By Julia Berg – Director of Jewish Life
[This D’var Torah was given to our camp leaders during our first Shabbat on campus at our summer home in Byfield.]
I’m sure many of you are familiar with this symbol.
Live Long and Prosper! And some of you may know that Leonard Nimoy (aka Spock) was Jewish! He once mentioned in an interview that he was inspired to create the Vulcan salute because he had seen this hand motion in synagogue as a child during the Priestly Benediction. And last week’s Torah portion actually contains the words of the Priestly Benediction, which is the prayer that the priests (the descendants of Aaron during the Temple period) are supposed to use to bless the Israelites, and what rabbis do to bless their communities in modern day, acting as a medium through which G-d reaches the people.
As the Torah says in Numbers 6:23-27:
“Speak to Aaron and his sons: Thus shall you bless the people of Israel. Say to them:
‘May God bless you and guard you:
May the light of God shine upon you, and may God be gracious to you:
May the presence of God be with you and give you peace’
Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them.”
Throughout leadership and staff training, we have talked a lot about how our words and behaviors will trickle down to our staff and our campers. And according to the Talmud, in tractate Sota 39a, we see that the priests are supposed to say yet another blessing in preparation for the Priestly Benediction in order to sanctify it. “Blessed are You, Sovereign of the universe, who sanctified us with the holiness of Aaron and commanded us to bless God’s people with love.” (Sotah 39a), which leads us to ask the question of “why love?” Why is it so important that the priests acting as Gd’s messenger bless the Israelites in love?
It would seem that the Talmud is saying that the blessing over the people of the children of Israel must be sanctified and one way of doing that is through love. This is something we also do with our campers. Most literally on Friday nights, we are blessing them during Shabbat dinner. And even when it is not Shabbat, we are using our love of community and science and technology and Judaism to pass something on to our children. In fact, in many ways it is a trickle-down effect of the love and care of leadership that translates into the love and care put in by our counselors that evolves into the love of learning, community and Sci-Tech. And so, my hope is that even on our most difficult days, we can remember to sanctify what we pass on to our staff and campers through love, and by doing so, maybe reflect the goals that the Priestly Benediction that we find in the Torah fulfills.
 Inspired by Rabbi Dr. Jenny Solomon’s D’var Torah on Nasso in the Torah from T’ruah email blast