This week’s Torah portion, Naso, presents us with a variety of themes. There is the strange ritual of the sotah (chapter 5) on the one hand; and in Numbers 6, the description of what has come to be one of, if not the most recognized blessings that we have: the so-called Priestly blessing.
That blessing begins with the words “May God bless you and keep you”. There is a traditional Midrash on Numbers called Sifri. In that Midrash, there is a translation of “bless you” as in “with possessions”. ( Sefaria). In his comment on this passage, Rabbi Twerski (z’l) sees this as meaning “wealth” (“Living Each Week” p.299) I suggest that this nuanced sense of blessing as wealth can have great meaning for us. For it is not material wealth that I suggest the Torah commentaries can mean, but the spiritual wealth that we may have. This has great relevance at our age, for as we get older, we, I hope, come to understand that real wealth can be seen in the blessings of family and relationshiops.
This carries forward the idea of what it means to be blessed and to be a blessing. In a way, to look at this section of Naso in this way allows us to move off of a position of seeing blessings as originating in some Being, but as being a manifestation of human actions. “The words in this passage suggest instead that God blesses us through the agency, actions, and words of other human beings” (“A Year With Mordecai Kaplan”. P.138). So much of modern life is so complex and wanting that this portion can remind us that we are the agents blessing in life and we receive blessings from others in how they act. So perhaps, that Priestly benediction from this week’s reading can also be translated as: may you act in such a way that your actions bring blessing to others”
We are the agents of blessing, and rarely has this been more important than in these past few years. We cannot look to some Being or power to bring blessings to our world, our life, our family. True blessing originates and flows through each of us.
Rabbi Richard F Address
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.