Singular or Plural? by Rabbi Joel Grossman


Parshat Naso contains the famous Birkat Kohanim with which Hashem commanded the Kohanim of each generation to bless the Jewish people.  In Israel these blessings are recited every day and in חוץ לארץ .  Ashkenazim say it only on יום טוב.  Curiously, although this ברכה was recited in the בית המקדש and in the בית הכנסת for the entire congregation, it is phrased in the singular rather than plural.  Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, in his book Something to Say, answers that it is not always possible or wise to extend the same blessing to everyone  uniformly.  For the farmer, rain today may be a blessing but for the travelers or someone who had plans for outdoor activity it would be an annoyance.  Only Hashem knows precisely what blessing is appropriate for whom.  He therefore tells the Kohanim to bless the people in the singular, so that each individual should receive the form of blessing that is most appropriate for him. 

A similar idea is expressed in the Torah reading of last week.  On the first morning of שבועות  we read the עשרת הדברות. The Tenth Commandment is לא תחמוד (don’t desire your friend’s wife or possessions).  Why did God give this command?  Can one really control what they think about?  The אבן עזרא answers this question based on a parable.  He compares it to a peasant who saw the princess when she passed through his village.  The peasant didn’t desire her since he knew that she was out of his league and totally off limits to him.  So too, we should feel that way whenever we see something which belongs to someone else.  We must realize that Hashem is correct in the way He gave this to the person, and that He is correct in the way He decides.  Therefore we should never doubt what God has done. 

There is a story quoted in the name of the Chafetz Chaim.  Someone came to him with a complaint about a problem he was having in his personal life.  The Chafetz Chaim explained to him that לעתיד לבא , in the future, God is going to put a bag on a table in front of people with a list of problems on the outside of each bag, with each person choosing their own bag of problems.  Just like God is regarding as punishment, so too, He is correct about blessing.  Therefore, the  כהנים bless each of us in the singular form to receive what would be a blessing to us.

May the blessing of ברכת כהנים   be fulfilled for each of us on an individual level and collectively may we be blessed with  שלום, peace.  As the משנה  in מסכת עוקצן teaches: there is no greater blessing than peace.  Hopefully that will happen both in ארץ ישראל and חוץ לארץ speedily in our time. 

Peace and Order by Jonathan Weinstein

Counting - Not As Simple as 1-2-3 by Yoni Shenkman