Naso

YHWH spoke to Moses: Tell Aaron and his sons: Thus you shall bless the people of Israel: “The Lord bless you and keep you!  The Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you!  The Lord lift his face to you and give you peace!”  Thus they shall place my name on the people of Israel, and I Myself will bless them.”  Num 6:22-27.

“Bless” describes a full circle of relation between the upper and lower worlds.  From above it is the infusion of life, of all the things that permit joy, security and wholeness, as it is said “and YHWH blessed Abraham in everything” (Gen 24:1).  From below, it is an expression of praise and gratitude, as it is said, “And David blessed YHWH” (1 Chr 29:10).   The two acts are mirrors of each other, and form a single circuit.

Other verbs in this blessing also have a reciprocal nature.  God “keeps” us and we “keep” God, or at least we “keep” those sacred duties God has given us.  One is reminded of Ibn Ezra’s poem, “Ki eshmera shabbat, El yishmereini” (if I keep the Sabbath, God will keep me).

One “lifts up” the face when one is pleased (cf. Psalm 4:6, Ezra 9:6, Genesis 4:6).  When God “lifts up his face” to us, that lifts up our faces.  Perhaps, for an instant, our eyes meet.

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4 Comments to “Naso”

  1. In verse 6:23 we see the Hebrew words “amor lahem/say to them”. Amor lahem directly precedes the words of the Priestly Blessing, as G-d tells Moses: ‘Speak to Aaron and to his sons, saying: in this way you shall bless the children of Israel; SAY TO THEM: May G-d bless you and keep you…’

    The word amor means “say”. Typically, this word is written in shorthand, aleph-mem-reish. But, in this instance, the Torah spells out the word in its entirety, aleph-mem-vav-reish, with one extra letter, a vav. Regarding this spelling, Rashi comments that this is a warning to the Priests, “you shall not bless the people hurriedly but rather you shall bless them with the utmost of intent and with a full heart.” When blessing others, either explicitly or implicitly, we must bless with genuine intent and a full heart.

  2. Thanks, Michael. I had actually left that phrase out of my translation in my “hurry” to get to the substance of the blessing.

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