Naso 5783 – Sim Shalom
Who merits to be able to give a blessing? Naso is one of the longest Torah portions and it comes right after we received the Torah over Shavuot. It is filled with sacrifices, gifts, and blessings, but the most familiar is probably the Priestly Blessing, which Kohanim (priests) use to bless the people of Israel and parents say over children every Shabbat. When this blessing is recited in synagogues on Shabbat or holidays, it is preceded by a blessing recited by the Kohanim:
בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה’ אֱלֹקֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בִּקְדֻשָּׁתוֹ שֶׁל אַהֲרֹן וְצִוָּנוּ לְבָרֵךְ אֶת עַמּוֹ יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּאַהֲבָה
Blessed are you, God, who sanctified us with the holiness of Aaron and commanded us to bless the People of Israel with love
The “Love” at the end of that blessing is both unique and incredibly important. The Chasidic commentator Netivot Shalom (Rav Shalom Noach Berezovsky) quotes the Zohar which teaches that any priest who is not loved by the people and who does not love the people in return cannot raise their hands up to bless the people and participate in this mitzvah. He explains that the whole world and all of Gods creations were created through a system of “influencers and receivers” – משפיע ומקבל. For example, the earth is “influenced” by the sun and rain and as a result receives their blessings and is able to grow grass and vegetation. But this system only works when it is based on love. The sun and the rain love the earth, and this relationship causes literal blossoming. So too with human beings. Abraham blesses Isaac with love, Jacob blesses Joseph’s children with love, and so on.
A blessing needs love, and love also helps maintain the balance inherent in the blessing. Because we can have too much blessing! Just like we can have too much ice cream. Or too much of the life-giving force that is rain for the earth. When we pray for rain in the Geshem blessing on Shemini Atzeret (end of Sukkot), we say, “לברכה ולא לקללה” – “for blessing and not for a curse.” We want the right amount of blessing.
This blessing of balance is present especially in the priestly blessing. We say, “יברכך ה׳ וישמרך” – “May God bless you and protect you.” If we’re getting blessed, what need is there to also be protected? The protection is actually from the blessing! We want to be blessed, but we cannot get carried away with the blessing.
As I read this insight this week, I thought about the idea of being a mashpia, an influencer. It’s a real job these days! What does it mean to be an influencer and what kind of responsibility comes along with being one?
The priestly blessing ends with a blessing for peace, like so many of our blessings. The Amidah also concludes with a blessing for God to grant peace to all of us, Sim Shalom. This peace is a literal one, as well as a hope for contentment and balance.
Each one of us can be blessing influencers in the world, but how can we make sure that we are influencing through love?