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


Using the Power of the Law to Fight Anti-Semitism

Examining carefully the problem of anti-Semitism, and sympathy with jihadists, at American universities, Danielle Pletka addresses the very difficult problem of what can be done about it. Pletka avoids such simplistic answers as calling for more education and turns instead to a more promising tool: law. The complex networks of organizations funding and helping to organize campus protests are often connected to malicious states like Qatar, and to U.S.-designated terrorist groups. Thus, without broaching complex questions of freedom of speech, state and federal governments already have ample justifications to crack down. Pletka also suggests various ways existing legal frameworks can be strengthened.

And that’s not all:

What is Congress’s ultimate leverage? Federal funding. Institutions of higher education in the United States will receive north of $200 billion from the federal government in 2024.

[In addition], it is critical to understand that foreign funders have been allowed, more or less, to turn U.S. institutions of higher education into political fiefdoms, with their leaders and faculty serving as spokesmen for foreign interests. Under U.S. law currently, those who enter into contracts or receive funding to advocate for the interest of a foreign government are required to register with the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA). This requirement is embedded in a criminal statute, and a violation risks jail time. There is no reason compliance by American educational institutions with disclosure laws should not be subject to similar criminal penalties.

Read more at Commentary

More about: American law, Anti-Semitism, Israel on campus