Posted by: jdiscover | May 21, 2010

God’s Smile

This past Wednesday, Shavuot, we reenacted the blessing of receiving Torah. On this Shabbat, in Parashat Naso, we receive the text of the priestly blessing. We learn how the kohanim, the priests are to bless us, the people of Israel. Today this threefold blessing is still used by the kohanim and it is recited by parents when they bless their children on Friday nights.

The blessing is usually translated as; “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: 24 -26) Blessings, protection, kindness, grace, favor and peace; a very good blessing indeed! As individuals and as parents we all hope that we and our children are blessed in these ways. A more exacting translation, though, yields important additional blessings we are requesting.  

Robert Alter in his translation of this passage writes; “May the Lord bless you and guard you. May the Lord light up His face to you and grant grace to you; May the Lord lift up His face to you and give you peace.”

I am intrigued by the phrases; “light up His face” and “lift up His face.” What does this mean? Surely the Torah does not wish that we think that God has a face! What images are these metaphors meant to evoke?

As a parent I find that my face has a unique smile, it is “lit up” when my children choose to follow the teachings and practices I and my wife have tried to instill in them. When I discover that “they got it,” that they, of their own volition, have made Torah and mitzvot a part of their lives my face “lights up.” And when they go further, when they teach me with their actions; I “lift my face!” Taking note, with pride and admiration of how they have grown into their own, unique, Jewish lives, lifts my heart and head.

Read this way, the blessing God is seeking for each of us is that we choose to live out the teachings of God’s Torah, bringing to God a smile of pleasure. And as we in living the Torah give it new meanings and purpose may we make God proud.

May it be so! May we and the generations to come bring, so to speak, a bright smile to God’s face by living the Torah passed down to us! May we and the generations to come make the Torah new so that God is proud of our accomplishments!

What does this blessing mean to you?

Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi David Rose

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