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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash


Updated: May 19, 2021

Coming out of the Shavuot holiday, there is so much to learn from Parshat Naso. The lessons are varied and unusual. We learn about the Nazir and the case of the Sotah. If this was not enough for one Parsha, we also see the origins of the priestly blessing.

The more I think about Parshat Naso, the more I think that it is about the power of change. Whether it is the Nazir, the Sotah, or the Sotah's husband, each of these very human subjects are in the process of experiencing a change in their lives. Regardless of the process that change occurs and regardless of whether that process is negative or positive when we view it through the lens of modernity, we learn that change happens. Life is not static. It runs and we need to keep up with it.

In this series of poems, I write about the priestly blessing, the Birkhat HaKohanim. This blessing also holds the power to change, to elevate a person through blessing. Two of the poems have come from my own powerful experiences of the Birkhat Hakohanim. Below are three postcards with three different experiences of this blessing that touches so many.

Postcard #1

As you are washed

As you take your spot

As you are cocooned in a striped tent

As your feet root you in this world

As your eyes close

As your heart opens

As your hands are outstretched

As your fingers tremble

As your shoulders square

As you breathe

as kohanim before you have breathed for millennia

As the words of blessing travel from your memory

to your tongue

As familiar as old friends

As your strength builds

As your mouth opens

As words of blessing pour out

As they fill the room

As you do what only you can do

As you feel the power that is blessing

Y'varech'chah HaShem V'Yishmarechah

Postcard #2

In an airy room

clear morning light streams.

Not a sound is heard.

Just the sound of breathing.

We are standing

We sway softly in the silence

of that moment.

Awaiting blessing.

Eyes gently closed.

Shoulders turned away.

Heads bowed.

Ears strain to hear

what eyes do not see.

A small quiet voice,

A single note that starts

in that unfathomable space

which is the soul.


The sound

quiet and pure

hovers like

the call of a dove in the early morning,

the echo of an owl in the indigo of night,

soft but strong,

it echoes through the room.


The words are lit by the stars we see

when our eyes are closed.

The sound finds us,

its pitch perfect.

It waters our parched souls

like soft rain falling.

The blessing flows onto us.

Y’air HaShem panecha

We stand together on a journey of

closed eyes and open souls.

Our feet on the floor,

but our souls are flying.

Ancient notes carry us,

unite us.

We become one.

The sound fills us.

We are blessed.

Postcard #3

A parent sits in the late afternoon light

as Shabbat approaches.

In one hand a phone,

the other hand is outstretched.

The setting sun illuminates the moment.

Long fingers linger in the air

caressing the heads of adult children

hundreds of miles away.

Words of blessing know no borders.

They travel through space and time.

Words have wings.

He blesses his children

Yisa HaShem panav eilechah

V'Yaseim L'chah Shalom.

Numbers 6:23-27. (Translation from Sefaria)

לָהֶֽם׃ (ס) Speak to Aaron and his sons: Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them:

יְבָרֶכְךָ֥ יְהוָ֖ה וְיִשְׁמְרֶֽךָ׃ (ס) The LORD bless you and protect you!

יָאֵ֨ר יְהוָ֧ה ׀ פָּנָ֛יו אֵלֶ֖יךָ וִֽיחֻנֶּֽךָּ׃ (ס) The LORD deal kindly and graciously with you!

יִשָּׂ֨א יְהוָ֤ה ׀ פָּנָיו֙ אֵלֶ֔יךָ וְיָשֵׂ֥ם לְךָ֖ שָׁלֽוֹם׃ (ס) The LORD bestow His favor upon you and grant you peace!

וְשָׂמ֥וּ אֶת־שְׁמִ֖י עַל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַאֲנִ֖י אֲבָרֲכֵֽם׃ (פ) Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them.

For Ahitza

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