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Posted on June 10, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: #1295 — Davening/Bentching/Making Kiddush in Front of a Woman Who Is Not Properly Dressed. Good Yom Tov & Good Shabbos!

I found the following idea in a sefer by Rav Dovid Zucker, a Rosh Kollel in Chicago.

The last bracha of Birkas Kohanim (the Priestly Blessing) is “V’yasem lecha shalom” (And He Will Give You Peace) (Bamidbar 6:26). The more common Hebrew word for the verb “to give” is v’yiten. Why does the Torah here use the less common word v’yasem lecha shalom, which literally means “He will place peace in you”?

Furthermore, the last bracha of Shemoneh Esrei also invokes the prayer “sim shalom” (place peace), rather than “ten shalom” (give peace). Likewise, the bracha concluding the evening Shemoneh Esrei begins with the words “shalom rav tasim.” In all three places, we find the peculiar verb sima, as opposed to nesina. Why?

To address this observation, Rav Zucker quotes a comment from Rav Chaim Kanievsky: There are two ways of making peace when people are having an argument. One way is to “make shalom” – everyone shakes hands, makes up, and resets their relationship such that everything is good again. However, sometimes the only way to “make shalom” is by a lack of contact.

Consider the case of two partners who have a business and they get into a fight. They unfortunately hate each other and can in no way, shape or form, reestablish a peaceful relationship. What is the best approach? The best approach is to sell or split the business so that they can each take their half and go their separate ways. They can no longer work together. That is one way to achieve shalom, by no longer being together. This does not only happen in business. In the yeshiva world, this is also sometimes, unfortunately, the case. There can be two roshei yeshiva who don’t see eye to eye regarding how a yeshiva should be run. What do they do? They split the yeshiva, sometimes amicably and sometimes not so amicably. But this too can be called “shalom.”

It happens in marriages as well. Sometimes a marriage counselor can make shalom between a husband and wife who are having marital problems. However, sometimes the only way to make shalom is for them to split. This is exactly what happened between Avram and Lot. Their shepherds had an argument. By mutual agreement, they concurred that the best plan was: “If you go left, I will go right and if you go right, I will go left.” (Bereshis 13:9) That made shalom.

We see this in the pasuk by Terumas HaDeshen (the daily removing of the ashes from the mizbayach) that the connotation of the word sima is ‘all together.’ The pasuk there says “v’samo etzel hamizbayach” (Vayikra 6:3) (you shall put the ashes by the mizbayach). Chazal provide the connotations of the word v’samo: “You shall place it gently, you shall place all of it, you shall place it in a way that it will not scatter.” (Temurah 34a) For some reason, the connotation of the word sima is to place it all together.

Thus, the v’yasem lecha shalom – the last bracha of the Birkas Kohanim – is that there should be shalom, but also that it should be a desirable type of shalom – a shalom where people can make up and be together again and have real shalom once more. So too, by sim shalom and shalom rav tasim, Hashem is giving us a bracha, not merely to have any kind of shalom, but to have shalom that enables us to coexist and be together as before.

The Minhag of Saying “Y’Asher Koach” to the Kohanim for Their Blessings

The Rashash in Maseches Sheviis (4:2) brings a Mishna as the source for the widespread custom of thanking the Kohanim (Y’asher Koach!) individually upon the conclusion of their reciting Birkas Kohanim. This is, in fact, brought in halacha by virtue of the fact that they are instructed to remain on the “platform” until after the conclusion of the Shemoneh Esrei (the Mishna Berura writes until after the conclusion of kaddish following Shemoneh Esrei). This is because the congregation is supposed to give them a “Y’asher Koach” and we would not be allowed to do that in the middle of the repetition of Shemoneh Esrei or kaddish.

Why is this the custom? After all, the Kohen is obligated to recite Birkas Kohanim. If a Kohen is called up to “duchen” and he ignores the call, he is mevatel a Mitzvas Aseh! Y’asher Koach? Y’asher Koach for what? When we put on tefillin in the morning, no one comes over to us and says “Y’asher Koach!” I need to put on tefillin. I need to recite krias shema. I need to sit in the Succah. We are not accustomed to receiving complements for doing what we are commanded to do!

The answer is that Birkas Kohanim is not merely the Kohen getting up there and reciting those three pesukim. One of the requirements of this mitzvah is to say it “b’ahava u’b’lev shalem” (with love and with complete sincerity). I assume that Kohanim get in bad moods just like the rest of us, and I assume that Kohanim may have things going on in their lives at times that make them not very happy. A Kohen needs to get up there in front of Klal Yisrael and say “I want for you that you should have an abundance of parnassah, that you should be healthy and strong, that all your needs should be taken care of” – even though the Kohen himself may be facing bankruptcy, may be facing illness, or may be facing anything. If he can’t come through and deliver that blessing “with love” he has not fulfilled his mitzvah. I am not giving him a “Y’asher Koach” just because he fulfilled his mitzvah by rote. Doing it right can take a lot of effort.

I think, rabosai, that this is a lesson for us. Sometimes we go to a simcha and we are not in the best of moods. Sometimes we go to a simcha and it perhaps bothers us that the sun is shining so brightly on the ba’al simcha, far more than we feel it is shining upon ourselves. His children are getting great shidduchim. He has such a wonderful job. Everything is going great for him. In the meantime, we are suffering.

When we go to such a simcha, there are two ways of giving Mazal Tov. We can give a perfunctory Mazal Tov wish, but our demeanor may reveal the envy and jealousy that we are feeling. Or we can give a sincere “Mazal Tov! I feel so happy for you! Baruch Hashem!” Anyone who has been in that situation knows that this is sometimes a very difficult thing to do. It is not easy for a person to raise himself above his own personal tzores and to give Mazal Tov with a “full heart.”

I once heard from Rav Matisyahu Solomon that a person who does not participate in the trials and tribulations of his friend – empathizing and commiserating with him – is a rasha (wicked person). But sincerely participating in someone else’s simcha requires the person to be a malach (angel).

This is the “Y’asher Koach” that we give to the Kohanim: Great Job that you were able to convey this blessing “b’ahava” (with love). No matter what was going on in your life, you raised yourself above that and looked beyond yourself. The lesson for us is that when we need to give brochos and Mazel Tovs, we should also do it b’lev shalem and try to raise ourselves up beyond our own personal issues, whatever they may be.

The Sotah in Parsas Naso: Miraculous Restoration of Peace Between Husband and Wife

The Ramban points out the uniqueness of Parshas Sotah. This ritual, which determines the fidelity or infidelity of a wife suspected of adultery, is the only mitzvah in the Torah that functions via the performance of a nes nigleh (open miracle). Explicit Divine intervention does not occur by our carrying out of any other of the Torah’s prescribed mitzvos.

Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky explains that the reason for this is to demonstrate to us the great importance of shalom bayis (domestic tranquility). If a husband suspects that his wife was unfaithful to him, even if she produces two witnesses that she was not unfaithful, he still may have lingering doubts in his heart: Can I really trust her? This would cause a reticence on the part of the husband in their relationship. The only thing that could fully dispel such suspicions, removing any and all doubts, is the Ribono shel Olam Himself testifying in a miraculous and dramatic fashion about the innocence of the suspected adulteress. By virtue of the fact that she was not negatively affected by drinking the “bitter waters,” the husband fully realizes that his suspicions were unjustified, and that his wife had not been unfaithful.

However, there is another issue that we need to understand here. The pasuk says that if the “bitter waters” prove that she had been inappropriately suspected, then, as a reward for undergoing this ordeal, she will experience much easier childbirths in the future, her children will be more beautiful than before, etc. However, this woman was still no tzadekes! This is a married woman who secluded herself with another man, in violation of her husband’s warning and in violation of a Torah prohibition! Why should she merit these brochos (blessings) just because the waters proved that she did not commit actual adultery with the gentlemen with whom she allowed herself to be secluded? This lady is not Rebbetzin Kanievsky or Sara Schenirer! Why should she be reaping such rewards?

The Ibn Ezra explains that these brochos are compensation for the embarrassment she endured. As compensation for the humiliation that she experienced, Hashem gives her a bracha: You will have an easy time in childbirth, etc.

I saw this same issue addressed in the sefer Avir Yakov. The Avir Yakov suggests that perhaps there is another reason behind this bracha that the vindicated sotah receives. The Gemara also says that if a woman does not suffer the fate of a “convicted sotah” (i.e. – “exploding”), it could be because she has a specific zechus (merit). A husband with lingering doubts might think to himself, yes, maybe my wife did not “explode,” but maybe that was not because she is totally innocent. Maybe it is because she has a zechus. If the whole point of this process is to remove all doubts in the husband’s mind, how do we address this issue? That is why Hashem provides another confirming sign of the wife’s innocence. Not only did she survive the drinking of the “bitter waters,” and not only did she not explode, but let the husband see that she is now the recipient of special Divine blessing. Notwithstanding the fact that she did something untowardly (by secluding herself improperly with another man), nevertheless, the Ribono shel Olam is rewarding her in order to – once again – restore the peace between husband and wife.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Nasso is provided below:

  • 059 Sheitel: A Woman’s Obligation to Cover Her Hair
  • 103 Birkas Kohanim
  • 148 Sotah: The Case of the Unfaithful Wife
  • 195 Birkas Kohanim: Who Can and Who Can’t?
  • 241 Yichud and the Housekeeper
  • 285 Sa’ar B’isha Ervah
  • 331 Nasso – Must A Kallah Cover Her Hair at the Chasunah?
  • 375 Ain Osin Mitzvos Chavilos
  • 419 Causing the Erasure of Hashem’s Name
  • 463 Dee’chui Eitzel Mitzvos
  • 507 The Faithful Unfaithful Wife
  • 551 Being Motzi a Wife in Kiddush
  • 595 Chazonim and Chazanus
  • 639 The Unfaithful Wife – Is Ignorance an Excuse?
  • 683 Shalom Bayis – How Far Can One Go?
  • 727 Singing During Davening – Pro or Con?
  • 771 Ashkenazim, Sephardim and Bishul Akum,
  • 815 The Laws of Sotah – Still Very Relevant
  • 859 Walking Behind a Woman
  • 903 Shavuous- Fascinating Halachos
  • 947 Birkas Kohanim−Whose Mitzva−The Kohain or Yisroel?
  • 990 Cutting Down A Fruit Tree for Home Expansion
  • 1034 Ba’alas Teshuva Who Was Not Honest With Her Husband
  • 1078 The Elderly Gentleman and the Female Nurse – A Yichud Problem?
  • 1121 The Enigma of Shimshon HaGibor
  • 1163 Avoiding Yichud: Must the Door be Open or Merely Unlocked.
  • 1207 Listening to music – as mutar as you think?
  • 1251 Sitting Next to a Woman on an Airplane
  • 1295 Davening/Bentching/Making Kiddush in Front of a Woman Who Is Not Properly Dressed
  • 1339 The Sole Practiioner Lawyer and His Jewish Secretary – A Yichud Problem?
  • 1383 Birkas Kohanim – Whose Mitzva Is It?
  • 1427 Giving Yasher Koach to the Kohain After Birkas Kohanim – Why?
  • 1471 Birkas Kohanim – Why Only on Yom Tov?
  • 1515 Some Fascinating Yichud Shailos
  • 1557 Fascinating Facts About Bircas Kohanim That You Probably Never Knew

A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.