Nachshon ben Aminadav & The Priestly Blessing

By Jonah Sanderson

Our holy Torah has within it many blessings that God and humankind bring down in order to both make a point, and make that same point relevant to the reader. My favorite blessing, which the writers of the Torah speak about in this week’s portion is the Priestly Benediction. This blessing seems not only meaningful in the time in which it was written, but even more meaningful today.

Picture a b’nai mitzvah candidate standing on the bimah, their family and rabbi blessing them with the following message: The Lord bless you and protect you! The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you! The Lord bestow favor upon you and grant you peace!

When I remember my bar mitzvah some 23 years ago, I remember listening to that charge. Viewed in a new light, we can look at the same blessing with new eyes. “The Lord bless you and protect you” can mean: May you bless and protect yourself and others. “The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you” can mean: May you view God not as a being in the sky but as a verb. In doing so, we can find the good in others and draw out that good in moments of suffering. “The Lord bestow favor upon you and grant you peace” can mean: May we all (not just Jews) pray and act in a better manner that can bring forth peace and end war among men.

Nachshon ben Aminadav will be remembered as the one character in our Torah who took the Priestly Blessing and just as I did, reimagined its text to fit his time. Let’s harken back to that fateful moment. As the Jews were being pursued by a crazed army, they waited beside the sea. Moses stood at the waters edge and began to pray. God told him to act and cease prayer. Nachshon, his nephew, jumped into the water up to his nose and the seas split so the Jews could escape Egypt. By his behavior and actions, he brought all those around him closer to tasting redemption, which is yet another way to look at the Priestly Blessing.

In relating Nachshon and his story to the Priestly Blessing, we find reason to keep hope and faith alive and fresh. If he can jump, so can we. If we can do so, we can pass both to future generations and keep Judaism alive!

Shabbat shalom!