Peace, the “Vessel” for Blessing

“Speak to Aharon and to his sons, saying: ‘So shall you bless Bnei Yisrael: Say to them, ‘May Hashem bless you and guard you…’”

Why are the words “say to them” inserted here?

And why is Birkas Kohanim in the singular (Yevarechecha Hashem v’yishmerecha…) and not in the plural, if it can only be performed in the presence of a minyan?

We can answer these questions as follows. The Mishnah tells us “Hakadosh Baruch Hu did not find a vessel to contain brachah except for peace.” Whenever Bnei Yisrael are at peace with each other they are referred to as a single entity, as “one man with one heart.”

Therefore, the Kohanim are told, “So shall you bless Bnei Yisrael: [When you are able to say to them] yevarachecha.” In other words, when you are able to speak to Bnei Yisrael in the singular, i.e., when there is unity among them, then it is possible to bless them (Noam Megadim).

The Bnei Yissaschar (Agrah D’Kallah, Parashas Korach) states that even when one is in all respects worthy of a bounty of blessings, if he engages in machlokes he does not have a vessel in which to contain the brachah. His vessel is effectively riddled with holes; no matter how many wonderful things are poured into it, the vessel will remain empty because everything leaks right out.

Far too often machlokes erupts because of financial differences. One thinks that through waging a fierce battle he might recoup what he feels is rightfully his. The tragic irony is that he fails to realize what Chazal teach us: that one machlokes can drive away a hundred livelihoods.

Each day in davening we say hasam gevulech shalom — “He makes your borders peaceful — and [therefore] with the cream of wheat he satiates you.”

The Chasam Sofer explains this passuk by saying that every person has a limit or a “border” to his wisdom. One person may be pushed past his border by jealousy, which can cause him to start acting irrational. For another, a love for money can cause him to lose his sechel. For still others it is the pursuit of kavod.

For the tzaddik who controls his desires and impulses, pursuit of peace is his “border” and he doesn’t allow anything to push him past it. When he realizes that doing what appears to be the “wise” thing will cause a machlokes he declares, “I’d rather be a fool all my life than be involved in a machlokes.”

Parnassah is pre-ordained and one needs great zechuyos to be able to change the amount that is coming to him; but a person who makes peace his “border” deserves this distinction and merits to be satiated with the “cream of wheat,” i.e., plentiful parnassah.

(It is notable that people are willing to spend fortunes on what is often the unsuccessful pursuit of yishuv hadaas, a bit of tranquility. Machlokes, in addition to its many detrimental spiritual effects, also causes an enormous amount of agmas nefesh. One has to stop and think: is it really worth it? Even if the sum of money causing dissension is substantial, isn’t peace and tranquility worth the cost?)

Maseches Sanhedrin 110a: After Moshe Rabbeinu was maliciously slandered by Dasan and Aviram during the revolt of Korach, he rose and went personally to their tents to try to re-direct them from their sinful path. From here we learn that ein machzikin b’machlokes — “one should not persist in a machlokes.” The Gemara continues by stating that whoever persists in a machlokes violates a lav (prohibition) as it says, “He should not be like Korach and his assembly.”

Harav Yitzchak of Vorka points out that machzikin — “persist” — has the same root as the word chazakah. He says that in regard to machlokes there is no rule of chazakah, and even if someone has been engaged in a machlokes with his fellow for many years, that is not an obstacle to making peace between them.

May we merit the wisdom to do everything possible to ensure that true peace reigns among us, and thus we will be a fitting vessel for the bountiful blessings of Birkas Kohanim.

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