Blessings Reaching Everyone
Rabbi Rami Pavolotzky
On this week’s parasha we find the priestly blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), perhaps the most famous blessing in the Torah and, arguably, in the Jewish tradition.
When God tells Moses to command Aaron and his sons to bless the Children of Israel he says, “Speak to Aaron and his sons: Thus, shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them” (Numbers 6:23). The famous Rabbi Yisrael Taub from Modzitz (Poland, 1849–1920) taught an important lesson from the word “thus” that appears in this verse (ko, in Hebrew). He explained that “thus,” or “this way,” the cohanim had to bless the Children of Israel, meaning, bless them as they are, or where they are.
The Torah requires the priests to bless all the Children of Israel where they are. They are not to bless only the “important ones,” the more wealthy, powerful, knowledgeable or pious. No, they are required to bless everyone.
With this commandment the Torah makes a point on how we should approach people, as everyone deserves the blessing from the cohanim. Everyone deserves dignity, love and peace, independently of their economic or social status. This is also a good guide on how we should treat members of Jewish institutions, including congregations. We must make our best effort so everyone feels like they are being taken care of. The “blessing” should touch everyone, not only big donors or prominent leaders.
This may sound easy, or even cliche, but it is something with which so many Jewish institutions struggle. Naturally, big donors and prominent leaders have to be heard and recognized. However, that is no excuse to neglect everyone else. We must be constantly evaluating how every person feels, and verify if everyone is being heard, welcomed and appreciated. In a Jewish institution, and in particular in a Jewish congregation, blessings have to reach everyone.