How One of Judaism’s Oldest Prayers Is Meant to Turn People into Conduits for Divine Love

This week’s Torah reading of Naso includes what might be Judaism’s oldest prayer (Numbers 6:22-27): the priestly benediction, which for many Jews is still part of the liturgy, and is also incorporated in the blessing parents give children on the Sabbath eve. Consisting of three simple verses, it is to be delivered by the kohanim—the priestly descendants of Aaron—to the people. Yitz Greenberg explains its significance:

Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik calls our attention to [a] unique and special requirement for blessing the people. To be valid—to fulfill the mitzvah—the priests must give the blessing with love. This is stated in the preamble blessing the priests recite before uttering the actual words of the blessing itself: “Blessed are you Lord our God, Ruler of the universe, who has sanctified us with the sanctity of Aaron and commanded us to bless His people, Israel, with love.” Soloveitchik points out that there is no other blessing on a commandment that specifies that one must do it with love in order for it to be valid.

To understand this requirement of love, we must analyze again the nature of the blessing and who is giving it. . . . The priests have no independent power of bestowing blessings to serve as a kind of amulet for people. And yet, the sense of direct connection to God—the channels [through which Divine blessing flow to mankind]—are “lost” or obscured by all the sensations and experiences of daily life. . . . Evil, death, and injustice also block the connection. As it were, they dam up the flow of love, and distract individuals from penetrating the surface to meet the divine ground in which everything exists.

It takes a tremendous effort for the priest to overcome the self-centeredness, envy, or begrudging of the other that operates in day-to-day life. But if the effort is made and the love “plugged in” then, a finite, flawed human receptacle can pass on and channel the unlimited love of the Infinite God and the delight which the Lord feels in every display of life’s capacities and human goodness. Thus, the liturgical apparatus strengthens the forces of life and the vitality of life in the world.

Read more at Hadar

More about: Hebrew Bible, Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Judaism, Priesthood


Israel Is Courting Saudi Arabia by Confronting Iran

Most likely, it was the Israeli Air Force that attacked eastern Syria Monday night, apparently destroying a convoy carrying Iranian weapons. Yoav Limor comments:

Israel reportedly carried out 32 attacks in Syria in 2022, and since early 2023 it has already struck 25 times in the country—at the very least. . . . The Iranian-Israeli clash stands out in the wake of the dramatic events in the region, chiefly among them is the effort to strike a normalization deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, and later on with various other Muslim-Sunni states. Iran is trying to torpedo this process and has even publicly warned Saudi Arabia not to “gamble on a losing horse” because Israel’s demise is near. Riyadh is unlikely to heed that demand, for its own reasons.

Despite the thaw in relations between the kingdom and the Islamic Republic—including the exchange of ambassadors—the Saudis remain very suspicious of the Iranians. A strategic manifestation of that is that Riyadh is trying to forge a defense pact with the U.S.; a tactical manifestation took place this week when Saudi soccer players refused to play a match in Iran because of a bust of the former Revolutionary Guard commander Qassem Suleimani, [a master terrorist whose militias have wreaked havoc throughout the Middle East, including within Saudi borders].

Of course, Israel is trying to bring Saudi Arabia into its orbit and to create a strong common front against Iran. The attack in Syria is ostensibly unrelated to the normalization process and is meant to prevent the terrorists on Israel’s northern border from laying their hands on sophisticated arms, but it nevertheless serves as a clear reminder for Riyadh that it must not scale back its fight against the constant danger posed by Iran.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Saudi Arabia, Syria