I have always taken great pride in my family tradition, passed along from father to son for countless generations, that I am a ‘Kohen,” a direct descendant of Aaron the High Priest. Every morning at the synagogue, I have the cherished opportunity to bless the other worshippers with the same words that Aaron, my ancestor, blessed the people as described in the Book of Numbers. In recent years, scientists discovered a gene that can be traced from the Biblical figure of Aaron, which is common today in those who claim the tradition of being Priests.
The Priestly, or Aaronic, Blessing contains three parts. It begins with a blessing for prosperity and physical safety, continues with a spiritual blessing for God’s grace, and climaxes with a blessing of peace, which has always been the ultimate Jewish hope and prayer.
One of the great highlights of celebrating Sukkot in Jerusalem is the Priestly Blessing ceremony that takes place at the Western Wall. Yesterday’s turnout was significantly lower than in years past due to Covid restrictions, however, that didn’t stop thousands in attendance from receiving the blessing that used to be performed by the High Priests in the time of the Temple.
The power of the ancient Hebrew words chanted in the presence of thousands of Israelis who come from all over the country to our holiest site feels a little like we are worshipping in the Temple today. It reminds us that while we have so much to celebrate, we also have so much that we are missing.
The pilgrimage festival of Sukkot reminds us that we are still lacking the Third Temple, which we pray will be rebuilt in Jerusalem as a ‘House of prayer for all nations.’ In fact, not only, Jews will worship there, non-Jews will also pray and even offer sacrifices in the Third Temple, according to some Jewish and Christian theologians.
As a Kohen, allow me to bless you today that God should grant you abundance and prosperity, He should show you kindness and grace, and most importantly, He should bless you with inner peace and Shalom, in all areas of your life. May you and I celebrate next Sukkot together in the rebuilt Third Temple in Jerusalem, Amen!