The Parasha emphasizes the special care and attention one must have to avoid hurting one’s feelings. Interestingly, it is the longest Parasha, and its core message is to do what is right but in a careful way, to avoid any potential misunderstanding and especially mischaracterization but others. Sometimes, innocent actions could be lethal to others. We will analyze a few instances where the Torah went out of it way for that purpose. The Abarbanel asks: The Leviim were composed of 3 families; the children of Levi the son of Yaakov; Gershon, Kehas and Merari. Kehas, despite being the second son, was counted first in last Parasha. Our Parasha begins with the order to count the families of Gershon and Merari. Why was the counting of the Leviim not done altogether as it was done with the Bnei Yisrael? Why did the younger brother precede his eldest brother? The Daas Zekeinim notes another anomaly. For the tallying of the families of Kehas and Merari’s, the Verse states that it was performed; “By the order of Hashem in the hand of Moshe” [ ] . על פי ה’ ב יד מ שה Though, concerning the census of Gershon’s families, the Verse states only says, “By the order of Hashem” — there’s no mention of “in the hand of Moshe.” The Verse does not mention who performed the census. What is the purpose of hiding this simple fact? The Daas Zekeinim concludes that obviously, the counting of the family of Gershon was done by themselves! Moshe only had to ask them to perform the tallying and to provide him the total. Unlike the other families, which he was instructed to personally count. What is the Torah’s message? The Abarbanel provides a powerful answer to these questions. Gershon was the firstborn and rightfully deserved to receive a double portion of their father’s inheritance. His preeminent position is also expressed by the fact, his younger brothers owed to respect him as the fifth commandment states; “Honor your Father and your Mother” and Chazal indicated that this commandment includes the obligation to respect the Bechor. Hence, since Gershon was the eldest, it was his privilege to be awarded the most prestigious task in the Mishkan. However, it was Kehas who received it: the carrying of the Ark and the vessels, while his brothers were carrying the structure of the Mishkan. Somehow Gershon was snubbed from his rights for a reason only known to Hashem. So, for Gershon not to feel slighted of his assignment and privilege, which he could account to a probable blemish of his own, Hashem instructed Moshe to count Gershon’s right at the onset of the Parasha. Hashem wanted to inform him that he was still the prevalent family of Leviim and his Mishkan duties were not affected by any blemish. The Abir Yosef adds that it is also the reason why the Verse omitted “by the hand of Moshe.” Hashem honored Gershon by asking him to carry out the census himself, while all the others were counted by Moshe. This shows how much Hashem Himself pays attention to a person’s feelings even when no wrong was done to him. But since Gershon could have feel snubbed from his rights, Hashem wanted to send a clear message that he still had the special status of bechor. The reason his younger brother deserved these honors is not due to any wrongdoing of his. This teaches us, when one may potentially misread a situation, it is our duty to go out of our way and comfort him as Hashem did it. This appears in another instance in the Torah. When Yaakov blessed Yosef’s sons, he purposely crossed his hands to put his right hand on Ephraim and snubbed the firstborn Menashe. Yaakov also provided the most prestigious blessing to Ephraim adding insult to injury. Both honors were rightfully deserved by Menashe who was the firstborn. He obviously felt slighted and had probably no other explanation than his esteemed Grandfather saw a blemish in him. Yaakov, therefore informed Yosef, the reason was not because of any wrongdoing of Menashe. In contrary, his greatness will make him an intrinsic part of the 12 tribes. Though, his younger brother will become greater. In other words, the Torah approach is not to distort the reality at the expense of one to manage the feelings of the other. Rather, it is to do what is just and right. Still, one must make sure that no one may suffer any ill feelings despite having acted rightfully. The other instance is the blessing of the Kohanim. A serious question is debated in Shulchan Arukh, as how Kohanim nowadays could be elevated to that position without proper testimonies about their lineage. This question has been raised in numerous Tshuvos from as early as the 10th century with the famous story with Rav Hai Gaon. Rav Hai used to travel from Babylonia to Jerusalem every Sukkos. On Hoshana Rabba he had the custom to walk around the Olive mount together with Kohanim to hasten the coming of Mashiach. Once, his students saw him laughing while walking around the Olive mount and asked him for the reason. He replied that Eliyahu Hanavi just informed him that none of Kohanim present but one, were descendants of Aaron. After Millennials of exile, very few Kohanim have safeguarded their lineage. Even out of those, due to the turmoil our nation endured through the bitter exiles, a significant portion has lost its status and are no longer eligible for the Avodah. This raises serious Halachic issues such as saying the Birkas Kohanim. The other difficulty is raised by the Zohar, as the commandment for the priestly blessing starts with “Koh” [ כ ,]ה ת ב רכוּ את ב ני י ש ר אל to instruct that the priestly blessing can only be said by Kohanim who know the proper “Kanavos” [Hashem’s names hinted in the blessing]. So, how is it that nowadays just about every Kohen says the blessing? The answer lies in the Beracha Kohanim say prior to “Duchen” [priestly blessing], which states “…and ordered us to bless the Bnei Yisrael with Love”. Only Kohanim are capable of this special love for Bnei Yisrael. As far as we are concerned, we rely on their claim that they are rightful Kohanim capable of blessing the Nation with a love that only a Kohen is capable of. Regarding the claim of the Zohar too, blessing with Love compensates for the lack of knowledge of the proper Kanavos. The Kohen’s duty is to love!
By Rabbi Fridmann * email@example.com * 305.985.3461
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