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The Great Priestly Blessing

Updated: May 30, 2023


Torah Portion: Naso ("lift up!")

Shabbat: June 3, 2023 Sivan 14, 5783

New Covenant: Acts 21:17-26


The Shema

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength”. Deut. 6:4-5


Our Torah portion for this coming week (i.e., parashat Naso, "lift up!") includes the cornerstone blessing that Aaron and his sons (i.e., the priests) were instructed to declare over the people of Israel: "The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD shine his face upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his face upon you and give you his peace" (Num. 6:24-26). Notice that the Hebrew text of the blessing (see below) begins with three words, is comprised of three parts, invokes the divine Name three times, and is therefore appropriately called "the three-in-one blessing" (שלוש בברכה אחת). Notice also that the words are spoken in the grammatical singular rather than plural because they are meant to have personal application, not to be a general benediction over a crowd of people. The phrase, "the LORD lift up his face upon you..." (ישא יהוה פניו אליך) pictures the beaming face of a parent lifting up his beloved child in joy... The repetitive construction of God "lifting up His face" (יהוה פניו אליך) indicates that he gazes upon you in love and blessing. Undoubtedly Yeshua recited this very blessing over his disciples when he ascended back to heaven, though He would have spoken it in the grammatical first person: "I bless you and keep you (אני אברך אותך ואשמור לך); I shine upon you and am full of grace toward you; I lift up my face toward you and give you my shalom" (see Luke 24:50-51).

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