Dvar Torah Nasso: Novel understanding of Birchas Kohanim from Akeidas Yitzchok

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    Nasso – Recognizing and Connecting to the Source:

    דבר אל אהרן ואל בניו לאמר כה תברכו את בני ישראל אמור להם יברכך ה’ וישמרך יאר ה’ פניו אליך ויחנך ישא ה’ פניו אליך וישם לך שלום ושמו את שמי על בני ישראל ואני אברכם

    Speak to Aharon and to his sons, saying: So shall you bless the Children of Israel. May Hashem bless you and guard you. May Hashem illuminate His countenance toward you and endow you with grace. May Hashem lift His countenance to you and establish peace for you. They shall place My Name upon the Children of Israel and I shall bless them (Vayikra 6: 23-26).

    The Akeidas Yitzchak (Nasso: Shaar 74) addresses several questions. First, why is there a need for intermediaries – the Kohanim – for these blessings? Why doesn’t Hashem bless us directly? In addition, why does it say Hashem’s Name in each part of the blessings: “Yevarechecha Hashem, Ya’er Hashem, Yisa Hashem”? Also, the last pasuk needs some clarification. What does the pasuk mean by the words, “Ve’samu es Shemi – And I will place My Name”? And how does that result in the concluding phrase: “va’Ani avarecheim – and I will bless them”?

    Another question arises: It says in Rosh Hashanah (28b) that a Kohen is not allowed to add his own blessings to the Bircas Kohanim. If he does, he violates the mitzvah of “Lo sosifu al hadavar – You shall not add to the word” (Devarim 4:2). Why would the Torah prohibit Kohanim from being magnanimous and adding to the berachah?

    And then, based on the Sefer Chareidim (cited in Biur Halachah 128: 1), we have one last question. The Sefer Chareidim writes that just as there is a mitzvah for the Kohanim to give blessings, when the Yidden stand facing the Kohanim in silence and have in mind to accept their blessings according to the word of Hashem, they are included in this mitzvah. Why is this? If Hashem is offering us blessings through the Kohanim, why is there a mitzvah to accept these blessings?

    When we say a blessing, we begin, and sometimes end, with the words “Baruch Atah Hashem.” It would seem from these words as if we are blessing G-d. Is this really our intent? Are we even able to bless Hashem? In truth, explain many Rishonim, when we say, “Baruch Atah Hashem,” this is not our way of blessing Him, but a mechanism by which we can be blessed by Him. We must prepare and make ourselves worthy of Hashem’s blessings, and the extent of Hashem’s beneficence is proportionate to our preparation.

    This preparation includes recognizing the Source of the blessing and realizing that all good comes from Hashem. The more deeply one understands this, the more connected he is with Hashem; the more connected he is with Hashem and thus with berachah, the more he is blessed and enriched by Hashem.

    This is the meaning of the words “Baruch Atah Hashem.” The Hebrew word for pool or reservoir is בריכה, which has the same etymology as the word ברוך. When saying “Baruch Atah,” we are saying to Hashem, “You are Baruch; You, Hashem, are the Bereichah, the Reservoir and Supplier of all.” And when we acknowledge that Hashem is the Source of all blessing, He will keep the supply coming.

    With this understanding, we return to the Akeidas Yitzchak. There are many instances in the Torah where Hashem promises that He will reward or bless us. In this case, however, that is not our objective. The Kohanim are not here to give us blessings, as much as to make us worthy of receiving them. As such, they are not intermediaries at all.

    In addition, explains the Akeidas Yitzchak, when the Kohanim repeat Hashem’s Name in each section of the berachos: “Yevarechecha Hashem, Ya’er Hashem, Yisa Hashem,” they are telling us, “Do you know Who blesses you? Do you know Who illuminates His countenance toward you? Do you know Who establishes peace for you? It is Hashem, Hashem, Hashem! It is not from us, only from Hashem!”

    The Akeidas Yitzchak explains that the last pasuk continues this theme. The berachos end with the words (V. 27): “They will place My Name on the Children of Israel.” As a result of the Yidden’s acknowledgment, Hashem can now bless them, as the pasuk concludes, “va’Ani avarecheim – and I will bless them.” The Kohanim are repeatedly telling the Yidden that everything comes from Hashem, as they place Hashem’s Name on Bnei Yisrael and emphasize that they are not the Source. As teachers of Klal Yisrael, it is the job of the Kohanim to bring home this message, since it is their obligation to instill within the Yidden emunah in Hashem.

    Now we can also understand why the Kohanim are not allowed to add an additional berachah. They are not the ones giving us berachos; they are just injecting the awareness that all blessings come from Hashem. Were they to add their own blessings, the purpose of the Bircas Kohanim would be defeated.

    In fact, Rav Hirsch (Choreiv p. 338) says that this is why we are enjoined not to look at the Kohanim during Bircas Kohanim. We need to focus – without being distracted for even a moment – on the fact that only Hashem is the Source of all good, and that no human truly provides for us. Therefore, we are not to turn our attention toward, or look at, the Kohanim, but only to turn our hearts and thoughts to the true Provider and Blesser.

    Based on this, we see why all Yidden can participate in fulfilling this mitzvah. This is not merely an opportunity to get a blessing from Hashem. This is our opportunity to become connected to Hashem, which in turn makes us capable of partaking in all the berachos that Hashem has for us.

    If we incorporate this lesson, it will impact our whole life and our ongoing relationship with Hashem.

    Reb Eliezer

    The Binah Leitim Darush 41, ties all the parashiyos of Nasso together. There are seven causes that bring to gaaveh, the yichus, beauty, wealth, the family, wisdom, strength and honor for leadership. Even though Gershon was the bechor, Kehos was elevated because we go by merit and not by lineage. A zov teaches us the importance of inner beauty. Beauty can be taken and its fleeting but inner beauty remains. Wealth is provided by Hashem and only what he gives to charity is realy his. We find by Neilah on Yom Kippur one sin specified, stealing. If he does not use what is given to him to serve Hashem, he is stealing from Him and moal, commits treachery. When he thinks how great he is because his family stands behind him, teaches the Torah to be careful as the wife can become a soteh and go astray. The nazir’s hair which covers the brain which provides wisdom is being removed. This teaches similarly that wisdom comes from Hashem and therefore, he should not praise himself by it. Drinking gives a person a feeling of strength which again is provided by Hashem and reminded to the nazir. Also, he is reminded not be metameh himself to a dead person indicating that his leadership and greatness is only temporary and not to praise himself with it. The Birchas Kohanim summarizes everything indicating that all these bkessings come from Hashem and the most important is to have peace of mind.

    Reb Eliezer

    The kohanim are a conduit to the blessings from Hashem even if we are not worthy. It says in Taamei Haminhagim that we mention bad dreams at Birchas Kohanim as the kohanim when they duchen are completely kadosh and a dream is 1/60 of kedusha so we are mevatel a bad dream in sixty.

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