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JUNE 16-17, 2000 14 SIVAN 5760

Pop Quiz: If a person steals from a convert who subsequently dies, who must he pay back for the theft?

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"If a man's wife strays" (Bemidbar 5:12)

The word which is used to denote straying ("tisteh") is the same word which means "folly (shoteh)." Indeed, the Rabbis tell us that a person does not sin unless a spirit of folly enters him first. This means that any rational and sane person would know not to commit a transgression. What happens to a person, however, is that momentarily he is overtaken by a desire or an impulse, and therefore does something wrong. This is akin to temporary insanity. Is it not insane that we argue with our spouses about foolish things, letting everything go to pieces because of a minor issue which is usually resolvable if we wouldn't stand on ceremony? What about words said in anger or spite? Is that not foolish? If we would go down the line, we would see that there is no logic to most of our transgressions! This is the lesson of the wayward woman, the sotah. If we learn to be on the lookout for this "spirit of foolishness," we can nip it in the bud, and let our reason and common sense keep us in line. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Reuven Semah

"So shall you bless the Children of Israel" (Bemidbar 6:23)

Every day in our synagogues the people receive a blessing from the Kohanim. If one studies the commentaries on the blessing he will discover that this blessing is to grant great physical bounty for each Jew. Fundamental to our beliefs as Jews we know that all of these things come from Hashem. If so, why do we need the Kohanim as middlemen? Why can't we be blessed straight from Hashem? Rabbi M. Sternbuch explains that the function of the Kohanim is to serve in the Bet Hamikdash (the Holy Temple in Jerusalem) and to teach the people Torah. The Kohanim are joined by the Torah scholars in the mission of studying and teaching Torah. The livelihood of the Kohanim is from the general population of the Jewish people. The nature of the people is to view this situation as the Kohanim receiving support without them contributing to the welfare of the people. Hashem wants to tell the people that this isn't so. On the contrary, the success of the people depends on the Kohanim serving in the Bet Hamikdash, and nowadays, by the hachamim, the ones that carry the Torah. Therefore, Hashem commanded the Kohanim to bless the people, in order for the people to get benefit from their blessings. Then the people will view these scholars as partners in their success. In truth all things that Hashem gives us, both good and bad, are only good. Even bad things are truly good. It is only due to the limited vision of the human being that it appears as bad. However, Hashem loves His people and wants us to have everything good, so that even according to our limited understanding we should feel it is good. So what did Hashem do? He placed human beings, Kohanim, and gave them the command to bless us with blessings that even Kohanim, human beings, can sense as good. This causes the Kohanim to bless us with all of their hearts, because our success in our livelihood gives them success, since their livelihood depends on our livelihood. May we all look forward to have opportunities to help Kohanim and today's scholars, because their success is ours and our success is theirs. Shabbat Shalom.


"To his father or to his mother, to his brother or to his sister - [the Nazir] shall not contaminate himself to them upon their death, for the crown of G-d is upon his head"
(Bemidbar 6:7)

Why is a Kohen, who is also considered holy, permitted to participate in the funeral of his parents and close relatives (Vayikra 21:2) while a Nazir is not? A Kohen receives his holiness from his family, more specifically, inheriting it from his father. On the other hand, the Nazir attains his holiness on his own, and it has no connection to his family. Therefore, the Kohen, whose holiness derives from his family, may participate in the funeral of a family member whereas a Nazir may not. A Kohen Gadol, however, is not permitted to participate in the funeral of a family member. Although he obtains his Kohen status through his family, he becomes Kohen Gadol due to his own greatness. He does not become Kohen Gadol because his father was a Kohen Gadol but because he excels over all other Kohanim, as it is written: "The Kohen who is exalted above his brethren" (Vayikra 21:10). (Vedibarta Bam)

Answer to Pop Quiz: The kohen.

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