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Vessels for Blessing: Shabbat Message by Rabbi Dan Levin

Shabbat Message by Rabbi Dan Levin graphic for Temple Beth El of Boca Raton

The power of humankind is astonishing.

We build structures that reach hundreds of feet into the skies, and that can withstand the force of hurricane winds.  We produce machines that fly into outer space and to the depths of the deepest trenches in the ocean.  We carry devices glued to our hands that can connect us instantaneously to any person, anywhere, at any time.  We develop medicines that thwart complex illness, and therapies that restore diseased bodies to health.

And yet, so often, we feel impotent, powerless to control what matters most to us.  We want our loved ones to grow and thrive, to find prosperity, love, happiness, and peace. We want the forces of evil to be vanquished.

And we often discover, to our grave disappointment, that there are limits to what we can produce and achieve – in technology, in medicine, and in life.

Our yearning to impact what seems beyond our capacity to control, is ancient and ever-present.

In Parashat Naso, this week’s portion, we read the famous words of the Priestly Blessing –

May God bless you and protect you!

May God’s face shine on you and be gracious to you!

May God’s face be lifted toward you and grant you peace!

The priestly blessing sought to channel God’s energy, light, and presence toward the people, so that they would enjoy prosperity, protection, and peace.

Blessings are not magic words.  They are not incantations or spells that change the world if we simply pronounce the correct words.

Too bad, right?  Wouldn’t it be great if we could simply say the right words and our kids would get their dream job, cancer cells would die, or a hurricane would blow in another direction?

But that’s not how it works.

God is the source of all the energy in the universe.  That energy fills everything that exists, and radiates through the world.  But in giving us the gift of love, God gave us the power to harness that energy, and to channel and direct it toward the ones we love.

You can feel it.  When someone directs their love toward you, the energy that’s shared fills you with vitality and resilience. It steadies you, strengthens you, and helps you build confidence, resolve and a sense of peace.

Jacob Milgrom teaches: “The blessing issues solely from [God]; the priests’ function is to channel it.”  Rabbi Held notes that the same is true for all of us.  “We are not sources but channels of blessing.”

We are never the creators of knowledge or wisdom – we simply discover truths and ideas that the world has always held.

Medical researchers, for example, do not invent medicines, but are vessels for their discovery.  They learn that if you carefully combine elements of the world’s bounty in a very particular fashion, then the result might be a compound we can use to treat an illness.  If they open their hearts with love, then knowledge and wisdom flow through them, directing them to find the answers they seek.

When we share words of blessing, we seek to be a conduit through which God’s energy can flow.

When we say: “May God bless you and protect you,” we seek to channel some of God’s energy to sustain the one we love. We may not be fully able to protect those we love, but we hope our sharing of care and encouragement fills them with the strength and confidence to face their challenges.

When we say: “May God’s face shine on you and be gracious to you,” we seek to channel some of God’s light so that our loved ones are granted insight, understanding, and hope.

When we say: “May God’s face be lifted to you, and grant you peace,” we seek to channel a sense of God’s presence, in order to dispel worry and anguish, and instead to be comforted with tranquility and peace.

How we wish we could fix what we cannot fix!  How we wish we could make everything all right!

What we can do instead is to be a blessing – to channel God’s divine energy so that our loved ones discover the resolve and fortitude to face life’s challenges, the insight and awareness to discover the right path, and the blessings of contentment, fulfillment, and peace.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Dan Levin
Temple Beth El of Boca Raton

“Pray for the peace of Jerusalem…”

 

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