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    Does the blessing work? – Naso

    duchen birkat kohanim priestly blessingNo words of blessing are as famous as the priestly blessing, a highlight of the sidra. Kohanim enunciate the b’rachah from the duchan. It is invoked for infants, children, Bar-Mitzvahs and Bat-Mitzvahs, brides and grooms – at every turning point in life.

    But beautiful as the blessing is, it leaves a nagging doubt. Does it really work? If it did, would not life be unruffled?

    Yet our experience seems to be rasha v’tov lo, tzaddik v’ra lo – “The villain prospers, the righteous suffers”.

    The paradox echoes through history. It bothered Abraham, Moses, the sages: they said, Zo Torah v’zu s’charah – “Is this religion, and this its reward?”

    The Sho’ah makes us confront it most starkly of all. Richard Rubenstein claims it is a problem only because we have been living a fantasy; we believed there was justice in the world and the facts proved otherwise.

    Rav Soloveitchik says it is a mistake to approach the question philosophically. Philosophical solutions are not possible. Our view of the world is only partial. We cannot grasp reality from the all-encompassing perspective of God, only from finite, limited human perspectives. Our task is not to ask why there is suffering, but how to respond to it.

    We can respond through goral – fate – or yi’ud – destiny. The “fate” response is to endure evil and to try vainly to find an explanation for it.

    The “destiny” response does not minimise the fact of suffering or explain the question away, but seeks to transform it and deal with it constructively by increasing our sensitivity and to make ourselves better human beings and the world a better place.

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