This week in the Torah portion we are introduced to one of the most frequent blessings gifted or received in the Jewish community. At weddings, at b’nai mitzvah, at baby namings, at transitional moments, you name it – we probably use this blessing during that ritual. The blessing is called Birkat Kohanim, the Priestly Benediction, and is given by God to Moses to bestow on Aaron and the Children of Israel. It says: May God bless you and keep you. May God’s light shine upon you and be gracious to you. May God’s face be turned toward you and bless you with shalom.” Familiar, right?

Think about a time that you’ve received this blessing, or a time that you’ve received another blessing. What did you feel like? Were you happy? Energized? Calm and content? What was that experience of being blessed, and how did you react to it? I know when I’ve received blessings, Birkat Kohanim or otherwise, I often find myself wanting to pause and bask in that blessing. I tend to let the rest of the world fade away and live in that blessing, even for a moment.

But curiously, when the Israelites received their blessing, they respond differently. They are still in the midst of their long and arduous journey. Every day seems to bring a new challenge or another mitzvah (commandment) to uphold. Blessings are few and far between in the wilderness – you would think that they would want to enjoy the moment. But instead of letting the blessing wash over them and indulge in a moment of calm complacency, they find themselves immediately called to bring gifts and offerings to the Tent of Meeting and to God.

A cynic might interpret this moment as somewhere along the lines of “no rest for the weary.” But we Jeremiahns tend to see instead the cup as half full. Instead of the Israelites receiving their blessings and keeping the good feelings to themselves, they affirm the blessing by immediately sharing what they have with others. They know the true value of a blessing. They know how much a blessing is worth in motivation, connection, and purpose. They also know that blessings are multiplied, not when they are hoarded, but when they are shared. In other words, when the Israelites received blessings, they paid it forward.

What a model to be an inheritor of! We, the spiritual descendants of the Israelites tradition, who have innumerable blessings around us, are called to acknowledge those blessings by making sure that others can join in as well. When we have a plate full of food, we invite others to share our meal. When we have warm and comfortable clothing, we give what we are not using to those who don’t. When we are safe, healthy, and self-sufficient, we advocate for others to have access to the same systems and programs that we benefited from. When we find ourselves in a tent filled with blessings, we roll up the sides and invite others in.

Usually, when we receive a blessing during a service or ritual, we respond with the word “amen,” which comes from the Hebrew word for faith, Emunah. I like to think that this is because we have faith in ourselves and our community that blessings do not stop with us. We have faith that our blessings will be shared as soon as we leave that space. We have faith that blessings shared become blessings multiplied. We have faith that one day a hopeful blessing for some will become an affirmational blessing for all, changing “May God bless you and keep you” to “God blesses all of us and keeps all of us.”

Then, and only then, will we be truly blessed.