Naso – Blessed with the Best
The three-fold blessing of the Kohanim appears in this week’s reading of Naso. The ‘Priestly Blessing’ has been romanticized in Jewish tradition. It is recited by members of the priestly family daily in Israel as well as in some diaspora communities, and during festivals in other diaspora communities. It is the basis of the weekly blessing parents bestow upon their children on Friday nights as well as the template for blessings delivered at occasions such as Bar Mitzvahs. This blessing has good reason to have such prominence. Its simple structure and its delightful brevity no doubt contribute to this, but it also has profound meaning and intent beyond its literal translation.
May the Lord bless and safeguard you. May the Lord shine His countenance toward you and be gracious to you. May the Lord lift His countenance to you and establish peace for you. (Numbers 6:24-26)
The first line of the three-fold blessing is interpreted by our tradition as material blessings. Rabbi S. R. Hirsch explains that the Midrash was compelled to interpret this line as material blessing because the last word of the first line, safeguarding, can apply only to materialism. A spiritual blessing should not require external protection. That this blessing needs the guarantee afforded by protection indicates to us that the ‘blessing’ referred to is of a material nature.
In the well known ethical work “Duties of the Heart” there are three different reasons offered for wealth being visited upon a person. It can be either a test, a benefit or a punishment of sorts. The test of wealth is signified by the intensive worry that accompanies prosperity, including the obsession over the portfolio value and its rise and fall in the money markets. Such a person will not have much ability to draw pleasure from his wealth.