A. The Priestly Blessing
In this week’s Torah reading we learn about the priestly blessing (Source 1). The Sefer HaChinuch explains the reason behind it (Source 2). Maimonides describes the ceremony in the Holy Temple (Source 3) and how it is performed in contemporary synagogues (Source 4). Nowadays, the Levites wash the priests’ hands before the blessing (Source 5).
Story – Who can be a priest?
B. How Did Burglars Get Here?
Rashi explains the meaning of the words “And He will guard you,” that robbers won’t come to take your blessing (Source 6). The Rebbe asks, why do we need to negate robbery when talking about G-d’s blessing? The Rebbe e explains that “robbers” represent circumstances that impede the blessing from coming down to a person. An example of that is with Jacob, who feared Esau even though G-d had promised to watch over him. Jacob prayed that G-d save him, for perhaps he had sinned and the blessing was void (Source 7). To counter this fear, the verse adds “And I will guard you.” This guarding comes from such a high source that nothing can stop the blessing.
C. Why Peace?
The blessing concludes “And He will grant you peace.” This means that the blessing will come in a form that one is able to contain; it won’t be “too much of a good thing.”
This is what happened with Choni the Circle Drawer. As a result of his prayer, a deluge of rain came down, threatening to flood Jerusalem. Choni was forced to ask for it to stop, because the people couldn’t contain so much blessing (Source 8). The Rebbe notes that rain is indeed good, but when there’s excessive rain, it can have the opposite effect. The sun’s light is a classic example of the harm that excess can cause. Another example is the giving of the Torah at Sinai, when the Jews’ souls left their bodies (Source 9).
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This is the uniqueness of the priestly blessing. It ends with “peace,” a special blessing that we receive G-d’s gifts in a form that we are capable of assimilating.
D. A Blessing For Everyone
Most blessings come as a reward for doing a mitzvah. The priestly blessing, however, is accorded to everyone, unconditionally. The blessing is from G-d Himself, and the priests are simply a conduit (Source 10).
The Sephardic custom is for the priests to recite the blessing daily, while the Ashkenazic custom is to only bless on holidays (Source 11). The blessing received on the holiday lasts until the next holiday. Additionally, one can always visit their local Sephardic synagogue for an extra dose of blessing.