The Tabernacle Times
June 2018 ......................... Sivan - Tammuz 5778 ......................... Volume 13 Issue 6

The Priestly Blessing

Aaronic Blessing

Angela Kunkel
Angela Renee Kunkel
  The verse, “so shall you bless the Children of Israel, saying to them: ‘May The L~rd bless you and keep you! May the L~rd make His face to shine on you and be gracious unto you! May The L~rd lift up His countenance upon you and grant you peace’” (Numbers 6:23-26) is the source for the Priestly Blessing (Birkat Kohanim). Moses was commanded to instruct the Kohanim (Priests) that they would have the privilege and the duty to bless the nation of Israel. Of course, this does not. A total of five words are contained within the second blessing, “Ya’eir Adonai panav eilecha vichunecha”. The number five is the number of grace. There are five books of the Torah. Likewise, there are five primary types of offerings the Holy One commanded the Children of Israel to bring to Him. In addition, there are five ingredients which were to make the anointing oil. In the Brit Hadashah (New Testament), the four Gospels plus the book of Acts (equalling 5) reveal Yeshua’s teachings concerning the Torah and the Prophets. Finally, five represents the Divine Breath of the Holy One, or the power of the Ruach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit).

The third blessing reads, ‘May the L~rd lift up His Countenance upon you and grant you peace’. Here
mean that the priests had any absolute power to bestow or withhold —Only HaShem can assure people of success, abundance, and happiness. The priests part of the service was to be a vessel through which the Holy One’s blessings would be pronounced on His people

Let’s take a closer look at the Priestly Blessing, by examining the Hebrew text. The first part of the blessing states two key words: “Bless” and “Keep”. The English word bless comes from the Hebrew word barakh (ברך), meaning to kneel as seen in Psalms 95:6, “Come!—Let us prostrate ourselves and bow, let us kneel before HaShem, our Maker.” The Sages explain that barakh literally means “on the knees”. When we see ‘barakh’ written in the piel (intensive active) form such as in the priestly blessing, it means to show respect. In Genesis 24:11 we read, “Now Abraham was old, well advanced in age; and HaShem had blessed (barakh) Abraham in all things.” Another related Hebrew word is Berakhah (ברכה), meaning gift or present. From this we can see the concrete meaning behind the word ‘barakh’— to bring a gift to another while kneeling out of respect. The Holy One respects us by providing for our needs and we in turn respect Him by giving ourselves as servants.

The Hebrews were a nomadic people raising livestock. It would not be uncommon for a shepherd to be out with his flock, away from camp overnight. To protect his flock, the shepherd would build a corral of thorn bushes. The corral would be a hedge of protection around them. The Hebrew word for a thorn is shamiyr (שמיר) and it is derived from the verb shamar (שמר) which literally means to guard, protect, or keep. Psalm 121:3 reads, “He will not allow your foot to falter, your Guardian (The One who keeps you) will not slumber.” HaShem’s protection far surpasses that of a human bodyguard!

The first sentence of the blessing contains three Hebrew words, “Y’varech’cha Adonai v’yishm’recha”, corresponding to the three patriarchs—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Three also is related to the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. We can also apply the this concept of three to the three fold cord that can never be broken.

The second blessing within the Priestly Blessing states, “May the L~rd make His Face to shine upon you and be gracious unto you”. Let’s examine the words “face”, “to shine”, and “gracious”. The term panim (פנימ) literally means face. The face can reflect the many different moods, emotions, and thoughts of a person. In the Hebrew text, the word ‘face’ is written with the suffix (ימ), making the word plural. This reflects the idea of multiple faces. To simplify this concept the word ‘panim’ can also mean presence or wholeness of being. David writes in Psalm 119:135, “make Your face shine upon Your servant, and teach me Your statutes”. The shining face here alludes to favor and grace.

The word “or” (אור) as a noun means light, but as a verb it means to give light or to shed light. This concept is evenly proportioned with bringing about order. Light illuminates or reveals what has been dark. Through the working of the Torah and the Prophets and Yeshua’s disciples the Holy One spreads light upon His workings of the universe.

Most theologians will define “grace” as “unmerited favor”. The Hebrew word translated as gracious in the Priestly Blessing is the verb chanan (חנן). Chanan is often paralleled with other Hebrew words meaning healing, help, being lifted up, finding refuge, strength, and rescue. From a concrete Hebraic perspective this verb means to provide protection. Where does one run to for protection? To the camp, or chana (חנא), a word related to chanan. Each individual in a community can have a host of personal attributes, but unless others appreciate and understand him, his relationships with others will not be positive. With this blessing, the grace a person has is being lifted up, encouraged, strengthened, and protected by others.

            (Continued at top of next column)
  we see the word “face” or “countenance” a second time. Rashi explains that this second mentioning of His Face (Countenance) means, “May He suppress His anger, meaning even if you are sinful, HaShem will show you special consideration and not punish you”. One’s face is an indication of his attitude toward someone else. If one is angry at his neighbor, he may refuse to look at him. If one has wronged or indebted his neighbor, he is ashamed to face him. When HaShem turns His face to Israel, so to speak, He symbolizes that He is not angry with us. As a result, we can lift our heads, despite our own unworthiness. More simply understood, as a mother or father’s face beams with joy when he lifts up their beloved child, so has G~d’s justice been fully satisfied. The Holy One’s compassion now flows outward to His children in loving grace.
Priestly Blessing
Rabbi Storch Speaking the Aaronic Benedition
Let’s also take a closer look at the words “grant” and “peace” in the third blessing. The Hebrew verb “sim” (שום) means to put, place, set, or grant. In Genesis 2:8, just as HaShem planted a Garden in Eden, it was there that He put the man (Adam). “Sim” literally means to ‘set down in a fixed and arranged place.

When we hear the word peace we usually think of the absence of war or conflict. However, the Hebrew “Shalom” (שלום) has a very different meaning. The root is “shalam” (שלם) and is usually used in context when making restitution. The verb shalam means to make whole, make amends or complete. When a person has caused another to become deficient, impaired, or injured it is the responsibility of the person who created the deficiency to restore it or make restitution. Shalom as a noun has a more literal meaning of being in a state of wholeness.

There are seven words in the final blessing, ‘Yisa Adonai panav eilecha v’yaseim l’cha shalom.” Seven corresponds with completeness. Seven also parallels to the Shabbat (Sabbath)—for there were six days to work and the seventh is to be given to HaShem for complete rest.

With the Hebraic understanding of each of these Hebrew words, we can better understand the true meaning of the Priestly Blessing as it was understood by the Ancient Hebrews:

HaShem will present to you gifts, as you knell before Him. He will guard you with a hedge of protection.

HaShem will illuminate the wholeness of His Being toward you, bringing order, and he will give you comfort and sustenance.

HaShem will lift up his wholeness of being and look upon you. ` He will set in place all you need to be whole and complete.

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