This Shabbos we read the Torah Portion of Shemini. It tells us of how after finally completing the construction of the Mishkan – Tabernacle, it was inaugurated. Each day for seven consecutive days, Moshe erected the Tabernacle, performed all of its service and disassembled it. Now, on the eighth day, it was to be used in earnest. It was assembled, and stood for as long as the Jews would remain encamped. Aharon took his rightful position as the High Priest. After performing his service, the Torah tells us that (Vayikroh 9:22) “and Aharon lifted up his hands towards the people and blessed them …” Rashi explains that he blessed them with the Priestly Blessing (Bamidbar 6:22-27) “May the Lord bless you …, may He cause His face to shine upon you … and may He lift up His face toward you …”
Many of the commentaries question Rashi’s words here on two counts. For one thing, at this point the Kohanim were not yet commanded to bless the Jewish people. Why explain that Aharon used this particular blessing which was not yet given to us? Secondly, it is known that the Priestly Blessing consists of the three blessings which Rashi specifies. What need is there to spell out exactly which blessing it was?
The explanation is that Aharon’s intent was not to fulfil the Mitzvah of blessing the Jews with this special blessing. Earlier the Jews had committed a terrible sin with the “Golden Calf.” By G-d causing His presence to rest in the Mishkan, Hashem was telling them that they had atoned for this sin. Therefore Aharon’s blessing began with “May the Lord bless you.” He Himself would deliver all blessings. He then blessed them that He may cause His face to shine upon the Jews. His radiant, smiling face should rest among the Jewish Nation. Finally, may He lift up His face toward you, and forgive you for all sins.
May we all merit these blessings each and every day!
Wishing one and all a wonderful Shabbos and a happy and healthy summer!
Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn