In this week's parshah the Torah commands the Kohanim to bless Bnei Yisrael (birchas kohanim). The kohanim recite the three p'sukim of blessing, mentioned in the parshah, in front of the congregation. There is an interesting machlokes regarding this mitzvah. The Bais Halevi, in his sefer on Chumash (at the end of Sefer Bereishis), quotes a certain chacham who held that one kohen can recite the pisukim, and the other kohanim who are present can be yotzei (fulfilling of) their obligation of blessing the congregation by means of shomei'a k'oneh (hearing is like answering). Through shome'ah k'oneh it would be considered as if all the kohanim, including those that were silent, recited the p'sukim of blessing to the congregation.
The Bais Halevi disagrees with this opinion, saying that we cannot apply the rule of shome'ah k'oneh to the mitzvah of birchas kohanim. He explains that shome'ah k'oneh can only be applied to mitzvos which are fulfilled only through speech. Birchas kohanim requires more than mere speech. The Gemara in Sota 38 derives from the pasuk, "Amor lahem," that birchas kohanim must be said in a kol rom (loud voice). The Bais Halevi says that although one can be considered to have spoken through shome'ah k'oneh, one cannot attain the kol rom required for birchas kohanim via shome'ah k'oneh.
Many achronim (the Netziv in Maishiv Davar Teshuvah 47, and the Chazon Ish in Orach Chaim 29:2) ask on the p'sak of the Bais Halevi, from various other mitzvos, where there are other requirements besides speech that we apply the rule of shome'ah k'oneh. Why then can the requirement of kol rom not be achieved?
Regarding the mitzvah of Kiddush, we find that one is required to recite Kiddush over a cup. As the one listening to the Kiddush does not have a cup, how then can he fulfill his obligation of Kiddush? Similarly, we apply the rule of shomei'a k'oneh to the mitzvos of krias Parshas Zachor and the reading of Megillas Esther, even though both are required to be read from a sefer and not by heart. How then is one who merely hears them without a sefer in his hands able to fulfill his obligation?
Based on these questions, they argue with the Bais Halevi and explain that whenever the rule of shome'ah k'oneh is applied, we focus on the person actually speaking. If he has met all of the requirements necessary for the particular mitzvah, all who hear him are considered as having said what he said – including all of the requirements. For example, by the mitzvah of Kiddush, when one makes Kiddush on a cup all who hear him are considered as if they also made Kiddush on a cup. Therefore, by birchas kohanim, the kohanim who heard the kohen recite the p'sukim of blessing in a loud voice are considered as having recited the p'sukim in a loud voice as well.
The Brisker Rav (the Bais Halevi's grandson) answered the questions of the achronim on the Bais Halevi with the following explanation: The Bais Halevi agrees that although the one who is hearing Kiddush does not hold a cup and the one hearing the reading of the Torah does not have a sefer, we would be able to apply the rule of shome'ah k'oneh. This is because the rule of shome'ah k'oneh can supply the listener with the same spoken words that he heard – namely the Kiddush over a cup or the reading from a sefer.
However, the din that birchas kohanim is required to be said in a loud voice is different than other requirements of other mitzvos. The din that the kohanim must recite birchas kohanim b'kol rom applies in order to enable the congregation to hear them. Even if we were to apply the rule of shome'ah k'oneh to the mitzvah of birchas kohanim, and thereby consider the silent kohanim to have had recited the actual p'sukim themselves, the congregation would not be able to hear the voice of those silent kohanim. By applying shome'ah k'oneh, we are only able to consider it as if one had spoken himself; however it cannot supply him with an audible voice that can actually be heard. Therefore we cannot apply the rule of shome'ah k'oneh to birchas kohanim, since they are not only required to do the recitation but also required to ensure that they are heard. Whereas by Kiddush and by reading from the Torah or Megillah, shome'ah k'oneh can supply the listener with the recitation as it was done by the reader.
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Posted By Dovi milstein to KollelH blog at 6/03/2011 12:18:00 AM