A blessing for you
by Jhos Singer
A dizzying array of rituals, censuses, sacrifices and job descriptions fill this week’s Torah portion, Nasso (Numbers 4:21-7:89). And smack in the middle of the hurly burly is one whopper of a blessing:
May God bless you and protect you
May God’s face illuminate and be gracious to you,
May God’s face be lifted to you and place peace in you
These are among the most famous, oft repeated and ecumenical words in the Hebrew Bible, and rightly so. They capture exactly what most of us crave spiritually, physically, psychologically and emotionally— to be cared for, to be safe, to be seen, and to be comforted.
Aptly they occur almost randomly in the midst of a flurry of human activity—tasks needing our attention, cases to hear, numbers to crunch and wrongs to right. The preoccupation with keeping the spiritual scales balanced through the temple rites fills page after page with arcane rules regarding priestly power, the feral nature of public tribunals, and the establishment of a cosmic social order delineating who is who and what is what. And there wedged between all of that formality are words of blessing, to be bestowed from human to human, as if to remember what all the fuss is about.
Like us, our ancient forebears lived busy, difficult lives. They suffered bouts of jealous rage, they lifted and carried, and they struggled into and out of sociological pigeonholes. They erred and dared, doing whatever was necessary to ensure their survival while also discovering their purpose, their destiny, their legacy. And like us, right in the middle of their train wrecks and triumphs, they needed blessings to stay the course.
Modern culture is woefully lacking in this simple practice—perhaps this week’s Torah portion is a reminder that even amidst the blaring activity gets and unpaid bills, even when wrongs have yet to be righted, what really counts, what we remember and return to most, what sustains and inspires us, are our blessings.
As this Shabbat arrives, with its invitation to let go of the week’s clattering business long enough to enter into the rarified time of spiritual liberation, take a moment to review your blessings. Step in even deeper; wrap these words around yourself, those you love, and even those you don’t: May you be cared for and safe, may you be filled with light and grace, and may every twist and turn in the path ahead bring you closer to fullness and peace. Amen. Amen.
Blessin’s, for real—Jhos