This week’s Torah portion, Naso, (Num. 4:21-7:89) contains the priestly benediction. God tells Moses that the priests are to bless the people with the following words: “May God bless and keep you. May God’s face shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God’s face be lifted up unto you, and may God grant you peace.” (Num. 6:24-26).
Why would God instruct the priests to offer blessing? Doesn’t blessing come from God alone? Isaac Arama, a commentator of 15th century Spain, raises the question, “What purpose is served by the fact that this precept enjoins that these benedictions should proceed from the priests to the people? Surely it is He on high Who blesses and what is gained or added whether the priests bless or refrain from doing so? Is it up to them to assist Him?” The commentators find an answer by using an analogy with agriculture. God sends the rain and the dew, but the soil cannot benefit by it unless it has been properly plowed and sown. God requires human assistance in order to bless the children of Israel and to prepare their hearts just as a farmer prepares the ground.
According to this interpretation, we are God’s partners in blessing. God may ordain blessing, but God doesn’t have any hands to plant and sow, to promote healing, to offer hope or to bring assistance. The only hands God can use are ours.