The Wholeness of Shalom

Posted on May 19, 2021

By Hazzan Barbara Barnett

This week’s Torah portion contains three of the most famous lines in Torah. It is called the Birkat Kohanim, but also the “three-fold blessing” or the “priestly blessing” (the English translation of Birkat Kohanim).

May Adonai bless you and guard you!

May Adonai’s face shine upon you and be gracious unto you

May Adonai bestow favor upon you and grant you peace!

It’s a powerful three, very short lines.

It is the final line that draws my eye this morning in a world filled with conflicts big and small, local and global. “Grant you shalom.” I use the Hebrew because although I could translate it as “peace,” I think the word “wholeness” is more precise here. Peace is amorphous, slippery and elusive. Wholeness is another thing, an attainable thing—something that can emerge from within and not from without. The blessing is written in second person singular, to each individual who receives it—not to a family, not to a community.

Perhaps personal “wholeness” can emanate both from the spiritual connection to G-d as implied by the second blessing and by the more material blessings suggested by the first (as interpreted by Rashi). If we cannot have “peace” in our world, in our lives at this time, perhaps we might find a way to toward a sense of being whole—whether that is to enjoy the warmth of a spring day, to look up at the stars or to simply breathe deeply.