Chicago Chesed Fund

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Losing Kehuna

Heard from Rabbi Avraham Bukspan in the name of Rabbi Chaim Gibber.

Chazal tell us of three individuals who were Kohanim, or at least had within themselves the attributes of Kehuna and could have been the source of Kehuna forever, the Bris Kehunas Olam. (When Kohanim make a bracha on a mitzvas kehuna, they say ....אשר קדשנו בקדושתו של אהרן וצונו because the mitzvos of Kehuna stem from Hashem's gift davka to Aharon.)  But each one lost the zechus of being the progenitor of Kehuna.  These were MalkiTzedek, Reuven, and Moshe.  

MalkiTzedek lost eternal kehuna because he gave a bracha to Avraham before his bracha to Hashem. Reuven because of what he did with Yaakov's bed after Rachel died. Moshe because of his reluctance and argument when told to lead the Bnei Yisrael out of Mitzrayim. The sources are laid out below.

It stands to reason that there is a common denominator in these three cases. 

Rabbi Gibber said that each of these three had a true obligation to show honor and gratitude to a person, but showed that honor in a way that took away from Kiddush Hashem. MalkiTzedek had been saved by Avraham Avinu, but he should have given thanks to the Ribono shel Olam before expressing his gratitude to Avraham, as Avraham told him.  Reuven was distraught at the abasement of his mother, but to remove that shame he moved the bed that the Shechina rested on.  Hashem told Moshe that he was to be assigned the role of leader of Klal Yisrael as they left Mitrayim, and because he was upset that his great elder brother Aharon would become his inferior, he resisted Hashem's instruction excessively.

The common denominator is that Kehuna is a life of kavod shamayim over all else, and one who gives primacy to any human's honor over obedience to Hashem can not be the source of the Avodas Hashem of Kehuna.  

MalkiTzedek (Shem ben Noach):
Breishis 14:18-20\
ומלכי־צדק מלך שלם הוציא לחם ויין והוא כהן לאל עליון
ויברכהו ויאמר ברוך אברם לאל עליון קנה שמים וארץ
וברוך אל עליון אשר־מגן צריך בידך ויתן־לו מעשר מכל

Nedarim 32b
אמר רבי זכריה משום רבי ישמעאל: ביקש הקדוש ברוך הוא להוציא כהונה משם, שנאמר: ״והוא כהן לאל עליון״. כיון שהקדים ברכת אברהם לברכת המקום — הוציאה מאברהם. זשנאמר: ״ויברכהו ויאמר ברוך אברם לאל עליון קנה שמים וארץ וברוך אל עליון״. אמר לו אברהם: וכי מקדימין ברכת עבד לברכת קונו? מיד נתנה לאברהם, שנאמר: ״נאם ה׳ לאדני שב לימיני עד אשית איביך הדם לרגליך״, ובתריה כתיב: ״נשבע ה׳ ולא ינחם אתה כהן לעולם על דברתי מלכי צדק״. על דיבורו של מלכי צדק. חוהיינו דכתיב ״והוא כהן לאל עליון״: הוא כהן, ואין זרעו כהן.

Reuven, regarding the story in Breishis 35:22
ויהי בשכן ישראל בארץ ההוא וילך ראובן וישכב את־בלהה פילגש אביו וישמע ישרא͏ל {פ}
ויהיו בני־יעקב שנים עשר

Breishis 49:3-4
ראובן בכרי אתה כחי וראשית אוני יתר שאת ויתר עז
פחז כמים אל־תותר כי עלית משכבי אביך אז חללת יצועי עלה

Shabbos 54b
 אֲחֵרִים אוֹמְרִים: שְׁתֵּי מַצָּעוֹת בִּלְבֵּל, אַחַת שֶׁל שְׁכִינָה וְאַחַת שֶׁל אָבִיו. וְהַיְינוּ דִּכְתִיב: ״אָז חִלַּלְתָּ יְצוּעִי עָלָה״ — אַל תִּקְרֵי ״יְצוּעִי״ אֶלָּא ״יְצוּעַיי״.

Rashi there:
אחת של שכינה - כך היה יעקב עושה בארבעה אהלי נשיו מעמיד מטה לשכינה ובאותו אהל שהוא רואה בו השכינה הוא בא ולן אותו הלילה:

Rashi in Vayechi, 49:3 and 4
יתר שאת. רָאוּי הָיִיתָ לִהְיוֹת יֶתֶר עַל אַחֶיךָ בִכְהֻנָּה, לְשׁוֹן נְשִׂיאוּת כַּפַּיִם:
אז חללת. אוֹתוֹ שֶׁעָלָה עַל יְצוּעִי – וְהִיא שְׁכִינָה שֶׁהָיָה דַרְכָּהּ לִהְיוֹת עוֹלָה עַל יְצוּעִי:

Moshe Rabbeinu:
Shemos 4:14
ויחר־אף יהוה במשה ויאמר הלא אהרן אחיך הלוי ידעתי כי־דבר ידבר הוא וגם הנה־הוא יצא לקראתך וראך ושמח בלבו

Rashi there from Zevachim 102a
ויחר אף. רַבִּי יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן קָרְחָה אוֹמֵר כָּל חֲרוֹן אַף שֶׁבַּתּוֹרָה עוֹשֶׂה רֹשֶׁם וְזֶה לֹא נֶאֱמַר בּוֹ רֹשֶׁם וְלֹא מָצִינוּ שֶׁבָּא עֹנֶשׁ עַ"יְ אוֹתוֹ חָרוֹן; אָמַר לוֹ רַבִּי יוֹסֵי אַף בְּזוֹ נֶאֱמַר בּוֹ רֹשֶׁם – הלא אהרן אחיך הלוי – שֶׁהָיָה עָתִיד לִהְיוֹת לֵוִי וְלֹא כֹּהֵן, וְהַכְּהֻנָּה הָיִיתִי אוֹמֵר לָצֵאת מִמְּךָ, מֵעַתָּה לֹא יִהְיֶה כֵן אֶלָּא הוּא יִהְיֶה כֹּהֵן וְאַתָּה הַלֵּוִי, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר "וּמֹשֶׁה אִישׁ הָאֱלֹהִים בָּנָיו יִקָּרְאוּ עַל שֵׁבֶט הַלֵּוִי" (דהי"א כ"ג) (זבחים ק"ב):

Rabbi Gibber's explanation is excellent beyond any need for my or anyone else's haskama.  
I would be very grateful if someone could offer another pshat, or at least some nuance to make it more simple to me. There is just something about it that bothers me. To say that honoring any man over the Ribono shel Olam is incompatible with Kehuna is just too broad. A Kohen hedyot can be mitamei for the seven krovim, and even a Kohen gadol can for a meis mitzvah. Why aren't the cases of Reuven and Moshe like meis mitzva?
Chazal tell us that Moshe mistake, or sin, at Mei Meriva stemmed from his gratitude for Miriam. Without Miriam, he would never have been born. The result of this hakaras hatov to Miriam was Moshe's early death and his inability to enter Eretz Yisrael. Why did he not learn his lesson from the experience of the Sneh? 

UPDATE 2/10 23
1. I saw a great he'ara from HaRav Moshe Leib Shachor. In Tefillas Geshem, it says "רוחק מעם פחז כמים." Meaning, the Kohen Gadol had to keep his distance from the rest of Klal Yisrael. Many ask that when we look for zechusim, calling Klal Yisrael a nation that is Pachaz Kamayim is out of place. Also, where do we find that we are called Pachaz Kamayim anyway? So Harav Tzvi Pesach Frank in מקראי קודש Sukkah III p. 172 says pshat that in Shabbos 88 and Keshuvos 112 we are called Pochazim/Pezizim as a shvach. But in the Harerei Kodesh there, at the end, he brings from Harav Shachor that it's not supposed to say "Mei'Am pachaz." It's supposed to be "Mei'im Pachaz," meaning, that Reuven lost it because of pachaz and the Kohen exemplifies the opposite.
(By the way, there's an error in the Harrerei Kodesh. He brings from Reb Chaim Shmuelevitz in Va'eira, but it's really in Shemos on page 122.)
2. Menachem wrote in an excellent comment: 
"I think an obvious "proof" to Rabbi Gibber's yesod would be Pinchas' being zoche to the kehuna for doing the exact opposite- putting kevod shamayim before everything else."
He's so right. Instead of looking for the common denominator in the three that lost the Kehuna, I should have looked at the one that gained the Kehuna, Pinchas, and what it was that gave him that reward. The answer is his absolute refusal to allow the honor of Zimri to interfere with what he knew was kiddush Hashem.  (In a sense, it was Reuven's Pezizus applied l'to'eles, but that does not help me here.)


  1. מצאתי הזמנה לחתונת יוסף פוגרמנסקי עם מרת טיבה (ג' סיון תרצ"ב)

    1. אני מאוד מעונין לראות אותו. אפשר? ואולי תגיד לי איך ומי וכו'? ו

  2. תשלח לי מייל ל: ואשלח לך

  3. Perhaps we can put aside the kavod aspect, and explain that one must put sepaprate their own personal cheshbonos from what is ratzon Hashem in order to do the avodah properly. On a basic level, that is the meaning of one who serves. But it is all the more inportant, seeing as kohanim are our messengers, that they not have cheshbonos of their own when bringing korbanos (this guy is bringing a chatas?! I know him well, he acts like such a tzadik!).

    Also, is this Rabbi Gibber of Boca? As a resident (although I don't daven in his shul) I am curious about your connection...

    1. Rabbi Chaim Gibber is the Rosh Kollel of the Minneapolis Community Kollel. He and his twin, Rabbi Eliezer Gibber, were my temporal contemporaries (albeit a year or two older) in Ner Israel in the seventies. The chabura included Eliezer and Yitzchok Breitowitz, Moshe Brown, Yossi Kalatsky, Tzvi Berkowitz, Yisroel Janowski, Zushe Blech, Ephraim Poliakoff, Shimon Krasner, Yitzchok Isbee, and others, such as Ahron Gulkowitz. כמהו לא נהיתה וכמהו לא תסף
      Maybe you're right. The problem was not what the cheshbon was, it was having a cheshbon in the first place.

    2. I do want to say that your comment brought to mind the machlokes Rambam and Tur in EH 121 about a person that appointed a shaliach while in a healthy state of mind and then became legally incompetent. The issue is whether the mechanism of shlichus is the act of the shaliach is attributed to the principal, or that the shaliach is merely an extension of the principal. If Kehuna is shlichus, then according to the opinion that shlichus is merely an extension of the meshaleiach then the personal obligations of the shaliach are irrelevant. He is merely an instrument, an extension of the hand of the principal. This is very different than mitzvos in general, where the obligation is ours personally, that we are obligated to do something. When it is a shlichus, the Ribono shel Olam is using the person to get something done, the person has the zechus of being an instrument. A bar chiyuva needs to think about what he is to do. An instrument has zero autonomy. Good thought.

  4. I think an obvious "proof" to Rabbi Gibber's yesod would be Pinchas' being zoche to the kehuna for doing the exact opposite- putting kevod shamayim before everything else.

    1. That is an eye opening comment. Instead of trying to analyze a cluster of negatives, finding the diametric opposite creates a span.