The Torah Text
The priestly benediction is one of the most famous selections from the Torah. “May God bless you and keep you. May God’s countenance shine upon you and be gracious with you. May God’s countenance be lifted toward you, and may God grant you peace” (Numbers 6:24-26). Immediately afterwards, God says “Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them” (Numbers 6:27).
Ibn Ezra’s Teaching
ואני אברכם. ויתכן היות מ”ם אברכם סימן הכהנים המברכים או יהיה סימן לישראל והטעם אם הם יברכום אני אברכם והטעם שאקיים ברכתם לפי דעתי שמ”ם אברכם סימן לכלם כהנים וישראלים
Numbers 6:27 AND I WILL BLESS THEM.It is possible that the mem of avarekhem (I will bless them) refers to the kohanim who utter the blessing. It means they will bless Israel, and I will bless those who bless. It is also possible that the mem of avarekhem refers to Israel. Its meaning is, if the kohanim bless Israel, then I will bless Israel; that is, I will fulfill the blessing of the kohanim. In my opinion, the mem of avarekhem refers to all of them, the kohanim and the Israelites. (Translation Strickman and Silver)
Reflections for the Path
When it says God will bless them, it isn’t clear who that refers to. Does that mean God will bless the priests for doing their job of blessing, or that via the ritual the priests proclaim, God will bless the Israelites? Ibn Ezra isn’t shy about expanding blessing (his definition of blessing is increased good after all). God blesses everyone!
For more on Abraham ibn Ezra:
1. Read my introduction.
2. Listen to ibn Ezra’s opening prayer poem for his Torah commentary.
3. Explore the five paths, ibn Ezra’s introduction to his Torah commentary.