speak with me? Speak to the boy! Tell him to correct his behavior. Why do you come to me?"

The Job of the Kohanim

The blessing of the Kohanim, "May God bless you..." is a request addressed to God, that God should bless the people of Israel. Why then do the Kohanim turn to face the people as they recite the blessing? Should they not be facing toward the front of the synagogue, praying to God to bless and protect His people?

Like the father in the parable, God wants the best for Israel. He would love to bless us - but we need to be deserving of that blessing! Therefore, the Kohanim face the people.They are entreating us to be deserving of God's blessing.

God's command to Aaron echo the father's words to his neighbor. "This is how you should bless the Israelites: Tell them!" Command them that they should make themselves worthy,  and then, "God will bless you."

We find this idea in the Midrash: "God told Moses: Before you command Me regarding My children, command My children regarding Me!" (Rashi on Num. 28:2)

Before we complain about all of our troubles, we should first take a look at ourselves. How many of our problems did we bring upon ourselves?

(Adapted from Mishlei Yaakov, pp. 321)