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Kesuvos, 24

KESUVOS 24 (18 Nisan) - Dedicated by Rabbi Yisrael Shaw in memory of his grandfather, Mr. Bernie Slotin (Dov Ber ben Moshe Mordechai z'l), of Savannah, Georgia, on his first Yahrzeit.


QUESTION: The Gemara discusses whether we may use that fact that a person recited Birkas Kohanim as proof that he is a Kohen. The Gemara says that if a non-Kohen recites Birkas Kohanim, he transgresses an Isur Aseh. Rashi explains that the source for this is the verse that says about the Kohanim that "*they* shall bless" the people, implying that only Kohanim may bless the people.

There is a widespread custom for a father to bless his children, using the text of the Birkas Kohanim, every Friday night and on Erev Yom Kipur. Why, though, is this permitted? The Halachah states that one who is not a Kohen is not permitted to give the priestly blessing!


(a) The BI'UR HALACHAH (OC 128) offers two answers. First, he cites the BACH who says that the Isur applies only when the blessing is recited with outstretched hands. Therefore, it is permitted for a non-Kohen to bless one's child without outstretched hands. (Accordingly, blessing one's child with outstretched hands would be prohibited. It is brought in the name of the VILNA GA'ON that one should bless one's child with only one hand outstretched, but not two, since only Kohanim are permitted to bless with two hands outstretched.)

(b) Alternatively, the recitation of Birkas Kohanim was established as part of the prayer service. When one recites the verses of Birkas Kohanim *not* during the Tefilah, we may assume that he does not have in mind to fulfill the Mitzvah of Birkas Kohanim, and therefore it is permitted to recite the verses.

QUESTION: The Gemara discusses whether a document (a Shtar) may be used as proof that one is permitted to marry a full-fledged Kohen (a "Kohen Meyuchas"). The KETZOS HA'CHOSHEN (28:6) asks that there is a rule that testimony must be verbally stated and not written. How, then, can we use a document as testimony that one is a Kohen? He adds that although documents are legally valid, that status does not apply here to permit the document to serve as testimony. (The Rambam learns that the Shtar is a rabbinical enactment made in order to help people in need borrow money (for without a Shtar, lenders would be very reluctant to lend money). This power of a Shtar obviously does not apply to allow a Shtar to serve as testimony that a person is a Kohen, because such a case has nothing to do with borrowing money. Moreover, even according to the other Rishonim who say that a Shtar has power mid'Oraisa, this applies only when the information in the Shtar was given to the witnesses by the writer of the document to establish a legal status based on the document. Here, though, the Shtar was given as proof that a loan was given and not as proof that the lender is a Kohen (as that piece of information is irrelevant to the transaction).)

ANSWER: The Ketzos ha'Choshen answers that according to TOSFOS (24a), who says that mid'Oraisa we assume that normal families (Stam Mishpachos) are permitted to marry into the families of Kohanim, the entire need for testimony is only mid'Rabanan. Therefore, we may rely on written testimony (just like in the case of Kiyum Shtaros, which is also only mid'Rabanan).

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