The Lord bless and protect you. The Lord deal kindly and graciously with you. The Lord bestow
his favor upon you and grant you peace. (Numbers 6:24-26)

These words from this week’s Torah portion, known as the Priestly Blessing, are among the
best known and most comforting of the Bible. They have resonated with us for quite a while. As
it happens, these verses comprise the oldest copy of Biblical text to have yet been discovered,
found in a silver amulet in a burial cave in Jerusalem dating from the 6th century BCE, some
500 years before the Dead Sea Scrolls (

I’m not generally a fan of gematria, but the Baal HaTurim makes a noteworthy observation on
this passage: The word for “peace” (shalom) has the same numerical value as the name Esau,
Jacob’s brother, and also his mortal enemy. When brothers find themselves at one another’s
throats, the Torah hints for us to remember shalom, to strive for peace.

The Baal HaTurim connects his insight to the exchange of greetings of peace. Just as one might
unhesitatingly greet a brother with “Shalom!” one must resolve to extend a greeting of peace
even to encounters which feel more threatening. We all have our stories to tell about what we’ve
experienced and who we are. What are our dreams and what are our anxieties and fears. As
the Book of Jeremiah points out, it is the false prophet “who cries ‘Peace, peace’ when there is
no peace” (Jer. 6:14) There can be no true peace without justice. Getting there depends upon
sharing our stories with empathy, openness and respect. Perhaps a first step could be to offer a
greeting of peace instead of dominance and force. Disarmed, we may find we have amazing
stories to share, and set out to become brothers and sisters once more.
B’Yedidut( /in friendship)