Good Bless You

Rabbi Wagensberg
Parshas Shemini
Good Bless You

The Mishkan (Sanctuary) had been built. The inauguration ceremony had been completed. The people waited longingly. They held their breath. They looked on with wanting eyes. Would the Shechina (Divine Presence) rest on the work of their hands? Would they be forgiven for the terrible mistake of the Golden Calf?

Then, Moshe and Aharon disappeared into the Tabernacle. It was the moment of truth. The whole world seemed to have stood still. Was this it? Would they be disappointed? Would they forever be scarred with the stain of guilt?

Suddenly, it happened! The Shechina came streaking down! God's Presence could be seen! God still loves us! He has accepted our offering! Jubilation filled the Jewish camp!

Moshe and Aharon emerged. Satisfaction was apparent on their faces. They looked lovingly at their people and blessed them with the famous Birchas Kohanim (Priestly Blessings; Ben Ish Chai Derushim, Lv. 9:23).

Now, when the Jewish people are doing the will of God, they are called "Ami" (My people). However, when the Jews are not doing the will of God, they are merely called "Am" (nation). For example, when God expressed compassion for the oppressed Jews in Egypt, he sent Moshe to Pharaoh with the message stating, "Send out "Ami" so that they may serve Me (Ex. 4:23). The Jews who maintained Jewish identity in an impossible situation were considered doing God's will. Therefore, they were affectionately called "Ami."

However, after the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf, Hashem said, "I have seen this "Am," and behold they are a stiff necked "Am" (Ex. 32:9). Since the Jews stooped to such a low level, they were guilty of going directly against God's will. Therefore, they were disgracingly called "Am." There are many verses that follow this pattern (Ben Ish Chai).

Perhaps we could suggest that the Birchas Kohanim fit the occasion because the whole difference between the word "Ami" and the word "Am" is a letter yud, and Birchas Kohanim is unique because no matter how you slice it, it always comes up yud. For example, the three blessings of Birchas Kohanim all begin with the letter yud: "Yivarechechah, Yaer, Yisa.

Moreover, the letter yud is numerically ten, and the letter yud is spelled yud, vov, dalet. Now, when you remove the yud from the vov and the dalet, you will see that not only is the yud numerically ten, but the vov (6) and dalet (4) together also equals ten (Kli Yakar, Nu. 6:24).

This demonstrates that there are both revealed (yud) and hidden (vov dalet) blessings being imparted to the people. Revealed blessings refer to blessings that relate to the outer body physically, whereas the hidden blessings refer to the inner soul spiritually.

Perhaps we could add that this is why both Moshe and Aharon blessed the Jews with Birchas Kohanim. Moshe, who brought down the Luchos (Tablets) represents the Written Law which is revealed. Thus, Moshe blessed them with physical blessings which are apparent on the outside. However, Aharon, who was put in charge of lighting the Menorah which represents the Oral Law, represents the Oral Tradition which is hidden. Therefore, Aharon blessed them with spiritual blessings that are on the inside.

Parenthetically, the number ten is hinted to in the verse that says, "And Aharon lifted 'Es Yado' (his hand) towards the people and blessed them" (Lv. 9:22). When you change the vowels around a little bit, the word "Yado" (his hand) can be pronounced "Yudo" (his yud). This suggests that by lifting "Yado" (his hands), Aharon was blessing them with Birchas Kohanim which is connected to the letter yud.

However, there is an even greater lesson being taught by the connection between "Yado" and "Yudo." From the time that the Jews sinned with the Golden Calf until this point in time, the Jews were merely referred to as "Am" because they were guilty of going against God's will. But, with the Mishkan and its service, the Jews were being forgiven for that sin, thus, fulfilling God's will. As such, they were being transformed from just an "Am" to "Ami."

Therefore, when Aharon lifted "Yado", he was not only picking his hands up, but he was also returning "Yudo", the letter yud to the Jewish people, turning them once again into "Ami." I guess it's not shocking to find that when Kohanim bless the nation, they lift their ten fingers, representing the ten blessings being given.

As we mentioned, it wasn't just Aharon who blessed the people with Birchas Kohanim, but Moshe also did. That would mean that they both lifted their two hands in order to bless the people. Now, each hand has fourteen knuckles plus a palm equaling fifteen parts of a hand. Since there were four hands being raised by both Moshe and Aharon, there were sixty parts blessing them. The number sixty is not arbitrary because there just so happens to be sixty letters in Birchas Kohanim.

So, whether we are present for Birchas Kohanim everyday in Shul, or when we bless our children with Birchas Kohanim on Friday nights, or when we say the Birchas Kohanim each day after Birchas HaTorah, let us keep in mind that we are trying to move further away from being just an "Am" and instead move a little closer to being "Ami."

This means that we are going to try a little harder to use the body and its physicality to satisfy the needs of the soul and spirituality. This will result in the entire universe working together harmoniously. This is called scoring a ten! Shalom Al Yisrael!

May we all be blessed, ten times over, with materialism and spirituality working together harmoniously in the service of God.