Parsha Encounters



Parshas Chayei Sarah:  [MS Word Format available here]

One of a Kindness

By Rabbi Nosson Lederer

Parsha Encounters 

[Don't forget to see the Halacha Encounters below!]

One of a Kindness

Rabbi Nosson Lederer

We are all constantly warmed and inspired by the countless stories of people and organizations who do anonymous acts of chesed. Whether it is the slipping of an envelope under the door and making a quick get-away, or a grocer erasing credit accounts, these acts of preserving the dignity of the recipient is an attribute which is not new to Bnai Yisroel.

The Bais Halevi, ZT"L, in this weeks parsha, brings to light for us how Rivka Imeinu brilliantly balanced her act of chesed with utmost care as not to embarrass the recipient, Eliezer.

When asked to give Eliezer a drink she was faced with a dilemma. Eliezer had asked, "Please give me some water to drink from your pitcher." (Beraishis 24:17) Could she then carry the rest of this water, which might have been contaminated by a stranger, back to her house?

To solve this problem, she decided that she would spill the leftover water in her pitcher into the trough of the camels, as it says "And she hurried and she emptied her pitcher into the trough." (24:20) She realized, though, that giving her leftover water to the camels might cause Eliezer embarrassment, so she handled the situation with sensitivity by initially saying, "I will also draw for your camels until they will finish drinking." (24:19)

Through this statement Eliezer would then understand that the purpose of her emptying the pitcher into the trough was not because she was suspicious of him, but rather, because she wanted to feed the camels. This way any embarrassing feelings Eliezer might have would be allayed.

In this episode, Rivka Imeinu combined her outstanding middah of chesed with great brilliance in order to save the recipient of her act, a total stranger she had never seen before, even the slightest bit of embarrassment.

Looking at it from a more halachic standpoint, the Bais Halevi, in Parshas Terumah, says that a poor man, at the time of his accepting tzedaka, is considered a cheftza shel mitzvah, an object of mitzvah, just like an esrog on Succos, which may not be disgraced. (Shabbos 22a)

Let us hope that we can always emulate this beautiful harmony of kindness and thoughtfulness which gives us just another reason to say "Umi k'amcha yisroel goi echad ba'aretz, who is like your people Israel, one nation in the land."

Rabbi Nosson Lederer, a rebbe at Yeshivas Tiferes Tzvi, is a member of the Zichron Aharon Mechanchim Kollel at the Chicago Community Kollel.

Halacha Encounters

Kohein's Kedima II

Rabbi Yisroel Langer

Last week, we discussed some of the halachos regarding how we must conduct ourselves with Kohanim.  It was mentioned that a Kohein can be mochel (forgive) the honors (ie: receiving the first portion, leading the bentching, etc.) due to him.   However, when it comes to krias haTorah when the Kohein gets the first aliyah, the Kohein cannot always be mochel.  The Gemarah (Gittin 59b) relates that besides for the mitzvah of honoring a Kohein, a Kohein gets the first aliyah in order to preserve peace.  If everyone was permitted to get the first alyah, people might start fighting to get it.  In order to prevent this, chazal instituted a takana that only a Kohein (assuming that there is one present) should get the first aliyah.  Regarding this takana, a Kohein cannot be mochel.  The Gemarah continues that this takana was made only for Shabbos and Yom Tov when the shuls are full, but does not apply on an ordinary Monday or Thursday.  Therefore, on a weekday, the Kohein can be mochel his zechus to the first aliyah.  Tosfos1 says that this is true for the times of the Gemarah, but in our days (referring to the times of  the Rishonim), everyone comes to shul during the week, and this takana applies on Mondays and Thursdays as well.  HaGaon R' Moshe Feinstein zt"l2 says that in our times, not everyone comes to shul during the week, and it is therefore like in the times of the Gemarah, and there is therefore no takana for Monday and Thursday.

The Halacha is therefore as follows:  On Shabbos and Yom Tov a Kohein cannot be mochel and he must be given that aliyah.  However, during the week, a Kohein may be mochel on this kavod and give the aliyah to his Rebbi or one who is greater than he.3  Likewise, if there are two Yisroelim that need aliyos (ie: the person has Yahrtzeit, a chasan, a bar mitzvah bochur and his father, etc.) the Kohein could be asked to be mochel and give up his aliyah.4  (Note: The Kohein must willfully give up his aliyah, and he may not be coerced in any fashion.5)  If a Kohein is mochel and allows the Yisroel to receive the first aliyah, the Kohein should walk out and not be present when the Yisroel makes the brocha so people will not think that the Kohein is passul.6

Shimush with a Kohein

To ask a Kohein to serve you in some fashion is prohibited.  Even a small thing such as asking a Kohein to pass the salt is problematic.7  When it comes to showing respect to a Kohein, the poskim are in agreement that the Kohein can be mochel.  However, when it comes to being served by a Kohein, the poskim argue on whether the Kohein can by mochel.  The Rema8 rules that a Kohein could be mochel, while the Taz9 and Chidah hold that a Kohein may not be mochel and therefore cannot be asked to serve a Yisroel.  The psak of the Mishnah Brurah10 is that it is best not to rely on the mechilla of a Kohein, especially if the request is one that is not so dignified, for example, taking out the garbage.  There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule. If the Kohein is receiving a benefit (ie: money) in exchange for his service, or if the Kohein is serving a talmid chacham, or if the Kohein initiates the service of his own accord because he wants to, 11 it is then permissible to perform a service for the Yisroel.

The Aruch HaShulchan12 questions whether a Kohein has a mitzvah to sanctify another Kohein.  If he does, a Kohein would not be permitted to request another Kohein to serve him.  The Mishna Berurah13 leans toward the view that it is permissible for one Kohein to serve another.  Other poskim hold that since there is no clear cut ruling on this matter, one should be strict and a Kohein should not serve another Kohein.14


1 Gittin 59b quoting Rabbeinu Chananel

2 Igros Moshe O.C. volume II simun 34

3 Ibid  

4 Igros  Moshe (ibid), HaGaon R' Bentzion Abba Shaul zt"l quoted in Birchas Naftali ch.2 note 13

5 HaGaon R' Elyashiv (ibid note 12)

6 See Igros Moshe (ibid) and Birchas Naftali siman 9

7 Mikor Chayim (Chavas Yair) end of simun 128

8 O.C. end of simun 128

9 O.C. end of simun 128

10 Simun 128 s.k. 175 Sefardim follow the ruling of the Chida; see Birchoas Naftali simun 6

11 Kaf HaChayim 128 s.k. 282 quoting Eshel Avrohom MiBetchatch

12 O.C. end of 128

13 Beur Halacha end of simun 128

14 HaGaon R' Yoseph Shalom Elyashiv, Shlita, HaGaon R' BenTzion Abba Shaul, zt"l, HaGaon R' Ovadya Yoseph quoted in Birchas Naftali ch. 4 p. 36

Rabbi Langer learns full time in the Kollel and is a frequent contributor to Halacha Encounters.

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