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A Pre-Shabbat Blessing

05/20/2021 02:53:18 PM


My parents were once on a canoe tour with a guide one Friday. As they were paddling along the rivers, their cell-phone rang and my parents answered the call. Amidst the wildlife and plants of nature, floating on the serene waters that redirected the lazy breeze, I imagine my parents chatting on the phone opposite a grumpy tour guide who resented this couple who could not leave their cellphones at home. But what the tour guide didn’t know is that on the other end of cellphone was this couple’s son, who was calling with a calling card from a payphone in some other time zone, hoping to connect for his shabbat blessing during some downtime on a summer trip. What eluded this tour guide was the fact that every Friday, amidst the pre-shabbat hustle, I connect with my parents for my shabbat blessing, and take a quick moment to check in. It’s a ritual that my parents and I take quite seriously.

The words of the blessing offered to children as we welcome shabbat is taken from this week’s portion. Parshat Naso explains “Speak to Aaron and his sons: Thus, shall you bless the people Israel. Say to them: The Lord bless you and protect you! The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you! The Lord bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace” (Numbers 6:23-26). These are the same words that our Kohanim use to bless our congregation with on holidays, as a continued fulfillment of this instruction from the Torah. But my parents aren’t priests. Nor are the countless parents who share these prayers for a peaceful and blessed week to come with their children. Do these words have the same power if not shared by someone from a priestly family?

One feature about Judaism that is often taken for granted is the access that every individual Jew has to the Divine. Whereas some other religions rely on a class of leaders that serve as intermediaries between the holy and the secular, Judaism believes that God is close to all who call Him. While it is true that in biblical times, the priests had such an intermediary role between the people and the Divine, once the Temple was destroyed, drawing close to God become more personal and intimate. Instead of bringing sacrifices that had to be offered in a special state of purity for both the worshiper and the priest, now a person could open their hearts and a prayer book and have God’s metaphorical ear. And thus, words that used to be offered by priests, now are spoken by people with deep convictions and similar intimacy with holiness and God.  

After more than a year, I am grateful to have my parents offer this blessing to me in person, without the electronic medium, for this blessing transcends cell-towers and even canoe nature tours. I pray that as this pandemic winds down, that more and more families can find the chance to connect pre-shabbat, and find the words of blessing that they can share with each other. 

Shabbat Shalom

Sat, May 25 2024 17 Iyyar 5784