The oldest piece of biblical writing ever discovered is the priestly blessing, the Birkat HaKohanim, from today’s Torah portion. It was found on an amulet from almost three thousand years ago. It is the world’s oldest blessing in
It is part of one of my favorite aspects of the holiday service,
particularly the High Holidays. The blessing is recited by the
descendants of the priesthood in a service called duchaning. The
Duchan is the platform the priesthood stood on in the Holy Temple in
Jerusalem when they blessed the people. It is the last thing we do
from the time of Temple that is exactly the same today as it was
The blessing is also part of the morning service every day. There was a
debate whether a layperson or a non priest could say it. The answer
is that everyone can, because we are all to be a nation of priests, a
nation that is a blessing for all.
We say the blessing during the morning service as a reminder that all
people are worthy of blessing and that all people have great
potential for goodness. This is especially important for the leaders
of our people to remember. In fact one may not lead services if one
does not love and respect the congregation.
Birkat HaKohanim is the blessing we give children every Friday night. I want
to focus one aspect of the blessing in particular.The third section
is yisa hashem panav ailecha vyasem lecha shalom. Literally, God will
lift His face toward you and give you peace. It is a strange phrase.
It should be God will lower his face toward you.
I think this means that God believes in our potential goodness so much,
that He would have to look up to us.
This is important to keep in mind when we are a part of any child’s life.
Each child has the potential to be the kind of person we look up to,
a person of strength and moral courage and kindness. This is not always obvious or apparent all the time, but that potential is always there.
Each one of us, too, has this potential inside of us regardless of age.
This is why we say the blessing every day. We should never say it is
too late to accomplish our goals in life, as long as those are goals
that will benefit others and not just ourselves.
Each of us can be a person that God looks up to.