This week’s parsha, Parshat Naso, delineates the priestly blessings that are chanted by the Kohanim in synagogue. Birkat Kohanim is a prayer tradition transmitted by the Kohanim to bless the congregation. Usually, the congregants of the synagogue refrain from gazing at the Kohanim by either closing their eyes or gazing downward. Aaron is commanded to bless the nation of Israel every morning with the following: “May G‑d bless you and guard you. May G‑d shine His countenance upon you and be gracious to you. May G‑d turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace.” (Numbers 6:24-26) The Lubavitcher Rebbe expounds: “May G-d bless you with wealth, making you extraordinarily prosperous, and watch over you, protecting this wealth entirely from theft. May G-D shine his face to you in friendship and endow you with grace so that you will be liked and esteemed by others. As for your shortcomings, may G-d raise his face towards you, i.e show you discriminatory favor by overlooking them, and thereby grant you peace.” (Kehot Chumash, 40)
If we look closely we notice that the singular language seems directed to the individual. Yet, wouldn’t one presume that the blessings should be addressed in plural in reference to the whole nation? Rabbi Shaul Rosenblatt mentions that the blessing encourages each individual to specifically strive towards inner peace. The Rebbe’s understanding of the last blessing instructs us that the path toward inner harmony involves “overlooking one’s shortcomings.” If we redirect our attention towards our particular strengths, then we can appreciate our progress. We will achieve inner peace by loving ourselves, by recognizing our greater and lesser strengths and by refraining from excessive self criticism and and censure. Machaneh Yavneh is a wonderful opportunity to nurture various aspects of our personality – including confidence, artistic/athletic talents and our interpersonal communication skills. The innovative new Sadna program is yet another incredible opportunity to discover and even develop our capabilities. May we all be blessed to blossom to our boundless potential by grasping for such amazing opportunities!
Helen Berman (K’11, N’12), Maalot Rosh Aydah