“May God bless you and protect you.
May God deal kindly with you and be gracious unto you.
May God grant you favor and grant you with peace.”
In this week’s Torah reading, we read one of the most familiar passages in the Bible, the Priestly Blessing. God instructed the priests to offer this blessing to the Israelites in 1446 BCE.
This blessing was found on silver amulets dating from the late 7th century BCE, southeast of the City of David. According to Chumash Etz Hayim, it is the only known inscription with a biblical text that predates the Babylonian exile.
You hear these words – first recited 3461 years ago! – often in temple rituals. I place my hands on the head of each bar/bat mitzvah and recite them in front of the open ark; the blessing is said on behalf of every new baby and every bride and groom.
There is a tradition for parents to say these blessings for their children every Friday night, after lighting the Shabbat candles. At Emeth, near the beginning of Short N Sweet Services, we have the custom of asking all children to stand under a large tallit while we as a congregation bless all of them together.
For your mitzvah of this week, think about the ancient words of the 3-fold blessing and what it means to you. Put the blessings in your own words – or create three statements that reflect the prayers of your heart for your loved ones, of any age. Find times during this week, especially on Shabbat, to say the words out loud to the person or people for whom you are offering the blessings. Even if they live far away, share these words with them – by letter, email, phone call. And in return, you will be a blessing to them.