by Rabbi Yaakov Menken
"And G-d spoke to Moshe, saying: Speak to Aharon and to his sons, saying,
'so shall you bless the children of Israel...'"
What is the nature of this blessing, which the Priests give the Nation? Are
they simply wishing us well?
In the beginning of Parshas Mattos (Num. 30:2), the commentator Rashi
quotes the Medrash (Sifri) which says "Moshe prophesied by saying 'So says
HaShem, ("At about midnight...") (Ex. 11:4)', and other prophets also
prophesied with 'So says HaShem,' but Moshe [alone] had the additional
ability to prophecy by saying 'This is the statement...'"
The Torah V'HaMitzvah explains as follows: all prophets could "see" G-d
with an "unclear," limited vision. This means that the prophet became G-d's
representative (Shaliach) to deliver the Divine message, but in his own
words. Moshe, as an individual, could also prophecy in this way: before
Israel left Egypt, he said "so says HaShem, 'At about midnight...'", and
when Israel fell from their heights during the incident of the Golden Calf,
Moshe again used the language of "so says HaShem" when speaking to the
tribe of Levi (Ex. 32:27).
Moshe, however, reached a unique level as the leader of the Nation of
Israel at the time when G-d gave the Torah. He was able to have a "clear"
vision, a more absolute contact with HaShem. In those cases, Moshe was not
G-d's representative, delivering a message, but rather it was as if G-d
Himself was speaking. "The Divine Presence spoke from within his throat."
We know that although G-d promised our forefather Yaakov that "I will be
with you and guard you wherever you go," later Yaakov "was extremely
fearful and his courage left him." This fear, according to our Sages
(Brachos 4a), was Yaakov's concern that because of his sins he was no
longer worthy of protection. He was afraid that as a result of his own
failings, he would not deserve fulfillment of HaShem's blessing.
Maimonides, however, in his introduction to the Mishnah, Seder Z'raim, says
that when HaShem blesses our future by way of a prophet, it is _impossible_
for it not to actually happen. Were this not so, prophecy could never be
substantiated. We would worry that every prophet was false. Thus the Talmud
says (Brachos 7a) "every statement which came from HaShem for good, even
conditionally, He will never retract." Is this not a contradiction to
The Rambam (Maimonides) explains that a blessing from HaShem to the prophet
directly can be conditional. The prophet himself (or herself) will of
course not come to doubt either G-d's existence or his own prophecy as a
result. But concerning a prophecy given over (by way of a prophet) to the
people at large, we would be unable to rely upon or trust in prophecy if
the words of even true prophets sometimes never came to pass.
Now, let us return to the Priestly Blessing, with which Moshe told the
Kohanim to bless the Children of Israel. Rabbi Zvi Elimelech Hertzberg zt"l
uses all we have learned above to explain the unusual language of the
verses describing the blessing.
G-d tells Moshe to "Speak" to the Cohanim, the Priests, using the same root
(Davar) as the word for "statement." This is the unique level of prophecy
reached by Moshe: "The Divine Presence spoke from within his throat."
What, then, shall Moshe say? "So shall you bless..." using the language of
"so HaShem says," the language used by the other prophets as G-d's
representatives. What the Cohanim are to say is itself G-d's prophecy: that
G-d _will_ bless us and guard us, that He _will_ show us mercy and give us
peace! As a prophecy given to the people at large, it can never be
retracted. "Let them place my name upon the Children of Israel, and I shall
bless them" (Num. 6:27) - this blessing must certainly come to pass!