A Student Publication of the Isaac
and Mara Benmergui Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Naso 14 Sivan 5762 May 25, 2002 Vol.11 No.28
Rabbi Joel Grossman
Halacha of the Week
Food For Thought
-by Jerry M. Karp
Rabbi Howard Jachter
-Yom Hashoah and Tisha Beav
This week's issue of Kol Torah
Singular or Plural?
by Rabbi Joel Grossman
Parshat Naso contains the famous Birkat Kohanim with which Hashem commanded the Kohanim of each generation to bless the Jewish people. In Israel these blessings are recited every day and in Chutz La'aretz. Ashkenazim say it only on Yom Tov. Curiously, although this Bracha was recited in the Beit Hamikdash and in the Beit Hakneset for the entire congregation, it is phrased in the singular rather than plural. Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, in his book Something to Say, answers that it is not always possible or wise to extend the same blessing to everyone uniformly. For the farmer, rain today may be a blessing but for the travelers or someone who had plans for outdoor activity it would be an annoyance. Only Hashem knows precisely what blessing is appropriate for whom. He therefore tells the Kohanim to bless the people in the singular, so that each individual should receive the form of blessing that is most appropriate for him.
A similar idea is expressed in the Torah reading of last week. On the first morning of Shavuot we read the Aseret Hadibrot. The Tenth Commandment is Lo Tachmod (don't desire your friend's wife or possessions). Why did God give this command? Can one really control what they think about? The Ibn Ezra answers this question based on a parable. He compares it to a peasant who saw the princess when she passed through his village. The peasant didn't desire her since he knew that she was out of his league and totally off limits to him. So too, we should feel that way whenever we see something which belongs to someone else. We must realize that Hashem is correct in the way He gave this to the person, and that He is correct in the way He decides. Therefore we should never doubt what God has done.
There is a story quoted in the name of the Chafetz Chaim. Someone came to him with a complaint about a problem he was having in his personal life. The Chafetz Chaim explained to him that Liatid Lavo, in the future, God is going to put a bag on a table in front of people with a list of problems on the outside of each bag, with each person choosing their own bag of problems. Just like God is regarding as punishment, so too, He is correct about blessing. Therefore, the Kohanim bless each of us in the singular form to receive what would be a blessing to us.
May the blessing of Birkat Kohanim be fulfilled for each of us on an individual level and collectively may we be blessed with Shalom, peace. As the Mishna in Masechet Uktzan teaches: there is no greater blessing than peace. Hopefully that will happen both in Eretz Yisrael and Chutz La'aretz speedily in our time.
Peace and Order
by Jonathan Weinstein
In this week's Parsha, we read the Birkat Kohanim that Hashem told to the Kohmin to blessBinei Yisrael.This is put right after the portion dealing with a Nazir. This juxtaposition teaches us that the Kohanim may not recite Birkat Kohanim if they recently drank wine. This is also why Kohanim do not recite Birkat Kohanim at Mincha, as Kohanim might have drunk some wine during the course of the day. By reciting the Birkat Kohanim, we understand that Hashem is blessing us in order to show us Chessed. So of course, Birkat Kohanim must be said by religious devoted people such as the Kohanim in order for Binei Yisrael to show Hashem that they want to be blessed. But why did Hashem not bless us directly? An answer might be that Hashem wanted to give the Kohanim a special gift by letting them recite the blessing, as it says in (12:4) that " they who bless Binei Yisrael will be blessed by Hashem." Also, when the Kohen blesses Binei Yisrael , Hashem is actually blessing Binei Yisrasel (the Kohen is just an intermediary between Hashem and Binei Yisrael).
Let us now explain the content of Birkat Kohanim . The first section focuses on material blessing. We ask for material blessing and for Hashem to protect our possessions. The Sforno explains that you need to take care of your physical goals in order to reach your spiritual goal. We are praying that Hashem bless and protect our material interests. The second section talks about other people perceiving you as a spiritually eager person. The Sforno explains that the blessing is that you should see the grace of Hashem and therefore you will be able to observe Hashem's miracles and Torah. The last Bracha focuses on peace. After praying for our physical and spiritual needs, we conclude with a Bracha of peace. According to the Sifri, we may only maintain our physical and spiritual needs in a peaceful environment. The Sforno explains that we pray for a full reward of peace in order that we should have in Olam Haba a full reward with no punishment. We need Hashem to help us achieve peace in Olam Hazeh. The Kil Yakar says that peace was the last Bracha because peace completes everything. The first two Brachot were missing something and the last Bracha brings it all together. A similar phenomenon occurs Creation where man was created last and everything created before man was created primarily for man. Peace is so important that even dead people want it but since they cannot have it, they want living people to have it. If there is no peace among the living, then the dead people cannot rest. Accordingly, we pray to Hashem to provide us with peace and order.
by Yosef Novetsky
In Parshat Naso, the Torah discusses the ritual the Nazir follows if he became Tamei. This process consists of the Nazir shaving off all of his hair, and the giving of several animals as offerings. But one of these animals is given as a sin offering. This prompts the question. If the Torah gives one the option of being a Nazir, then why does this merit a Korban Chatat? In Masechet Taanit (11a), Gemara cites a Braita that presents two answers to this problem. The first answer is that a Nazir takes a vow to make himself holy to Hashem, and now that he has become Tamei he must offer a Korban Chatat, as this constitutes a violation of his vow. The second answer is that the Nazir took it upon himself not to drink alcohol, cut his hair, etc., and now that he is absolving his vows he must offer a Korban Chatat, because he was given many forms of pleasure from Hashem, which he gave back to Hashem and said that he didn't wish to enjoy the pleasures of life that were given to him by G-d.
The Rambam accepts the second answer of the Braita. In Hilchot Deot 3:1, the Rambam states that it is an evil path to divorce himself from pride and passion by not eating meat, drinking wine, and foregoing other worldly pleasures. He cites Kohelet where it states "Do not be overly righteous or excessively wise." The Ramban, however, follows the first opinion. In addition, the Rambam at the conclusion of Hilchot Nezirut adopts a positive attitude towards the Nazir, as he states that being a Nazir is the first step towards becoming a Navi.
Halacha of the Week
I asked the Rav (in 1983) if he felt it appropriate to purchase a German produced automobile. Rav Soloveitchik responded that he was not sure, because a conflict of Torah values is involved. On one hand, the Torah commands us to remember what Amalek did to us. On the other hand, the Torah believes that the children should not be punished for the sins of their parents. Rav Soloveitchik said that each individual should follow his moral intuition regarding this matter. Rav Avraham Shapira (the former Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel) expressed similar sentiments when I posed this question to him in 1984.
Food For Thought
by Jerry M. Karp
1) In Perek 5, Pasuk 24 the Torah explains that the Kohen will eventually give the bitter water to the suspected Sota. Why is this comment placed here? Why does it not simply state this when the water is actually given?
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