Shlomo Ressler started sharing a dvar Torah in 1995 and has continued to do so, week in and week out, with thousands of people. He called the project the Weekly Dvar - and I encourage you to join the readership.
The latest post, in the name of Rabbi Avi Weiss, captures a simple and poignant message:
Perhaps the most famous blessing is found in this week's Torah portion. The Birkat Cohanim, the priestly benediction is recited by the priest and by parents to their children every Friday night. (Numbers 6:24-26) The benediction is divided into three sentences each containing two important elements; God's blessing, and a prayer to avoid possible pitfalls of the blessing.
In the first part, the priest states: "May the Lord bless you and keep you." The Sifrei understands this to refer to monetary benefits. But money has the potential to corrupt. Therefore a blessing for money is not complete unless accompanied by an assurance of protection from its dangers. Hence the last word of the sentence, "May the Lord guard you."
In the second section, the priest states: "May the Lord cause His light to shine upon you." The light of the Lord is often associated with Torah knowledge (Proverbs 6:23). However, while one can know every word of Torah, one can still lack the ability to interact and engage others in an appropriate manner. Hence, this blessing concludes with the word, ve-hunekah, from the word hen, grace. This last statement is telling us to remain gracious to others because knowledge often makes one insular -- even arrogant.
In the final part, the priest states," May the Lord lift His face to be near you." This blessing expresses the hope that one should always feel the presence of God, for too often we sense that God's face is hidden from us. (The Hebrew word yeesah, to lift, is the opposite of God being lowered or hidden.) Although we hope to always be absorbed in God's presence, sometimes even that experience can distort one's perception of how to change the world. Too often, people have done dastardly things in the name of God. Therefore, the text concludes, with a blessing of a grounded belief in God, of shalom, coming from the word shalem, whole.
This threefold blessing reminds us that there is no absolute good. Every step forward always contains the possibility of unforeseen problems. May we be blessed with this awareness.
On the topic of tefilla, I think it is worth reflecting on the importance of graciousness. What do you think>