Our Torah portion, Nasso, contains three verses that have come to hold power and invoke deep emotions in our community. The words of the Priestly Blessing are few and mighty. It is believed that as the high priest recited these words that God would shield those blessed with protection and grace. The text has a linguistic structure of rhythm and increases from three to five to seven words.
I’ve said these words hundreds of times. I didn’t grow up with them being recited anywhere. It just wasn’t something that took hold in the Reform community of the Midwest in the seventies and eighties. I first recited these words when I became a mother.
I remember my first shabbat as a new mother with my newborn, surrounded by newly fashioned grandparents all of us standing on new territory. Blessing Yoni for the first time and learning the words gave the deeply stirring feelings in my heart shape and form. What I didn’t know then was that being on the Wilshire Boulevard Temple bima I would become more familiar with these words and the deep emotion and soul they represent. The words have only increased in their power and hold over my heart and soul. They have helped me bless and hold my own three children and in so many other places as well. On the Early Childhood bima, Brawerman Birthday Kabbalat Shabbats, Confirmation, graduations, ECC Kadima ceremonies, High Holidays, under the chuppah, and standing before b’nai mitzvah families on their special day these words never fail. The words and their rhythm continue to give the feelings in my heart a familiar, uplifting, and inspired vehicle to welcome God into the most precious of life's moments.
I and my fellow clergy members are called upon to recite these words countless times. Though the words are now so familiar and have a way of rolling off our tongues, please know that each time we do, each time we stand together with you on sacred ground, the words are renewed again and again.
יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ ה' וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ׃
יָאֵ֨ר ה' פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ׃
יִשָּׂ֨א ה' פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם׃
May God bless you and protect you in your journeying, in your home and on your way, when you are aware of the presence of God and when you have forgotten.
May God be kind to you and gracious to you so that you may in turn be kind and gracious with one another.
May you always know that God is close- as close as your heart beat and as close as your breath. And may God grant you peace in your heart and peace in your world. Peace as you step forward from a place of holiness and create more places of holiness for you so that your life and the stirrings of your heart find shape and form. (Numbers 6:24-26 plus my own twist.)