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Megilah, 24

MEGILAH 21-24 (3rd-6th days of Sukos 5760) - sponsored by Harav Ari Bergmann of Lawrence, N.Y., out of love for Torah and those who study it.


QUESTION: The Mishnah says that the person who normally recites the Haftarah is the one who does Nesi'as Kapayim (if he is a Kohen). What does this mean? We know that *all* of the Kohanim present say the Birchas Kohanim together! What is unique about this Kohen's Nesi'as Kapayim? (TOSFOS YOM TOV)


(a) The TOSFOS YOM TOV answers that, indeed, the Mishnah did not have to say that this Kohen does Nesi'as Kapayim, because he does it anyway with all of the other Kohanim. The Mishnah mentions it here only because of the end of the Mishnah which says that a minor may not do Nesi'as Kapayim. To maintain its parallel style, the Mishnah mentions here, too, that the one who reads the Haftarah also does Nesi'as Kapayim.

(b) The TOSFOS YOM TOV answers further that perhaps the Mishnah is saying that this Kohen is the one who *starts* the Birchas Kohanim, before all of the other Kohanim. Starting the Birchas Kohanim was a Kavod accorded to the most honorable Kohen.

The TUREI EVEN, however, rejects this answer, because we never find anywhere in the Gemara that letting a Kohen start the Birchas Kohanim is a form of Kavod.

(c) The TUREI EVEN gives an answer based on the Gemara in Sotah (31a). The Gemara there says that if there are only Kohanim in the synagogue, then all except for ten Kohanim go up to say the Birchas Kohanim. Ten Kohanim stay behind. Our Mishnah is saying that in such a case, when only some of the Kohanim do Nesi'as Kapayim, the one who read the Haftarah is honored with being one of the Kohanim who does Nesi'as Kapayim.

(d) The RASHASH suggests that the Mishnah is referring to a case where the Kohen is acting in the capacity of Shali'ach Tzibur, and it is saying that even though he is the Shali'ach Tzibur, he also does Nesi'as Kapayim. The Mishnah in Berachos (34a) says that if he is the only Kohen and he is leading the Tefilos, he should not do Nesi'as Kapayim because he might get confused and not remember the words at which he left off in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh. But if he feels certain that he will not get confused after reciting Birchas Kohanim and he will be able to return to the words of the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh, then he is permitted to do Nesi'as Kapayim. The Poskim (see HAGAHOS MAIMONI, end of Hilchos Nesi'as Kapayim) say that if there are other Kohanim present, then even if he is sure of himself that he can return to his recitation of the Shemoneh Esreh without getting confused, nonetheless he should not do Nesi'as Kapayim, but let the other Kohanim do it without him.

The Rashash suggests that the Mishnah here is ruling that even while this Kohen is the Shali'ach Tzibur, he may nonetheless do Nesi'as Kapayim since he is the Haftorah-reader, and he should not lose out from Nesi'as Kapayim by being the Shali'ach Tzibur!

QUESTION: The Mishnah states that a Katan may not do Nesi'as Kapayim. TOSFOS (DH v'Ein) points out that the Mishnah implies that only a *Katan* (that is, a minor under the age of Bar Mitzvah) may not do Nesi'as Kapayim, but if he is no longer a Katan (i.e. he has reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, or he has physical signs of maturity), then he may do Nesi'as Kapayim. However, asks Tosfos, this contradicts the Gemara in Chulin (24b) which says that "when a man's beard becomes full, he may be Nosei Kapayim," implying that it is not enough to have the barest signs of maturity. Moreover, asks Tosfos, the Gemara in Sukah (42a) implies that *even* a minor can be Nosei Kapayim!

ANSWER: TOSFOS suggests that the three apparently contradictory Gemaras are referring to three separate Halachos. There are Halachic differences between the various age groups, as follows:

(a) A minor may only do Nesi'as Kapayim together with adults, but not by himself.

(b) A person who is no longer a minor but whose beard has not filled out may do Nesi'as Kapayim by himself occasionally, but not on a regular basis. (TOSFOS in Sukah (42a-b, DH ha'Yodei'a) adds that on days of prayer, such as Yom Kipur, a Kohen whose beard has not filled out should not be Nosei Kapayim.)

(c) Once the Kohen's beard is full, he may be Nosei Kapayim on a regular basis even by himself.

HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 128:34) rules in accordance with the three different age groups set forth by Tosfos. However, the Shulchan Aruch does not cite Tosfos' ruling in Sukah, that a Kohen whose beard has not filled out should not be Nosei Kapayim on days of prayer like Yom Kipur. The BI'UR HALACHA (DH v'Lo) questions why this is not quoted by the Poskim.

The YESHU'AS YAKOV (OC 128) maintains that the practice of Ashkenazic communities is that a minor does not do Nesi'as Kapayim at all. This is based on the opinion of RASHI (Sukah 42a), who seems to discount Tosfos' first age group (a). Nevertheless, in many places in Eretz Yisrael even minors do Nesi'as Kapayim together with adult Kohanim. (Such was indeed the custom in the Beis Midrash of Moreinu Ha'Rav Yisroel Zev Gustman, zt'l -M. Kornfeld).


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