In the middle of this weeks Torah portion of Naso we find the famous Priestly Blessings recited by the baal koreh [prayer leader] or any kohanim [members of the preistly tribe of Aharon] present during the repetition of the shemoneh esrei every morning in Eretz Yisrael [Israel], as well as given by parents to their children on Shabbos night at the dinner table. The blessing is as follows: “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, Speak to Aharon and his sons, saying: So shall you bless the Children of Israel, saying to them: ‘May Hashem bless you and safeguard you. May Hashem illuminate His countenance for you and be gracious to you. May Hashem lift His countenance to you and establish peace for you.’ Let them place My name upon the Children of Israel and I shall bless them” (Bamidbar 6:22-27).
remarks on the last of the Priestly blessing, “May Hashem lift his countenance to you…” as it is written (Vayikra 26:9) ‘I will turn My attention to you, [I will make you fruitful and increase you; and I will establish My covenant with you.’] That He will not hide His face from you. Now when the Torah writes (Devarim 10:17) ‘…Who does not show favor [i.e. lift His countenance] this refers to Hashem not “lifting his face” or showing favor towards a person who has sinned and purging all his sins. However He does show favor or “lifts His countenance” towards His loved ones who turn towards Him in order to shower them with graciousness as it is written (Vayikra 26:9) ‘I will turn My attention to you, I will make you fruitful…’” (Click here
for Hebrew text.)
By definition Hashem is all good and kind; yet He is also all knowing and conducts creation within the framework of truth. He sets the limits of reward and punishment. It makes sense that it is unjust to completely ignore the sins of mankind and wipe them clean as if they never existed if there was no attempt from man to mend his ways by doing teshuva (repenting). However it would seem from the juxtaposition the Rashbam makes that we might have thought being gracious to those who walk in Hashem’s ways, who act like His children and loved ones, is also an injustice, a lack of honesty.
Why should this follow? Why would we think that showering those that deserve blessing with rewarding and showing them favor with plenty would be a lack of honesty? Hashem sets the rules; why can’t He shower as much reward as he feels appropriate upon those who follow Him!?
It would seem that the concept of “lifting His countenance,” or showing favor, is to go to an extreme by offering something which, in truth, is undeserved. This is certainly true for just erasing, for no reason, the sins of those who transgressed Hashem’s commandments. However one might think that even showering His graciousness on His loved ones who do walk in His ways would also be extreme because no one is perfect, as it says: “A righteous person falls seven times…,” therefore it seems the blessing of “may Hashem lift His countenance” to favor you is a lack of honestly. The Torah is therefore teaching us that Hashem focuses on the good His children do, and those good deeds are deserving of all the blessing in the world.