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The Systems of the Jewish Year

When Blessings Conflict

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

A dream is the first step of any new venture.

We see a vision for our lives, our families, our community and the world we live in. We dream about how the world can be improved, and of the contribution that we can make. I personally dream of a life of Torah and a home of peace. For my children I dream of neshamos coming together as one in marriage, and fulfilling a great purpose that each would never be able to be accomplishing on their own as individuals.

“If someone dreams a dream and they don’t know what it means, they should stand before the Kohanim as they stretch out their hands in blessing and they should say, “Master of the Universe, I am Yours and my dreams are Yours. I have dreamt a dream but I don’t know what it means.

Take those dreams and, before anything else, stand before the Kohanim as they spread out their hands in blessing. After dreaming comes prayer.

The Malbim explains the blessings of the kohein, which is called the bracha meshuleshes, the three part bracha.

Yivorechicho is a blessing for physical welfare: health, livelihood and environment. Yishmirecho - may G-d guard you that you come to no physical harm.

Yaer is a spiritual blessing. It refers to the blessing of Shechina, the presence of G-dliness in our lives. When we have the Shechina we are blessed with chein - grace. We love and are loved by everything and everyone around us. We love the place where we live and we are loved by our community. We love and are loved by our spouses. We love our belongings and what we have lends grace and dignity to our lives. (Sotah 47).

Without the Shechina life may seem to go on, but it is missing that extra spark, the intangible beauty, the geshmak. With chein, life works, marriage works, and society works. So the Kohanim bless us with grace.

The third bracha is Yisa Hashem. “May Hashem shine His countenance upon you and grant you peace.” We have already asked G-d to bless us in all things spiritual and physical; if these blessings are fulfilled we have everything! What more can we pray for than having all our physical spiritual and physical dreams fulfilled? What is left? What is the third bracha?

The Malbim explains that the third blessing is the blessing of peace between the physical and the spiritual. Sometimes our blessings conflict and it becomes difficult, even treacherous to balance the two. Success in the secular world often comes at the expense of our spiritual growth and vice versa. Sometimes we are pulled in two different directions at once. Sometimes our inner self becomes segregated. So we stand before G-d and the Kohanim bless us with inner peace, Shalom.

I have observed many men and women that are fortunate enough to have “two tables”, or two blessings and struggle between them. Men and women who want so much to be integrated into this world but find their spiritual blessings get in the way. There are also those that are uncomfortable with the financial blessings G-d has given them - they see their prosperity as a challenge to their spiritual life.

As Jews, we pray for two blessings and than we pray for the much needed peace.

I once read a tragic story in the Wall Street Journal. ("How a Tyco Lawyer Channeled Windfall in Unlikely Cause") The story started off fairly typical. A lawyer that became a millionaire was overtaken by greed and began to embezzle. It finally caught up with him and his life of the rich and famous was coming to an end. This story, however, was different. The man was described as an “observant Jew, who was the President of his Synagogue in Westchester. As he embezzled his millions, it was learned, he was donating the money to various Catholic Churches and their causes. The man had secretly converted to Christianity after an ongoing email relationship with a very charismatic priest that specializes in missionizing to wealthy Jews. After “taking the plunge he wrote “I’ve never felt so exhilarated since my Bar Mitzvah. He joined a Christian group called Opus Dei. (Well know these days because of Da Vinci Code) Apparently as he grew wealthy he had a very difficult time reconciling his affluence with his spirit. It’s heartbreaking when a person makes such a dreadful decision. Now that he is in serious trouble it seems that the priest, Father McCloskey has backed away. His closing words and the closing words of the article are, “the Catholic Church is about suffering and Mark is suffering.

It seems he had the first priestly blessing of physical wellbeing and he even had the second blessing of spirituality. The article speaks of the inner torture he suffered which led him to seek desperately for some sort of relief that would reconcile his blessings. He had no shalom because he couldn’t integrate the two.

Other religions sometimes teach the evil of affluence and the virtue of pain. Suffering is an aspiration! Judaism teaches integration of the mind, body and soul.

Judaism is about inner peace. Peace in the world, peace in our lives and peace in our soul.

Veyasem lecho Shalom.

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