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Rabbi's Weekly Teaching
June 7, 2019
According to tradition, King David declared within Psalms:

"Once, while at ease, I thought, I am so secure, nothing can shake me."

But, King David confronted many trials and tribulations; some because of his own doings, and others that were not because of circumstances he could control.

During these distressing times, King David would achingly yearn for the times when everything was "at ease".

This is the human condition; each day of our lives we hope to be "blessed" and often God appears to grant us what we seek.  Yet, we all know that health, happiness, family, friends, work, etc., can always take a bad turn.

Within our daily liturgy, we read within the Amidah, the Birkat Cohenim - the Priestly Blessing.

The words of the Birkat Cohenim come from our Torah.

God told Moses to teach his nephews, the children of Aaron, how they should bless the Israelites.

The blessing consisted of three short verses.

The first verse has three Hebrew words. The second verse has five Hebrew words, and the third verse has seven Hebrew words.
  • Yivarechecha Adonai viyishmirecha - May God bless you and guard you.
  • Ya'er Adonai panav elecha veechuneka - May God shine His countenance upon you and be gracious to you.
  • Yeesa Adonai panav elecha viyasem lecha shalom - May God turn His countenance toward you and grant you peace.
The first blessing asks God to bless us and protect us.

The rabbis ask:
  • If someone is blessed by God, why does that person need to be protected?
  • Wouldn't someone who is blessed also be protected?

The rabbis then offer two interesting answers:

  • When a person is blessed in spirit or in material possessions, that person needs to be protected from those who may envy or wish to do harm to them because of those blessings.
  • When a person is blessed they also need protection from themselves for they might become selfish and arrogant, and not use their blessings in a good way. Their blessings possessed might make them forget that the blessings themselves are from God.

This two-fold interpretation is important.


We should not be afraid to be blessed, and we should be mindful of the sin of envy that might pose a danger to us. B ut, in possessing blessings, we cannot forget that our blessings received are God's gifts to us, and we have a responsibility to both appreciate the Divine Source of our blessings, and to share these blessings with others in need.

King David's Psalmist declaration "once, while at ease, I thought, I am so secure, nothing can shake me," can be read in a different light.

He might have been admitting to a complacency of his own responsibility to others when he was secure with his possession of blessings.

Now, King David, in experiencing the lack of blessings in one's life, might have become more sensitive to assisting others who have needs when one has the ability to do so.

Perhaps the blessing of empathy is the greatest Divine Blessing of all.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Mitch
For an archive of past columns, click  here.