This week’s reading contains one of my favorite prayers: the Priestly Blessing. I think this prayer is at the core of our relationship with the divine.
It’s said at very special times in the Jewish calendar, though my memory is that it was said whenever I went to services. I think so because I reveled in hearing the deep-voiced rabbi bless us all, with both hands outstretched (in a way that mirrors the Vulcan salute that Spock gives on Star Trek when he says, “Live long and prosper.”)
The three lines are profound and powerful. The prayer creates a womb of love and protection for each and all. If you surrender to it, you’re filled with the feeling that nothing can harm you and that you are an extension of holy light.
Here’s what I remember from my childhood, with apologies to those who don’t like the G word: May God bless you and keep you. May the light of God’s countenance shine upon you and be gracious unto you. May God’s face be lifted unto you and may all your paths be paths of peace.
Hard to have a bad day when you’re held in that.
The Priestly Blessing is about being illuminated from without, and of taking that holy light into your beingness, so you are also illuminated from within. Of having your holy spark rekindled. Of bringing that spark into every aspect of how you breathe and live.
That’s a whole lot of prayer rolled into three lines. And a direct key to the heart of why we pray: We want to be and feel loved. We want a divinity that will help us make and enjoy a life of protection and peace.
But the world’s not at peace. Even we aren’t always at peace, within ourselves or towards others. This blessing asks us to create peace so that we and everyone can enjoy it.
Shalom is one anchor of the prayer. The other is “graciousness,” an expansive, inviting quality untroubled by fear or desire. Most of us aren’t in that state often enough. Our prayers are too often about wanting something or avoid something. An ailment healed, or maybe help at work. A shiny red bike or its adult variations. Give me generally outweighs me giving you.
When our personal stories take up all our time and attention it’s easy to miss the bigger picture, what we’re here to do not only for ourselves but for others. If we’re reminded regularly to be, to truly let in HaShem’s light, something changes. We’re prompted to elevate our wishes for a more gracious world for everyone.
The Priestly Blessing offers us a safe place for the most tender and vulnerable parts of ourselves. The ones we think no one ever sees, or that no one would love if they did. The ones we most fear might be wounded or misunderstood. The Priestly Blessing gives us the knowing that we will be loved and blessed regardless. It gives us hope for both inner and outer peace.
Does this blessing give you what you need? If you were writing the priestly blessing, what would it say?