Don’t Turn Your Back on a Blessing
In Parshat Naso, Bamidbar 6:23, God speaks to Moshe regarding the Birkat Kohanim (Priestly Blessing) saying: “Speak to Aharon and to his sons, saying: This is how you shall bless (tivarchu) Bnei Yisrael, saying (amor lahem) to them…”


Why is necessary to have both “tevarchu”, bless them and also “amor lahem”, say to them?


According to Rashi, “amor lahem” refers to the fact that everyone must hear. It is not enough for B’nai Yisrael to be blessed, they must hear the blessing.


In Bamidbar Raba 11:4 we learn: Do not bless them with haste and rushing, rather with concentration (kavana) and a whole heart (lev shalem).


We see from here that the Kohanim must have a tremendous amount of kavana when they are blessing us and we must listen carefully in order to receive their blessing. According to the Shulchan Aruch, Orech Chaim 128:23, during Birkat Kohanim, the members of the congregation should face in the direction of the Kohanim, look down and concentrate on the words (we should not turn our backs to the Kohanim).


The Gemara in Chagiga 16a states: Rabbi Yehuda the son of Rav Nachmani, the spokesman of Reish Lakish expounded: Whoever gazes at three items causes his eyes to dim: a rainbow, a prince and Kohanim.


When was the part about not gazing at the Kohanim in effect? When the Beit HaMikdash (Temple) was standing and the Kohanim were on the platform and blessing the entire nation with the “Shem HaMeforash”, the Ineffable Name of God. Under those circumstances, the Divine Presence rested upon the knuckles of their outstretched hands.


Tosafot point out that even without the Beit HaMikdash, it is forbidden to gaze at the Kohanim during Birkat Kohanim so as not to be distracted from what they are saying.


We see from here that today we don’t look directly at the Kohanim since looking at them could ruin our concentration. It is very important for us to focus on the blessings that are being showered upon us.


May we all be blessed with the blessings of the Kohanim:


May God bless you and protect you

May God cause His countenance to shine upon you and favor you

May God lift His face to you and grant you peace.