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The Name of the LORD on the Body

1

Meir Bar-Ilan

This essay will begin with a close reading of a single verse from

Birkat

Kohanim

(Priestly Blessing), and end with a clarification of one of the Ten

Commandments. The exploration of these topics will shed new light on a

few sources, and will attempt to extract new knowledge on an ancient and

forgotten practice.

”And put my name upon the Children of Israel“

The book of

Numbers

(6:22-27) contains the well-known

Birkat

Kohanim,

which

is also a part of the traditional prayer. The blessing concludes with

the following words: “so shall they put My name upon the children of

Israel, and I will bless them.” We will open, therefore, by interpreting this

verse.

The meaning of the phrase “put My name” has caused confusion

amongst commentators; and indeed the meaning of these words is opaque.

One of the latest commentators of the verse, J. Licht, states only that the

meaning of the verb “put” (

som

) in this verse is different from its meaning

in Deuteronomy 12:21: “put His name there”. However, it remains unclear,

as we do not know how His name was put upon the children of Israel.

2

A. The ‘Concrete’ Commentar y

In 1979, the

Birkat

Kohanim

was discovered on the back of two silver

plates from the days of the first temple, from around the 7

th

century BC.

3

Prof. Meir Bar-Ilan

teaches at the Department of Talmud and Oral Law and the Department

of Jewish History at Bar-Ilan University. He specializes in ancient Jewish culture and history.

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