תשע”ט פ’ נשא
Volume 29, Issue 2
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.
ואמרה האשה אמן ואמן
“And the woman shall respond, “Amen, amen.” (5:22)
By answering amen to the oath uttered by the kohen, the woman accepts upon herself the full implications of his words. Why does the Torah require this specific word to signify her acceptance? The numerical value of the word of אמן is 91. Each Name of Hashem has its own value. In its most common written form, י-ה-ו-ה, its value is 26, while in its pronounced form, אדנ-י, it equals 65. These two values together equal 91. Thus, we can see that the Torah requires the woman to invoke the Name of Hashem in its fullness – with the combined numerical value – when she accepts the curse, thereby indicating that she understands and accepts all the implications of the kohen’s words. (Kol Dodi)
In the unique ceremony of the bitter water, there is one element which remains with us even today – the use of the word amen. With this curious word the woman accepts the curse that the kohen has pronounced. This word is still said today after blessings. According to the traditional explanation, it means: I confirm what has just been said. Another view is that this word is etymologically related to the word – אומן, tutor or guardian (see Esther 2:7). Thus, it means: I rely on the one who has my trust.
In either case, amen takes on meaning not through mere utterance but only after a full understanding and assimilation of what has been said. Our Sages teach that whoever says amen, confirming the praise of Hashem with all the power of his soul will have the gates of paradise open for him. Thus, the word amen has the potential of such grandeur that its consequences can transform heaven and earth. But this confirmation, this profession of faith, must come from the heart, not merely the lips. (R’ Hirsch)
דבר אל אהרן ואל בניו לאמר כה תברכו את בני ישראל
“Speak to Aharon and his sons, saying: ‘So shall you bless the Children of Israel.’” (6:23)
QUESTION: According to halacha (Orach Chaim 128:5), when the kohen recites the Priestly Blessing, he must first raise his hands and stretch them out. What is the significance of this?
ANSWER: Many people are accustomed to give blessings generously, and it is indeed a benevolent practice. For example, we bless a sick person “May you have a speedy recovery,” and we bless a person in financial straits with hatzlacha in his livelihood.
With this halacha, our Sages are imparting a very important lesson:while giving blessings is laudable, it is extremely important that we also “raise our hands” and “stretch them out” – that we actually do something to help the person in need. (Vedebarta Bam)
“May G-d bless you and safeguard you… (6:24)
This parsha contains Birkat Kohanim – the Priestly Blessing, with which G-d commanded the Kohanim of every generation to bless the Jewish people. It is interesting to note that despite the fact that this blessing was recited in the Temple and synagogue over the entire congregation, it is phrased entirely in the singular, rather than in the plural.
One explanation for this is that it is not always possible, or wise, to extend the same blessing to everyone uniformly. For the farmer, rain today may be an anxiously awaited blessing; for the long-distance traveler, it would be a hindrance. Wealth, a handsome appearance, or an extraordinary measure of some talent might be tremendous gifts and resources for one person; for another, each of these might be a burden he could not handle. Only G-d, Designer of all creations and Endower of all gifts, knows precisely what blessing is appropriate for whom. He therefore tells the Kohanim to bless the people in the singular; each individual should receive the form of blessing that is most appropriate for him. (Rabbi Goldwasser}
R’ Yehoshua ben Levi says that every kohen who blesses the tzibbur is himself blessed, but one who does not bless the tzibbur is not blessed. As it says in the verse, “V’avarcha m’vorachecha” – Hashem says, “I will bless those who bless you.” The Ben Yehoyada asks, what is the chiddush of R’ Yehoshua ben Levi? Obviously, if the kohen does not bless the nation he will not receive the brachot along with them.
The bracha of Birkat Kohanim ends with the word “b’ahavah.” We learn from it that it is not enough for the kohen to bless Klal Yisrael with his mouth; the bracha needs to come from the depths of his heart, with love. The gematria of the word אהבה twice is equal to twenty-six, equivalent to the name of Hashem. The kohen needs two forms of ahavah when blessing the nation: Ahavah b’peh and ahavah b’lev – love with his mouth and heart. If Birkat Kohanim is done properly, the kohen places the name of Hashem on Bnei Yisrael, as the verse says ושמו את שמי על בני ישראל – And they will place My Name on Bnei Yisrael, and I will bless them.” This is the chiddush of R’ Yehoshua ben Levi. One may have thought that as long as the kohen simply blesses the nation – with his mouth – he too will be blessed. R’ Yehoshua ben Levi tells us that the verse warns us that if the kohen does not bless the Jewish people with both forms of ahavah, he is not blessed. (Ben Yehoyada)