Nasso 5778

The Most Amazing Person in the World

איש או אשה כי יפליא לנדור נדר נזיר להזיר לה’ (במדבר ו:ב)

If one were to ask, “Who is the most amazing person in the world?” several answers could be proposed. Perhaps a magician, or maybe a master juggler, or possibly even a tightrope walker. In Parshas Naso, however, the Torah gives a rather strange response. The Pasuk says איש או אשה כי יפליא לנדור נדר נזיר להזיר לה’. The simple meaning is, “When a man or woman will express a promise to become a Nazir to Hashem.”
The Ibn Ezra, however, offers a second explanation. The words “כי יפליא,” aside from meaning “to express,” can also mean, “He will do an amazing act, for most of the world pursues their worldly desires.” The Nazir does not drink wine, does not cut his hair, nor does he become Tamei to a dead person.
The Sforno explains these three restrictions. Not drinking wine is aimed at minimizing his worldly pleasures to allow him to become more available to Daven to Hashem and to learn His Torah. Not cutting his hair is so that he should not get carried away with his personal appearance, which is a deterrent to achieving holiness. Not becoming Tamei to a dead person is because a Nazir is like a Kohen Gadol, who continues to perform the services in the Beis HaMikdash and is not affected by the death of family and friends.
This demonstrates that a Nazir is quite a “holy” individual. But why does the Ibn Ezra refer to him as one who does “an amazing act”? True, he is very special, but what makes him so “amazing”?
The Mesillas Yesharim in the first chapter says as follows:
“The Holy One Blessed be He has put man in a place where the factors which draw him further from the Blessed One are many. These are the materialistic pleasures which, if he is drawn after them, cause him to then be drawn further from the true good. It is seen, then, that man has been placed amidst a raging battle. For all the affairs of the world, whether for the good or for the bad, are trials to a man… so that the battle rages against him, both before him and behind him. If he will be victorious on all sides, he will become the “Perfect Man,” (אדם השלם), who will succeed in uniting himself with his Creator…”
This idea demonstrates that materialistic pleasures are given to people as a means of a trial to separate them from Hashem, to the point that “man has been placed amidst a raging battle.”
To better understand the meaning of this lesson, one may compare two jobs that require much practice: a juggler and a soldier. A juggler must learn to coordinate his muscles perfectly and always throw and catch every pin or torch with perfect timing, so as to make for a smooth performance. This requires several years of practice. The soldier must learn how to shoot perfectly and how to dodge away from danger as well. This also requires a great deal of time.
There is, however, a great difference between the two. A juggler while performing continues the same motions he has practiced and performs them by second nature. The soldier, on the other hand, is faced during a battle with new challenges every moment. He must make spontaneous decisions which will determine between life and death. All of his practice aids him only as a preparation for the great challenges he will encounter on the battlefield.
This is what the Mesillas Yesharim means by “man has been placed amidst a raging battle.” The materialistic pleasures which surround a person are strong enough to destroy his Neshama. He must battle them constantly, like a soldier, and not just by routine, like a juggler.
Given this, if one were to ask now, who is more amazing, a master juggler or a soldier who performs face to face combat? The answer would surely be the soldier, for his challenges supersede those of the juggler exponentially.
This is what the Ibn Ezra means when he says that the Nazir does “an amazing act,” for he exhibits self-control.
A person who has self-control is the most amazing person in the world!


Every time the Kohanim Duchen there is a Kiyum of three Mitzvos: כה תברכו, אמור להם, ושמו את שמי. According to some opinions, the Tzibur is also Mekayem a Mitzvah when they stand and receive the Bracha. Most Shitos hold that this is true not only in the Beis HaMikdash, where the Kohanim use the actual name of Hashem, but also outside of the Beis HaMikdash, including חוץ לארץ. This compounds the conundrum. Why did the Minhag become that in חוץ לארץ, the Kohanim Duchen only on Yom Tov and not every day?
The Rema explains in Siman 128 that the Torah requires that the Kohanim bless Bnei Yisrael with Simcha, which is only achievable on Yom Tov. During the work week, people are too harried to be BeSimcha. This sentiment is an echo of the words of the Midrash Rabbah, that declares that Birchas Kohanim must be recited with complete concentration and not hurriedly.
Rabbeinu Bachaya writes that this is true any time one dispenses Brachos. Rabbeinu Meir agrees. But this would still seem a scant excuse. Mitzvos are not necessarily easy to fulfill, and if there is a requirement to be “happy,” then this should also be true for other, more difficult, Mitzvos.
The Poskim write that this is not considered a Bitul Mitzvah, because the Mitzvah is only applicable if the Kohanim were called to the Duchan. Since they are not called, there is no Mitzvah for them to say the Bracha; hence, there is no Bitul Mitzvah. This is difficult to understand. First, the Gemara disparages “creative” ideas to avoid doing Mitzvos. Second, why avoid such a great opportunity to receive Divine blessings?
The Beis Efraim opines that the reason is because of doubt as to the purity of the Yichus of the Kohanim. A זר, non-Kohen, who would Duchen would pronounce numerous Brachos in vain. It would also create other problems, as the people on the Duchan would become, perhaps mistakenly, Muchzak, pedigreed as Kohanim.
Most other Acharonim, notably the Aruch HaShulchan, take issue with this contention and hold that the Yichus of Kohanim today may not be brought into question.
It has been reported that for all of the above reasons and more, the Vilna Gaon intended to institute daily Duchening in his private Minyan. The night before the first day, he was arrested on a false charge and incarcerated. He understood that his arrest was actually for the intention of changing the centuries’ long Minhag not to Duchen.
Years later, his Talmid, Rav Chaim of Volozhin, also attempted to introduce daily Duchening into Volozhin. Alas, the night before, a fire broke out in Volozhin, destroying a large portion of the city.
Rabbi Nosson Adler, in Frankfurt, was successful, and in his Minyan Duchening was a daily occurrence. He was wont to say that he had tremendous yearnings for the Avoda in Yerushalayim.
Perhaps this idea is also in line with the reason given in the name of the Hafla’ah. He ruled that Duchening is not done inחוץ לארץ because the correct pronunciation of the Hebrew words, which is integral to the Bracha, is not clear.
Rabbi Nosson Adler is known to have spent many years clarifying this topic, and he adopted a different pronunciation from other Ashkenazim.
When the Talmidei HaGra came to Eretz Yisrael, they established the Minhag to Duchen daily, in accordance with the Gaon’s opinion. This is also the Minhag of the Sefardim both in and outside of Eretz Yisrael.