The Lord Bless You and Keep You
Everything you want to know about the Aaronic Blessing
What is the Aaronic Blessing?
The Aaronic Blessing, or the Priestly Blessing, called birkat kohanim בִּרְכַּת כֹּהֲנִים in Hebrew, is a short prayer recited by the kohanim (priests) who are the descendants of Aaron, brother of Moses. The priests are commanded to raise their hands and chant the words of the blessing, serving as a pipeline for God to ceremonially bless the Israelites. To this day, the Aaronic Blessing is used to invoke God’s blessing and protection.
The meaning behind the verse:
“May God bless you and protect you. May God make His face shine upon you and treat you with grace. May God lift His face toward you and grant you peace.”
The Aaronic Blessing asks that God bestow peace and goodness on humankind. Though the priests recite the words, the blessing conveys that God Himself is the source of abundance who makes all things possible.
What is the source of the Aaronic Blessing?
The verses of the Aaronic Blessing are found in the Book of Numbers, 6:24-26, and are a powerful formula for protection and blessing. This renowned prayer describes God shining His heavenly countenance upon his beloved people. Recited by the priests in unison, the Aaronic Blessing is moving and uplifting. The blessing is, in essence, a divine embrace.
Some congregations recite the Aaronic Blessing regularly as part of the prayer service. Rituals surrounding the reciting of the blessing involve the priests removing their shoes, washing their hands, and raising their hands while chanting the blessing in a simple, ancient tune.
When is the Aaronic Blessing recited?
The Aaronic Blessing is a well-known and beloved verse that asks for God’s care and love. Most often, the blessing is recited in the synagogue. On the holidays of Passover and Sukkot, the Aaronic Blessing is recited en masse at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, in a gathering that draws tens of thousands of people who wish to be blessed in the dramatic ceremony.
On Friday nights, at the start of the traditional Sabbath meal, many parents recite the Aaronic Blessing, beseeching God to watch over their children and to shine his grace upon them. The Aaronic Blessing is thought to ward off harm, and has been used in amulets of protection throughout history, as well as recited before a long journey.
Why is the Aaronic Blessing significant?
The Aaronic Blessing allows us to focus on God who wishes to grant loving abundance upon us. By raising their hands heavenward, the priests remind us that the source of blessing in our lives is God himself. It is he who bestows goodness on mankind, and we can pray to him for all we need.