Just before Shavout 30 CE – after having spent forty days with his Talmidim – Yeshua ascended to Heaven. He led his disciples to Beit Anyah (Bethany).
“… then, raising his hands, he said a b’rakhah over them; and as he was blessing them, he withdrew from them and was carried up into heaven.”
Luke 24:50-51 (1)
I have come to the conclusion that the original language of the above mentioned verses indicates that “The B’rakhah” Yeshua pronounced was the Birkat HaKohanim – the Priestly Blessing. (2)
וַיְדַבֵּר יְהוָה אֶל-מֹשֶׁה לֵּאמֹר. דַּבֵּר אֶל-אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל-בָּנָיו לֵאמֹר כֹּה תְבָרְכוּ אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אָמוֹר לָהֶם. יְבָרֶכְךָ יְהוָה וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ. יָאֵר יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ. יִשָּׂא יְהוָה פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם. וְשָׂמוּ אֶת-שְׁמִי עַל-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַאֲנִי אֲבָרְכֵם.
“Adonai said to Moshe, “Speak to Aharon and his sons, and tell them that this is how you are to bless the people of Isra’el: you are to say to them, ‘Y’varekh’kha Adonai v’yishmerekha.
[May Adonai bless you and keep you.]
Ya’er Adonai panav eleikha vichunekka.
[May Adonai make his face shine on you and show you his favor.]
Yissa Adonai panav eleikha v’yasem l’kha shalom.
[May Adonai lift up his face toward you and give you peace.]’
“In this way they are to put my name on the people of Isra’el, so that I will bless them.” – Bemidbar 6:22-27
The Midrash suggests that the way that the Kohanim positioned their hands symbolized the windows that God looks through while his people are being blessed. This idea is based upon Shir HaShirim 2:9-10 which portrays The “Beloved” peering through a “window” or a lattice at His “Loved One.”
“My darling is like a gazelle or young stag. There he is, standing outside our wall, looking in through the windows, peering in through the lattice. My darling speaks; he is saying to me, “Get up, my love! My beauty! Come away!” – Shir HaShirim 2:9-10
Since HaShem has “chosen us to be a royal Priesthood” (1 Peter 2:9) and has “called us to bless and to not curse our brothers and sisters” (1 Peter 3: 8-9), it is my opinion that it is perfectly permissible for us to bless one another with the Birkat HaKohanim.
The purpose of this article is provide insight into the way that Yeshua and his talmidim understood the dynamics of the “Priestly Blessing”, so that we as Yeshua’s Kohanim and holy nation might transmit this blessing more effectively!
Problems and Solutions – The Six Scriptural Requirements
Even though Adonai has told us what to say, the Scriptures provide no explicit instructions as to where, when, and how we are to implement the Birkat HaKohanim .
The Sages determined that during “Temple Times” there were six basic scriptural requirements to enable one to properly pronounce the Priestly Blessing. (3)
(a) בלשון הקדש (Bil’shon HaKodesh), in the Holy Tongue [Hebrew] – It is a forgone conclusion that the Birkat HaKohanim should be pronounced in Hebrew.
(b) בעמידה (B’Amidah), while standing – The idea that the Kohanim are to pronounce the blessing while standing is derived from the book of Devarim.
“For the Lord your God has chosen him out of all your tribes to stand to minister in the name of the Lord, him and his sons forever.” – Devarim 18:5
(c) בנשיאת כפים (B’nisat Kapayim), with raised hands – This principle can be found throughout the Tenach (1 Kings 8:22; Psalms 63:5 ), but in relationship to the Kohanim it is clearly illustrated in VaYikrah.
“Aharon raised his hands toward the people, blessed them and came down from offering the sin offering, the burnt offering and the peace offerings.” – VaYikrah 9:22
(d) בשם המפורש ( B’Shem HaMeforash), with the Ineffable Name – The Sages concluded that God’s name יהוה should be pronounced as written. Apparently, unlike today, the Priests knew how to correctly pronounce God’s name. This requirement was deduced from B’Midbar 6:25.
“In this way they are to put my name on the people of Isra’el, so that I will bless them.”
(e) פנים אל פנים (Panim el Panim), Face to Face – Facing someone when you are praying for them is self evident. Further reasoning for this principle can be found in Sotah 38a.
(f) בקול רם (B’Kol Ram), In a high voice – The Kohanim must pronounce the blessing in a clear loud voice so that even a person with a limited capacity to hear will be able to understand the prayer. The Scriptural basis for this principle can be found in Tehillim.
“From sunrise until sunset
Adonai’s name is to be praised.
Adonai is high above all nations,
his glory above the heavens.”
– Mizmor 113:3-4
The word “high” in verse 4 is the Hebrew word רם (Ram).
The Sages understood that the pronouncement of the Birkat HaKohanim was a sacred task that was mandated by Heaven.
Just imagine – The Living God – The God of All Creation – has trusted His Servants to be a channel of His blessings.
If HaShem transmitted his blessings through the Shem HaMeforash – How much more powerful will His blessings be when we lift up our hands and pronounce the Priestly blessing in the Name of our Cohen Gadol Yeshua!
May Avinu Malkenu – Our Father and our King – lovingly peer through the “Windows of Your hands” as you He blesses His beloved Bride!
(1) All Scriptural citations are taken from Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
(2) Joseph Fitzmeyer and David Stern are among those who share this point of view.
(3) The hermeneutic method employed to determine the Six Scriptural Requirements is known as gezeirah shevah – similar phraseology.