The Priestly Blessing

Parshat Naso 5772

This week’s parsha includes the Priestly Blessing.

The Priestly Blessing – Source

Here are the relevant verses from Bamidbar – Numbers.

Numbers Chapter 6

22 The Lord spoke to Moses saying:
23 Speak to Aaron and his sons, saying: This is how you shall bless the children of Israel, saying to them:
24 “May the Lord bless you and watch over you.
25 May the Lord cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you.
26 May the Lord raise His countenance toward you and grant you peace.”
27 They shall bestow My Name upon the children of Israel, so that I will bless them.

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My Question

Verse 27 ends with the phrase “so that I will bless them.”

It is clear that God is the One who is doing the blessing. However, it’s not clear is who is the recipient of the blessing.

What do you think?

Is God blessing the Jewish people? That is, the priests / kohanim pronounce the Priestly Blessing, and, as a result, God blesses the people.


Because the priests blessed the Jewish people, God now blesses the priests.

Rashi’s Answer

Tombstone showing how the priests help their hands during the Priestly Blessing

Rashi says that both approaches are correct.

Here’s my translation of his comment:

And I will bless them – [means] to Israel and I will agree with the priests.

Another explanation – and I will bless them – [means] to the priests.

Rashi’s Source

We find this passage in the Gemara (Chullin 49a, Soncino translation):

For it was taught; [it is written], “On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel.”

R. Ishmael said: We observe here a blessing for Israel at the mouth of the priests, but we know of no blessing for the priests themselves; when the verse adds: “And I will bless them,” it means to say that, the priests bless Israel, and the Holy One, blessed be He, blesses the priests.

R. Akiva said: We observe here a blessing for Israel at the mouth of the priests but not from the Almighty; when the verse therefore adds: “And I will bless them,” it means to say that the priests bless Israel, and the Holy One, blessed be He, approves of it.

Notice that Rashi reversed the order of the opinions in the Gemara.

One commentator states that Rashi changed the order because the approach of Rabbi Akiva is more likely the true peshat of the verse’s meaning.

Take a close look at Verse 27. What do you see in the wording that favors Rabbi Akiva’s explanation?

Your Turn

Please share your questions and suggested answers in the comments.

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Picture Credit: from Flickr.

A Note on the Translations
The translation of Bible verses is based on the Judaica Press Tanach.
The translation of Gemara is based on the Soncino Talmud.
Click here to grab your copy of my free ebook How to Learn Chumash with Rashi.

2 thoughts on “The Priestly Blessing”

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