It was a hot, muggy July afternoon in New York City. I was on my way to a pastoral visit, carrying a heavy bouquet of white roses. I love all such occasions, but this one was really special. Not often does one have a privilege of bringing best wishes to a member who was 102 years old. For many of you who knew him, I went to see Scott Morton. It happened 3 years ago. Scott died the next Spring, but I still remember the visit as if it was yesterday because at the end of a nice visit, I received a very unique gift I still treasure. My dear and respected friend and colleague Scott gave me his blessing. I went to him to serve and to give and I was the one served and receiving. It was a deeply meaningful, moving and spiritually transforming experience. Some simple words and some quiet moments indeed have special power! Anthropologists and philosophers of language call such events “performative utterances”. It is unfortunate that secular scholars have better understanding of this reality than theologians or people of faith. Come this Sunday as we seek to re-learn receptiveness for blessing, for these subtle yet powerful words and moments. Join us as we seek to return their meaning and gravity to our lives.
This picture shows a part of the silver amulet scroll no.2 from a tomb in Ketef Hinnom (a ridge located just south of ancient Jerusalem). It dates from the 6th century BCE and contains the oldest preserved version of the so-called Aaronic or Priestly Blessing (which would later be recorded in Numbers 6:24-26 and in our modern, gender-inclusive translation reads - The LORD bless you and keep you,The LORD smile on you and be gracious to you. The LORD shower you with favor and give you peace.).
What looks almost like some random scratches on the foil are actually ancient letters (in the Paleo-Hebrew Script) and this particular section can be read: "The LORD bless you (and) keep you..."
And fore those who are interested in even more details, here are several slides from a lecture which I prepared few years ago about this unique find:
|Location of the find - in a depository cave under the chamber 25 of the cave.|
|Ketef Hinnom scroll number one (larger scroll) - columns from right to left - Redrawing of Paleo-Hebrew script, transliteration into modern Hebrew square script, and tentative translation.|
|Ketef Hinnom scroll number two (smaller scroll)|
|Opening part of the text KH 1 paralleled with two similar biblical passages in Hebrew and in translation.|
|The "Blessing part" of both scrolls compared with the Aaronic Blessing from the Masoretic Text of Numbers 6.|
|Ketef Hinnom scrolls were apotropaic personalized amulets which were well distributed throughout the Ancient Near East. The text of the scrolls does not prove existence of the written text of the Torah (the Pentateuch - Five Books of Moses) it only documents popularity and apotropaic (magically-protective) use of this particular blessing which would later be recorded in more full form in Numbers 6 as Aaronic or Priestly Blessing.|