By Rabbi Yair Hoffman for 5TJT.com
The Corona Era brings up a fascinating question in halacha this upcoming Shavuos. On account of the proliferation of the kosher porch and back yard minyanim – where should the Kohain duchen – in a place with another Kohen or where there are no Kohanim?
If the Kohen duchens in the place where there is another Kohen – then he fulfills a Torah commandment according to all Poskim. If he duchens in a place where there is no other Kohen – then he fulfills only a Derabanan Mitzvah according to most Poskim – but, he has also enabled an entire Minyan of people to receive the blessing of a Kohain. So the question is – in a situation where there is no third option (such as duchening at both minyanim) – which is preferable?
IMPORTANCE OF BIRKAS KOHANIM
Rabbi Chaim Mordechai Margolios (1761-1818), in his Shaarei Teshuvah commentary cites the Haflaah in Kesuvos citing the Chareidim that there is a Mitzvah incumbent upon each member of Klal Yisroel to receive the priestly blessing. The Talmud Yerushalmi in Sotah (9:14) comments on the pasuk in Tehillim (7:12) that each day there is a period of Divine Anger, so to speak, what negates it? Rabbi Abin said in the name of Rav Acha that Birkas Kohanim negates it. Rabbeinu Bachya Ben Asher in his Kad HaKemach (entry Bracha) explains that the world stands on account of the merit of Birkas Kohanim. The Sdei Chemed (entry Bais #12) writes that the language of the Tur indicates that there is still a blessing even for one Kohen to bless Klal Yisroel, as is indicated in the Minchas Chinuch 378:3.
POSKIM WHO DISCUSS THE ISSUE
The Shaivet HaK’hasi Vol. IV #47 rules that a Kohain should attend the minyan without other Kohanim. This is also the ruling of Rav Schneebalg in his Shraga HaMeir Vol. VIII #61. Rav Yisroel Belsky zt”l in his Shulchan HaLevi (Vol. I Tefilah section 2:14) discusses the issue according to both views: that of those who hold that duchening with one sole Kohen is a deoraisah (where he rules that certainly one must go to the one with no other Kohanim) and also according to the opinion that duchening with only one Kohain is not a fulfillment of a deoraisah. According to the latter opinion he also says that there is room to say that he should attend the Minyan with no other Kohen too.
PROOF OF THE VIEW OF THE SHULCHAN ARUCH
This author would like to suggest that the Shulchan Aruch is of the view that even only one Kohen duchening is still a fulfillment of a deoraisah Mitzvah. That being the case, he should definitely attend the Minyan without other Kohanim (if he cannot convince another Kohen to go with him) in order to bring merit and bracha to those present at that minyan.
The proof is that in Siman 128, the Tur cites the view of Rabbeinu Peretz that if there is one Kohen in shul and he is called up to duchen – he is not obligated to go and Duchen. The Tur, after citing Rabbeinu Peretz, disagrees with him. The Shulchan Aruch does not quote Rabbeinu Peretz when he codifies the halacha and it is common for him to quote dissenting views. We can conclude from here that the Shulchan Aruch held that the duchening of one Kohen is a deoraisah. Therefore, in a case where the Psak halacha is that it is a Torah Mitzvah and we can give this bracha to other members of Klal Yisroel – why not bring merit to the masses?
FASCINATING POSSIBLE PROOF FROM VILNA GAON
My neighbor, Rabbi Dovid Frishman a menahel at Darchei and my son’s Rebbe, brought a fascinating proof from the Biur HaGra on Mishlei (22:9). The Gemorah in Brachos (20b) answers a contradiction between Psukim where one pasuk says that Hashem does not show favoritism and another one which states that Hashem does so favoritism. Hashem says, “I wrote for them in the Torah, veAchalta veSavata uVerachta – and they are careful on themselves up to a kzayis and up to a Baitzah.”
THREE QUESTIONS OF THE VILNA GAON
The Vilna Gaon asks three questions:
- Why does the term kzayis come first? It should be second – because a Kezayis is smaller!
- The issue of a whether Zimun is on a kebaitzah or a k’zayis is a debate later on in Brachos 45a. But Hashem knows all – why would He cite this doubt?
- Why did Hashem quote this stringency specifically? There are many other stringencies that Klal Yisroel observe. Why this one?
He answers according to the Rif in Eiruvin (82b) that the shiur for 2 meals is the volume of 18 grogros (figs) which is the volume of six eggs. The Zohar explains that there are ten kzaisim in three eggs. The shiur Seudah (according to the Rif) is the volume of three eggs. When one person has this amount, the Torah obligated him in bentching, as it says in the singular – “v’achalta v’savata uverachta.” But Israel is holy and they search how to glorify Him even more – if he has ten kzaysim – he will find ten people so that each one would have a kzayis and they can bentch b’Zimun with Hashem’s Name. If he doesn’t find ten, he will find two others and each would get a Baitzah volume’s worth and they would bentch b’Zimun.
This answers all three questions that the Vilna Gaon raised. There is also no contradiction between the verses because when Klal Yisroel shows favoritism in their observance of Mitzvos I show them favoritism. When they don’t observe the Mitzvos properly, I do not show them favoritism.
We see from this Vilna Gaon that one can give up his own fulfillment of a Deoraisah for a greater purpose and have either nine or two others fulfill a Derabanan Mitzvah instead. Rabbi Frishman suggested that this is a proof even according to the opinion that duchening for one Kohen is not a Deoraisah.
It is possible, however, that this may not be a proof because in that case the “greater purpose” is to bring greatness to Hashem [hovu godel l’elokainu]. Here, in the Mitzvah of Duchening that greater purpose is not necessarily fulfilled. Also, it is possible that the case of bentching is more lenient in that one is not obligated to place oneself in a position where one will have to bentch, but a Kohen should be blessing Klal Yisroel.
POSSIBLE PROOF FROM TVUOS SHOR
Perhaps there is a proof from the words of the Tevuos Shor (28:14) who explains that the Mitzvah of kisui HaDam belongs to the person who shechted the animal. Generally speaking we say Mitzvah bo yoser mibeshlucho – it is a greater Mitzvah to do a Mitzvah oneself then through a messenger. The Tevuos Shor writes that if he does it to honor the other individual with a Mitzvah – then it is perfectly alright – indeed, the words of the Gemorah in Yuma 39a apply to him: It is like one who measuring persimmons and says to his friend, “Come and let us be fragranced – you and I” for he is causing the Mitzvah and others are partaking in its performance and they both receive its benefits.
Estimates of the percentage of Jews that are Kohanim range from 2% to 5%. Most of the backyard or porch minyanim have between 10 and 16 people. That being the case, most of the minyanim will not have Kohanim over Shavuos. Based upon the above, the Kohanim should attend minyanim where there are no other Kohanim.
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