Parashat Naso — Reflections on the Meaning of Peace

<b>“Reflections on the Meaning of Peace”</b>

This week’s parasha, parashat Naso, includes the well-known “Priestly Blessings,” the brief but beautiful, threefold blessing that Moses instructs the Priests (Kohanim)–the children of Aaron, to bestow upon the People of Israel.

Known in Hebrew asבִּרְכַּת כֹּהֲנִים–Birchat Kohanim, the three verses (Numbers 6:24-26), that constitute this blessing consist of only fifteen words. The three blessings have a lyrical rhythmic form, and reflect a majestic solemnity.

According to the Talmud, Birchat Kohanim was one of the most impressive features of the service in the ancient Temple in Jerusalem. Today, it still holds a prominent place in daily and holiday synagogue worship.

The first and briefest blessing (Numbers 6:24)(only three words) יְבָרֶכְךָ השׁם, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ, is the blessing that G-d will guard over Israel. The second blessing (Numbers 6:25) יָאֵר השׁם פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ, is the blessing that G-d will shine His face on Israel and be gracious unto them. The final blessing (Numbers 6:26), יִשָּׂא השׁם פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם, is the blessing that G-d lift up His countenance toward Israel and grant them peace.

The structure of the blessings indicates that the final blessing of peace is the ultimate blessing. The power of the blessing of peace can be better appreciated from the Talmudic statement in Uktzin 3:12, the concluding statement of the Babylonian Talmud. Rabbi Simeon ben Halafta said, “The Holy One, blessed be He, found no vessel that could better contain blessing for Israel except that of peace, as it is written, Psalm 29:11, “The L-rd will give strength onto His people. The L-rd will bless His people with peace.”

Rabbi Eliezer HaKappar, cited in Midrash Tanchuma 7, says that peace is great because G-d concludes all His blessings with the word, peace, “Shalom,” a reference to the final blessing of Numbers 6:26, May G-d lift up His countenance toward Israel and grant them peace. Shabbat Shalom