By Rabbi Amichai Cohen
One of the most powerful expressions of love we can feel from someone is a blessing. It conveys both a deep sentiment as well as a comforting anchor of belief in ourselves, as well as in the entire human race. Can there really be someone who takes the time to bless me? That is a very humbling and heart warming experience.
What is a blessing according to the Torah?
The root of the word beracha ברכה is barech- ברך which can mean 3 things:
1. a knee
2. a pool
3. spelled backward means a vehicle.
What do these words have to do with a blessing?
Now proven by physics, we know that all physical vitality comes from a metaphysical and ethereal origin. In Kabbalah we call this "seder hishtalshelus"-order of down-chaining (check out our Live Kabbalah class on this in our Kabbalah Academy). What this basically means is just like within our physical bodies we embody our higher consciousness, within our higher faculties of our mind and heart and less consciousness within our lower faculties such as the feet. So too, there is a Divine flow of energy/light from the higher worlds to the lower worlds, and from the higher Sefirot to the lower Sefirot, all way down to the physical realm of the lowest world of Asiya (action) and the lowest Sefirah of Malchut (kingship) corresponding to the feet.
A beracha - blessing draws down the higher vitality and consciousness down into the physical and tangible realms of existence.
The Talmud says that anyone has the power and ability to bless. Tzadikim- righteous people are able to bless and know the origin of the individual blessings. They are able to draw the blessing down in a more clear and prominent way. There are many stories such as those of the Ba'al Shem Tov who knew how and where to channel the blessings and tailor them directly to the individual.
If this is true of any blessing, the priestly blessing is much stronger in it's blessing potency. The reason is because it is a Mitzvah which is found in the Torah: “Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: "This is how you shall bless the children of Israel . . . May G‑d bless you and guard you.
'May G‑d shine His countenance upon you and be gracious to you.
'May G‑d turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace.'" (Numbers 6:23)
Here is a short quote from the Zohar (Naso- Page 145a)
"It is a commandment that the priest shall bless the people every day by raised fingers and make a daily benediction, so that blessings will prevail above and below, since these fingers are in the uppermost secret, five within five, five of the right and five of the left. The five of the right have more importance than those of the left, since the right is more important than the left. Therefore, during the benediction with which the priest blesses the people, he needs to raise the right hand higher than the left and observe THE BLESSINGS with a good eye".
That we call G‑d Hashem is the transcendental confirmation of our significance in the scheme of things. We matter as individuals because G‑d cares for us as a parent for a child. That, incidentally, is one reason why the priestly blessings are all in the singular, to emphasize that G‑d blesses us not only collectively but also individually. One life, said the sages, is like a universe.
"May [the Lord] bless you": that your possessions shall be blessed. -יברכך: שיתברכו נכסיך [Midrash Tanchuma Naso 10, Sifrei Naso 1:144]
וישמרך- "and watch over you": that no thieves shall attack you and steal your money. For when one gives his servant a gift, he cannot protect it from other people. If robbers come and take it from him, what benefit has he [the servant] from this gift? As for the Holy One, blessed be He, however, He is the One who [both] gives and protects (Midrash Tanchuma, Naso 10). There are many expository interpretations in the Sifrei.
We find an explanation of this in the writings of the Alter Rebbe.
There is a discussion in the Talmud in Tractate Rosh Hashana as to why we have to pray every day for our sustenance, health, etc if everything was already allotted for the whole year on Rosh Hashana. According to Rabbi Yossi, we are judged each day and therefore need to pray for our sustenance each day. According to the Rabbis however, we are judged just on Rosh Hashana. If so, why do we need to pray each day?
The answer the Alter Rebbe gives is by combining both opinions of the Rabbis and Rabbi Yossi. We are judged on Rosh Hashana on the macro level as well as each day on the micro level. Depending on our actions we may not be deserving of the physical blessings and may receive the preordained blessings on the spiritual realm instead.
The Talmud explains that there are 2 modes of drawing down the daily allotment, prayer and the priestly blessings;
The priestly blessing causes each Jew's allotted measure of Divine kindness to descend swiftly through the myriad levels of reality, bypassing the roadblocks of judgment. We will see later on that after Korach's revolt God demonstrated His choice of the tribe of Levi for the Temple service, by causing Aaron's staff to sprout almonds. The significance of almonds is that they blossom swiftly, alluding to this property of the priestly blessing. The answer can be found in another saying of our sages: "each person is judged every day." Even though our yearly allotment of Divine beneficence has been determined on Rosh Hashanah, this beneficence must descend through the many levels of spiritual reality before it reaches the physical plane. At each "station" on the way "down," we are judged anew as to whether we deserve to have the beneficence "processed" to the next level, which is the physical realm, our physical possessions, money, etc.
We all are Kohanim and have an element of that power within. Lets bless others and may we all receive the infinite blessings of G-d in a revealed way in our physical world.
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