An ancient Jewish theme is the idea of one person blessing another. Everyone has the power of blessing to a certain extent, but some people have it to a greater degree. The person giving the blessing is calling on G‑d to help a particular individual, to pour on him or her Divine bounty and goodness.

Near the beginning of the Torah, G‑d told Abraham "You will be a blessing… through you will be blessed all families of the earth."1 G‑d was hereby granting Abraham the power of blessing. Much of the Torah concerns blessings from one person to another, such as the blessings of Isaac and later of Jacob. Indeed, every parent has a special power to bless his or her children.

This week's Torah reading, Naso, gives the text of a very remarkable blessing: the words with which the Priests, the kohanim, bless the people. They used to chant this daily in the Temple. Today too, on festivals,2 they stand in front of the Ark and bless the congregation:

May G‑d bless and protect you. May G‑d make His counte­nance shine upon you and be gracious to you. May G‑d turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace.3

After the words of the blessing, the Torah adds: "They should bless the Jewish people with My Name, and I will bless them."

Rabbi Akiva explains this means that following the blessing of the kohanim, G‑d indeed responds and gives His infinitely exalted blessing to the Jewish people.4 There is an intimate interaction between the kohanim and G‑d. The kohanim pronounce their blessing, and G‑d responds.


This week's Torah reading is always read in close time proximity to the Shavuot Festival, which celebrates the Giving of the Torah at Sinai. One of this holiday's lessons touches on the ongoing interaction between each individual and G‑d.

On Shavuot we read in the Torah the description of the dramatic revelation of the Ten Commandments to the Jewish people gathered at Mount Sinai. They are introduced with the words: "G‑d spoke all these commandments, saying."5

The Sages comment that usually when the Torah uses the word "saying" it means that G‑d speaks to Moses, and "saying" means that he should tell over what he heard to the rest of the Jewish people. But in this case, the entire Jewish people were present at Sinai, including the soul of every Jew who would ever be born, including all future proselytes to Judaism. So what does "saying" mean?

They explain that this means that for all time, whenever a person studies Torah, G‑d says the words together with him or her. G‑d responds to the individual and the moments of Torah study become a time of Divine revelation, as if one were at Sinai.6

This has the same pattern as the blessing of the kohanim, to which G‑d responds. So too, when a person studies Torah, G‑d responds.7 The individual connects with G‑d at every step. Whether as a kohen blessing the congregation, or any person studying Torah, or indeed carrying out any mitzvah, G‑d responds, at every moment of life.8