Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Spiritual Healing Power of the Kohanim Blessing

Sunset through the window of a student's room
Last year, coming out of Shavuot was not easy for me. On Shavuot I felt so perfect with my goals in Torah and in life. It all seemed so simple and clear, until boom… the trials of the week days, all the distractions, the computer, the email the telephone… All the crazy things that happened that needed my attention. When do I ever have time to learn like in the “old days” when I was in my twenties studying at Michlala in Jerusalem? 

I must look ahead and count my blessings. The learning of my youth is still in me, with every step I take, as I answer my phone and my emails. Every stage in life has its meaning and opportunity for growth. Blessings need to be guarded so they won’t dissipate. 

The blessings of the Kohanim, in this week’s parasha, come to guard all of the light we receive on Shavuot. These blessings help us bridge the lofty spiritual Shavuot experience with our mundane tasks in life. I use Birkat Kohanim (the Kohanim Blessing) often. Its words are so powerful to engender good energy and chase away darkness. 

I’m excited to share a meditation and new insights into the depths of this blessing which I venture to call a centerpiece of EmunaHealing.

With Blessings of the Torah and the Land
Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

Read Rebbetzin's commentary to Haftorat Naso - "Hidden Lessons from a Hidden Woman"

Parasha Meditation Naso 
Bamidbar 4:21-7:89 
The Spiritual Healing Power of Birkat Kohanim (the Kohanim Blessing)
This week’s parasha is filled with spiritual healing. It includes the powerful Kohanim (Jewish priests) blessing with which Jewish fathers and some mothers and grandmothers traditionally bless their children Friday night. Giving and receiving blessings has great spiritual healing power. The Kohanim were chosen to be the channel for Hashem healing blessings. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to come to the Beit Knesset and be blessed with the following blessing from Above:
ספר במדבר פרק ו
כד) יְבָרֶכְךָ הָשֵם וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
כה) יָאֵר הָשֵם פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
כו) יִשָּׂא הָשֵם פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם
כז) וְשָׂמוּ אֶת שְׁמִי עַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַאֲנִי אֲבָרֲכֵם
May Hashem bless you and keep you!
May Hashem shine his face upon you and be gracious to you!
May Hashem lift up His face upon you and give you peace!
They shall place my name upon the children of Israel and I will bless them.[1]

Drawing Hashem’s Presence Upon Us
Notice that the Kohamin blessing is written in a perfect pyramid style. The first verse has three words, the second has five words and the third line has seven words. The middle word of the first line is הָשֵם/“Hashem,” the middle word of the second line is פָּנָיו /panav – “His face,” while the middle word of the last line of the actual bless in is אֵלֶיךָ/elecha – “Upon you.” Together this spells out “אֵלֶיךָ הָשֵם פָּנָיו” – “Hashem’s face upon you.” Pronouncing the Kohanim blessing therefore draws Hashem’s presence upon us. Keep this in mind, when reciting this blessing as part of our morning prayer.

Love – The Glue Connecting the “Blesser” with the Blessed
Netivat Shalom asks why the Kohanim blessing is introduced with “…Who has sanctified us with the holiness of Aharon and commanded us to bless Israel with love”?[2] He explains that the entire building of the world is by means of love connecting the giver with the receiver. Only by means of love can the “blesser” bring down supernatural influences to the blessed. Hashem appointed Aharon the Kohen to be a “blesser” and spiritual giver in Israel because he possessed the attribute love and pursuit of peace.[3] The holiness of Aharon derives from his love necessary to connect the giver with the receivers. Hashem created humanity in order that he would receive pleasure from the light of the Shechina. It is only possible to receive this upper shefa (spiritual influence) by means of the relationship of receiving from a spiritual guide. This ability to receive from someone higher is the source of all blessings.[4]

Revealed and Hidden Blessings
Kli Yakar notices that each of the three verses of blessing begins with the letter י/yud which has the numerical value of ten. When you spell out the letter yud – י-ו-ד The numerical value of the inner (hidden) letters vav and dalet likewise add up to ten. This alludes to the fact that the Kohanim Blessing includes both ten revealed and ten hidden blessings. This twofold blessing affects both the physical and spiritual realm. A person, too, consists of ten physical and ten spiritual faculties. While the parents bestow his physical capacities, he receives his spiritual faculties directly from Hashem.

Physical and Spiritual Blessings
The father bestows the following physical faculties (the white parts): 1.Sinews, 2. Bones, 3. Brain, 4. Nails, 5. White of eyes. The mother bestows the following physical faculties (the red parts): 1. Skin, 2. Flesh, 3. Blood, 4. Hair, 5. Pupil of the eye. G-d bestows the ten spiritual faculties: 1. Spirit, 2. Soul, 3. Facial features, 4. Vision of the eye, 5. Hearing of the ear, 6. Speech of the mouth, 7. Walking of the legs, 8. Da’at (knowledge), 9. Bina (understanding), 10. Sechel (intellect). These ten physical and spiritual faculties are blessed by the Kohen when he lifts his ten fingers, in order that from each finger emanates the blessing on both the revealed and the hidden.

Evolving from Daughter to Sister and finally becoming Mother
Kli Yakar continues and explains that the three sentences of Birkat Kohanim correspond to the three stages of the feminine development, 1. Daughter, 2. Sister, 3. Mother. “In the beginning Hashem called the children of Israel “daughter”, afterwards he called her “sister” and in the end “mother.”[5] At first the children of Israel are compared to the “Daughter,” who is below and the father is above her, having dominion over her. This corresponds to “May Hashem bless you and guard you.” – For the spiritual sustenance of these blessings flow from Above. Becoming “Sister” is the notion of equality and being face to face. This corresponds to “May Hashem shine His face upon you…” Evolving to become “Mother,” is being elevated to a “superior position” – A Tzadik has dominion through his superior awe of G-d. This corresponds to “May Hashem lift up His face upon you” so to speak.[6]

Make yourself comfortable wherever you are sitting, standing or walking.

1. Breathe deeply and bow your head forward slightly to open yourself to become a vessel for receiving blessings.

2. You have just opened yourself to receive the Torah on Sinai. So much light flowed downwards from Above on Shavuot. Now we need proper vessels to keep this light, and channel it into our daily day life. The Kohanim blessing, which always is read the Shabbat following Shavuot, bestows us with the spiritual vessels to hold all of these lights.

3. Visualize/recite the words: “:יְבָרֶכְךָ הָשֵם וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ”/yevarechecha Hashem v’yismerecha – “May Hashem bless you and guard you.” Hashem will not only bless you but, moreover, guard you so that the blessings will keep.

4. While focusing on these words imagine Hashem’s light flow downwards from heaven landing upon your head.

5. Think about something specific in your life for which you need a lasting blessing, and with humbly bowed head, make your request to Hashem for His blessing.

6. Now raise your head to upright position and visualize/recite the words: “:יָאֵר הָשֵם פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ”/ya’er Hashem panav elecha v’chunecha – “May Hashem shine his face upon you and be gracious to you!” – Hashem will show His beaming smiling countenance to you! His presence will be at your side.

7. Imagine Hashem’s light facing you, in front of you, feel it entering your eyes, nose and mouth with delicious warmth.

8. Now visualize/recite: “:יִשָּׂא הָשֵם פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם”/yisa Hashem panav elecha v’yasem lecha shalom – “May Hashem lift up His face upon you and give you peace!” Feel at peace with yourself and your body.

9. Feel at peace with your surroundings, and imagine Hashem’s light emanating from below, softly caressing your feet, your ankles, calves and knees. Imagine the gentle light rising to your thighs, pelvis, stomach and torso, also from the back. Feel the light finally reaching your shoulders, neck and head, enveloping your entire being with soft serene peacefulness.

10. Remain with this feeling as long as you want before opening your eyes and getting back to the chores of your day with renewed light and vigor.

The Kohanim Blessing is a powerful Spiritual healer. It is used to ameliorate difficult dreams. King Shlomo engraved the letters of Birkat Kohanim surrounding his bed. The midrash learns this from Song of Songs: “Behold her is the bed of Shlomo, sixty valiant ones of the valiant of Israel surrounding it.”[7] “…These are the sixty letters in the Kohanim blessing who are the mighty ones of Israel…Even if a person sees in his dream a wounding sword in his hand, what shall he do? Get up to the synagogue and stand before the Kohanim and listen to the blessing of the Kohanim, and nothing evil can hurt him. Therefore, He tells the Kohanim “Thus shall you bless etc.”[8]

If one has seen a dream and does not remember what he saw, let him stand before the Kohanim at the time when they spread out their hands, and say as follows: “Master of the Universe, I am Yours and my dreams are Yours. I have dreamt a dream and I do not know what it is. Whether I have dreamt about myself or my companions have dreamt about me, or I have dreamt about others, if they are good dreams, confirm them and reinforce them like the dreams of Yosef, but if they require a remedy, heal them, as the waters of Marah were healed by Moshe, our teacher, and as Miriam was healed of her leprosy and Chezkiyahu of his sickness, and the waters of Yericho by Elisha. As you did turn the curse of the wicked Bilam into a blessing, so turn all my dreams into something good for me.” He should conclude his prayer along with the Kohanim, so that the congregation may answer, Amen!...[9]
[1] Bamidbar 6:24-27.
[2] The Siddur (prayer-book), the repetition of the Amida and Mussaf.
[3] Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Fathers) 1:12.
[4] Netivot Shalom, Bamidbar, Parashat Naso, pp. 32-33.
[5] Midrash Shir Hashirim Rabah 3:21.
[6] Kli Yakar, Bamidbar 6:24.
[7] Shir Hashirim 3:7.
[8] Bamidbar Rabah, Parsha 11, Piska 3.
[9] Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 55b

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