The Oldest known Bible Text ? …..


The Priestly Blessing

Source Sheet by yaakov Saavedra
  1. Lifting of the hands .

    ויקרא ט׳:כ״ב

    (כב) וַיִּשָּׂא אַהֲרֹן אֶת ידו [יָדָיו] אֶל הָעָם וַיְבָרְכֵם וַיֵּרֶד מֵעֲשֹׂת הַחַטָּאת וְהָעֹלָה וְהַשְּׁלָמִים.

    Leviticus 9:22

    (22) And Aaron lifted up his hands toward the people, and blessed them; and he came down from offering the sin-offering, and the burnt-offering, and the peace-offerings.

Rashi states on this Pasuk               ויברכם: ברכת כהנים יברכך, יאר, ישא:


When Ahron was blessing the people he was saying the Text of the priestly blessing or Birkat Cohanim.  (See Below)

The Nitivat Shalom , N.S. asks on this Pasuk;


Q: Why does it mention that Ahron lifted his hands? The idea is that he blessed them. If the essence  is the  blessing why is it referred to as the lifting of the hands in general, until this day ?

  1. Moshe’s hands influence the battle

    שמות י״ז:י״א

    (יא) וְהָיָה כַּאֲשֶׁר יָרִים מֹשֶׁה יָדוֹ וְגָבַר יִשְׂרָאֵל וְכַאֲשֶׁר יָנִיחַ יָדוֹ וְגָבַר עֲמָלֵק.
    Exodus 17:11

    (11) And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed.

Ahron helps support his brother by lifting his hands. Moshe’s  hands play a key role in the battle versus Amalayk.  On understanding is that they serve as motivation to the Jews fighting below looking to the leader in every generation  for inspiration and guidance.

  1. Stretching his arm

    בראשית כ״ב:י׳

    (י) וַיִּשְׁלַ֤ח אַבְרָהָם֙ אֶת־יָד֔וֹ וַיִּקַּ֖ח אֶת־הַֽמַּאֲכֶ֑לֶת לִשְׁחֹ֖ט אֶת־בְּנֽוֹ׃
    Genesis 22:10

    (10) And Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son.

The N.S. writes that we have unnecessary/extraneous wording in the pasuk. Q:Why does it say Avraham sent his arm? It should say he picked up the knife.


A:Avraham had to command his arm to reach out and grab the knife because his entire body was devoted to Chessed (Kindness) his arm would not want to hurt another human. So Avraham had to command his arm to grab the knife and so the pasuk points this out. His arm was an instrument through which he affected the world.

  1. Arm’s used for blessing on Shabbos

    בראשית מ״ח:י״ד

    (יד) וַיִּשְׁלַח֩ יִשְׂרָאֵ֨ל אֶת־יְמִינ֜וֹ וַיָּ֨שֶׁת עַל־רֹ֤אשׁ אֶפְרַ֙יִם֙ וְה֣וּא הַצָּעִ֔יר וְאֶת־שְׂמֹאל֖וֹ עַל־רֹ֣אשׁ מְנַשֶּׁ֑ה שִׂכֵּל֙ אֶת־יָדָ֔יו כִּ֥י מְנַשֶּׁ֖ה הַבְּכֽוֹר׃
    Genesis 48:14

    (14) And Israel stretched out his right hand, and laid it upon Ephraim’s head, who was the younger, and his left hand upon Manasseh’s head, guiding his hands wittingly; for Manasseh was the first-born.

Rabbi Yaakov Emden in his Siddur writes that it is a Minhag Yisroel to bless the children Friday night placing both hands on the child. In the Vilna Gaon’s Siddur it also mentions the Minhag of giving a Bracha, however there it says you should only place the right hand on the child.


The pasuk we say when blessing the children on Shabbos Night  is connected to Yackov blessing his grandchildren. We also say the Birkat Cohanim from parsha Nasso as part of the blessing.

  1. משנה אבות א׳:י״ב

    (יב) הלל ושמאי קבלו מהם.הלל אומר, הוי מתלמידיו של אהרן, אוהב שלום ורודף שלום , אוהב את הבריות ומקרבן לתורה.
    Pirkei Avot 1:12

    (12) Hillel and Shammai received [the Torah] from them [Shemayah and Avtalyon]. Hillel used to say: Be of the disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving [one’s fellow] creatures and bringing them closer to the Torah.


N.S. :  The text of the Bracha for the Birkat Cohanim mentions blessing with Love specifically, this is not found in the text of any other bracha, it also singles out  the holiness of Ahron .


Both of these are connected to blessing the people in general. If the Cohen does not have love for the people and the people don’t have love for him then the blessing is not as affective.  This is why love and through the holiness of Ahron are mentioned. They are guidelines to achieving and receiving Bracha.

  1. מלאכי ב׳:ז׳

    (ז) כִּי שִׂפְתֵי כֹהֵן יִשְׁמְרוּ דַעַת וְתוֹרָה יְבַקְשׁוּ מִפִּיהוּ כִּי מַלְאַךְ יקוק צְבָאוֹת הוּא.
    Malachi 2:7

    (7) For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, And they should seek the law at his mouth; For he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts.

Two Roles of the Priesthood – Rav Kook 


The function of the kohanim is not only to serve in the Temple. The kohanim are also expected to teach and elevate the people, as it says, “From the kohen’s lips they will guard knowledge, and they will seek Torah from his mouth” (Malachi 2:7). These two roles are interrelated, since the source for their spiritual influence on the people originates in the holiness of their service in the Temple.


There is one duty of the kohanim that combines both of these roles: the priestly blessing. This blessing is part of the Temple service, and at the same time, reflects their interaction with the people. The kohanim recite the blessing with outstretched arms, a sign that their efforts to uplift the people are an extension and continuation of their holy service in the Temple.

  1. Priestly Benediction. Oldest known Biblical text.

    במדבר ו׳:כ״ג-כ״ז

    (כג) דַּבֵּר אֶל אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל בָּנָיו לֵאמֹר כֹּה תְבָרֲכוּ אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אָמוֹר לָהֶם. (כד)יְבָרֶכְךָ יקוק וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ. (כה) יָאֵר יקוק פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ. (כו) יִשָּׂא יקוק פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם. (כז) וְשָׂמוּ אֶת שְׁמִי עַל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַאֲנִי אֲבָרֲכֵם.
    Numbers 6:23-27

    (23) ’Speak unto Aaron and unto his sons, saying: On this wise ye shall bless the children of Israel; ye shall say unto them:(24) The LORD bless thee, and keep thee;(25) The LORD make His face to shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee; (26) The LORD lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. (27) So shall they put My name upon the children of Israel, and I will bless them.’

From the Wikipedia Entry. Priestly Blessing. Ketef Hinnom.


Priestly Blessing

This is the oldest known Biblical text that has been found; amulets with these verses written on them have been found in graves in dating from the First Temple Period, and are now in the Israel MuseumJerusalem.

Various interpretations of these verses connect them to the three PatriarchsAbrahamIsaac, and Jacobor to three attributes of God: Mercy, Courage, and Glory.



Ketef Hinnom

In 1979 two tiny silver scrolls, inscribed with portions of the well-known apotropaic Priestly Blessing of the Book of Numbers and apparently once used as amulets were discovered by a 13 year old boy by accident.


They were found in one of the burial chambers. The delicate process of unrolling the scrolls while developing a method that would prevent them from disintegrating took three years. They contain what may be the oldest surviving texts from the Hebrew Bible . (Tanach)


Significance of the Discovery

The 2004 team described the scrolls as “one of most significant discoveries ever made” for biblical studies. Apart from their significance for our knowledge of the development of the Hebrew alphabet, the scrolls “preserve the earliest known citations of texts also found in the Hebrew Bible and … the earliest examples of confessional statements concerning Hashem .” The reference to Hashem as “Rebuker of Evil,” found in later incantations and amulets associated with Israel, is evidence that these artifacts were also amulets.

Birkat Kohanim a convergence of ritual and text. What is the interplay between the two?

What is the role of our hands in the world? In a literal  (Opposable thumbs) and figurative sense.

What are some answers to the N.S. original question?

What type of character traits do we look for in a  leader?


Source Sheet created on Sefaria by yaakov Saavedra