A Blessing for an Activist Community
Inspired by the priestly benediction.
Provided by American Jewish World Service, pursuing global justice through grassroots change.
Even before the children of Israel receive the Ten Commandments, they are told by God, "you are to be a mamlekhet kohanim," a kingdom of priests.
One of our first communal obligations is to act as a nation of kohanim. How do we manifest this proclamation? How are we to embody this task in our daily lives and bring it into our homes, our places of work, and our world? To shed light on our role as a mamlekhet kohanim, this week's parashah offers helpful insight into one of the core responsibilities of the priests of the Temple, namely, to bless the people.
As the kohanim transmitted God's blessing to the Israelites, we too must transmit God's blessing to all people. To bless others is to serve as conduits of God's blessing, God's generosity, and God's light. Blessing opens a channel for holiness to enrich the lives of both the blessers and the blessed.
In Parashat Naso, Aaron and his sons--the original kohanim--are given the liturgical formula to use when blessing the Israelites. This blessing is called the birkat kohanim and it remains a centerpiece of the Jewish prayer service.
The words of the blessing offer an insight into the nature of our responsibility as a nation of priests in the larger world. Birkat kohanim is both an exhortation toward social responsibility and a humbling reminder that the Source of Life is at the helm of creation. The birkat kohanim reads:
May God bless you and keep you.
May the light of God's Face shine upon you and bring you grace.
May God's Face be lifted upon you and grant you peace.
May God Bless You and Keep You
By blessing others, we become channels of the Divine. According to Rabbi Arthur Green, "[In the act of blessing,] we make a statement of mutual relationship, that we are givers as well as receivers." To be blessed is to be protected by God and to bless others is to contribute to the protection and welfare of those whom we are blessing.
We acknowledge the blessing of our own lives by living lives dedicated to justice and healing, by taking seriously our role as conduits for goodness in the world. By living lives of humility and by acting for good, we recognize our interdependence with God, with other people, and with the earth.