Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 5 No. 33

Parshas Nasso

Divine Blessing

Birchas Cohanim begins with the words "Hashem will bless you and He will guard you" (6:24), which Rashi explains to mean that Hashem will bless your property (bear in mind that after they entered Eretz Yisroel, every Jew - from the twelve tribes, but excluding the tribe of Levi - owned property), and He will also look after it for you. Because what benefit does a person have from a gift that is later stolen by robbers? But when Hashem blesses a person, then that blessing is not subject to theft - it is guaranteed! If that is so, one may well ask, how does one account for a Jew's car being stolen, his house being burgled or his being robbed? If his property is a Divine blessing, then it will not, it cannot, get stolen!

The Chofetz Chayim deduces from the possuk, that wealth that comes to a person as a result of Divine blessing, is not subject to theft, but money that one obtains through other means than Divine blessing, will not enjoy that privilege. Consequently, money that is obtained through theft, dishonest dealings, or through the desecration of Shabbos, will not receive Divine blessing. His property is open to theft and loss, with no guarantees to the contrary.

Evidently, there are two types of property: property that one receives from Hashem, and property that one comes by, through one's own illegal activities. In the latter case, it is either the property that dwindles, or the person that is 'taken away from his property'. And this is what Yirmiyah ha'Novi means when he writes 'If somebody amasses wealth unjustly, he will lose it in half his days". It even happens sometimes, adds the Chofetz Chayim, that the owner's removal from his property follows pain and suffering, and it transpires that all his efforts to enrich himself were not only futile, but counter-productive, causing him pain, suffering and even death.

The Chofetz Chayim has dealt with money and property that one came by through sinful means. Does it follow then, that all money that one earns honestly, not through sinful means, is subject to Divine blessing?

Shlomoh ha'Melech stresses throughout Chapters 2 and 3 of Koheles, the futility of amassing wealth, over and above one's own needs, to bequeath to one's children after one's death. "And I saw," he concludes Chapter 3 "that the only good thing is for a man to be happy with the toil of his hands (and not to covet riches, to increase wealth that is not destined for him) for that is his portion (allotted to him by Hashem)." Because who will bring him back here (after his death) to see what will happen afterwards (whether his heirs will succeed with the riches that he amassed and that he left for them, or not - Rashi). It is clear from Rashi that Shlomoh ha'Melech is not concerned at this point, with money that has been gained dishonestly, but about wealth that is excessive. Everyone is due to earn a certain amount, to live within a certain financial framework, as Chazal have said, both with regards to when it is decreed in Heaven, before each person is born (as to whether he will be rich or poor), and with regard to each Rosh Hashonoh, when Hashem decides every person's income for the coming year. As long as he strives to live within that framework, and to do so honestly and correctly, the money he earns will come to him with G-d's blessing, together with a guarantee that the money is safe. But when he attempts to live outside of that framework - such as by working extra hours to earn more than he really needs to live on (even if he does so in a way that is completely free of sin) - his income (or at least that which is in excess of his needs) does not stem from a Divine blessing, but from his own initiative, in which case it does not come with any guarantees.

Parshah Pearls
Parshas Nosso
Adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim

"Koh se'vorchu"

The word 'koh' has various connotations, reminiscent of different aspects of blessing. The Ba'al ha'Turim presents three:

1. To mention the merit of the Akeidoh (one of the foremost - if not the foremost - sources of blessing of Klal Yisroel). There, Avrohom told his servants "and I and the boy will go until there" (koh). And Hashem responded with the words "Koh yihye zar'echo" (so will be your children - like the stars in the sky).
2. The possuk of "Shema Yisroel" which Yisroel pronounce each day, morning and evening, as they express their absolute faith in the One G-d, the source of all blessing, contains twenty-five letters (the numerical value of 'koh').
3. Both the word 'brochoh' and the word 'sholom' appear twenty-five times in the Chumash, so it is no coincidence that Birchas Cohanim begins with 'brochoh' and ends with 'sholom'. Dovid ha'Melech too, took his cue from here when he wrote in Tehillim (29:11) "Hashem will bless His people with peace".

Rabeinu Bachye points out that when one adds birchas Cohanim to the twenty-four gifts of Kehunah, one has twenty-five - 'koh' - because birchas Cohanim is the twenty-fifth gift.

"Omor lohem"

"Omor" - with a 'vav' - corresponding to the six brochos inherent in birchas Cohanim, two in each of the three pesukim, and corresponding to the six times G-d's Name is mentioned in Tehillim (19:8): The Torah of Hashem; the testimony of Hashem; the commandments of Hashem; the Mitzvah of Hashem; the Fear of Hashem; and the judgements of Hashem.

The Three Fathers

The first possuk of Birchas Cohanim contains three words, corresponding to the three Ovos, Avrohom, Yitzchok and Ya'akov, and fifteen letters, corresponding to the fifteen years during which time their years overlapped (since Ya'akov was fifteen years old, when Avrohom died).

The first possuk (that of 'Yevorech'cho') is said in the merit of Avrohom, by whom the Torah writes "And G-d blessed Avrohom with everything". The three words in the possuk represent the three blessings that were said to him: 'va'Avorech'cho', 've'heyei b'rochoh' and 've'Avorchoh mevorchecho'.

The second possuk (that of 'Yo'er') corresponds to Yitzchok, who saw the Akeidoh and died, and needed Hashem to bring him back to life by lighting up his eyes, as is explained in the Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer. 'Yo'er" comprises the letters Re'i (backwords) because Yitzchok went up on the Mizbei'ach as an Olas Re'iyah. The possuk contains five words and twenty letters, representing Yitzchok, who lived after twenty generations and who kept the five Books of the Torah.

The third possuk (that of 'Yiso') corresponds to Ya'akov, by whom the Torah writes "And Ya'akov lifted up his feet". And Ya’akov also said "And I will return in peace" (the last word of Birchas Cohanim). The possuk comprises seven words, corresponding to the seven years, during which time the tribes were born, and twenty-five letters, corresponding to what the Torah writes at Har Sinai "So (koh) you shall say to the House of Ya'akov".

(known as 'Duchening')

(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

1. A non-Cohen who duchens, has transgressed an Asei.
Source: "Koh sevorchu" (you, and not non-Cohanim).

2. Duchening must be recited in Loshon ha'Kodesh.
Source: "Koh sevorchu" (and not in any other way).

3. The Cohanim should duchen standing.
Source: "Koh sevorchu" from "ve'Eileh ya'amdu levorech es ho'om" (by Har Gerizim and Har Eivol).

4. The Cohanim should raise their hands when they duchen.
Source: "Koh sevorchu" from "Va'yiso Aharon es Yodov el ho’om va’yevorchem"

5. A Cohen who fails to duchen, transgresses three Mitzvos Asei.
Source: "Koh sevorchu" ; "Omor lohem"; "Ve’somu es Shemi"

6. Birchos Cohanim should be read but not translated (as was customary by the leining - for example)
Source: "Koh sevorchu" - for a b’rochoh and not for translation.

7. Converts, women, and slaves are included in the blessings.
Source: "Omor lohem" ( to all of them).

8. There is no duchening unless there is at least a Minyan of ten non-Cohanim.
Source: "Es B’nei Yisroel"

9. The Cohanim should duchen face to face.
Source: "Omor lohem" (like one man speaks to another)

10. The Cohanim should duchen in a loud voice.
Source: "Omor lohem" (like one man speaks to another)

11. The Chazen (or someone else) should announce ‘Cohanim’, but only if there are at least two Cohanim duchening.
Source: "Omor lohem"

12. The Chazen should be a non-Cohen.
Source: "Omor lohem"

13. The Cohanim should duchen in the course of davening.
Source: "Yisso Hashem ponov" from "Hinei Nososi Ponecho" (when Lot prayed to spare Tzo’ar).

14. The Cohanim would duchen inside the Beis Hamikdosh using the full name of G-d, but outside, using the Name as we mention it.
Source: "Ve’somu es She’mi" from "losum She’mi shom" (‘shom’ - in the Beis Hamikdosh).

The Shema (part xiv)

'Keil Melech Ne'emon' (cont.)

The Rambam divided faith into thirteen principles, which we have in the form of the thirteen Ani Ma'amin's - or worded differently in "Yigdal' (the former appears in the Sidur at the end of Shachris, the latter at the beginning). Using 'Yigdal' as a yardstick, the thirteen principles can be placed into three main categories (with the rest as sub-categories): the first four deal with the existence of G-d, the next five with His supervision and leadership of the world, and the last four with reward and punishment - and that is how the Iyun Tefillah describes the significance of Keil Melech Ne'emon: Keil - the existence of G-d; Melech - His supervision and leadership; Ne'emon - His reliability to mete out just reward and punishment.

The Shema

Historically, the first possuk of the Shema has a remarkable background. Ya'akov Ovinu deliberately recited it when he met Yosef for the first time after twenty-two years, in a spontaneous demonstration that his love for G-d overrode that of his beloved son. His sons recited it to demonstrate their undivided loyalty to the one G-d, when Ya'akov on his death-bed misread the reason for the departure of the Shechinah, attributing it to his sons’ idolatrous thoughts, and went on to suggest that perhaps their loyalty towards Hashem was not total. To which they responded 'Listen Yisroel (our father), Hashem is our G-d' etc. Later in history, the Cohen Godol for war would refer to it on the battle-front, when as the army was poised to march into battle, he would encourage the soldiers with words of inspiration, which began with 'Shema Yisroel' - and as Rashi explains (Devorim 20:3), this hints to the great merit of reciting the Shema. If it was on the sole merit of reciting the Shema, he explains, Yisroel would be worthy of victory over their enemies. And most important of all, for countless thousand of Jews, 'Shema Yisroel' is the first possuk that they recite when they learn to speak, and the last possuk before they die. It is the ultimate declaration of faith.

The significance of Shema is further highlighted by its incredible array of contents, and it will be difficult, if at all possible, to find a group of pesukim which contains so many major mitzvos covering so many basic tenets of our religion. The three parshiyos of Shema incorporate Kabbolas Ol Malchus Shomayim and Kabbolas Ol Mitzvos, reward and punishment, the importance of living in Eretz Yisroel and the link between it and the mitzvos, the control of one's emotions and of one's intellect, and the importance of using them in the service of Hashem. And it also contains the mitzvos of loving Hashem, reciting the Shema, the study and teaching of Torah, Tefillin, Mezuzah, and Tefillah, as well as that of Tzitzis (which reminds us of the entire Torah) and of mentioning the Exodus from Egypt.

We see in the Parshah of Metzoro, how Hashem strikes a person with tzora'as in one of three areas - on his house, on his clothes or on his body. Maybe that is why the Torah gives us the three mitzvos, contained consecutively in the Shema: Tefillin (which we bind on our arms, next to the heart, and heads, to protect our bodies); Mezuzah (which we affix to the doorposts of our houses, to sanctify our homes); and Tzitzis (which we hang on the corner of our garments, to sanctify our clothes).

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