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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Naso

Parashat Naso

Birkat Kohanim

4075
Dedicated to the memory of
Asher Ben Haim
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Parashat Naso contains a mitzva that demonstrates and symbolizes a qualitative difference between life for a Jew in Eretz Yisrael and life in Galut. And, surprisingly, the mitzva is NOT one that depends upon the Land.

Kohanim are commanded to bless the people with the three- fold Birkat Kohanim. The requirement is to bless the people daily. More than once a day is optional for a kohein, but considered a mitzva nonetheless. In fact, kohanim in Jerusalem and many other parts of Israel bless the people almost 450 times a year. And the people receive that blessing the same number of times.

In contast, most Jewish communities in Chutz LaAretz fulfill this mitzva 13 times - less than 3% of the number of times in Israel.

Perhaps more significant than the numbers is the reason Birkat Kohanim was limited to Holidays in Chutz LaAretz. Different sources use different terms, but the idea is the same: Birkat Kohanim requires a positive, comfort- able mood towards their fellow Jews for the bracha to flow smoothly. Feelings of joy and love for all Jews are considered almost like prerequisites for Birkat Kohanim. Because of the difficulties and tentativeness of Jewish life in exile, the proper mood was felt to be attainable only with the help of the Yom Tov spirit.

To oversimplify - but to capture the essence, there is a quality of Jewish Life attainable in Eretz Yisrael - even with its present-day imperfections and problems - that can be felt nowhere else in the world.

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