“We made it!” Yishai proclaimed with excitement.
“Yes” Daniel replied “It’s 5 o’clock in the morning and we managed to learn the entire night of Shavuot”.
The boys were excited for two reasons. At age 13, this was the first time they had remained awake the entire evening. But equally important, each of their parents had pledged a $50 donation to their school’s renovation project if the boys were able to complete the task. The days were getting warm again and the school had no air conditioner. This made it very difficult to concentrate on their studies. In order to raise funds, the students had planned a number of fund-raising activities. The main event, the walkathon, was to occur on the weekend. Each student had enlisted donors to sponsor them for various amounts for each kilometer that they walked. “Just think” said Daniel “If we walk the entire 10 kilometers, then we will raise $500”. Yishai looked concerned “That’s true, but I don’t think I’ve ever walked more than 4 kilometers. I’m not sure that I can push myself for much more”.
“I have an idea” smiled Daniel. “My friend Nadav is a Kohen, and he will be dovening with us this morning. Let’s ask him to give us a special bracha during Birkat Kohanim that our leg’s should be strong for the event.”
“I like it!” said Yishai.
“There he is!” said Daniel. “Let’s speak with him”.
Daniel and Yishai approached Nadav and asked for his help.
“I’d love to help out” said Nadav. “But there’s a problem…”
Q: What is the connection between our story and the parsha?
A: This week’s parsha includes the mitzvah of Birkas Kohanim (Bamidbar 6:23).
Q: What is the problem that Nadav is referring to?
A: A Kohen is not allowed to add his own blessing onto the three standard pesukim (Shulchan Aruch 128:27). Doing so would be committing the sin of ba’al tosif, making additions to the Torah (Rosh Hashana 28:2).This means that even if he had a well-meaning bracha of his own to add, it is forbidden to do so as part of Birkas Kohanim.
Q: Why do Kohanim in Israel perform the Birkas Kohanim every day, and Kohanim outside Israel only perform Birkas Kohanim on the chagim?
A: The Rema explains that performing the Birkas Kohanim requires a type of simcha (happiness) that can usually only occur when the Kohen is in Israel. On the chagim however, this simcha can occur even in galus (128:44).
Back To Our Story
Nadav politely explained the issue to the boys, and they accepted his explanation with a smile.
Later that morning, Nadav ascended the Bimah and performed the Kohen’s blessing with great Kavanah. Having turned 13 himself, he was quickly learning what a privilege he had been given by Hashem, and how highly others regarded his blessing.
Days later, both Yishai and Daniel completed the entire 10 km with no difficulty at all. “That’s $500 towards a new air conditioner!” said Daniel.
“Actually it’s $518”
The boys turned around to see Nadav, holding $18 in his hand. “I was really impressed by your dedication to your school and wanted to make a contribution myself”.
“Thanks Nadav” said Yishai. “We’re very blessed to have you for a Kohen and a friend”.
(Written by Josh and Tammy Kruger in collaboration with Rabbi Yehoshua Pfeffer, and based on the writings of HaRav Yechiel Michal Stern in his book the Medresh Halacha on parashas Naso)