Blessing from the Heart

Yael Eckstein  |  April 8, 2024

Yael kneels down to hand a doll to a young girl.

Then Aaron lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them. And having sacrificed the sin offering, the burnt offering and the fellowship offering, he stepped down. — Leviticus 9:22

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Shemini, which means “eighth,” from Leviticus 9:1–11:47.

One of the things I miss most since my father, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, of blessed memory, passed away is the weekly blessing that I received from him on the Sabbath. In the Jewish tradition, parents bless their children with the priestly blessing from Numbers 6:24-26 on Shabbat.

Every Friday of my life, I received this blessing from my father either in person or on the phone just before the holy day began. It’s not so much the words of the blessing that I miss as much as the love that came with that blessing. When my father placed his hands on my head and said those words to me I felt completely enveloped in his love—and that, perhaps, is the biggest blessing of all.

In this week’s Torah portion, we read about the first time a priestly blessing was given. Interestingly, while this practice became a foundational tradition in the Jewish faith that is continued even today, there is no place in the Bible where the priests are actually commanded by God to bless the nation.

Blessing from the Heart

Why is this so? According to Jewish teaching, by its very nature, a blessing must be heartfelt. In order for a blessing to have power and influence, it must come from the heart and a sincere desire to benefit the receiver. This is why God could not command the priests to bless. It had to come from a place of love, not of obligation.

Friends, we in Israel cherish your blessings in every form that they come – be they in prayer, in charity, or in working on behalf of the people of Israel. We believe deeply in Genesis 12:3 where God promises, “I will bless those who bless you…” However, we humbly request that as you bless Israel, you also love Israel. The greater your love for Israel, the greater your blessing will be. Don’t just bless Israel because you know it’s the right thing to do; bless Israel because it’s what God has laid on your heart to do.

As you bless Israel with love, may God bless you in return with His everlasting love.

Your Turn:

Share your loving blessing for God’s people in the comments below!