Receiving The Blessing
Five of us would gather in one of the Yeshiva classrooms and have our own “Minyan.” We were all between six and seven-years-old and could not wait for another lifetime before becoming bar-mitzvah and being the Chazzan in the Yeshiva davening, or prayer service. (We all assumed that once we were 13, we would be asked to lead the davening in the Yeshiva! It didn’t happen.) We would each take turns being Chazzan, Torah reader, and speaker in our mini-synagogue. We had “grown up” listening to Rav Dovid Kronglas zt”l, and Rav Avraham Blumenkrantz zt’l, leading the prayers, so we considered ourselves expert Chazzanim. I had a toy Torah from which we read the Torah portion. Our “Shul” was complete, except when the Cohanim would begin their preparations for Birchat Cohanim. We stroked our imaginary beards and determined that since none of us were Cohanim, we should join the “other” davening to be blessed by the Cohanim. We all would run out to the Yeshiva Beis Medrash to stand with our fathers. I admit that my decision had nothing to do with the absence of a Cohen in our shul. In fact, I didn’t even think about the Cohanim: There was no way that I would miss an opportunity to be wrapped up with my father under his Tallit. My grandfather zt”l would often invite me to stand with him under his Tallit. I tried it once and found myself shaking from head to toe and refused to ever again join him for the Cohanim to bless us.
My cousin from Israel was visiting for the holiday. He stood alone for Birchat Cohanim! “Do you hate your father?” we asked. “No! Why would I stand with my father?” Our hearts broke for my cousin. He obviously didn’t know anything about Duchaning! We suspected that either there was something really wrong in his family, or, that he was not really very religious.
I mentioned the horror story to my father, who explained that since my cousin lived in Israel, he received a blessing from the Cohanim every day. He had learned how to stand with his eyes averted without needing to hide under his father’s Tallit.
I was so confused! “What’s the point of Birchat Cohanim if not to stand with your father under his Tallit? I asked. “To receive a blessing from Hashem through the Cohanim,” my father explained.
“Uh oh!” I thought, “I had been missing the point all along my entire six and half years of life.”
It seems that my father knew what was going through my head. “Why do you like standing with me?”
“I feel safe, loved, and special.”
“One day you will realize that that feeling of ‘safe, loved, and being special,’ is exactly the blessing the Cohanim are giving you. They are asking Hashem to help you feel that way all the time.”
He, as usual, was right. I was soon ready to stand on my own to be blessed by the Cohanim.
I spent his final Simchat Torah with him. I was 40. I went to stand next to him for Birchat Cohanim and he invited my children and me to stand with him under his Tallit. I didn’t hesitate.
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