Our Sages tell us that each person has 3 parents: mother, father, and God. It is a true parenting triad – the mother and father provide the body, and God provides the soul. This parenting bond begins with the conception of the baby and continues throughout the life of the person.
Maimonides comments that of all the 613 commandments in Judaism, the hardest one to keep is to honour our parents. I’ve heard that our parents will always know how to push our buttons because they are the ones who installed them. With the 3 parents in our lives, what is true about our relationship with our mothers and fathers is true about our relationship with God. When God pushes our buttons, those are some pretty big buttons, and they can have huge consequences to us.
Understanding that makes us appreciate the importance of Birkhat haKohanim (the Priestly Blessings) that appear in this week’s parshah, Naso. God tells Moses to teach Aaron how to bless the people with the three blessings whose simplicity and beauty says everything we’d want to say:
“May God bless you and guard you
May God shine the Divine Face on you and be gracious
May God lift the Divine Face toward you and place peace upon you”
It begins as a ritual of the Kohanim blessing the people, and it eventually becomes the blessing of parents on their children every Friday night. It is the time when parents speak with God as one parent speaks to the other. We hold our children and grandchildren close to us and quietly speak God’s words back to God, as one parent saying to the other: ‘when they’re with me, I’ve got them covered – but in those moments when I’m not there, I expect that you’ve got them covered’.
It is the perfect example of how ritual is meant to work. It starts in the Torah, moves through time and history to speak with relevance to our most important relationships and bonds today. The Jewish people are always one family. As we prepare for Shabbat, I offer this week’s parshah blessing for us all:
May God bless us and guard us.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.