Friday, May 17, 2013

The Blessing of Focus

The Torah Portion this week, Nasso, includes perhaps one of the best known biblical passages, what we often call the Priestly Blessing: 'The Lord spoke to Moses, “Speak to Aaron and his sons, ‘Thus you will bless the people of Israel. Say to them, The Lord bless you and protect you! The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you! The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace!’ Thus you will link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”' The Rabbis do much to explain this blessing to us, in which God offers us six different things - blessing, protection, kindness, grace, favor, and peace - a pretty good deal for one blessing! One way I think about the blessings we receive in this blessings comes from the way in which the Jewish people are to receive the blessing when it is given. In those communities in which the kohanim, the priests, still offer this blessing (I find it among the most moving rituals of our liturgy), the congregation is meant to stand silently, looking away from the priests, often by covering their heads with their prayer shawls, and focus on the blessing, primarily through listening. I think we learn something from the way this ritual is performed. The ritual teaches us that one of God's greatest blessings to us it the ability to focus, even intently focus, on a thing. To be able to work hard, study hard, to really examine something or some relationship is a true gift that God gives us. It can even, much like the priestly blessing itself, produce many benefits from just one source. So this week, as we read the words of the Priestly Blessing in the Torah, take time to pause and really reflect on the opportunities that come to us from God's blessings. Shabbat Shalom, Aaron Benson

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