Our parashah contains Birkat Hakohanim, the Priestly Blessing after which the last blessing of the Amidah is modeled: May the Eternal bless you and keep you. May the Eternal shine God’s face upon you and favor you. May the Eternal lift God’s face to you and grant you peace (Bamidbar 6:24-26). Midrash Tanchumah (Siman 9) uses a verse from Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs 3:7-8) to expound upon it:


There is Shlomo’s bed, encircled by sixty warriors from among the warriors of Israel, all of them trained in warfare, skilled in battle, each with sword upon his thigh because of terror of the night.


The Midrash compares King Solomon’s bed to the Temple, as both were places of procreation. Everything in the Temple reproduced, as it says “The staves (of the ark) grew long (1 Kings, 8:8)”  and it is also written “The gold was the gold of Parvayim (the ‘peh’ and ‘reish’ in ‘Parvayim’ allude to the verb ‘PRH’ meaning ‘be fruitful’ (2 Chronicles 3:6)” It is also written “And he built the Temple from wood of Lebanon (1 Kings 7:2).” The Temple was likened to a forest because just as forests are fruitful, so too is the Temple. The verse from Shir Hashirim that says that there were sixty warriors around King Shlomo’s bed alludes to the sixty letters in the Priestly Blessing. Anyone who would go to the synagogue and see the kohanim raising their hands in the Birkat Hakohanim  after a terrible dream would have their dream with its bad omens dispelled.


Right now, during this time of violence and unrest, combined with the coronavirus plague that is spreading and not abating, many of us are in deep need of such a remedy. We may want someone with divine powers to lift their hands and dispel our nightmares, and to wave away the hatred and rage and violence and death that consume our country. 


This is why the Torah tells us that we are a kingdom of priests. Each of us has the power to dispel the anxiety of others around us by deeply and reflectively listening. 


Each of us also has the ability to make our own personal temples, meaning our minds and our souls, places where life and holiness grow and become fruitful. Although we may be anxious or fearful or angry, it is in our power to “raise our hands in kedushah,” to look inside ourselves, and trace those feelings back to their roots and their causes. We can ensure that those feelings are born out of the immense value that we place on life, on peace, on the dignity and rights of every human being. 


When we are angry, it is because what we care about is threatened. When we grieve, it is because what or who we love is lost. Any feeling can ultimately be traced back to love, to profound caring, to a sense of sacredness. We need, at times like now, to trace our feelings back to their life-affirming source, and to dwell on that part of us that affirms life, that loves the world and ourselves, that sees the sacred in everything. Once we can do this, we come to recognize and feel that joy, grief, celebration, rage, and every other passion that means anything are all responses to what means the most in life. Dwell on

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