#blogelul - bless

may the … be with you

Per­haps the most famous bless­ing is that expressed by the ancient priests in Jerusalem as record­ed in the book of Num­bers (6:24–26):

יְבָרֶכְךָ יְיָ וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ.
יָאֵר יְיָ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָ.
יִשָּׂא יְיָ פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם.

The priests of old are no longer in a posi­tion to do the bless­ing as they did in ancient days. Though, in many Ortho­dox and Con­ser­v­a­tive syn­a­gogues their descen­dants con­tin­ue to reen­act the rit­u­al. For over 30 years I have used my own trans­la­tion.

May our behav­ior toward one anoth­er express the gen­tle­ness of bless­ing and care.
May we feel the gra­cious­ness of the divine qual­i­ties of cre­ation.
May the holi­ness of cre­ation rise up to greet us and grant us the whole­ness, the com­plete­ness, of peace.

I believe it is our respon­si­bil­i­ty and task to bring bless­ing into the world.

ancient jewish salute

When they expressed God’s bless­ing on the peo­ple of Israel, the priests stood before them, raised their hands and held their fin­gers in a par­tic­u­lar form. Many of us have seen this. It was pop­u­lar­ized by Leonard Nemoy in his role as Spock in the orig­i­nal Star Trek. Nemoy explained the ori­gin of the Vul­can Salute. Near­ly every time there is ref­er­ence to the ori­gins of the “salute” it is described as being in the shape of the Hebrew let­ter Shin ש. There are two illus­tra­tions found on the Web that sug­gest how this works:

priestly salute as ש

priest­ly salute as ש


priestly salute as ש (alternate)

priest­ly salute as ש (alter­nate)

How­ev­er, there are oth­er hand shapes that could (more?) eas­i­ly be iden­ti­fied as that let­ter:

american sign language

amer­i­can sign lan­guage “3” as a ש

american sign language

amer­i­can sign lan­guage “w” as a ש

Those who say that the shape of the salute rep­re­sents a ש say that it comes from the divine name El Shad­dai אל שדי‎ (as in [God] Shad­dai). You can read this expla­na­tion in many places. Here’s a recent one from the Jerusalem Post Mag­a­zine by R. Shlo­mo Riskin on May 16, 2013

In this stir­ring bib­li­cal pas­sage, the kohen -priests – descen­dants of Aaron, the first high priest – are instruct­ed to raise their hands, spread out their fin­gers to form the Hebrew let­ter shin for the Divine name Shad­dai (Almighty God) and so bless the con­gre­ga­tion of pray­ing Israelites.

priests & שדי‎?

How­ev­er, שַׁדַּי does not appear in Leviti­cus the priest­ly book. Not only that, but, in the book of Num­bers it only appears 17 times. And at that it is part of a per­son­al name 15 times. The “name” is used only by itself (as part of a phrase: מַחֲזֵה שַׁדַּי יֶחֱזֶה) twice (and not as אל שדי‎)!

salute what you eat

I have a dif­fer­ent the­o­ry that I’ve men­tioned to friends, but nev­er “pub­lished” (until this moment):

I believe that the salute rep­re­sents the hoof of ani­mals that Jews are allowed to eat… as in:

Hi there! We iden­ti­fy with these ani­mals which we’re will­ing to eat.

a cloven hoof

a cloven hoof

Some cul­tures iden­ti­fy the cloven hoof as sin­is­ter. How­ev­er that seems to be a Chris­t­ian asso­ci­a­tion of cloven hoofed crea­tures with the Greek god Pan and has noth­ing to do with Judaism. Most of the ani­mals with cloven hoofs are thought of as gen­tle, none of them are car­ni­vores.

priests and ministers and rabbis… oh my

On Jan­u­ary 20, 1961, at the inau­gu­ra­tion of John F. Kennedy as pres­i­dent, while cler­gy of oth­er faith tra­di­tions also par­tic­i­pat­ed, Rab­bi Nel­son Glueck offered the bene­dic­tion. He spoke the words of Num­bers (6:24–26).

rabbi nelson glueck delivers the priestly benediction at the kennedy inauguration

rab­bi nel­son glueck deliv­ers the priest­ly bene­dic­tion at the kennedy inau­gu­ra­tion

The Amer­i­can Jew­ish Archives in Cincin­nati has the video of Nel­son Glueck deliv­er­ing the bene­dic­tion. But it is not yet online. The c-span ver­sion includes Glueck’s words towards the end.

what about our behavior?

As we approach the new year, how does my behav­ior express the gen­tle­ness of bless­ing and care?


may the “hoof” be with you!

This but­ton was sold as “Spock’s salute”.

the priestly blessing "salute"

the priest­ly bless­ing “salute”

Date: 2010
Size: 2.38
Pin Form: straight clasp
Print Method: cel­lu­loid
Text [none]

your lapel buttons

Many peo­ple have lapel but­tons. They may be attached to a favorite hat or jack­et you no longer wear, or poked into a cork-board on your wall. If you have any lay­ing around that you do not feel emo­tion­al­ly attached to, please let me know. I pre­serve these for the Jew­ish peo­ple. At some point they will all go to an appro­pri­ate muse­um. You can see all the but­tons shared to date.

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