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(5734) "And I will bless those who bless you" (Gen 12:3) Debate between R' Yishmael and R' Akiva in Birkat Kohanim (Tal. Chulin 49a) and Siyum of tractate Rosh Hashanah
From the verse in our Parsha “And I will bless those that bless you” R’ Akiva learns in tractate Chulin that when the Kohanim bless Yisroel, G-d blesses the Kohanim.
And this is what is cited there:
(‘Yishmael the priest favors the priests’. Where do we see this? — it was taught in a Beraita: “So shall you bless the Bnei Yisroel”)
“R’ Yishmael said: We learn that there is a blessing for Israel from the mouth of the priests, but we know of no blessing for the priests themselves; When the verse adds: “And I will bless them” (Ani avoracheim), it means to say that, the priests bless Israel, and the Holy One, blessed be He, blesses the priests.
R’ Akiva said: We learn that there is a blessing for Israel from the mouth of the priests but not from the Almighty; When the verse therefore adds: “And I will bless them”, it means to say that the priests bless Israel, and the Holy One, blessed be He, approves of it.
But whence does R’ Akiva derive that the priests also receive a blessing? — R’ Nachman b. Isaac said: From the verse: “And I will bless those that bless you”
And it concludes. In what respect then, does R’ Yishmael favor the priests? — In that he establishes in the one verse the blessing of the priests, side by side with the blessing of Israel.
And (Rashi) also writes there: “Yishmael the priest favors (aids) the Kohanim: He is constantly helping them and being lenient to them”
In other words, according to Rashi “Side by side with the blessing to Yisroel: For this is better since it implies that that they are blessed with the others”
One must understand:
What is the foundation and reason for the dispute between R’ Yishmael and R’ Akiva, in that R’ Akiva requires a separate verse that G-d agrees to the blessings that the Kohanim bless Bnei Yisroel, and that R’ Yishmael does not require a specific verse (Parsha) for this. So much so that their main disagreement from what specific verse we learn the blessings to the Kohanim themselves, is dependent on this.
The intent of Rashi (in the view of R’ Yishmael) that “(the Kohanim) are blessed with the others” simply is that they receive their blessing together with Bnei Yisroel. And, therefore, at first glance, the difference between the view of R’ Akiva and R’ Yishmael is only from which verse we actually learn that the Kohanim are blessed from G-d (whether it is from the verse which is stated in the Torah where (the Kohanim) bless Yisroel, or from another place).
But according to both of them, this that the Kohanim are blessed from G-d – is a result of the fact that they bless Yisroel. And therefore what is the intent of (Rashi’s comment) that they are “blessed with the others” In other words that they are blessed together with Bnei Yisroel?
2. This difference whether the blessings to the Kohanim is stated in the verse: “and I will bless those that bless you” or in the verse: “And I will bless them” is explained in Chassidus by prefacing the difference between a blessing (where we bless someone), to prayer (where we pray for him):
“Bracha” (Blessing) is from the word “bericha” (trough/brook) – which is deep well where water or wine is collected. And from there the water or wine is drawn – In other words, it is the source of the water and the wine. So too, a bracha (from the word “bericha”) means drawing – namely to draw down the thing from its source. For all this is Seder HaHishtalshelut (the order of creation). And this means that a blessing helps only when the thing (that is requested) already exists at it source, yet for whatever reason is being stopped from flowing down. In that case a blessing helps to draw it down below.
The proof for this is from Jacob, when he blessed the sons of Joseph. “At that time he placed his right hand on the head of Ephraim and his left hand on the head of Menashe. And when Joseph told him that “(Menashe) is the firstborn, place your right hand on his head. But his father refused, and he said etc. But his younger brother will be greater than he, and his children['s fame] will fill the nations."
This seemingly is not understood.
Since Jacob is blessing them, why seemingly, couldn’t he have blessed Menashe with the specific blessing that his descendants would be greater than Ephraim (for Menashe was the firstborn)?
But the answer is that a blessing does not innovate something at its source. Rather, it just draws (lehavrich lehamshich) the object of the blessing from its source. Therefore Jacob was not able to effect with his blessing that Menashe would be greater than Ephraim, since that did not exist at the source.
Prayer, however, is a request from G-d that: “May it be His will” (and the like). In other words, it should be a new desire – including even a new thing that did not exist at the source. And therefore prayer helps in that, even where there is a situation where there was a harsh decree, G-d forbid, G-d should overturn (yehapech) it for good. For through prayer one can reach a level which is higher than Seder Hishtalshelut.
However, this limitation that (a blessing helps only if the thing exists at its root and source), is only regarding the blessing of a mortal. However, concerning the blessings of G-d, which are not connected, G-d forbid, with limitations and boundaries – His blessings also have the advantage of prayer. And even (G-d’s blessings) have the power to innovate a new thing – which was not at the root and core of the recipient of the blessing.
And just as it is with the blessing of G-d, so too is it with the blessing of the Kohanim: For the blessing of the Kohanim is a Mitzvah. In other words, the Kohanim who bless (Bnei Yisroel) are doing so in the mission (shichus) of G-d. And the emissary of a person [adam haelyon] is like the person, and the blessing is like the blessing of the person (meshaleach), the blessing of G-d
And this is proven from the saying if the Sages concerning the blessing of the Kohanim –
“The L-rd lift up His countenance upon thee” –“shall I not lift up My countenance for Israel, seeing ete that they are particular [to say the grace if the quantity is but an olive or an egg.].
Thus it is clear from this that Birkat Kohanim is not like other blessings that only draw down that which previously existed (at its source) through Seder Hishtalshelus. But rather it is a effluence that that is above Seder Hishtalshelus. Therefore it requires “countenance” (Masu panim) (in the Birkat Kohanim)
[And in the exoteric language of Torah (loshon Nigleh) this refers to the opposite of the attribute of Justice (Din) as in the expression “favoring one in judgment” (masu panim baDin)]
For “countenance” shows that that it is not an effluence that was effected through man’s Avodah, alone.
And therefore it is understood from this that Birkat Kohanim is an effluence that is above Seder Hishtalshelus, for this is the aspect of “countenance” ((masu panim)
Thus in this regard, Birkat Kohanim is equal to prayer which is an effluence that is above Seder Hishtalshelus.
3. Therefore we can understand the advantage if (we say that) the blessing to the Kohanim has its source in the verse “And I will bless them” (Ani avoracheim), and not in the verse “And I will bless those that bless you”
The word I (“Ani”) refers to the essence and source of G-d (Or ein Sof) – and this shows that this blessing is a blessing from G-d Himself, a blessing which is above Hishtalshelut
However “And I will bless those that bless you” (which omits the word “Ani”) is a blessing in the level of Hishtalshelut.
And this is the explanation of: “he establishes in the one verse the blessing of the priests, side by side with the blessing of Israel”.
In other words, when we learn the blessing to the Kohanim from “And I will bless them” this blessing is on the same level as the blessing to Yisroel (Birkat Kohanim).
However if we learn the blessing to the Kohanim from “I will bless those that bless you”, then this blessing is on a lower level, a blessing that is in the level of Seder Hishtalshelut
But one must understand:
Even “I will bless those that bless you” is the blessing of G-d himself.
How then is it possible to say that according to the view of R’ Akiva, who learns that the blessing to the Kohanim is from the verse “And I will bless those that bless you” that it is only a blessing which is in a level of Hishtalshelut?
Even if the word “Ani” is not written explicitly – it is entirely not understood.
For what does it matter if the word “Ani” is written explicitly or not? In either event the intent is that G-d Himself is blessing (them).
Therefore, it is necessary to say that he has an additional proof for this [i.e. that the verse containing the word “Ani” is required] (And this proof forces him to differentiate between the two verses, as will be explained)
4. To understand this we must first preface that which is cited in the conclusion of Tractate Rosh Hashanah on the [statement of the] Mishnah: “Rabban Gamliel, however, said: a Shliach Tzibbur (congregational reader) clears the whole congregation of their obligation” (in the Mussaf prayer of Rosh Hashanah)
“R’ Simeon the Pious said: Rabban Gamliel used to allow even the people in the fields to be cleared [by the Shliach Tzibbur], and needless to say those in town.
(The Talmud asks On the contrary, [we should have expected the opposite, because] the former are prevented (“onais” – in a situation that prevented them from fulfilling the obligation) from coming and the latter are not prevented.
(and the Talmud answers):, in the same way as Abba the son of R’ Benjamin b. Hiyya has stated, ‘The people who stand behind the priests are not included in the [priestly] blessing’!
(And Rashi explains: “And even though the people in the fields are included in the blessing, those that are able to come before the Kohanim, and the Kohanim turn to face them and bless them, yet they do not come, are not included in the blessing)
[The Talmud continues:]
“However when Rabin came [from Eretz Yisroel] he stated in the name of R’ Jacob b. Idi that R’ Simeon the Pious said: Rabban Gamliel allowed only the people in the fields to be cleared [by the Shliach Tzibbur].
What is the reason? Because they are prevented by their work from coming [to the synagogue]. Those in the town, however, are not cleared”
According to this, it is understood that the proof of the Talmud from Birkat Kohanim to prayer (of the Shliach Tzibbur) is not just that we find a common denominator between two disparate aspects, but that, in essence they (prayer and Birkat Kohanim) are equal, in their nature. For (both of them) effect a new desire and a favoring in judgment. Both of them draw down from above Hishtalshelut. And therefore he brings a proof from Birkat Kohanim to prayer.
And on the contrary:
According the aforementioned it is understood, that, in general, we do not bring proofs from a blessing to prayer because they are not similar:
The aspect of blessing is to draw down from its source in Seder Hishtalshelut. And in this, as is understood, the status and conduct of the person being blessed is primary. This is especially so when the reason for the absence of the effluence is due to a deficiency below. Therefore it is understood that in order to bring down from a blessing, one needs to remove the obstacle or impediment which is from the person being blessed.
The aspect of prayer, however, is to effect a new desire-a drawing down from above Seder Hishtalshelut. This is therefore dependent on the quality of the person praying and the status of the person who we are praying for does not matter (so much). Since the effluence is from above Seder Hishtalshelut.
Therefore it is possible that, even if there would be no preparation on the side of the recipient , even then, the prayer would have an effect.
Accordingly there is no clear proof from a (plain) blessing to prayer since one could differentiate:
With a blessing, it is understood why those people who stand behind the Kohanim are not included in the blessing. For since they are displaying that they do not desire the blessing, therefore the blessing does not help at all. As it is written “And they do not desire the blessing (and automatically) they have distanced themselves from Me”. For a blessing is dependent on the status of the person being blessed.
For prayer, however, the person’s status does not matter so much. Therefore, even if the recipient does not want it, nevertheless it is possible that the prayer of the Shliach Tzibbur will have its effect.
Since Birkat Kohanim and prayer are equal both in the aspect that they draw down from above Seder Hishtalshelut
And in this, there is not that much of a difference what the desire and level of the recipient is, as above. Yet nevertheless we see that, in order draw down above Seder Hishtalshelut, one needs preparation (if not for his own sake (deeds) then (at least) in order to be a vessel to receive)
– For with prayer it is the prayer itself, and with Birkat Kohanim it is the blessing of the Kohanim
– (for the Kohanim) their preparation is with washing their hands etc.
And for Yisroel their preparation is to be careful among themselves etc. and to stand and face the Kohanim etc.
Therefore, this is the proof of the Talmud. For just as the preparation of Birkat Kohanim,
in order to receive the effluence which is above Seder Hishtalshelut,
does not suffice with (just) the Kohen’s preparation himself :
(which is) the actual blessing that he blesses “B’Ahava” (with love), and the washing of his before blessing etc.
But also needs a preparation on the recipient’s (of the blessing) part:
(which is) to stand facing the Kohanim, if he able ( and not prevented from doing so)
So too prayer, whose aspect is also to draw down from above Seder Hishtalshelut, and whose
preparation is Avodat HaTefilah (the service of praying) needs to have a preparation even on the part of the person that we are praying for (if he not prevented from doing so) in order draw down from above Seder Hishtalshelut.
And therefore the final decision of the Talmud is that the Shliach Tzibbur can clear only those people that are in the field but not those in city
5. However, one could say the proof of the Talmud is even stronger, and it is even more so (a fortiori-Kol Shekain) due to the additional quality of Birkat Kohanim over the aspect of prayer.
That which the Shliach Tzibbur clears (the obligation of) the people in the fields is specifically when there are nine people listening to him. [For then it is a Minyan]. But if this is not so, he is considered like a single person (yachid) (and he cannot clear one who is not proficient in the prayers etc. or those people in the field)
However, with Birkat Kohanim, even in the city or in a Beis Haknesset which is entirely comprised of Kohanim, the law is that they all raise their hands to bless (Nosim Kapayim). And to whom do they bless – the people in the fields.
In other words, there is a difference between Birkat Kohanim and prayer:
In prayer, only through nine people who are listening to him, does the prayer leader achieve the status of Shliach Tzibbur and the ability to clear their obligation.
However in Birkat Kohanim, the Kohen does not require the power that is given from nine people listening to him.
And the reason for this can be understood by prefacing one advantage of blessing over that of prayer:
Prayer is the language of - as is its aspect- bakasha (requesting). And when we request, there is no certainty that the request will be fulfilled. This is because the granting of the request (the effluence) is not dependent on the person who is requesting.
However, a blessing is the language of command (tzivui), (or the language of promise, havtacha).
In other words, one is commanding, as it were, that they should give (yaspihu) a certain aspect to a certain person.
And the reason for this is:
With prayer, the person praying is below and he is requesting that from Above, a certain aspect should be drawn down, and this is just a request.
However, with a blessing, the person doing the blessing is at a level which is above the source, from where the blessing comes from. And therefore it is within his power to command the blessing.
[And that which, we explained previously that, prayer is above blessing - this is regarding the source where the influence is drawn down.
For the effluence of a blessing is from a source that is within Seder Hishtalshelut. And the effluence of prayer is from a source which is higher than Seder Hishtalshelut.
But regarding the person who is doing the blessing and the person who is praying, the person who is praying is (found) lower than the source of the effluence. And the person blessing is (found) higher than the source of the effluence]
Accordingly it is understood that there is an advantage of Birkat Kohanim over that of prayer. For with Birkat Kohanim there are two qualities:
· The source from where the effluence comes is higher than Seder HaHishtalshelut.
· But (also), in addition to this, Torah states that this is blessing and not (just) a request. In other words the Kohen who is blessing is above this level - he is at a very high place. Therefore he has the power to command the effluence even from a level which is above Hishtalshelut.
And according to this, one can understand why a Shliach Tzibbur needs the power that comes from the people listening to him, yet the Kohen who is blessing does not need this.
· The Shliach Tzibbur who is praying is at a (level) below. Therefore he requires the power( that comes from the people listening to him) in order to pray and clear them (of their obligation)
· But the Kohen who is blessing is much higher than Seder HaHishtalshelut. Therefore he does not require a specific influx of power.
According to all this, the proof of the Talmud from Birkat Kohanim to prayer is extremely fitting (sweet) – and it is a kol shkein (a fortiori)
For just as with Birkat Kohanim,
where the Kohen who blesses does not require any (additional) power etc. nor any action from the part of the people being blessed (for they are in the fields), yet, nevertheless, the people who are standing behind the Kohanim are not included in the blessing because there must be a preparation on the side of the people being blessed in order to receive the blessing (effluence) -
how much more so is this with prayer
that the Shliach Tzibbur needs the power etc. - how much more so must there be a preparation from the side of the congregation. Therefore, those that are not prevented (anisi) are not cleared by the prayer of the Shliach Tzibbur.
6. According to this, one could say that in this itself, R’ Akiva and R’ Yishmael debate –In other words if the level of the Kohen - at the time he blesses Yisroel – is above Hishtalshelut or not.
And this is reflected in their argument whether one requires a separate verse that G-d agrees to the blessings, as will be explained.
It was explained previously (Par. 2) that the reason that Birkat Kohanim has the power to bring (down) a new aspect which is higher than the root and source of the person being blessed is, because the Kohanim do this in the shlichus (mission) of G-d. And since He is not limited, G-d forbid, by any measure or boundary, His blessing, and also the blessings which are made as His emissary, have the power to reach above Hishtalshelut
But this itself can be manifested in two ways:
a) Since the actual blessing is recited by a human, who does not have the power, on his own, to draw down from above Hishtalshelut, he therefore requires a special (influx of) power in order that this blessing should be drawn down from above Hishtalshelut. This means that even though the person blessing is acting as an agent of G-d, nevertheless many levels are possible in being an emissary.
Thus even in Birkat Kohanim, it is possible that G-d’s power is not united and fused with the blessing of a mortal. And there are particulars that are bounded in them like the blessing of a mortal (which is why they say may G-d lift up etc.).
b) Since they do this as an agent of G-d, the maxim: “The actions of the agent are connected (misyacheis) to the sender” (applies to them). Thus, the blessing itself has the power to draw down from above Hishtalshelut. This means that the power of G-d is united with the (blessing of the) Kohen. And therefore, the level of the Kohen himself, at the time of the blessing, is above Hishtalshelut, as explained above.
One could say that according to the view of R’ Akiva, Birkat Kohanim is, in its own stead, the blessing of a mortal (like manner: “a”).
Therefore, there must be a special verse that G-d agrees with their blessing (maskim al yadam). – In other words, that there is a special power from G-d, to empower the blessings to become - blessings of G-d, above Hishtalshelut. And this is the meaning of “G-d agrees with their blessing”
However, R’ Yishmael’s view (like manner: “b”)
(the priest who helps ( and increases the power of the ) Kohanim )
Is that that in Birkat Kohanim itself, there is this power and therefore he does not require a special verse (to support) this.
A similar manner of explaining this is:
The aspect of Birkat Kohanim, as it is in it source (above Seder HaHishtalshelut) was completely handed over to the “domain” (ba’alut) of the Kohanim and does not require any additional support (approbation-haskama)
According to this, it is understood that:
According to the view of R’ Akiva, the blessing to the Kohanim is a blessing within the level of Hishtalshelut. Since, according to his opinion, Birkat Kohanim, is, in essence,
(the way it is said from the mouth of the Kohanim )
not above Seder HaHishtalshelut, it is thus impossible that the “effect” (the mesuvav)
(the blessing to the Kohanim which comes about through their blessing to Yisroel)
be on a higher level than the “cause” (siba)
(the blessing that they bless Yisroel)
Therefore one must say that the blessing to the Kohanim is from the level of Hishtalshelut.
However, according to R’ Yishmael (who is of the opinion that) Birkat Kohanim is, in essence, above Seder HaHishtalshelut –
He “helps (and increases the blessing that the Kohanim bless). And according to his opinion even the blessing to the Kohanim is from this level.
And from this itself it is understood why the word “Ani” is not explicitly stated in the verse: “And I will bless those that bless you”, since the (type of) blessing that is learned from this verse is from Seder HaHishtalshelut.
(M’Sichas Chof Marchshvan 5712)
Gutnick Chumash pp. 138-9
Gutnick Chumash pp. 53
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