Questions and Suggested Answers

Based on the writings of Nehama Leibowitz

Question 1

Text "...say to them." (6-23)

Onkolos translation "so shall you bless the children of Israel when they say to them."

Sifre - From where do we derive that the synagogue representative (Gabbai) should tell them (the kohanim) to recite the blessing? The text therefore states "tell them."

Rashi - "Say to them" - so that all of them (the congregation ) should hear the blessing.

Hizkuni - "Say to them" - teaches that the synagogue representative should tell them to recite the blessing, as is stated in the Aramaic translation of Onkolos. From this teaching we learn that a Kohen violates the Torah's command (to bless the people) only in a case when he refuses to ascend the Bimah (platform) after being summoned.

According to the above commentators, to whom do the words "say" and "to them" refer?

Answer

Commentator

Onkolos

Sifre

Rashi

Hizkuni

"Say"

Synagogue representative (gabbai)

Synagogue representative (gabbai)

Kohanim

Synagogue representative (gabbai)

"To them"

Kohanim (priests)

Kohanim

Congregation

Kohanim

 

Question 2

Rabbi S.R. Hirsch views the purpose of the above halachic detail as expressing the anti-magical message of the verses. Explain how this is so.

Answer

The Kohen may only recite the blessing when summoned to do so by the synagogue representative and the cantor acts as prompter. Thus the Kohen cannot function without sanction from the congregation. In many other religions the priest dominates the ritual and is viewed as having supra-natural powers. In Judaism, the "priest" is the medium for God's blessing, subservient to the will of the congregation.

 

Prepared by: Rabbi Mordechai Spiegelman veteran yeshiva educator (USA) now residing in Jerusalem

 

 

 

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08 Sep 2005 / 4 Elul 5765 0