Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Non Cohanim and ברכת כהנים

Last weeks parsha (this coming weeks parsha in America), Naso, has the mitzva of ברכת כהנים. An interesting question that comes up is can a non-cohen perform ברכת כהנים? This is not so farfetched, every Friday night fathers bless their children with ברכת כהנים, is that problematic?

The Gemara in Kesubos 24b seems to say that there is an issur עשה for a non-cohen to go up and duchen (see Rashi there who learns pshat that way). However, Tosafos in Shabbos 118b can't find an issur for R' Yosef a non-cohen who went up to duchen. The acharonim work hard to explain this contradiction.

2 of the acharonim disagree with Rashi's pshat in Kesubos and hold that there is no issur. The הפלאה explains as follows. A yisrael has a mitzva to receive the Cohen's beracha, therefore if a Yisrael goes up to duchen he is violating that עשה of not receiving the Cohen's beracha. It comes out that if he is alone (there are no Cohanim), then there is no issur. The Nesivos has a similar idea. He says that there is an issur for a Cohen not to go up and duchen if he is called. If we will make the Cohanim go through all kinds of Yichus checks before letting them duchen, Cohanim will be reluctant to go up and will violate this issur. Again, there is no issur on a Yisrael to go up and duchen.

The consensus of acharonim is that there is an issur for a non-cohen to duchen.

The Mishna Berura at the beginning of סימן קכ"ז, discusses why it should be permitted for a father to bless his sons with Bircas Cohanim. He differentiates based on what your kavana is, when you bless your children your kavana is not the mitzva of Bircas Cohanim. There is a Rama there as well as a Magen Avraham who offer various answers to the above contradiction.

The Gra because of this issue would not give a beracha with 2 hands. he held that the issur was only בנשיאת כפים and therefore without spreading out both hands there is no issur.

I think the minhag is to be מקיל to use 2 hands although some do follow this Gra.


ArI Kahn said...

regarding the Gemara in shabbat - there is an interesting essay in the Torah Shelyma (Rav Kasher)

Anonymous said...

Cool! Chaim Brown is talking about the same thing. Check out

abbafive said...

I have heard the 'one hand' chumrah in the name of RHS.

Bluke, you again hit on one of my favorite sugyot.

I wish to point out one fascinating textual problem that HaGaon Rav Avraham Kavalkin (the general editor of the new Shulchan Aruch, editor of the new Minchas Chinuch, Otzar Mefarshei HaShas, etc.) pointed out to me (I'll post this on Divreichaim also).

The Rama on 128:1 seemingly contradicts himself. Initially he records "ואין לזר לישא כפיו אפילו עם כהנים אחרים...

Then the comment continues:
ואפשר עם כהנים אחרים שרי וצ"ע.

Obviously, the first clause in the Rama contradicts the second clause.

There's actually a definitive answer.

When you look at the initial edition of the Rama from the 1570's, the second half (ואפשר עם כהנים אחרים שרי וצ"ע) simply is not there. It's not the Rama!

In fact, the comment first appears as a printer's insertion in the Cracow edition of the Shulchan Aruch - published in 1607, well after the Rama's death.

The new Shulchan Aruch corrects this and makes clear that the comment is not to be attributed to the Rama.

As a general matter, Rav Kavalkin instructed me that the Rama records only “pesak”; he does not typically make statements such as “וצ"ע" further, he never gives mekoros. Those items in Rashi script are almost always something else (in Choshen Mishpat, for instance, Mekoros that appear in Rashi script are generally the Sm"a).

So next time you see an inconsistency in the Rama or someone tells you that Rashi script always means it's the Rama... well check out the new Shulchan Aruch, one of the great contributions of our Dor - lidorei doros.

Bluke: I have copies of the manuscript - email me if you want me to send you the PDF.

abbafive said...

I meant to mention that for an extremely enjoyable and creative piece on Birchat Kohanim, I strongly recommend Rav Mosheh Lichtenstein's article in "Zichron HaRav".

bluke said...


The Rama does write the second half of that statement in the Darkei Moshe, so even if it wasn't in the Rama he said it in the Darkei Moshe Haaruch

AbbaFive said...

No dispute, Bluke; it's simply just not his pesak in his hasagot.

Correcting the text of the Mechaber and the Rama does not involve engagement in the same challenges arising in producing critical texts of Rishonim, or from even earlier generations.

Why? Because we actually have each and every edition of the Mechaber and Rama that came out, and can easily determine not merely the intent but the actual text of what was written. (The kesav yad of the Shach was discovered just last decade, which is a huge contribution to the new Shulchan Aruch.) There simply is no conjecture.

[This, I imagine, is why the new T]ur and Shulchan Aruch editions are widely accepted, even in the Chareidi world.]

The text of what we tend to read as the Rama in particular has been corrupted badly, because every hasaga was just dumped in by the printers as Rashi print and eventually combined into a single hodgepodge of a text we think is the Rama. S. 128 just one pretty good example that has halacha limaase ramifications (citing the Rama as a makor of safek likulah here obviously would be plain wrong).

Here's another example:

אורח חיים, סימן מ"ו, סעיף ד
מחבר: צריך לברך בכל יום שלא עשני גוי
רמ'א: הגה ואפילו גר יכול לברך כן אבל לא יאמר שלא עשני גוי שהרי היה גוי מתחילה

So which is it Bluke? Does the Rama paskin that a Ger does, or does not make a bracha?

Pretty halacha limaase, eh?

The answer to this riddle is a bit more complicated!

AbbaFive said...

Not even the least bit curious?

bluke said...

It was late Friday afternoon erev Shabbos when you posted here in Israel.

AbbaFive said...

I'll take that as a yes.

סימן מ"ו is a more difficult puzzle to piece together (obviously, this is not my own research - it comes from Rav Kabalkin and the group of talmidei chachamim putting together the new edition of the Shulchan Aruch - I hope you find this as fascinating and compelling as I have.)

The First edition of the Shulchan Aruch was printed in Venice in 1565 under the personal supervision of the Mechaber; the second and third editions appeared in 1567. (Actually ten editions appeared in the Mechaber’s lifetime – but he only supervised the first).

The real problems commence with the Third Edition, which was sloppy and contained many publishing errors. The first editions with Rama appear in 1570’s. Unfortunately, the Rama worked from the Third Edition of Shulchan Aruch.

In our siman, the first two editions of the Shulchan Aruch demonstrate that the Mechaber formulated the Bracha as: שלא עשני גוי, as it appears in the current (Lemberg) edition.

The Rama commented on the Third Edition of Shulchan Aruch. This Edition mistakenly printed the Mechaber’s text of the bracha to read שעשאני יהודי. The Rama is consistent: Thus, he paskins a Ger should recite the bracha text of שעשאני יהודי (as appearing in HIS text of Shulchan Aruch) but should not recite שלא עשני גוי.

If you find this of interest, may I suggest reviewing the Mavoh to the 1st Chelek of the new Shulchan Aruch - Chosen Mishpat (Morasha LiHanchil - the Black volume with Red and Gold lettering). It's not very long (perhaps 20 pages, with many photos of original editions) and it does a fabulous job of explaining the challenges faced by the editors and the choices that they made in presenting the new text.

Thanks again for touching on yet another favorite sugya of mine.

I have said a number of shiurim on this, but will not venture further because (a) it's your blog, and (b) the old atage about the tree falling in the forest.