OPINIONS: The Gemara proves from a Beraisa that discusses the Yom Kippur service that the word "Chukah" in a verse does not necessarily preclude making a Kal va'Chomer to teach that the law of that verse applies to other cases. The Beraisa says that the verse, "Aharon shall offer the goat which the lot (Goral) designated for Hash-m, and he shall make it a Chatas (v'Asahu Chatas)" (Vayikra 16:9), teaches that only the Goral, and not a verbal declaration, can determine which goat is to be used as the Chatas for Hash-m and which goat is to be used as the goat for Azazel. Even though the verse uses the word "Chukah" (16:29) with regard to the Yom Kippur service, the Beraisa says that one would have made a Kal va'Chomer to teach that a verbal declaration is able to designate the goats for their respective roles, if not for the verse of "va'Asahu Chatas." One would have said that since, with regard to other types of Korbanos, a Goral is ineffective in establishing the designation of a Korban while a verbal declaration is effective, certainly with regard to the goats of Yom Kippur (for which a Goral is effective) a verbal declaration should be effective. The verse of "v'Asahu Chatas" teaches not to make such a Kal va'Chomer, and that only the Goral can determine which goat is to be used as a Chatas for Hash-m and which goat for Azazel.
What is the source that for other types of Korbanos a verbal declaration determines the status of the Korban?
(a) RASHI (DH Kidesh ha'Shem) explains that with regard to the two bird offerings brought by a Zav or by a Yoledes, the law is that verbally declaring one to be an Olah and one to be a Chatas is effective in establishing their status. Consequently, if one offered the Olah-bird as a Chatas, and the Chatas-bird as an Olah, the Korban is Pasul and he must bring new birds as Korbanos. This is because the verse says, "Motza Sefasecha Tishmor..." -- "That which emerges from your lips you shall observe and perform, according to what you have vowed to Hash-m, your G-d, an offering, anything that you have promised with your mouth" (Devarim 23:24). This verse teaches that one's statement is binding. Since the Avodah of an Olas ha'Of differs from the Avodah of a Chatas ha'Of, if one brings the bird designated for one type of Korban as the other type of Korban, the Korban is Pasul.
The RASHBA has difficulty with Rashi's explanation. The Gemara in Yoma (41a) quotes Rav Chisda who says that the status of bird Korbanos is determined at one of two moments -- either at the moment that they are purchased, or at the moment that the Kohen performs their Avodah. The Gemara explains that Rav Chisda derives this from the verse, "v'Lakchah Shtei Torim" -- "and she shall take two turtledoves" (Vayikra 12:8). The word "v'Lakchah" teaches that she may declare the status of each bird at the moment that she "takes" them (that is, when she buys them). Rav Chisda derives from another verse, "v'Asah ha'Kohen... Es ha'Echad Chatas v'Es ha'Echad Olah" -- "and the Kohen shall make... one a Chatas and one an Olah" (Vayikra 14:30-31), that the status of the birds can be determined when they are offered by the Kohen. The Rashba asks that since the Gemara in Yoma mentions only these two moments at which the bird may be designated as a specific Korban, how can Rashi suggest that a person's verbal declaration is always effective in designating a Korban? The Gemara in Yoma does not mention that a person can designate the status of the Korban at any time, and it does not derive anything with regard to the verbal declaration of a Korban from the verse, "Motza Sefasecha Tishmor"!
(b) The Rashba therefore explains that when the Gemara here discusses verbally designating the status of Korbanos, it refers to designating the status of the Korban at these two times (either when the owner buys it, or when the Kohen offers it), as opposed to designating the status of the Korban through a lottery. The Gemara here is complementing the Gemara in Yoma and is teaching that a Korban may be designated only at these two moments, and only through a verbal declaration (and not through a Goral).
RAV YOSEF SHALOM ELYASHIV shlit'a (quoted in HE'OROS B'MASECHES CHULIN) suggests that it is possible that Rashi does not disagree with the Rashba. Rashi says only that one cannot change the status of a Korban because of the verse of "Motza Sefasecha Tishmor," as the Gemara at the beginning of Zevachim (2a) teaches when it derives from the verse of "Motza Sefasecha Tishmor" that one cannot change the Kedushah of a Korban. Rashi agrees that the Gemara in Yoma is the source for the rule that a verbal declaration is effective in designating the status of a Korban. (See also ROSH YOSEF.) (Y. MONTROSE)
QUESTION: The Gemara teaches that a Levi is qualified to serve in the Mishkan from the age of thirty (after studying for five years, from the age of twenty-five) until fifty, as derived from the verses in the Torah.
The RAMBAM (Hilchos Klei ha'Mikdash 3:7) writes, "A Levi does not enter the Azarah to perform Avodah until he has studied for five years... and he does not begin to perform Avodah until he has reached the age of Bar Mitzvah, for the Torah stipulates that he must be an 'Ish,' a man."
The Rambam's words are unclear. The Rambam first writes that the Levi must be thirty years old in order to serve in the Beis ha'Mikdash, but then he writes that a Levi may serve once he reaches the age of Bar Mitzvah! What is the intention of the Rambam?
(a) The KESEF MISHNEH suggests that for a regular form of Avodah, it suffices for the Levi to have reached the age of Bar Mitzvah. However, with regard to the Avodah of Shirah (music and song) which is a complex area of Chochmah, the Levi must be thirty years old.
(b) The Kesef Mishneh answers further than in order for the Levi to perform the Avodah on a regular basis, he must be thirty years old. He may perform the Avodah occasionally even if he is only thirteen.
(c) The Kesef Mishneh also suggests that the requirement that a Levi be thirty years old in order to perform the Avodah applied only in the times of the Mishkan. In the times of the Beis ha'Mikdash, a Levi may begin performing the Avodah when he reaches the age of thirteen. The reason why the Rambam quotes the verses regarding the age at which a Levi may perform the Avodah in the Mishkan is merely to prove that a Levi must study the Avodah for five years before he begins serving. (Z. Wainstein)
OPINIONS: The Gemara teaches that a Levi becomes disqualified from performing Avodah when he reaches the age of fifty. The BEHAG includes this prohibition in his list of Mitzvos, writing that it is an Isur d'Oraisa for a Levi to perform Avodah after the age of fifty. Is this Mitzvah relevant nowadays?
(a) The RAMBAM maintains that this Mitzvah is not relevant nowadays, and he questions why the Behag includes a Mitzvah that does not apply today.
(b) The RAMBAN, however, defends the Behag and asserts that this Mitzvah applies to the Leviyim whenever the Aron needs to be moved. Although a number of sources mention several places in which only the Kohanim were told to carry the Aron (such as when the Jews crossed the Jordan to come into Eretz Yisrael, when they encircled Yericho, and when they brought the Aron into the Beis ha'Mikdash in the times of Shlomo ha'Melech), in all other places the Aron may be carried by any descendant of Kehas (but not by descendants of Gershom or Merari; see Bamidbar 10:21), the son of Levi from whom Kohanim descend, and from whom some Leviyim descend, as long as he has not yet reached the age of fifty.
The Rambam disagrees and maintains that the only reason why the Leviyim carried the Aron in the Midbar was the shortage of Kohanim. After that period, though, only the Kohanim were authorized to carry it, without limitations of age. (It seems clear from the words of the Rambam that there are no age limitations on the Leviyim in the Beis ha'Mikdash, as the KESEF MISHNEH suggests, as mentioned in the previous Insight (2:c).)
QUESTION: The Gemara suggests that an age limit for Kohanim can be derived through a Kal va'Chomer.
The PORAS YOSEF asks how the Gemara can entertain such a suggestion. Aharon was 85 years old when he served in the Mishkan (he died at the age of 123, after serving for nearly 40 years). It is evident from Aharon that there is no age limit for a Kohen. Similarly, Elazar, Aharon's son who replaced Aharon as the Kohen Gadol and who served as the Kohen Gadol when the Jews entered Eretz Yisrael, was at least 60 years old when he began to serve, and thus he was older than the age limit of 50. Why does the Gemara suggest that there is an age limit for Kohanim?
ANSWER: Perhaps the Gemara is suggesting only that ordinary Kohanim should have an age limit. A Kohen Gadol is exempt from the age limit. Elazar may have stopped serving as an ordinary Kohen when he reached the age of 50, until he was appointed to replace his father as Kohen Gadol. (M. KORNFELD)


QUESTION: The Gemara quotes the Tosefta that states, "When a man's beard becomes full, he is fit to be appointed as a Shali'ach Tzibur, to conduct the prayers, and to perform Nesi'as Kapayim." TOSFOS (DH Nismalei) asks that the Mishnah in Megilah (24a) seems to contradict the Tosefta cited here. The Mishnah in Megilah states that a Katan (a minor under the age of Bar Mitzvah) may not perform Nesi'as Kapayim. The Mishnah implies that one who is no longer a Katan (he has reached the age of Bar Mitzvah or has physical signs of maturity) may perform Nesi'as Kapayim, even though he does not yet have a full beard.
Both the Gemara here and the Mishnah in Megilah contradict the Gemara in Sukah (42a) which implies that even a minor may perform Nesi'as Kapayim.
How are these three sources to be reconciled?
ANSWER: TOSFOS suggests that the three apparently contradictory sources refer to three separate age groups.
(a) A minor may perform Nesi'as Kapayim only together with adult Kohanim (for the sake of Chinuch, to learn how to perform Birkas Kohanim and to become accustomed to the procedure; see Shulchan Aruch OC 128:34). He may not perform Nesi'as Kapayim when he is the only Kohen present.
The BI'UR HALACHAH (DH Aval Im) quotes the OLAS TAMID who says that the intention of the Shulchan Aruch is that a minor may perform Nesi'as Kapayim together with adults even on a regular basis.
(b) A young man who is no longer a minor but who does not have a full beard may perform Nesi'as Kapayim by himself occasionally but not on a regular basis. The reason why he may perform Nesi'as Kapayim occasionally is in order for others to know that he is a Kohen.
However, the Bi'ur Halachah (ibid.) quotes the Olas Tamid who clarifies that the Shulchan Aruch's statement applies only to a place where there are other Kohanim. In such a place, a young, adult Kohen whose beard has not filled out may occasionally, but not regularly, perform Nesi'as Kapayim. In a place where there are no other Kohanim available to perform Nesi'as Kapayim, the young Kohen may do so even on a regular basis (see Bi'ur Halachah, DH u'Mihu).
TOSFOS in Sukah (42a-b, DH ha'Yode'a) adds that on days designated for prayer, such as Yom Kippur, a Kohen whose beard is not full should not perform Nesi'as Kapayim.
(c) When a Kohen's beard is full he may perform Nesi'as Kapayim on a regular basis even by himself.
RAV YOSEF SHALOM ELYASHIV shlit'a (quoted in HE'OROS B'MASECHES CHULIN) asks that the statements of the Olas Tamid (quoted by the Bi'ur Halachah) seem to contradict each other. In his first statement, he says that a minor may always perform Nesi'as Kapayim when accompanied by an adult Kohen. In his second statement, he says that an adult Kohen whose beard is not full may perform Nesi'as Kapayim only occasionally when accompanied by other Kohanim. This implies that a minor is better than a young adult whose beard is not full, which obviously is not logical! Moreover, the Olas Tamid says that when the young adult whose beard is not full is the only Kohen present, he may perform Nesi'as Kapayim by himself even on a regular basis. This implies that the young adult is better than a minor, who may never perform Nesi'as Kapayim by himself! How are these statements of the Olas Tamid to be understood?
Rav Elyashiv suggests that the Olas Tamid's statement about a person whose beard is not full addresses the congregation's obligation, and not the Kohen's obligation. The congregation that has only a Kohen whose beard is not full should try to persuade a fully mature Kohen to pray with them. This is because there is a lack of honor to the Tzibur when the congregation has only a young Kohen, whose beard is not full, to perform Nesi'as Kapayim. However, the young Kohen whose beard is not full is always supposed to perform Nesi'as Kapayim, as the Torah commands every adult Kohen to perform Nesi'as Kapayim regardless of whether his beard is full or not. (This logical distinction between the congregation's obligation and the Kohen's obligation may also be found in the TIFERES YAKOV to Tosfos here.)
According to this explanation, it seems that when Tosfos in Sukah says that on days of communal prayer a Kohen whose beard is not full should not perform Nesi'as Kapayim, he does not mean that in practice he should not recite Birkas Kohanim. Rather, he means that the congregation should try to find a Kohen whose beard is full to recite Birkas Kohanim, especially on important days of Tefilah. (Y. MONTROSE, Z. Wainstein)
HALACHAH: The SHULCHAN ARUCH (OC 128:34) distinguishes between the three different age groups as Tosfos categorizes them. However, the Shulchan Aruch does not cite Tosfos' ruling in Sukah that a Kohen whose beard has not filled out should not perform Nesi'as Kapayim on days of prayer like Yom Kippur. The BI'UR HALACHAH (DH v'Lo) wonders why the Poskim omit this ruling.
(The Poskim write that the Halachic requirement that a Kohen have a full beard applies only to a man who is under the age of eighteen, or a man who is over the age of eighteen and has no facial hair growth at all. One who is over the age of eighteen and has a small beard is classified as a person whose beard has filled out; see Shulchan Aruch ibid. and Mishnah Berurah OC 128:126.)
The YESHU'OS YAKOV maintains that the custom of Ashkenazim is that a minor does not perform Nesi'as Kapayim at all. This is based on the opinion of RASHI in Sukah (42a) who seems to disagree with Tosfos' ruling that permits a minor to recite Birkas Kohanim together with adult Kohanim. Nevertheless, in many places of worship in Eretz Yisrael (such as in the Beis Midrash of HAGA'ON RAV YISRAEL ZEV GUSTMAN zt'l) it is the custom for minors to recite Birkas Kohanim together with adult Kohanim. (M. KORNFELD) (See Insights to Chulin 24:5.)
QUESTION: The Gemara quotes Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi who says that in 24 places the Torah refers to Kohanim as "Leviyim." (RASHI here suggests that they are called "Leviyim" because they perform the Avodah in the Beis ha'Mikdash, as the word "Levi" also means "those who help serve" (as in Bamidbar 18:2). The Gemara cites one example of such a verse (Yechezkel 44:15).
What are the other 23 places in which the Torah refers to Kohanim as "Leviyim"? The Acharonim discuss this question and have great difficulty identifying all 24 places.
The BEN YEHOYADA in Bechoros (4b) writes that he searched and found only eleven places where the word "Leviyim" refers to Kohanim and not to Leviyim. However, RAV DAVID COHEN shlit'a (in OHEL DAVID, end of volume 1) writes that he counted the places where the word "Leviyim" refers either to Kohanim by themselves or to Kohanim and Leviyim together, and he found 76 places where the Torah refers to Kohanim as "Leviyim."
Rav David Cohen asks further that there can be no set number of places in which the word "Leviyim" means both Kohanim and Leviyim, because the Gemara here cites a dispute about whether the verses in the Torah which discuss giving Ma'aser to a Levi include Kohanim as well. Accordingly, the number of verses in which "Leviyim" refers to Kohanim is subject to this dispute and cannot be the same according to all Tana'im. Why does Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi assume that everyone agrees that there are exactly 24 places in which the word "Leviyim" refers to Kohanim?
Rav David Cohen also points out that Rashi in Yehoshua (3:3) records a different count in the name of the Midrash (Bereishis Rabah). According to the Midrash, there are 48 places in which the word "Leviyim" refers to Kohanim. (The Midrash, however, does not quote this statement in the name of Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi.)
How is the statement of Rebbi Yehoshua ben Levi to be reconciled with the empirical count?
(a) The MEGADIM CHADASHIM (Berachos 51a) asserts that the Gemara does not intend to give an exact number, but rather it means to say that there are many places in which the Torah refers to Kohanim as "Leviyim." The number 24 is an exaggeration.
According to this approach, when the Midrash asserts that there are 48 places, it is simply choosing a different number for the exaggeration.
(b) RAV DAVID COHEN suggests that the Gemara indeed counts the places where "Leviyim" refers either to Kohanim or to both Kohanim and Leviyim. The reason it counts only 24 instead of many more is that it does not count "Pesukim" (verses), but only "Mekomos" -- "places," or topics. There are 24 basic sections in the Torah which refer to Kohanim as "Leviyim," while each section may contain many instances of the word "Leviyim" as a reference to Kohanim. Rav Cohen attempts to define what is considered a "place" or topic-section but does not reach a definitive conclusion.
(c) The Ben Yehoyada reached the number eleven by counting only the places where the words "ha'Kohanim ha'Leviyim" are used to refer to the Kohanim. However, he overlooked three instances in which that phrase refers only to Kohanim (besides the places he intentionally omitted, where the verse refers to both Kohanim and Leviyim). Moreover, he counted one place that should not have been included in the count because it refers to Kohanim and Leviyim (as the RADAK explains in Divrei ha'Yamim I 9:2). Hence, the total count is thirteen.
Additional instances are cited by other commentators. RASHI in Devarim (18:7) comments in the name of the Sifri that two verses there use the word "Levi" to refer to the Kohen and not to the Levi.
The RADAK in Yechezkel (48:11) and Divrei ha'Yamim II (5:4) proves that the word "Leviyim" refers only to Kohanim.
The METZUDAS TZIYON explains that the word "ha'Leviyim" in Yechezkel (44:10) refers to Kohanim, as is evident from the context there. The same is true of the verse in Yirmeyahu (33:22), as is evident from the context there (see verses 18 and 21). These instances bring the total to nineteen.
The RAMBAM (Mitzvos Aseh #34; see RAMBAN, Shoresh #3) writes that it is a Mitzvas Aseh for Kohanim to carry the Aron, even though the verse specifically says that the Leviyim (Bnei Kehas) shall carry it. The Rambam says that the command to the Leviyim to carry the Aron applied only in the desert, where there were only three Kohanim (who could not carry the Aron by themselves). For all ensuing generations, the Kohanim are enjoined to carry the Aron.
However, in five places in Nevi'im and Kesuvim the verse states that Leviyim carried the Aron, as the RAMBAN asks (Shoresh #3). The Acharonim answer that according to the Rambam, the word "Leviyim" in those five places refers to Kohanim and not to Leviyim. Accordingly, there are exactly 24 places in Tanach in which the word "Leviyim" refers exclusively to Kohanim! (The Ramban will have to rely on the first answer above, that the number is an exaggeration.)
When the Midrash mentions 48 places, perhaps it includes the places in which the word "Leviyim" refers to both Kohanim and Leviyim (and it follows the opinion of Rebbi Akiva in Yevamos here who says that Kohanim are not entitled to eat Ma'aser Rishon along with Leviyim). There remain 24 places where the word "Leviyim" refers to both Kohanim and Leviyim. Those 24 verses mentioned by the Gemara in which Kohanim are referred to as "Leviyim" are as follows:
In sum, according to this approach, the 24 verses mentioned by the Gemara in which Kohanim are referred to as "Leviyim" are as follows:
(1) Devarim 17:9 (2) 17:18 (3) 18:1 (4) 18:6 (5) 18:7 (6) 24:8 (7) 27:9 (8) Yehoshua 3:3 (9) 8:33 (10) Shmuel I 6:15 (11) Yirmeyahu 33:18 (12) 33:21 (13) 33:22 (14) Yechezkel 43:19 (15) 44:10 (16) 44:15 (17) 48:11 (18) Divrei ha'Yamim I 15:12 (19) 15:15 (20) 15:26 (21) 15:27 (22) Divrei ha'Yamim II 5:4 (23) 23:18 (24) 30:27
- The eleven places which the Ben Yehoyada counts are numbers 1, 2, 3, 6, 8, 9, 11, 16, 23, 24. He also includes Divrei ha'Yamim I 9:2.
- The five places which discuss Leviyim carrying the Aron are numbers 10, 18, 19, 20, 21.
- With regard to number 9, the Yerushalmi (cited by Tosfos to Sotah 37a, DH Iy) asserts that the words "ha'Kohanim ha'Leviyim Nos'ei Aron Bris Hash-m" in the verse refer only to the Kohanim and not to the Leviyim. This is consistent with the opinion of the Rambam, who says that only Kohanim were allowed to carry the Aron. The Bavli (ibid.), however, might disagree about this point. In any case, the Rishonim point out that the Bavli (Sotah 33b) presents a strong challenge to the opinion of the Rambam that only Kohanim are permitted to carry the Aron. (M. KORNFELD)
(This Insight is based primarily on Rav David Cohen's exhaustive lists of the appearances of the word "Levi" which might refer to Kohanim, and his insightful suggestions recorded in the end of Ohel David, volume 1.)