Kohanim and Techiyas Hameisim

Kein tarimu gam atem terumas Hashem … u’nesatem mimenu es terumas Hashem l’Aharon Hakohen (Bamidbar 18:28)

The Gemara in Brachos (46a) relates that Rabi Abahu once made a festive meal to celebrate Rabi Zeira’s recovery from an illness. At the beginning of the meal, Rabi Abahu suggested that Rabi Zeira recite Hamotzi to exempt the other guests. Rabi Zeira responded that it is proper for the host (Rabi Abahu) to do so. When the time came to recite Birkas Hamazon, Rabi Abahu again attempted to honor Rabi Zeira by proposing that he lead its recitation. Rabi Zeira again demurred, explaining that the person who said the blessing over the bread should be the one to recite Birkas Hamazon. The Gemara explains that Rabi Abahu believed that the guest should lead the recitation of Birkas Hamazon in order to bless the host.

In a letter to Harav Chaim Berlin, the Aderes questioned why the Gemara says that Rabi Abahu’s reasoning was based on Rabi Zeira’s status as a guest. Shouldn’t it have been based on his status as a Kohen (Yerushalmi, Brachos 3:1), as one performs a mitzvah by honoring a Kohen to recite a blessing?

The Gemara in Megillah (7b) recounts that Rabbah and Rabi Zeira were eating the festive Purim meal together when Rabbah slaughtered Rabi Zeira. Although the Gemara says that Rabbah prayed and resurrected Rabi Zeira, the Aderes suggested that his status as a Kohen ended with his natural death, and there were no longer grounds on which to honor him to say the blessings as a Kohen.

Rav Berlin responded that the Aderes was surely joking with him. The Gemara in Sanhedrin (90b) questions how the abovementioned passuk (“So shall you, too, raise up the gift of Hashem … and you shall give from it a gift of Hashem to Aharon the Kohen”) can stipulate that terumah be given to Aharon, who never merited entering the land of Israel where this mitzvah was performed. The Gemara answers that the Torah is hinting to the resurrection of the dead, at which time Aharon will receive terumah. How can the Gemara be understood according to the logic of the Aderes, as Aharon’s status as a Kohen ended when he died a natural death?

In defense of the Aderes, Harav Yaakov Chaim Sofer notes that in his notes on the Rambam’s Sefer Hamitzvos (3:7), the Ramban writes that the anointment received by Aharon and his sons became invalid at the time of their deaths. Upon their resurrection, they will require a new anointment in order to regain their status as Kohanim and serve in the Beis Hamikdash, and by extension to receive terumah, precisely in accordance with the explanation of the Aderes!

Q: Rashi writes (16:1) that Korach argued that his father was one of four siblings. The oldest of them was Amram, so his children Moshe and Aharon took the positions of king and Kohen Gadol, respectively. However, Korach felt that as the son of Yitzhar, the second oldest of the siblings, he deserved to be appointed leader of the tribe; yet Moshe gave the position to the son of the youngest of the brothers, which inspired Korach’s rebellion. If this was the basis for his rebellion against Moshe, why didn’t he attack Moshe immediately when these appointments were made; and what inspired his wrath specifically at this time?

A: The Ramban explains that at the time of the appointments of the tribal leaders, Moshe was immensely popular. Even when the Jews committed the unparalleled sin of the golden calf, only a relatively small number died, as Moshe spent 40 days and nights praying for forgiveness on their behalf. At that time, all of the Jews loved Moshe and anybody who attempted to challenge his leadership would be killed by his supporters; so Korach had no choice but to wait patiently. Now, however, many Jews had been killed for complaining, first through a Heavenly fire (11:3) and then through the meat that they demanded (11:33). Additionally, after the sin of the spies, Moshe’s prayers on their behalf did not succeed in annulling the decree against them. Now that many people were angry at Moshe and questioned his effectiveness, Korach thought that they would be more willing to listen to his arguments and join his rebellion.

Q: After separating the appropriate portions to be terumah (18:12), can a person make them terumah simply by mentally intending them to be terumah, or must he verbally declare them to be terumah?

A: The Gemara (Gittin 31a) teaches that terumah may be separated b’machshavah. Rashi explains that this is done by looking at one side of the food and declaring it to be terumah while eating from the other side. Although one isn’t required to actually perform the action of separating terumah, Rashi maintains that it must still be verbally pronounced in order be effective. Tosafos disagrees, as the Mishnah (Terumos 1:6) rules that if a mute person separates terumah it takes effect. Tosafos points out that since the mute person obviously cannot make any verbal declarations, it must be that mental intent to separate it is sufficient.

The Chavatzeles Hasharon resolves Rashi’s opinion by suggesting that he only requires a verbal pronouncement in a case where the person isn’t doing any other act of separating terumah, in which case mental intent is insufficient. However, Rashi would agree that if someone actually separates terumah, a mental declaration is then sufficient, which would explain how a mute person could separate terumah.


Originally from Kansas City, Rabbi Ozer Alport graduated from Harvard, learned in Mir Yerushalayim for five years, and now lives in Brooklyn, where he learns in Yeshivas Beis Yosef, is the author of the recently-published sefer Parsha Potpourri, and gives weekly shiurim. To send comments to the author or to receive his Divrei Torah weekly, please email oalport@Hamodia.com.