Naso – Bircat Kohanim
And G-d spoke to Moshe saying. Speak to Aharon and his sons saying, this is how you should bless Benie Yisrael, say to them. May G-d bless you and watch you. May G-d lighten his face to you and find grace in you. May G-d raise his face to you and put peace on you. And they will put my name on Benie Yisrael and I will bless them.
In ancient Canaan the priests were the gatekeepers of the Gods Believe it or not, they were allegedly empowered to decide who the gods would bless. If they knew the correct utterance they could control the gods every actions. If they liked someone or were paid a lot of money they could divvy out blessings. They could also do the opposite.
Many say that Judaism is diametrically opposed to such concepts. Utterances do not have magical powers. When you say a statement starting with the phrase “May G-d do” and finish it off with a nice blessing or a nasty curse, you are doing nothing more and nothing less than prayer.
I am confident that if you did research into all of the Mitzvot in the Torah and found all of the utterances which seem to be magical utterances you would find that all of them were just prayers to G-d.
This idea is heavily reflected in the Bircat Kohanim. Here we find a Mitzvah from G-d commanding the Kohanim to bless. They do not have the option of what to say. They can not curse. Even in the commandment to bless they do not have any free room to choose the words.
The Ibn Shushan Concordance says that the word Beracha – Blessing means to wish someone well. Cassuto says that this is diametrically opposed to the beliefs of the Canaanites who thought that any statement of words brings the wish to fruition. Stating the Blessing that someone should be successful was believed to be the sole cause of success.
In codifying the laws about The Blessing of the Priests our rabbis strengthened this concept. They said that a Kohen may not bless if he harbors ill feelings towards the congregation. While blessing he does not even have freedom of thought.
The wording of the blessing reflects this concept of opposing magical beliefs. The Kohen does not utter a command that G-d will shine his face on the people. Instead the blessing starts out by saying that G-d should bless you. This shows you that the Kohen is not the source of the blessing but G-d is “G-d should bless you and watch over you.”
The second of the three Blessings prays that G-d should shine his face on you and find you pleasing.”
The final blessing also demonstrate that G-d does the blessing and no one else. The Kohen must pray that G-d should raise his face up for you and should give you peace.
This blessing is greater than the previous in that it prays specifically for G-d to raise his face and give special attention to you.
The greatest blessing of all which can come only from G-d is peace. “Shalom – Peace” is the one word which contains everything good. It includes peaceful boundaries, friendly neighbors, a good marriage, a feeling of the presence of G-d, self contentment and more. A blessing with so many variables can only come from G-d who runs the world.
In case some did not get the message from the introduction to the blessing or from the blessing itself. The paragraph is ended by saying I will bless them, not the Kohanim.
This end of the Blessing is that the Jews should have the name of G-d put on them. This designates them as a people of G-d.
A most important lesson is the last two words which in Hebrew say “I will bless them. The singular is used because the prerequisite of all blessing is unity. (Hertz). In the absence of unity no peace or blessing can exist.