Our parsha contains Birchas Kohamin, the blessing which Hashem instructs the Kohanim to give the Jewish nation. Yalkut Reuveni quotes a fascinating Zohar that makes a comment on the introductory verse opening this topic.
‘Ko (כה) sivarchu es bnei yisrael, So shall you bless Israel’ The word ko, is spelled chuf-hey and has the numerical value of 25. This hints to the fact that Israel is blessed with the 25 letters that make up the phrase “shema yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad.’ (Tikkunim, 44)
What does this mean and how are we to understand what this blessing is? The verses of birchas kohanim talk about Hashem blessing and protecting us and granting us peace, not about us reciting Shema?
The Zohar is teaching us fundamental in life. We often think that blessings mean peace of mind, financial stability, health, nachas and other great gifts. While they are all wonderful, and may everyone be blessed with them, ultimately, there is something even more important. The purpose of life is to connect with Hashem. Material and even spiritual blessings are great, but they must serve this purpose. Why does Hashem grant one wealth, health and blessings? Actually, for the same reason He sometimes sees fit not to grant them, to teach us how to serve Him.
If we are not grateful for the blessings that He bestows upon us, if we do not use them to inspire us to serve Him better, then they have no value. The Zohar is cutting to the heart of what birchas kohanim is all about. On the outside, the kohamin bless us that Hashem should watch over us, protect us and give us bounty and peace, but on the deepest level, what’s really at play here is the goal of us saying, reciting and most importantly, living by Shema Yisrael. All that comes our way is ‘ko’, those 25 letters that make all the difference. The unwavering declaration of servitude and connection to Hashem. The phrase that fathers and mothers teach their children each night, before they put them to sleep. They cover the baby’s eyes and teach them, that even when it is dark and we cannot see, even in the most trying and painful times in life, we call out and proclaim, “Shema Yisrael” the Jewish pledge of full allegiance.
That is what the Zohar is saying.