Shabbat arrives and the family gathers round the table. The children approach their father for a blessing, and out of his Holy mouth emanates the famous words Yevarechacha Hashem Veyishmeracha – May Hashem Bless you and Guard you.
This was the daily priestly blessing, given by the Kohanim in the Bet Hamikdash. But it seems a bit superfluous. Why not just say may Hashem Bless us? What are we specifically asking for?
There are of course many beautiful interpretations and understanding to this deep blessing, but we shall focus on one.
There once was a couple who had been married for many years … happily married. They had met in their teens, it was love at first sight. Their families got on well, their friends approved … they married young.
After bringing up the kids, they decided to take a cruise before planning a long and happy retirement. They could afford a five-day short trip around the Mediterranean. The cruise gave them a day wandering around the gift shops of the Greek island of Santorini.
In the back of a dark, almost deserted store, the wife found a dusty old lamp. She gave it a quick polish, to see what it could look like … and out popped our friendly neighborhood genie.
“I usually give just one wish”, said the genie, “but I can see that you two are a couple still in love after all these years; you may each have a wish.”
“Oooh!” said the wife, “I’d like to be on a proper ocean cruise … somewhere in the South Pacific”.
And in an instant, she was gone, wafted off to her dream … maybe she meant to include her husband, but these wishes tend to be taken literally.
“And you, sir?”, asked the genie.
Conscious that he was alone, and the world was at his fingertips, the husband thought long and hard …
“I’d like a wife thirty years younger than me”, he eventually decided.
And in an instant, he aged thirty years, and the genie disappeared.
Words are powerful. The power of speech singles man out from all the other creatures, and we must cherish this gift.
It is for this reason that when it comes to the priestly blessing (Birkat Kohanim), every word counts.
The Kohanim bless the people daily stating Yevarechecha Hashem Veyishmerecha – May Hashem Bless you and guard you. Rashi states that every word is important. The Kohen is not merely giving a blessing that we should be blessed with wealth, rather the Kohen is going a step further, blessing us that this newly found wealth should last. It should stay with us – Hashem should guard us from losing it.
Our Sages relate a story of Rav Yosi Ben Kisma, who was very wealthy.
Once some people came and kidnapped his two sons, taking them captive to Rome. When Rav Yosi heard the news, he was devastated.
He understood the kidnappers wanted a ransom and immediately took with him a big sum of money heading to Rome. Once he got there and found the leader of the kidnappers, he entered his home and put 100 gold dinar coins on the table. “Here is 100 gold coins for my two sons, now please return them to me”.
The captor looked on and laughed. “If you think you are going to gain there release with that, think again. Now get out of here and bring back much much more money.”
Rav Yosi, left distraught. He exited the building, and began to pour out his heart in prayer to Hashem.
Hashem in His ultimate mercy, harkened to the prayer of the Tsadik and sent His Ministering angel Michael, to cause pain to the captor.
Suddenly the captor began to have severe stomach pains. He coped with these for a while, but then couldn’t take it any more. His advisors, said to him, maybe it was due to that holy rabbi, and maybe he should after all accept the rabbis offer.
He called back the rabbi, and told him he would accept the 100 gold coins.
Rav Yosi, glanced towards him, and said, that offer was an old one, now that he had been put through trouble of having to come back there was a new offer, “I will give you 80 gold coins.”
“What, are you mad, do you ever want to see your two sons? Get out of here, and bring me 100 coins.”
Yet sure enough as soon as Rav Yosi left the building, the captors pains came stronger.
He realized it must be connected and recalled R Yosi.
“Ok give me 80.”
“I will give you 50.”
“You have a cheek, get out.”
R Yosi left, and again the pains began to become unbearable.
Call him back.
“Ok give me 50.”
“50? You have caused me so much trouble, sending me backwards and forwards, now I will take them for free?” Retorted Rav Yosi.
The kidnapper was amazed. “For free? What, do you think I have gone through all this trouble to kidnap your children so that I return them for free. Get Out!”
However as soon as he left, the captor stomach was in such pain he thought he would die. Bring him back.
“Ok take your children, just get out.”
“Mmm I think not.” Answered R Yosi. I think you owe me some money. “Pay me and then we will leave.”
And so it was, not only did R Yosi receive back his two sons, but he was also paid!
This is the meaning of the Birkat Kohanim.
Yevarechecha Hashem Veyishmerecha – may Hashem bless you with money and may He guard it with you. How will He protect your wealth – Yaer Hashem Panav Elecha VeyChuneka – He will shine His Face on you (send his Ministering Angel Michael) and find favour in you. Yisa Hashem Panav Elecha Veyasem Lecha Shalom – He will ensure that not only do you guard your wealth, but you will add to it and be at peace.
This is the blessing our Kohanim give us, this is he blessing we give our children every Shabbat at the dinner table. May Hashem always send us His blessings Amen.