Parashat Naso: Birkat Kohanim and Shabbat
The Torah in Parashat Naso presents the Misva of Birkat Kohanim – the special blessing with which the Kohanim are to bless the people each day. G-d introduces this Misva by saying to Moshe, “Speak to Aharon and his sons, saying: So shall you bless the Children of Israel – say to them, ‘G-d shall bless you and protect you…’”
Rashi notes the unusual verb form used in this verse reference to the Kohanim’s blessing – “Amor.” To explain the meaning of this word, Rashi comments that it resembles two famous terms used in reference to the Misva of Shabbat – “Zachor” (“remember”) and “Shamor” (“observe”). Grammatically, this means that the word “Amor” connotes consistency, that is to say, the Kohanim should always use this text when blessing the people, just as “Zachor” and “Shamor” require us to always have the observance of Shabbat on our minds throughout the week, on an ongoing basis.
The question remains, however, as to why Rashi brought specifically these examples of this grammatical construction. There are other instances in Tanach where this verb form appears. If Rashi chose to cite the examples of “Zachor” and “Shamor,” it appears that he found some connection between Shabbat and Birkat Kohanim.
The Kedushat Siyon (Rav Bentzion Halberstam, the second Rebbe of Bobov, 1874-1941) explained that Shabbat is unique among all the sacred days we observe in that it is determined entirely by G-d. All the holidays are observed on specific dates on the calendar, and thus they depend on the monthly declaration of the new month made by the Sanhedrin (the highest Rabbinical court; nowadays, we used the fixed calendar system, instituted by the great sage Hillel). Shabbat, however, occurs every seventh day without any input whatsoever from the Jewish People. It arrives entirely independent of anything we do.
For this reason, the Kedushat Siyon explains, Rashi alluded to a comparison between Birkat Kohanim and Shabbat. The Midrash notes that the Misva of Birkat Kohanim might mislead us into thinking that the Jewish People’s blessing depends on the Kohanim, that they are empowered to bring us prosperity and success. But this is incorrect, and in fact, G-d concludes the command of Birkat Kohanim by proclaiming, “Va’ani Abarechem” – “I will bless them.” For reasons which we do not necessarily understand, G-d wanted the blessing to come through the Kohanim, but the source of the blessing is G-d, not the Kohanim. When the Kohanim bless us in the synagogue, it is really G-d who is giving us a Beracha.
This is the connection between Shabbat and Birkat Kohanim. Although we are obligated to observe Shabbat, it is sacred regardless of what we do; similarly, although the Kohanim bless us, the blessing in truth depends on G-d.
We must never belittle the importance of Birkat Kohanim, whereby we receive a Beracha directly from G-d. Many people will travel across the world to Israel to receive blessings from famous Rabbis, but they do not have the patience to wait in the synagogue until Musaf on Shabbat to receive an extra blessing from G-d Himself. Each day, we are given a special privilege to receive a Beracha from G-d Himself. Let us take advantage of this opportunity by attending the service and paying close attention to this Beracha, so we will be the beneficiaries of the greatest blessing at all – the blessing that comes directly from G-d, the source of all blessings in the world.