we Israelis will read on the Shabbat immediately following Shavuot, Parashat Naso. We noted, in Hemdat Yamim for Yitro, that the kohanim did not play a major role at the giving of the Torah. Hashem revealed Himself directly (from a distance) to the people, and leaders from various tribes brought sacrifices (see Shemot 24:5 with commentaries). In Parashat Naso, the kohanim already had a prominent role in representing the people in their service of Hashem through the Mishkan and beyond.
Hashem uses the kohanim’s blessings to bless Bnei Yisrael and have His Name placed upon them (Bamidbar 6: 22-27). This line of communication seems to be in one direction; from Hashem, through the kohanim, onto the people. However, Chazal demonstrate that the blessings’ impact is more pervasive. The heads of each tribe brought identical sets of sacrifices on the days of inauguration of the Mishkan. The greatest, in quantity and apparently in prominence, were the korbanot shelamim (peace offerings). Each head brought 5 such sacrifices from eilim (rams), atudim (goats), and kevasim (sheep). In total, they brought 60 of each animal. Each leader brought 15 animals between those sets.
Remember those numbers, and you will see how the midrash (Bamidbar Rabba 14:18) connects these korbanot to birkat kohanim. The first blessing contains 15 letters. Each subsequent beracha is 5 letters longer than the previous one. The total of letters in the triple blessing is 60. The blessings end off with the hope for peace (shalom), and the sacrifices in question are shelamim (peace offerings). Birkat kohanim was first used at the Mishkan’s inauguration (Yerushalmi Ta’anit 4:1). Given the strong correspondence between the two adjacent Torah sections, the question is of the chicken and the egg. Which element impacts on the other?
After the one-time direct contact between Hashem and Bnei Yisrael and their subsequent failure with the Golden Calf, Hashem selected groups of the spiritual elite as intermediaries. Moshe was the "father" of generations of prophets, who informed the people of the Divine word. Regarding the relationship of giving, the kohanim were a medium for each side to show love for the other through blessings and sacrifices, respectively. For Bnei Yisrael to bring a "peace" offering, the kohanim had to develop Bnei Yisrael’s propensity toward peace by means of Hashem’s blessing that they convey. A representative’s authority depends on those he represents. For the kohanim to have a status in Hashem’s eyes, Bnei Yisrael, whom they served, used the korbanot to show a desire for a spiritual life of peace.
May our brethren abroad, who now have the opportunity to be blessed by the kohanim, and we in Israel, who have it regularly, experience together the shechinah on the kohanim’s hands in the Beit Hamikdash.