Naso: The Enzyme of Blessings

The night before I commenced rabbinical school, I opened my new copy of The Complete Artscroll Siddur, an assigned text for my first class in Jewish liturgy.  The introductory essay by Rabbi Nosson Scherman included this intriguing sentence: “To the extent that we improve ourselves with prayer, we become capable of absorbing God’s blessing.”  

That was a wonderful insight with which to begin, not just my formal study of Jewish prayer and liturgy, but a substantially increased personal prayer practice.  

I had previously considered prayer as a spiritual attempt -- always difficult, usually unsuccessful -- to communicate with … G-d (whatever that meant), my subconscious, the universe, etc.  As for “God’s blessings,” I regarded these as the favorable circumstances, things, and benefits that I and others received.  It had not occurred to me that prayer facilitated the absorption of blessings, like enzymes that aid our digestion. 

This week’s Torah portion, Naso, includes the familiar Priestly Benediction:

The Lord Bless you and keep you!
The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you!
The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace!

The verses immediately preceding and following these state, “The Lord spoke to Moses: 'Speak to Aaron and his sons: Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them: [Benediction]' Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them.” 

The words of the Priestly Benediction, then, usually spoken by rabbis during prayer services and by parents praying on Shabbat evening for the wellbeing of their children, mark the moment during prayer when we strive hardest to prepare ourselves to absorb maximum blessings.  

I usually stand straight, with eyes shut and hands cupped upwards.  I try to  intensify the sensation of receiving and absorbing Divine emanations of blessings.  It helps!  Just as wrapping myself in Talit and Tefillin helps me feel embraced by blessings, standing and feeling the power of the Priestly Benediction helps me feel blessed and empowered.  

In just about every other area of life, we practice to get better at whatever we consider important.  Why not try it with prayer, and thus improve our ability to absorb and feel the blessings in our lives?  

Shabbat shalom u’mvorach… May you experience a peaceful and blessed Shabbat! 

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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb