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Shabbat Parashat Sukkot| 5771

Ein Ayah: The Nesiat Kapayim of a Kohen Who Murdered

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 5:74)

Gemara: Rabbi Yochanan said: Any kohen who took a person’s life should not raise his hand [to do Birkat Kohanim (duchen)], as it says: “Your hands are filled with blood” (Yeshaya 1:15).


Ein Ayah: The foundation of Birkat Kohanim, including that it is done with raised hands, teaches us the following. The goal of service of Hashem that a true servant of Hashem should keep in his heart is the welfare of the community. The kohen’s blessing [“… commanded us to bless His nation, Israel, with love”] shows that love of the nation fills the heart of the kohen who is set aside for service of Hashem and Torah scholarship.

In this regard, one should know two points: 1) One loves the community only if he loves every individual. That is why Chazal say that “You shall love your friend as yourself” (Vayikra 19:18) is the basis of the Torah, while the rest are applications (Shabbat 31a). 2) Although the goal of national and individual success is in the spiritual realm, it cannot be completed until the love covers extends to concern for the physical life and welfare of each individual. Only when one is concerned for the totality of other individuals can he approach service of Hashem in a true, well-rounded manner.

This idea is behind the combination of the Birkat Kohanim with lifting the hands. The blessing is primarily in the heart and is communal and spiritual, striving to reach the goal of the true blessing. However, this goal must go through all of the necessary steps. Therefore, use is made of the hands, which represent the physical world, and the fingers, which represent the spreading out in the world of the individual, both individual people and the various needed characteristics.

This is why one who took another’s life, and was thus sorely lacking in his concern for his individual counterpart, especially in the physical realm, cannot lift up his hands [to bless]. If he is lacking in the physical realm, he cannot reach the necessary love regarding the communal spiritual realm.


A Difficult Separation

(condensed from Ein Ayah, Berachot 5:76)


Gemara: Rabbi Elazar said: From the day the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, a wall of iron has separated between Israel and their Father in the Heaven.


Ein Ayah: A normal wall of stones usually falls over time, but a wall of iron does not normally fall unless some great force causes it to do so. So too, Israel’s terrible fall and dispersion that occurred with the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash was so great that it naturally would not be reversible were it not for Hashem’s promise to redeem us.

The metaphor of an iron wall also indicates another matter. A wall of stone is built stone by stone, whereas when an iron wall is somehow erected, it is done by a great force in one shot. The fall through the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash was indeed a sudden one from a high roof to a deep pit. The contrast is also great, as the Beit Hamikdash is the antithesis of iron. Indeed, no iron may be used in building the altar, as the latter lengthens life and the former shortens it. The Beit Hamikdash, as operated by Bnei Yisrael, was to be a house of prayer for all nations to unify all people of the world by the peace and light of Hashem. However, when the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed, the voice of Israel ceased to be heard in the world and it was replaced by the sound of iron, signifying the power of the iron fist. This represents dominion of the more powerful, without regard for justice or the search for love and the welfare of the collective.

The power of iron prevented the closeness of Israel to Hashem, which could have raised Israel’s stature in the world, which exists when people are willing to recognize the value of justice, ethics, and true service of Hashem.


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This week’s Hemdat Yamim is dedicated in loving memory of
Harav Hagaon
Moshe Botschko
who passed away on Yom Kippur.


R' Meir ben
Yechezkel Shraga Brachfeld

Hemdat Yamim is endowed by
Les & Ethel Sutker of Chicago, Illinois in loving memory of
Max and Mary Sutker and
Louis and Lillian Klein, z”l.


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