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Wednesday, 5 Nissan 5772 / March 28, 2012

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Rambam - 3 Chapters a Day

Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Fourteen, Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Fifteen, Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah - Chapter One

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Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Fourteen

Halacha 1

In the morning, Musaf, and Ne'ilah services, the priests recite the priestly blessing. They do not recite the priestly blessing in the Minchah service, because, by the time of the Minchah service, all the people have eaten. The possibility exists that the priests would have drunken wine, and it is forbidden to recite the priestly blessing while intoxicated.

Even on a fast day, the priestly blessings are not recited during the Minchah service. This decree [was instituted,] lest [people fail to differentiate between] the Minchah service of a fast day and the Minchah service of an ordinary day.

Halacha 2

When does the above apply? On fast days when both Minchah and Ne'ilah are recited - i.e., Yom Kippur and communal fasts [declared because of distress]. However, on a fast day on which Ne'ilah is not recited - e.g., Tish'ah B'Av or the seventeenth of Tammuz - since the Minchah service is recited close to sunset, it resembles Ne'ilah and will not be confused with an ordinary Minchah service. Therefore, the priestly blessing is recited during it.

If a priest transgressed and ascended to the platform during the Minchah service of Yom Kippur, since it is known that there is no possibility of drunkenness on that day, he may recite the priestly blessing, and he is not required to descend because of the suspicion [that might be aroused], so that people do not say, "He is of blemished lineage. Therefore, they forced him to descend."

Halacha 3

How is the priestly blessing recited outside the Temple? When the leader of the congregation reaches the blessing R'tzey, when he recites the word R'tzey all the priests in the synagogue leave their places, proceed forward, and ascend the duchan.

They stand there, facing the heichal, with their backs to the congregation. They hold their fingers closed, against their palms, until the leader of the congregation completes the blessing Modim. [Then,] they turn their faces to the people, spread out their fingers, lift up their hands shoulder high, and begin reciting, Y'varechecha....

The leader of the congregation reads [the blessing] to them, word for word, and they respond after him [as can be inferred from Numbers 6:23: "This is how you should bless the children of Israel:] 'Say to them...;’” [i.e., the priests do not bless until one] "says to them."

When [the priests] conclude the first verse, all the people answer "Amen." The leader of the congregation reads [the priests] the second verse, word for word, and they respond after him until they complete the second verse. The people respond "Amen." The same applies regarding the third verse.

Halacha 4

When the priests conclude the recitation of [these] three verses, the leader of the congregation begins the final blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh, Sim shalom. The priests turn their faces to the ark and close their fingers. They remain standing on the duchan until the leader of the congregation concludes the blessing, [and then] return to their places.

Halacha 5

The person who calls the priests is not permitted to call to the priests until the Amen of the community is no longer heard. The priests are not permitted to begin reciting the blessing until the statement of the person who calls the priests is no longer heard.

The congregation should not respond "Amen" until the blessing of the priests is no longer heard. The priests may not begin another blessing until the Amen of the community is no longer heard.

The leader of the congregation is not allowed to recite Amen to the priests' blessings like the rest of the people, lest he become confused and not realize which blessing to recite to them, whether the second blessing or the third blessing.

Halacha 6

The priests are not permitted to turn their faces away from the congregation until the leader of the congregation begins [the blessing] Sim shalom. Neither may the priests leave their places until the leader of the congregation concludes [the blessing] Sim shalom, nor may they close their fingers until they turn their faces from the community.

One of the measures ordained by Ezra is that the priests should not ascend to the duchan wearing sandals. Rather, they should stand barefoot.

Halacha 7

When the priests bless the people, they should not look at them or divert their attention. Rather, their eyes should be directed towards the earth like one standing in prayer.

A person should not look at the priests' faces while they are blessing the people, lest they divert their attention. Rather, all the people should listen attentively to the blessing; they should [stand] face to face with the priests, without looking at their faces.

Halacha 8

If only one priest is blessing the people, he should begin reciting the blessing alone. [Afterwards,] the leader of the congregation reads [the blessings] to him, word for word, as mentioned.

If there are two or more [priests blessing the people], they do not begin reciting the blessing until the leader of the congregation calls them, saying "Kohanim." They answer and respond Y'varechecha, and then he reads [the blessings] to them, word for word, in the manner described above.

Halacha 9

How is the priestly blessing recited in the Temple? The priests ascend to the duchan after the priests have completed the service associated with the morning sacrifice offered daily. They lift their hands above their heads with their fingers extended, except the High Priest. He does not lift his hands above the tzitz.

One person reads [the blessings] to them, word for word, in the same manner as outside the Temple, until they complete the three verses. The people do not respond ["Amen"] after each verse. Instead, in the Temple, [the priestly blessings] are read as a single blessing. When [the priests] conclude, all the people respond, "Blessed be God, the Lord, the Lord of Israel to all eternity."

Halacha 10

They recite [God's] name - i.e., the name י-ה-ו-ה , as it is written. This is what is referred to as the "explicit name" in all sources. In the country, it is read [using another one of God's names]: אדני, for only in the Temple is this name [of God] recited as it is written.

After Shimon HaTzaddik died, the priests ceased reciting the [priestly] blessing using God's explicit name even in the Temple, lest it be learned by a person lacking proper stature and moral conduct. The Sages of the early generations would teach [this name] once in seven years, only to their students and sons [who had proven] their moral conduct. All this is in reverence for His great and awesome name.

Halacha 11

Wherever the priestly blessing is recited, it is recited only in the holy tongue, as [implied by Numbers 6:23]: "This is how you should bless the children of Israel."

We have learned the following [instructions] from the tradition [passed on] from Moses, our teacher, may he rest in peace:

"This is how you should bless" - while standing.
"This is how you should bless" - raising your hands.
"This is how you should bless" - in the holy tongue.
"This is how you should bless" - face to face.
"This is how you should bless" - in a loud voice.
"This is how you should bless" - mentioning [God's] explicit name; the latter [applying only] when one is in the Temple, as explained.

Halacha 12

Wherever [they recite the blessing], the priests are not permitted to add other blessings - e.g., "May God, Lord of your fathers, increase your numbers a thousandfold" (Deuteronomy 11:11) - in addition to the three verses [of the priestly blessing]. [These additions may not be made] either silently or out loud, as [Deuteronomy 4:2] states: "Do not add to the matter."

While a priest is ascending to the duchan, he recites [the following prayer] when he leaves his place to ascend:

May it be Your will, God, our Lord and Lord of our fathers, that this blessing which You have commanded us to bless Your people, Israel, be a perfect blessing, that it not be marred by obstacles or iniquity, from now until eternity.

Before he turns to bless the community, [a priest] should recite the blessing:

Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with the holiness of Aharon, and commanded us to bless His people Israel with love.

Afterwards, he turns his face to the community and begins reciting the priestly blessings. When he turns his face from the community after completing [the recitation] of the blessings, he recites [the following]:

We have carried out that which You have decreed upon us. Deal with us as You have promised us: Look down from Your abode, from the heavens, and bless Your people, Israel.

Halacha 13

When the priests turn their faces to the community to bless them, and when they turn their faces from the community after blessing [them], they should turn only to the right. Similarly, any turns which a person makes should always be to the right.

Halacha 14

In the Temple, the priestly blessing would be recited once a day, after the [offering of] the morning sacrifice. [The priests] come and stand on the steps to the Ulam and recite the blessing, as mentioned above. However, outside the Temple, it is recited after every prayer service, except Minchah, as explained.

In all places, an effort is made that the person who reads the blessing to the priests should be an Israelite, as [implied by Numbers 6:23]: "Say to them." This implies that the one who reads the blessing to them is not one of them.

Commentary Halacha 1

In the morning, Musaf, and Ne'ilah services - In Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandment 26), the Rambam writes that the mitzvah is for the priests to bless the people "every day." The Sages extended the scope of the requirement and obligated the priests to bless the people in all the above services (Ta'anit 26b).

The Ramah (Orach Chayim 128:44) writes:

It is customary in these countries to recite the priestly blessing only on holidays, when people are in festive and joyous spirits...
In contrast, on other days - even on Sabbaths - [the priests] are disturbed, worrying about earning a livelihood and the delay of work.
Even on holidays, the priestly blessing is recited only in the Musaf service, directly before the people leave the synagogue and rejoice in the holiday festivities.

The Ramah's decision is based on the view that the priestly blessings must be recited with feelings of joy and goodwill, and if those feelings cannot be aroused (see Zohar III 147a), it is proper that the blessing not be recited. Though the Ashkenazic community follows his view, in Egypt and in Eretz Yisrael the priests have always fulfilled the mitzvah of blessing the people every day. Many Ashkenazic authorities, among them Rav Shneur Zalman of Liadi and Rav Shlomo Kluger, desired to introduce this practice in the Ashkenazic community. However, they were not successful in doing so.

the priests - The Minchat Chinuch states, in the name of the Sefer HaCharedim, that just as it is a mitzvah for the priests to bless the people, it is a mitzvah for the people to be blessed. The Hafla'ah (Ketubot 24b) draws a parallel to the mitzvah of Yibbum which is incumbent on both the man and woman involved.

recite - Sefer HaMitzvot (loc. cit.) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 278) include this as one of the Torah's 613 mitzvot.

the priestly blessing. - Our translation of Nesiat Kapayim as "recite the priestly blessing" is not literal. The words actually mean "raise their hands," referring to the way the priests hold their hands while reciting these blessings, as mentioned in Halachah 3.

They do not recite the priestly blessing in the Minchah service, because, by the time of the Minchah service, all the people have eaten. - Here, we see an example of how a Rabbinic decree can prevent the fulfillment of a Torah commandment.

The possibility exists that the priests would have drunken wine, and it is forbidden to recite the priestly blessing while intoxicated. - Deuteronomy 10:8 describes how God designated the tribe of Levi "to stand before God, to serve Him and offer blessing in His name," establishing a equation between service in the Temple and the recitation of the priestly blessing. Accordingly, just as a priest is forbidden to serve in the Temple while intoxicated (Leviticus 10:9), he is also forbidden to recite the priestly blessings in such a state (Ta'anit, loc. cit.).

Even on a fast day - when there is no suspicion that the priests are drunk

the priestly blessings are not recited during the Minchah service. - See the following halachah for clarification.

This decree [was instituted,] lest [people fail to differentiate between] the Minchah service of a fast day and the Minchah service of an ordinary day. - Ta'anit (loc. cit.) records a difference of opinion on this question among the Sages. All the Sages agree that the priestly blessing is not recited during an ordinary Minchah. However, Rabbi Meir requires the priestly blessing to be recited on a fast day. On the other hand, Rabbi Yosse follows the view quoted by the Rambam. His position is accepted by the other Halachic authorities as well.

Commentary Halacha 2

When does the above apply? On fast days when both Minchah and Ne'ilah are recited - See Chapter 1, Halachah 7.

i.e., Yom Kippur and communal fasts [declared because of distress]. - See Ta'anit 1:4-7 and Hilchot Ta'aniot, Chapter 2, which describe the situations which warrant the declaration of a communal fast.

However, on a fast day on which Ne'ilah is not recited - e.g., Tish'ah B'Av or the seventeenth of Tammuz - i.e., fasts instituted to commemorate tragic events in our national history. These days are associated primarily with mourning. In contrast, the other fasts are days when we increase our supplication in an effort to evoke Divine mercy. For this reason, the Sages instituted the Ne'ilah prayer on these days alone (Beit Yosef, Orach Chayim 579).

since the Minchah service is recited close to sunset, it resembles Ne'ilah - See Chapter 3, Halachah 6, which states: "The proper time of the Ne'ilah prayer is such that one completes it close to sunset."

and will not be confused with an ordinary Minchah service. - which is generally recited in the early afternoon, to afford people the opportunity to eat afterwards, since it is forbidden to eat a meal in the afternoon before reciting Minchah (Tosafot, Ta'anit, loc. cit.).

Therefore, the priestly blessing is recited during it. - Similarly, in Ashkenazic communities, when the priests do not recite the priestly blessings every day, the chazan should recite the blessing in his repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh.

If a priest transgressed and ascended to the platform during the Minchah service of Yom Kippur, since it is known that there is no possibility of drunkenness on that day, he may recite the priestly blessing - Because of this decision, in Ashkenazic communities the chazan recites the priestly blessings in his repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh during these days (Hagahot Ma'amoniot).

and he is not required to descend because of the suspicion [that might be aroused], so that people do not say, "He is of blemished lineage. Therefore, they forced him to descend." - i.e., it is feared that the people will suspect that his mother was a divorcee, and he is thus not able to serve as a priest.

Commentary Halacha 3

How is the priestly blessing recited outside the Temple? - i.e., in the synagogue prayer services. The recitation of the priestly blessing in the Temple is discussed in Halachah 9.

When the leader of the congregation reaches the blessing, R'tzey, when he recites the word R'tzey, all the priests in the synagogue leave their places - Sotah 38b states: "Any priest who does not ascend during the blessing R'tzey may not ascend afterwards. Later, the Talmud qualifies this statement to mean that a priest must leave his place in the synagogue during the blessing R'tzey.

proceed forward - reciting the short prayer mentioned in Halachah 12.

and ascend the duchan. - The term duchan refers to the steps before the heichal. (See the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Berachot 5:4.) This term has become associated with the recitation of the priestly blessing to the extent that reciting the blessing is often popularly referred to as duchaning.

In a synagogue where there are no steps before the ark, the priests still recite the blessings while standing before the ark.

They stand there, facing the heichal - the permanent ark; Chapter 11, Halachah 2.

with their backs to the congregation. They hold their fingers closed, against their palms - The Mishnah Berurah explains that the priests are not required to close their hands. The Rambam is merely clarifying that, at this point, they are not obligated to spread their hands, as they do when they bless the people.

until the leader of the congregation completes the blessing Modim. - The priestly blessing is recited at this point in the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh, as the preface to the blessing praising God for granting peace to our people.

[Then,] - they recite the blessing mentioned in Halachah 12, and

they turn - turning to the right (see Halachah 13).

their faces to the people - so the blessing will be recited face to face, as required by Halachah 11.

spread out their fingers - On the verse (Song of Songs 2:9), "peeking through the windows," Shir HaShirim Rabbah comments that the Divine Presence peeks through the windows between the priests' fingers. In particular, the Sages note that the word "the windows" (החרכים) can be broken up as follows: ה חרכים - "five windows," alluding to the unique manner in which the priests hold their hands while reciting the priestly blessing.

lift up their hands - Sotah 38a derives the obligation of the priests to raise their hands from Leviticus 9:22: "Aharon lifted his hands toward the people and blessed them."

shoulder high - Compare to the practice in the Temple mentioned in Halachah 9.

and begin, reciting y'varechecha... - This statement has raised questions among the commentaries. The Kiryat Sefer explains that the priests recite Y'varechecha - the first word of the priestly blessings - directly after concluding the blessing (see Halachah 12) recited before blessing the people, without being prompted by the reader. They take the initiative, so that an interruption is not made between the recitation of the blessing before the performance of a mitzvah and its actual performance.

Study of the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah (Berachot, loc. cit.) shows that the Rambam himself had questions about this matter. In the first manuscripts, the Rambam writes that "the leader of the congregation recites Y'varechecha, and the priests read after him." This is also the reading in the popularly published edition of that text. However, in the later manuscripts of the Commentary on the Mishnah (see Rav Kapach's edition of that text), the Rambam changes his mind and states that the priests begin reciting y'varechecha.

In his Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 128), Rav Yosef Karo mentions these different views, and in his Shulchan Aruch (128:13) rules that the priests begin on their own initiative. The Ramah differs and states that it is Ashkenazic practice that this word is also recited in response to the chazan.

The leader of the congregation reads [the blessing] to them, word for word, and they respond after him [as can be inferred - See the Sifre on the verse below.

from Numbers 6:23: "This is how you should bless the children of Israel:] 'Say to them...;’” [i.e., the priests do not bless until one] "says to them." - The fact that the priests merely repeat the blessing emphasizes the concept (Chapter 14, Halachah 7) that the blessing is God's, and the priests do no more than convey that blessing to the people (Kinat Eliyahu).

When [the priests] conclude the first verse, all the people answer "Amen." - The Kiryat Sefer states that responding "Amen" to the priestly blessings is an obligation from the Torah.

Note the difference between this law and the ruling when the chazan recites the priestly blessings in the absence of any priests (Chapter 15, Halachah 10). Note also the contrast to the people's response to the priestly blessings in the Temple, (Halachah 9).

The leader of the congregation reads [the priests] the second verse, word for word, and they respond after him until they complete the second verse. - The Ramah (loc. cit.:45) mentions the custom of the priests chanting during the recitation of the blessings. This practice is followed only on holidays. In Eretz Yisrael, the priests do not chant when the priestly blessing is recited on other days.

The people respond "Amen." The same applies regarding the third verse. - Berachot 55b states that a person who has a dream which requires explanation should stand before the priests when they bless the people. Accordingly, it is customary to recite a prayer regarding dreams during the priestly blessing. (See Shulchan Aruch loc. cit.; 130:1 and commentaries.)

Commentary Halacha 4

When the priests conclude the recitation of [these] three verses, the leader of the congregation begins the final blessing of the Shemoneh Esreh, Sim Shalom. - After the priests promise that God will bless the people, it is appropriate that the chazan begin the blessing requesting peace, alluding to Psalms 29:11: "God will bless His people with peace" (Megillah 18a).

The priests turn - to the right (see Halachah 13), turning

their faces to the ark - See Halachah 6.

and close their fingers. - The priests are not allowed to close their fingers until they turn to face the ark (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 128:16). At this time, they recite a short prayer, as mentioned in Halachah 12.

They remain standing on the duchan until the leader of the congregation concludes the blessing, [and then] return to their places. - See Halachah 6.

Commentary Halacha 5

The person who calls the priests - As mentioned in Halachah 3, based on Numbers 6:23: "This is how you should bless the children of Israel: 'Say to them...,'” our Sages explained that before the priests bless the people, someone must "Say to them" - i.e., invite them to recite the blessing.

The Tur (Orach Chayim 128) states that the obligation to bless the people is not incumbent upon the priests until someone requests that they do so.

is not permitted to call to the priests until the Amen of the community is no longer heard. - Our translation follows the standard printed text of the Mishneh Torah, which reads לכהנים. Other texts read כהנים. This version translates as "The person who calls the priests is not permitted to call out, 'Kohanim'..."

These textual differences reflect a difference of interpretation. The standard text relates that the chazan should not begin reading the blessing to the priests until one no longer hears the Amen which the congregation recited in response to the blessing recited by the priests (Halachah 12) before blessing the people.

According to the texts which read כהנים, the halachah teaches us that the chazan should not call the priests until the Amen recited by the congregation in response to the blessing Modim can no longer be heard. Both opinions are accepted as halachah by the Shulchan Aruch and commentaries (Orach Chayim 128:18).

The priests are not permitted to begin reciting the blessing - either the blessing recited before blessing the people, or the priestly blessing itself, depending on the above interpretations.

until the statement of the person who calls the priests - either Y'varechecha or Kohanim, according to the respective interpretations.

is no longer heard. - In order that each of the statements and blessings can be clearly heard.

The congregation should not respond "Amen" until the blessing of the priests - This refers to the blessing recited before blessing the people, and also each of the priestly blessings.

is no longer heard. The priests may not begin another - one of the three priestly...

blessing -s - until the Amen of the community - recited in response to the previous blessing...

is no longer heard. - However, if a few individuals extend their pronunciation of "Amen" exceedingly, the recitation of the priestly blessings need not be delayed.

The leader of the congregation is not allowed to recite Amen to the priests' blessings like the rest of the people, lest he become confused and not realize which blessing to recite to them, whether the second blessing or the third blessing. - The recitation of "Amen" is not considered to be an interruption of his recitation of the Shemoneh Esreh. Nevertheless, he should not recite "Amen," because he may become confused and begin reading the wrong blessing to the priests.

Note that in Chapter 15, Halachah 10, the Rambam writes that if the chazan is the only priest present in a community, he should not bless the people, lest he become confused and err in his prayers. However, if he is sure that he will not make a mistake, he may bless the people. In the present halachah, the Rambam does not make such an allowance.

Perhaps the difference is that in Chapter 15, there is the possibility that the recitation of the priestly blessing will be nullified entirely. Hence, greater leniency is shown. In this halachah, the congregation as a whole will not suffer if the chazan does not respond "Amen" to the priests' blessings. Though the Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit. 128:19) quotes the Rambam's decision, Shulchan Aruch HaRav (128:31) and the Mishnah Berurah (128:71) state that particularly at present, when the blessings are recited from a siddur, the chazan should respond Amen.

Commentary Halacha 6

The priests are not permitted to turn their faces away from the congregation until the leader of the congregation begins [the blessing] Sim shalom. Neither may the priests leave their places - in front of the heichal

until the leader of the congregation concludes [the blessing] Sim shalom - nor should the priests speak among themselves.

nor may they close their fingers - from the outstretched position in which they are held while the priestly blessings are being recited.

until they turn their faces from the community. - All these three statements are quoted from Sotah 39b. However, the Rambam changes from the order in which these statements are found in the Talmud. Interestingly, the three statements are also quoted by the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:16) in still a different order.

One of the measures ordained by Ezra - This version is found in the standard printed text of the Mishneh Torah. The commentaries maintain that the text is in error, noting that Sotah 40a ascribes this decree to Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai.

is that the priests should not ascend to the duchan wearing sandals. - This decree was instituted lest the sandal strap of one of the priests snap and he descend to fix it. Someone watching them might think that he was forced to descend because someone exposed a blemish in his lineage that prevented him from serving as a priest (Sotah, loc. cit.).

Rather, they should stand barefoot. - This statement is not included in Sotah (loc. cit.), and appears to have been added to negate the view of certain authorities, who allow a priest to recite the priestly blessings wearing boots. Nevertheless, even the Rambam allows the priests to wear socks (Rav Kapach). (See Shulchan Aruch and Ramah, loc. cit. and 128:5.)

Commentary Halacha 7

When the priests bless the people, they should not look at them - individually. A priest must concentrate his thoughts on blessing the people. Looking at any individual (or group) face to face might cause him to divert his thoughts from that intent.

or divert their attention - by thinking of other matters. See also Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:21), which states that the priests should not sing different chants while reciting the blessings for this same reason.

Rather, their eyes should be directed towards the earth like one standing in prayer. - See Chapter 5, Halachah 4.

The Levush develops this concept, explaining that implicit in the priests' recitation of the blessing is the prayer that God will truly bless the people.

A person should not look at the priests' faces while they are blessing the people, lest they divert their attention. - The Rambam's statements are based on the Jerusalem Talmud, Megillah 4:8. The Babylonian Talmud (Chaggigah 16a) states that a person who looks at the priests while they are reciting the priestly blessing in the Temple will lose his eyesight from gazing at the Divine Presence, which rests between the priests' fingers.

Rather, all the people should listen attentively to the blessing - Hence, while the priests are reciting the blessing, the people should not recite any Biblical verses or prayers (Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit. 128:25). See Sotah 40a, which states, "Is there a servant who will not listen while he is being blessed?" Nevertheless, the Ramah allows verses to be recited while the priests are chanting.

they should [stand] face to face with the priests - See Halachah 11.

without looking at their faces. - See Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:36, which explains that, at present, it is customary for both the priests and the congregation to pull their tallitot over their heads so that their attention will not be disturbed while the blessing is being recited. Nevertheless, the priests should extend their hands beyond their tallitot, so that there will be no separation between them and the people.

Commentary Halacha 8

If only one priest is blessing the people, he should begin reciting the blessing alone. - As mentioned in the commentary on Halachah 5, based on Numbers 6:23: "This is how you should bless the children of Israel: 'Say to them...,'” our Sages explained that before the priests bless the people, someone must "Say to them" - i.e., invite them to recite the blessing. However, since the verse mentions "them," Sotah 38a teaches that this invitation is not extended to a single priest.

[Afterwards,] the leader of the congregation reads [the blessings] to him, word for word, as mentioned - in Halachah 3.

If there are two or more [priests blessing the people] - Then the teaching mentioned above applies and

they do not begin reciting the blessing until the leader of the congregation - Rabbenu Tam protests against this statement, explaining that since the leader of the congregation is in the middle of the recitation of the Shemoneh Esreh, calling the priests - but not reading the blessings to them - would be considered an interruption, and therefore forbidden. Rather, another member of the congregation should call the priests.

The Rambam addresses himself to this question in one of his responsa and explains that there is nothing wrong with another member of the congregation calling the priests. However, there is no obligation to have this done. Since calling the priests is a necessary element of the repetition of the Shemoneh Esreh, it is not considered an interruption to the chazan's prayers. TheShulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:10) quotes the Rambam's view. Nevertheless, the Ramah suggests that the chazan should recite silently the paragraph beginning Elo-heinu, v'Elo-hei avoteinu, and in that way ensure that his call to the priests is not an interruption.

calls them, saying "Kohanim" - Ashkenazic custom is that the chazan then continues, Am Kedoshecha ka'amur - "Your consecrated people, as it is said:...," and then recites the blessing, word for word, for the priests (Ramah).

They answer and respond Y'varechecha - This follows the opinion mentioned in Halachah 3, that the chazan does not read the word Y'varechecha to the priests.

and then he reads [the blessings] to them, word for word,

in the manner described above - in Halachah 3.

Commentary Halacha 9

How is the priestly blessing recited in the Temple? The priests ascend to the duchan - This is a slightly problematic statement. The Mishnah (Middot 2:6) and the Rambam (Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 6:3) describe the duchan as three steps separating the Courtyard of the Israelites from the Priestly Courtyard. There, the Levites would stand and accompany the Temple service with songs and music. No mention is made of the priests standing there. Also, in Halachah 14, the Rambam mentions that the priests would bless the people while standing on the steps of the Temple building.

The Radbaz (Vol. II, Leshonot HaRambam) offers a resolution to this difficulty, noting that priests with disqualifying physical deformities may not stand on the Temple steps (Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 7:20). Thus, the majority of priests would stand on the Temple steps, and those with deformities would stand on the duchan.

The Tiferet Yisrael (Middot 2:4) states that most of the priests would stand on the Temple steps. If there was no room there, they would stand on the duchan.

after the priests have completed the service associated with the morning sacrifice offered daily. - Following the pattern established by Aharon, who blessed the people after completing the sacrificial offerings (Leviticus, Chapter 9).

They lift their hands above their heads - as an act of deference to the Shechinah, which rests between their fingers (Rashi, Sotah 38a). Note the contrast to the practice outside the Temple, as described in Halachah 3.

with their fingers extended - holding them in the same manner as described in Halachah 3.

except the High Priest. He does not lift his hands above the tzitz. - The tzitz refers to the golden plate worn by the High Priest on his forehead on which God's name is written (Exodus 28:37). Accordingly, it is not proper for the High Priest to lift his hands above it (Rashi, loc. cit.).

One person reads [the blessings] to them, word for word, in the same manner as outside the Temple - See Halachah 3.

until they complete the three verses. The people do not respond ["Amen"] after each verse - as is done outside the Temple.

Instead, in the Temple, [the priestly blessings] are read as a single blessing. - Since it is improper to recite "Amen" in the Temple, there is no need to make an interruption between verses (Sotah 40b).

When [the priests] conclude - the recitation of the entire blessing

all the people respond, "Blessed be God, the Lord, the Lord of Israel to all eternity." - Based on Nechemiah 9:5, this refrain was recited after each blessing recited in the Temple (Sotah, loc. cit.). The Ma'aseh Rokeach emphasizes that usually the person who recites a blessing in the Temple would add this refrain himself, and the listeners would respond: "Blessed be the name of His glorious kingdom forever and ever." However, since the priests themselves are forbidden to add to the priestly blessings (see Halachah 12), "Blessed be God..." would be recited by the people, and not by the priests.

Alternatively, because the people had already responded "Blessed be the name..." in response to each of the three recitations of God's name in the priestly blessings, then, when the blessings are concluded, they recite "Blessed be God..." (Rishon Letzion, Berachot).

Commentary Halacha 10

They - the priests, when reciting the priestly blessing

recite [God's] name - i.e., the name י-ה-ו-ה - as it is written. This is what is referred to as the "explicit name" in all sources. - As mentioned in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 6:2, there are seven names of God which must be treated with reverence. However, the name י-ה-ו-ה is granted a greater degree of respect than the six others.

In the Guide to the Perplexed (Vol. I, Chapter 61), the Rambam explains that all the other names for God, refer to Him as He manifests Himself in a particular quality and thus, have parallels in human terms. In contrast, the name, י-ה-ו-ה, refers to Him, as He stands above any relation to human terms.

In the country, - i.e., any place outside the Temple premises. In certain contexts - see the Rambam's Commentary to the Mishnah, Rosh HaShanah 4:1 - this refers to any place outside Jerusalem.

it - the name י-ה-ו-ה

is read [using another one of God's names]: אדני -Kiddushin 71a states: "I am not referred to as [My name] is written. My name is written י-ה-ו-ה and it is pronounced אדני."

Exodus 3:15 states: "This is My name forever." The word "forever" (לעולם) can be interpreted as לעלם - "to hide." God's essential name is to remain hidden from man.

for only in the Temple is this name [of God] recited as it is written. - Sotah 38a offers the following interpretation of Exodus 20:21: "Wherever I allow My name to be mentioned, I will come to you and bless you": "In the place where I will come and bless you," - i.e., the Temple, the source of Divine blessing for the entire world - "I will allow My name to be mentioned" - the name י-ה-ו-ה, may be pronounced.

In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Sotah 7:4), the Rambam writes: "It is forbidden...to recite God's explicit name or to speak about it at all..., except in the Temple."

After Shimon HaTzaddik - Shimon HaTzaddik was the last surviving member of the Anshei HaK'nesset HaGedolah, the body of Sages who, under the direction of Ezra, laid the spiritual foundation for the return to Zion after the Babylonian exile.

died - Yoma 39b relates that Shimon HaTzaddik's death represented a turning point in the history of the second Temple. After his passing, five miracles that had reflected the manifestation of God's presence in the Temple ceased.

the priests ceased reciting the [priestly] blessing using God's explicit name even in the Temple, - and would recite a twelve-letter name of God instead (The Guide to the Perplexed, Vol. I, Chapter 62).

lest it be learned by a person lacking proper stature and moral conduct - In the Guide to the Perplexed (loc. cit.), the Rambam writes that knowledge of this name would destroy these individuals' faith.

Rashi (Kiddushin 71a) and Rabbenu Manoach state that these individuals would use the mystic power of the name for improper purposes.

The Sages of the early generations would teach [this name] - In the Guide to the Perplexed (loc. cit.), the Rambam writes:

[The name, י-ה-ו-ה]: It was not known to all men how to pronounce it, and which way each of the letters should be vocalized, whether any of the letters would be pronounced with a dagesh, and which one would be...
I think that when it says that the Sages would teach the four-letter name to their sons and disciples, this does not mean the pronunciation of the name alone..., but also its uniqueness and Divine secret.

once in seven years - Kiddushin (loc. cit.) mentions another opinion, which states that this name would be taught twice in two years, but favors the opinion quoted by the Rambam, since ultimate discretion is appropriate for this great mystic secret.

only to their students and sons - Our text of Kiddushin (loc. cit.) does not mention "sons." However, it is possible that the Rambam had a different text of that Talmudic passage.

[who had proven] their moral conduct. All this is in reverence for His great and awesome name.

Commentary Halacha 11

Wherever the priestly blessing is recited - whether in the Temple or outside its premises

it is recited only in the holy tongue - quoting the blessing as it is recorded in the Torah

as [implied by Numbers 6:23]: "This is how you should bless the children of Israel."

We have learned the following [instructions] - The Mishnah Berurah (128:50) states that all these instructions are absolute requirements. A priest who cannot fulfill them - e.g., an aged priest who cannot stand unsupported - should leave the synagogue before the priests are called to recite the blessings.

from the tradition [passed on] from Moses, our teacher, may he rest in peace: - Generally, the Rambam's use of the term mipi hashmu’ah, refers to Halachah LeMoshe MiSinai - laws learned as part of the oral tradition given to Moses on Mount Sinai (Yad Malachi).

This definition is somewhat difficult to accept in the present instance. A halachah LeMoshe MiSinai is not based on any specific verse in the Torah, while all the instructions in this halachah are derived by Sotah 38a based on different verses.

"This is how you should bless" - while standing. - Sotah loc. cit., explains that the recitation of the priestly blessing is considered to be equivalent to service in the Temple. Just as the Temple service was conducted while standing, the priestly blessing should also be recited while standing.

The Eshkol states that the congregation should also stand. Though this is the common custom, it is not an absolute requirement (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:23, Mishnah Berurah 51).

"This is how you should bless" - raising your hands - as Aharon did when he blessed the people (Leviticus 9:23).

"This is how you should bless" - in the holy tongue. - The expression "This is how" implies that the priests should recite the exact words mentioned in the verse (Sotah, loc. cit.).

"This is how you should bless" - face to face. - as a sign of closeness and affection.

"This is how you should bless" - in a loud voice. - From the words "Speak to them" (Numbers, loc. cit.), Sotah, loc. cit., derives the law that the priestly blessing should be recited in a conversational tone, as a person speaks to a colleague. From this statement, the Sifre states that the blessing should be recited in a tone which is audible to the entire congregation. However, Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:23 and the Mishnah Berurah 128:53 emphasize that the priests should not shout or chant in an overly loud tone.

"This is how you should bless" - mentioning [God's] explicit name - the name י-ה-ו-ה

the latter - Our translation is based on the responsum of the Nodah BiYhudah (Orach Chayim, Vol. I, 5). Note the Sh'vut Ya'akov (Vol. II, 1), who maintains that all these instructions are obligatory only in the Temple.

[applying only] when one is in the Temple, as explained - in the previous halachah.

Commentary Halacha 12

Wherever [they recite the blessing], - whether in the Temple or outside its premises

the priests are not permitted to add other blessings - e.g., "May God, Lord of your fathers, increase your numbers a thousandfold" (Deuteronomy 11:11) - in addition to the three verses [of the priestly blessing]. - Rosh HaShanah 28b states that a priest should not think: "Since the Torah has given me permission to bless Israel, I will add a blessing of my own."

[These additions may not be made] either silently or out loud, as [Deuteronomy 4:2] states: "Do not add to the matter." - This is a general commandment, prohibiting making additions to any of the mitzvot of the Torah.

While a priest is ascending to the duchan, he recites [the following prayer] - This prayer, the blessing recited before blessing the people, and the prayer recited afterwards, are quoted (with minimal differences) from Sotah 39a-b. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:9) states that the priests should prolong the recitation of this prayer until the congregation concludes the recitation of "Amen" after the blessing Modim. The Magen Avraham states that the priests should conclude their prayer at the same time the chazan completes the blessing, so that the response "Amen" will also apply to their prayer.

when he leaves his place to ascend - The Ramah (Orach Chayim 128:9) states that Ashkenazic custom is to begin reciting this prayer when one stands before the heichal.

May it be Your will, God, our Lord and Lord of our fathers, that this blessing which You have commanded us to bless Your people, Israel, be a perfect blessing, that it not be marred by obstacles or iniquity - i.e., the priests pray that their lack of proper intention should not spoil the blessing.

from now until eternity. - These words are not found in our text of Sotah, loc. cit.

Before he turns to bless the community - The Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit., 128:11) and most later halachic authorities require the blessing to be recited after the priests turn to the people.

[a priest] should recite the blessing: - Since blessing the people fulfills a positive commandment, it is proper to recite a blessing beforehand, as we do before fulfilling most mitzvot.

Blessed are You, God, our Lord, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with the holiness of Aharon - Since this mitzvah can be fulfilled only by the priests, the blessing differs from the blessing recited before fulfilling other mitzvot.

and commanded us to bless His people Israel with love. - The addition of the words "with love" is associated with the Zohar's (Vol. III, 147b) teaching: "Any priest who does not love [God's] people or is not beloved by His people should not bless the people."

Afterwards, he turns his face to the community and begins reciting the priestly blessings. - as explained in Halachah 3.

When he turns his face from the community after completing [the recitation] of the blessings - as explained in Halachah 4.

he recites [the following]: - The Ramah, Orach Chayim 128:15, states that the priests should prolong their recitation of this prayer so that they will conclude together with thechazan's conclusion of the blessing.

We have carried out that which You have decreed upon us. - Since the blessing is dependent on God (see Chapter 12, Halachah 7), the priests' actions are considered to be the fulfillment of a Divine decree (Maharsha, Sotah 39a).

Deal with us as You have promised us: - i.e.,..

Look down from Your abode, from the heavens, and bless Your people, Israel - Deuteronomy 26:15. In many communities, it is customary to add the last words of that verse, "a land flowing with milk and honey."

The recitation of this prayer is not considered to be an addition to the priestly blessings, because the priests have already lowered their hands from the position in which the blessing is recited (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:40).

Commentary Halacha 13

When the priests turn their faces to the community to bless them - See Halachah 3.

and when they turn their faces from the community after blessing [them] - See Halachah 4.

they should turn only to the right. - i.e., if the synagogue faces east, the priests should turn to the south and then to the west, and then recite the blessing. Afterwards, they should turn to the north and back to the west (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:26, Mishnah Berurah 128:61).

Similarly, any turns which a person makes - in the Temple or prayer service

should always be to the right.

Commentary Halacha 14

In the Temple, the priestly blessing would be recited once a day, after the [offering of] the morning sacrifice. - Note Tosafot, Sotah 39a, which states that the priestly blessing was also recited after the afternoon sacrifice.

[The priests] come and stand on the steps to the Ulam - The Ulam refers to the Entrance Hall to the Temple building. There were twelve steps leading to it. (See Hilchot Beit HaBechirah 6:4.)

Note the apparent contradiction between the Rambam's statements in this halachah and in Halachah 9, as explained in the commentary on Halachah 9. In Hilchot Temidim UMusafim 6:5, the Rambam also states that the priestly blessing was recited on the steps to the Ulam.

and recite the blessing, as mentioned above. - in Halachah 9.

However, outside the Temple, it is recited after every prayer service except Minchah, as explained - in Halachah 1.

In all places - whether in the Temple or outside its premises

an effort is made - Although the Jerusalem Talmud (Berachot 5:4) states: "The chazan should be an Israelite," the Rambam does not consider this to be a binding obligation.

that the person who reads the blessing to the priests - See Halachah 3, which relates that the priests recite the words of the blessing after someone else who reads them.

should be an Israelite, as [implied by Numbers 6:23]: "Say to them." This implies that the one who reads the blessing to them is not one of them. - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:22) states that if there is no alternative and a priest serves as the chazan, an Israelite should read the blessings to the priests, and the chazan should remain silent in his place or recite the priestly blessings, as explained in Chapter 15, Halachah 10.

If there is no Israelite who can read the blessings to the priests, some authorities maintain that the priests should recite the blessings without having another person read them to them. However, other opinions maintain that the chazan should read the blessings to the priests even though he is himself a priest (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:34).

Tefilah and Birkat Kohanim - Chapter Fifteen

Halacha 1

There are six factors that prevent [a priest] from reciting the priestly blessings: [an inability] to pronounce [the blessings properly], physical deformities, transgressions, [lack of] maturity, intoxication, and the ritual impurity of [the priest's] hands.

[An inability] to pronounce [the blessings properly]: What is implied? Those who cannot articulate the letters properly - e.g., those who read an aleph as an ayin and an ayin as an aleph, or who pronounce shibbolet as sibbolet and the like - should not recite the priestly blessings.

Similarly, a stutterer or one who speaks unclearly, whose words cannot be understood by everyone, should not recite the priestly blessing.

Halacha 2

Physical deformities: What is implied? A priest should not recite the priestly blessings if he has blemishes on his face, hands, or feet - for example, his fingers are bent over, crooked, or covered with white spots - for they will attract the people's attention.

A person whose spittle always dribbles when he speaks, and also a person who is blind in one eye should not recite the priestly blessings. However, if such a person was well known in his city and everyone was familiar with the person who was blind in one eye or whose spittle dribbled, he may recite the priestly blessing, for he will not attract their attention.

Similarly, a person whose hands were colored purple or scarlet should not recite the priestly blessings. If the majority of the city's population is involved in such a profession, he is permitted, for this does not attract the people's attention.

Halacha 3

Transgressions: What is implied? A priest who killed someone should never recite the priestly blessings, even if he repents, as [implied by Isaiah 1:15 which] states: "Your hands are full of blood," and states: "When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you."

A priest who served false gods, even if he was compelled to do so or did so inadvertently - though he has repented - may never recite the priestly blessing, as [can be inferred from II Kings 23:9, which] states: "However, the priests of the high places shall not ascend [to God's altar in Jerusalem]." [The recitation of the priestly] blessings is equated to service [in the Temple], as [Deuteronomy 10:8] states: "to serve Him and to bless in His name."

Similarly, a priest who converted to the worship of false gods - even though he repents - may never recite the priestly blessing. Other transgressions do not prevent [a priest from blessing the people].

Halacha 4

[Lack of] maturity: What is implied? A young priest should not recite the priestly blessings until he grows a full beard.

Intoxication: What is implied? A [priest] who drank a revi'it of wine at one time should not recite the priestly blessings until the effects of the wine wear off. [This restriction was imposed] because an association was established between [reciting the priestly] blessing and service [in the Temple].

Should [a priest] drink a revi'it of wine on two different occasions or mix a small amount of water in it, he is permitted [to recite the priestly blessings]. If he drank more than a revi'it, even though it was mixed with water or even though he drank it intermittently, he should not recite the priestly blessings until the effects of the wine wear off.

How much is a revi'it? [The volume of an area] two fingerbreadths by two fingerbreadths and two and seven tenths of a fingerbreadth high. Whenever the term "finger" is mentioned as a measure throughout the entire Torah, it refers to a thumbbreadth. The thumb is called bohen yad [in the Torah].

Halacha 5

The ritual impurity of [the priest's] hands: What is implied? A priest who did not wash his hands should not recite the priestly blessing. Rather, he should wash his hands to the wrist, as is done when sanctifying the hands for the service in the Temple, as [Psalms 134:2] states: "Raise up your hands [in] holiness and bless God."

A challal does not recite the priestly blessing, for he is not a priest.

Halacha 6

A priest who does not have any of the factors which hinder the recitation of the priestly blessings mentioned above should recite the priestly blessing, even though he is not a wise man or careful in his observance of the mitzvot. [This applies] even though the people spread unwholesome gossip about him, or his business dealings are not ethical.

He should not be prevented from [reciting the priestly blessings] because [reciting these blessings] is a positive mitzvah incumbent on each priest who is fit to recite them. We do not tell a wicked person: Increase your wickedness [by] failing to perform mitzvot.

Halacha 7

Do not wonder: "What good will come from the blessing of this simple person?" for the reception of the blessings is not dependent on the priests, but on the Holy One, blessed be He, as [Numbers 6:27] states: "And they shall set My name upon the children of Israel, and I shall bless them." The priests perform the mitzvah with which they were commanded, and God, in His mercies, will bless Israel as He desires.

Halacha 8

The people standing behind the priests are not included in the blessing. Those standing at their sides are included in the blessing. [Even] if there is a partition - even an iron wall - between the priests and the people who are being blessed, since they are facing the priests, they are included in the blessing.

Halacha 9

The priestly blessing is recited [only] when ten people [are present]. The priests can be included in that number.

If [the congregation in a particular] synagogue are all priests, they should all recite the priestly blessing. Who should they bless? Their brethren in the north and the south. Who will respond "Amen" to their [blessings]? The women and the children. If more than ten priests remain besides those who ascend to the duchan, these ten [priests] respond "Amen" and the remainder of the priests recite the blessings.

Halacha 10

When there is no priest in the community other than the leader of the congregation, he should not recite the priestly blessings. If he is sure that he can recite the priestly blessings and return to his prayers [without becoming confused], he may [recite the priestly blessing].

If there are no priests present at all, when the leader of the congregation reaches [the blessing] Sim shalom, he recites [the following prayer]:

Our God and God of our fathers, bless us with the threefold blessing written in the Torah by Moses, Your servant, and recited by Aharon and his sons, the priests, Your consecrated people, as it is said:
May God bless you and keep you.
May God shine His countenance upon you and be gracious to you.
May God turn His countenance to you and grant you peace.
And they shall set My name upon the children of Israel and I will bless them.

The people do not respond "Amen" to these blessings. He [resumes his recitation of the Shemoneh Esreh], beginning the recitation of [the blessing] Sim shalom.

Halacha 11

A priest who recited the priestly blessings and went to another synagogue and found the congregation in the midst of prayer, before the [recitation of] the priestly blessings, should bless them. [He may recite the priestly blessings] several times during the day.

A priest who does not move from his place to ascend to the duchan when the leader of the congregation recites [the blessing] R'tzey should not ascend [to the duchan] during that prayer service. However, if he moved [from his place], even though he did not reach the duchan until after the [conclusion of the blessing R'tzey], he may ascend [the duchan] and bless [the people].

Halacha 12

Any priest who does not ascend to the duchan - even though he neglects [the performance] of [only] one commandment - is considered as if he violated three positive commandments, as [Numbers 6:23-27] states: "This is how you shall bless the children of Israel," "Say to them," "And you shall set My name..."

Any priest who does not recite the priestly blessing will not be blessed, and any priest who blesses [the people] will be blessed, as [Genesis 12:3] states: "And I will bless those who bless you."

Commentary Halacha 1

There are six factors that prevent [a priest] from reciting the priestly blessings: [an inability] to pronounce [the blessings properly] - as explained in this halachah

physical deformities - as explained in Halachah 2

transgressions - as explained in Halachah 3

[lack of] maturity - as explained in Halachah 4

intoxication - as explained in Halachah 4

and the ritual impurity of [the priest's] hands - as explained in Halachah 5

[An inability] to pronounce [the blessings properly]: - Note the discussion of this difficulty with regard to the choice of a chazan, Chapter 8, Halachah 12.

What is implied? Those who cannot articulate the letters properly - e.g., those who read an aleph as an ayin and an ayin as an aleph - if the first word of the second priestly blessing, יאר is read with an ע instead of an א, the phrase את פניו אליך יאר ה' becomes a curse rather than a blessing.

or who pronounce shibbolet as sibbolet - i.e., reading a shin as a sin. See Judges 12:6.

and the like - e.g., who read a chet like a hay

should not recite the priestly blessings. - The later authorities explain that, if, as in many communities of the present day, the overwhelming majority of the people do not know how to differentiate between an ע and an א, a priest should not be disqualified because of this factor, since the meaning of the blessing is not changed (Magen Avraham 128:46). The Turei Zahav (128:90) states that even if a speech fault is common, but not overwhelmingly common - e.g., the substitution of a sin for a shin - a priest should not be disqualified, because such an error will not arouse the attention of the listeners. Nevertheless, this position is not accepted by all authorities.

Similarly, a stutterer or one who speaks unclearly, whose words cannot be understood by everyone - included in the category are people with other speech defects - e.g., a person who lisps

should not recite the priestly blessing.

Commentary Halacha 2

Physical deformities: - Leviticus 21:16-23 mentions many physical deformities that prevent a priest from serving in the Temple. However, most of these deformities do not disqualify him from reciting the priestly blessings. As explained in this halachah, the only deformities which disqualify a priest from reciting the priestly blessings are those which will attract the people's attention and prevent them from listening attentively to the blessings.

The Turei Zahav 128:27 questions this concept, noting that since an association was made between the recitation of the priestly blessings and service in the Temple, on the surface, priests with physical blemishes should also be prevented from reciting the blessings. The Turei Zahav explains that this association disqualifies a person only when the disqualifying factor - e.g., idol worship or intoxication - is a result of man's own activities. If the disqualifying factor is a congenital condition - e.g., physical deformity - the priest may bless the people.

What is implied? A priest should not recite the priestly blessings if he has blemishes on his face, hands, or feet - for all of these can be seen be the people while the priests recite the blessings. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:30-31) states that in places where the priests cover their faces and hands with their tallitot and wear socks while reciting the blessings, even these blemishes do not disqualify a priest from reciting the blessings.

for example, his fingers are bent over, crooked, or covered with white spots - for they will attract the people's attention - and distract their concentration on the blessings.

A person whose spittle always dribbles when he speaks, and also a person who is blind in one eye should not recite the priestly blessings - for the same reasons as mentioned above. In places where the priests cover their faces, a priest with such a difficulty may also bless the people.

However, if such a person was well known in his city and everyone was familiar - Generally, this refers to a person who lives within a city for at least thirty days (Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit. 128:30).

with the person who was blind in one eye or whose spittle dribbled, he may recite the priestly blessing, for he will not attract their attention.

Similarly - i.e., for the same reasons

a person whose hands are colored purple or scarlet should not recite the priestly blessings. If the majority of the city's population is involved in such a profession - or if the people of the city are familiar with him (Shulchan Aruch, loc. cit., 128:32).

he is permitted, for this does not attract the people's attention.

Commentary Halacha 3

Transgressions: What is implied? A priest who killed someone - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:35) adds "even inadvertently." Many manuscript copies of the Mishneh Torah also include that phrase.

should never recite the priestly blessings, even if he repents - The Ramah (Orach Chayim 128:35) allows a priest who repents after committing such a sin to bless the people, so that "the door will not be closed to those who repent."

as [implied by Isaiah 1:15, which] states: "Your hands are full of blood" - the killing of a colleague

and states: - The order of these phrases in the Bible is the opposite of the order in which they are quoted by the Rambam.

"When you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you." - Once a person has taken a life, God will not let him serve as a medium to convey blessing on the people.

A priest who served false gods, even if he was compelled to do so - See Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 5:2-4, which states that a person should sacrifice his life rather than submit to pressure to worship false gods. Nevertheless, if he fails to make this sacrifice, he is not punished by an earthly court for his sin.

or did so inadvertently - or without knowing that the worship of this god was forbidden

though he has repented - may never recite the priestly blessing, as [can be inferred from II Kings 23:9, which] states: "However, the priests of the high places shall not ascend [to God's altar in Jerusalem]." - This verse describes the efforts of King Josaiah to cleanse Judah from the pagan practices introduced by his father and grandfather.

[The recitation of the priestly] blessings is equated to service [in the Temple] - Note the Rambam's comments, Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 9:13:

Any priest who served false gods, whether willingly or inadvertently - even though he sincerely repents - should never serve in the Temple.... If he transgressed and offered a sacrifice, his sacrifice is not a "pleasing fragrance."

as [Deuteronomy 10:8] states: "to serve Him and to bless in His name." - Many of the later authorities maintain that this association is only a point of Rabbinic Law, and the mention of Biblical verses is only an asmachta (allusion). However, there is no indication of such a concept in the Rambam's words.

Similarly, a priest who converted - without actually serving the false gods

to the worship of false gods - The Magen Avraham 128:54 states that even someone who converts to Islam - which does not involve idol worship - is not allowed to recite the priestly blessings.

even though he repents - In this instance, as well, the Ramah (loc. cit.:37) allows a priest to bless the people if he repents.

may never recite the priestly blessing. Other transgressions - The Mishnah Berurah 128:26 notes that a person who desecrates the sanctity of the Sabbath is considered as one who adopted paganism, and, therefore, should not be allowed to recite the priestly blessing.

Rav Moshe Feinstein (Iggerot Moshe, Orach Chayim I, 33) states that present circumstances differ from those during the Mishnah Berurah's era, and, at present, priests who violate the Sabbath laws are not judged as severely and may bless the people. Nevertheless, he agrees that if restricting such individuals from reciting the priestly blessings may motivate them to increase their Sabbath observance, they may be prevented from blessing the people.

do not prevent [a priest from blessing the people]. - See Halachot 6 and 7.

Commentary Halacha 4

[Lack of] maturity: What is implied? A young priest should not recite the priestly blessings until he grows a full beard. - As mentioned in the commentary on Chapter 8, Halachah 11, the expression "grows a full beard" is a primarily measure of age, whether the person actually grows a beard or not.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:34), based on Tosafot, Chulin 24b, states:

A minor who has not manifested signs of physical maturity should not recite the priestly blessing alone. However, he may recite the blessing together with his brethren, the priests, to learn and become educated.
If he has manifested signs of physical maturity, he may recite the priestly blessing even while alone. However, he should do so only as a temporary measure, and not as a fixed practice, until he grows a full beard.

Intoxication: - The Hebrew יין literally means wine. The Magen Avraham 128:55 notes that the Rambam speaks only about wine and does not mention other alcoholic beverages. Accordingly, he explains that a person who becomes drunk from other alcoholic beverages may recite the priestly blessing, unless he is so drunk that he has no control of himself.

It is significant that in Chapter 4, Halachah 17, when speaking about the prohibition against an intoxicated person praying, the Rambam states: "A person who is drunk should not pray.... When is a person considered drunk? When he cannot speak before a king." See also Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 1:1-2, where the Rambam describes the prohibition against serving in the Temple while intoxicated and mentions, albeit with differences between them, both a person who drank wine and one who became intoxicated from other alcoholic beverages.

The Magen Avraham's decision is not accepted by all authorities. (See Mishnah Berurah 128:141.)

What is implied? A [priest] who drank a revi'it of wine - This is the minimum measure of wine that is considered to be able to influence a person's behavior.

at one time should not recite the priestly blessings until the effects of the wine wear off. - Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 1:5 states that if a person drank only a revi'it of wine, it is assumed that the wine's effects have worn off if he sleeps a little or walks a mil.

[This restriction was imposed] because an association was established between [reciting the priestly] blessing and service [in the Temple] - as mentioned in the previous halachah.

Should [a priest] drink - only

a revi'it of wine on two different occasions - i.e., interrupting slightly between drinking the entire revi'it

or mix a small amount of water in it, he is permitted [to recite the priestly blessings] - and serve in the Temple (Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 1:1).

If he drank more than a revi'it, even though it was mixed with water or even though he drank it intermittently, he should not recite the priestly blessings until the effects of the wine wear off. - In this instance, Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash 1:5 states that sleeping or walking a mil is not sufficient to remove the effects of the wine, and one must wait until no signs of intoxication remain.

Because of the prohibition against reciting the priestly blessing while intoxicated, it is customary on Simchat Torah in Ashkenazic communities to recite the priestly blessing in the morning service and not during Musaf.

How much is a revi'it? - Interestingly, although the Rambam also mentions a revi'it in Chapter 2, Halachah 17, he chooses to define its volume here.

[The volume of an area] two fingerbreadths by two fingerbreadths and two and seven tenths of a fingerbreadth high. - In modern measure, a revi'it is 86.4 milliliters according to Shiurei Torah, and 149.3 milliliters according to the Chazon Ish.

Whenever the term "finger" is mentioned as a measure throughout the entire Torah, it refers to a thumbbreadth. - See Hilchot Sefer Torah 9:9. In modern measure, a thumbbreadth is 2 centimeters according to Shiurei Torah, and 2.4 centimeters according to the Chazon Ish.

The thumb is called bohen yad [in the Torah]. - See Leviticus 8:23, 14:14.

Commentary Halacha 5

The ritual impurity of [the priest's] hands: What is implied? A priest who did not wash his hands should not recite the priestly blessing. - In his Kessef Mishneh, Rav Yosef Karo notes that in contrast to Chapter 4, Halachah 2, which mentions "the purification of the hands," here, the Rambam refers to "ritual impurity." He maintains that this choice of language was intended to imply that if a priest washed his hands in the morning, he need not wash them a second time unless they have become ritually impure. He also quotes a responsum of Rav Avraham, the Rambam's son, who explicitly states that a priest may rely on his morning washing.

Nevertheless, in his Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:6), Rav Yosef Karo quotes the opinion of Rashi and Tosafot (Sotah 39a), who require the priests to have their hands washed a second time as an additional measure of holiness.

Rather, he should wash his hands - The Zohar (Vol. III, 146b) states that the Levites should wash the priests' hands. Since the Levites are themselves holy (Numbers 8:18), it is proper that they be the ones who convey this added holiness upon the priests. The Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.) also mentions this practice.

to the wrist - Note our commentary Chapter 4, Halachah 2.

as is done when sanctifying the hands for the service in the Temple - See Hilchot Bi'at HaMikdash, Chapter 5.

as [Psalms 134:2] states: "Raise up your hands [in] holiness and bless God." - The Targum to this verse also stresses its connection to the recitation of the priestly blessing.

A challal - a person born from relations between a priest and a divorcee or any other woman who he may not marry (see Leviticus 21:7), and, according to Rabbinic Law, a person born from a marriage between a priest and a woman who has undergone chalitzah.

does not recite the priestly blessing, for he is not a priest. - See Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 19:14, where the Rambam says: "A challal is just like any other non-priest." The Pri Chadash writes that if a challal ascends to bless the people, he should be forced to descend.

Commentary Halacha 6

A priest who does not have any of the factors which hinder the recitation of the priestly blessings mentioned above - in the previous five halachot.

should recite the priestly blessing, even though he is not a wise man or careful in his observance of the mitzvot. [This applies] even though the people spread unwholesome gossip about him - i.e., he is suspected of sinning.

or his business dealings are not ethical. - Based on Bechorot 45a, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 128:40,41) adds that a priest who violates the specific mitzvot associated with the priesthood (the forbidden sexual relations mentioned in Leviticus 21:7 and the prohibitions against contracting impurity stemming from a corpse) may not recite the priestly blessings.

He should not be prevented from [reciting the priestly blessings] - even though he has not repented for his transgressions

because [reciting these blessings] is a positive mitzvah incumbent on each priest who is fit to recite them. - From the Rambam's statements, it appears that the disqualifying factors mentioned above remove the mitzvah entirely from a priest.

We do not tell a wicked person: Increase your wickedness [by] failing to perform mitzvot. - In other places, as well, we see the Rambam urging people to encourage the nonobservant to perform mitzvot. Note the conclusion of Iggeret HaShmad:

It is not fitting to push away or despise those who violate the Sabbath. Rather one should draw them close and encourage them to perform mitzvot.... Even if a person willingly sins, when he comes to the synagogue to pray, he should be accepted and not treated with disrespect.
The Rabbis have based [this approach on the interpretation of] Solomon's words (Proverbs 6:30) "Do not scorn the thief when he steals" - i.e., do not scorn the sinners of Israel when they come discreetly to steal mitzvot.

Commentary Halacha 7

Do not wonder: "What good will come from the blessing of this simple person?" for the reception of the blessings is not dependent on the priests, but on the Holy One, blessed be He - The Jerusalem Talmud, Gittin 5:9 relates:

Do not say: "So and so is an adulterer... how can he bless me?"
God replies: "Is it he that is blessing you? I'm the one who is blessing you."

as [Numbers 6:27] states: "And they shall set My name upon the children of Israel, and I shall bless them." - In his commentary on the Torah, the Rashbam emphasizes that the text of priestly blessing itself express this point, stating, "May God bless you..., May God shine..., May God turn..."

The priests perform the mitzvah with which they were commanded - reciting the blessings

and God, in His mercies, will bless Israel as He desires.

Commentary Halacha 8

The people standing behind the priests - Thus, if the heichal projects from the wall and people have places on either side, they must move from their places to be included in the priestly blessing.

are not included in the blessing. - By standing behind the priests, they show that the blessing is not important to them. Hence, they are not included (Rashi, Sotah 38b). Also, as mentioned in Chapter 14, Halachah 11, the priestly blessing must be recited while the priests are standing face to face with those being blessed (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:37).

Those standing at their sides - even those who are standing parallel to the place of the priests

are included in the blessing. [Even] if there is a partition - even an iron wall - Sotah (loc. cit.) states: "Even an iron divider cannot separate between Israel and their Father in heaven."

between the priests and the people who are being blessed, since they are facing the priests, - The Be'ur Halachah explains that the people who are standing to the sides of the priests, but before them, should face the heichal. In principle, those who are standing parallel to the priests should turn to the side and face the priests. However, since it is not proper that people standing next to each other in the synagogue should face different directions, they need not shift the positions of their feet. It is sufficient for them to tilt their heads slightly towards the priests.

they are included in the blessing. - As the Rambam mentions in the following halachah, even people who do not attend the synagogue can be included in the priestly blessing.

Commentary Halacha 9

The priestly blessing is recited [only] when ten people [are present]. - The priestly blessing is included among "the holy matters" that require a minyan. See Chapter 8, Halachot 4-6.

The priests can be included in that number. - i.e., even if there will not be ten people to respond "Amen," the priestly blessing can be recited.

If [the congregation in a particular] synagogue are all priests, they should all - Even though there will no one to read the words of the blessings to them, as mentioned in Chapter 14, Halachah 3. The question of whether the chazan should also recite the priestly blessing is discussed in the following halachah.

recite the priestly blessing. - Unless there are a minyan of priests to respond "Amen," it is preferable that they all recite the blessings and none respond.

Who should they bless? Their brethren in the north and the south - i.e., those outside the synagogue. Even though they were unable to attend the synagogue, since they were prevented by forces beyond their control, they are included within the blessing.

The Rambam's statements are taken from Sotah 38b and the Jerusalem Talmud, Berachot 5:4. However, the Rambam's choice of phraseology is more restrictive, mentioning only "the people in the north and the south," while these sources state, "their brethren in the fields."

According to his grandson, Rav Yitzchak HaNagid, this restriction was intentional. Since in the Rambam's time the Jews lived mostly to the east or west of Jerusalem, in most synagogues the heichal would be pointed in that direction, and thus, depending on the location of the synagogue, the people standing in one of these directions would be standing behind the priests. Therefore, they would not be included in the blessing.

Other authorities (e.g., the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 128:25) quote the text in the Babylonian Talmud without making any restrictions.

Who will respond "Amen" to their [blessings]? The women and the children. - The Mishnah Berurah 128:99 states that even if there are no women or children present to answer "Amen," the blessing may be recited.

If more than ten priests remain besides those who ascend to the duchan, these ten [priests] respond "Amen" - i.e., if there are twelve priests, two recite the blessings and ten respond "Amen," so that there will be a minyan responding "Amen."

and the remainder of the priests recite the blessings. - The Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:33 states that in such an instance, the chazan should not call out "Kohanim," since, according to many opinions, if the priests are not called to recite the blessings, they are not obligated to do so. Thus, the priests who did not recite the blessings will not be considered negligent in their fulfillment of the mitzvah.

Commentary Halacha 10

When there is no priest in the community other than the leader of the congregation - The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 128:20, states that if other priests are present, a priest serving as the chazan should never recite the priestly blessing. The Pri Chadash takes issue with this decision, and allows him to recite the priestly blessings if he is confident that he will not err.

he should not recite the priestly blessings. - lest he become confused after completing the priestly blessing and be unable to complete the Shemoneh Esreh (Berachot 34b).

If he is sure that he can recite the priestly blessings and return to his prayers [without becoming confused] - Note Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:32 and the Mishnah Berurah 128:76, which state that at present, since the chazan prays from a siddur, he need not worry about being confused and may recite the priestly blessing.

he may [recite the priestly blessing]. - The Shulchan Aruch (loc. cit.) states that in such a case, the chazan should move from his place slightly during the blessing R'tzey (see the following halachah) and after concluding the blessing Modim, ascend to the duchan and recite the priestly blessing.

If there are no priests present at all - or according to Ashkenazic custom, in all services when the priestly blessing would be recited other than the Musaf service of the festivals.

when the leader of the congregation reaches [the blessing] Sim shalom - See the Commentary on Chapter 14, Halachah 4, for an explanation of the connection between the blessing Sim shalom and the priestly blessings.

he recites [the following prayer]: - to commemorate the recitation of these blessings.

Our God and God of our fathers, bless us with the threefold blessing written in the Torah by Moses, Your servant, and recited by Aharon and his sons, the priests, Your consecrated people - Our translation is based on the Mishnah Berurah 127:8, which explains that the intent is that the priests themselves are a "consecrated people."

as it is said: - Numbers 6:24-27

May God bless you and keep you. May God shine His countenance upon you and be gracious to you. May God turn His countenance to you and grant you peace.

And they shall set My name upon the children of Israel and I will bless them. - The Hagahot Maimoniot explain that the recitation of this verse parallels the prayer recited by the priests after completing the blessings (Chapter 14, Halachah 12). It is Ashkenazic custom not to recite this final verse (Magen Avraham 127:2).

The people do not respond "Amen" to these blessings - for it is proper to recite "Amen" only after the blessings recited by the priests themselves. The Shulchan Aruch 127:2 suggests reciting ken yehi ratzon - "So may it be Your will." Nevertheless, there are some communities which recite "Amen," based on the Tanya Rabbati 334 and a letter from Rav Hai Gaon.

He [resumes his recitation of the Shemoneh Esreh], beginning the recitation of [the blessing] Sim shalom.

Commentary Halacha 11

A priest who recited the priestly blessings and went to another synagogue and found the congregation in the midst of prayer, before the [recitation of] the priestly blessings, should bless them. - The Magen Avraham emphasizes that reciting the priestly blessings a second time is not considered to be a transgression of the prohibition of adding to the Torah's commandments. That prohibition is violated when one adds to the blessings themselves (see Chapter 14, Halachah 12), but not when one fulfills the mitzvah a number of times.

[He may - but he is not obligated to (Mishnah Berurah 128:106).

recite the priestly blessings] several times during the day. - Each time he blesses the people, he should recite the blessing beforehand (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:41, Mishnah Berurah loc. cit.).

A priest who does not move from his place to ascend to the duchan when the leader of the congregation recites [the blessing] R'tzey - See Chapter 14, Halachah 3.

should not ascend [to the duchan] during that prayer service. - This applies even if he was prevented from leaving his place by forces beyond his control (Radbaz, Magen Avraham).

However, if he moved [from his place] even though he did not reach the duchan until after the [conclusion of the blessing R'tzey] - Shulchan Aruch HaRav 128:13 and the Mishnah Berurah 128:27 state that even if he reaches the duchan after the chazan completes R'tzey, as long as he reaches there before the priests begin reciting the blessing, he may join them.

he may ascend [the duchan] and bless [the people].

Commentary Halacha 12

Any priest who does not ascend to the duchan - even though he neglects [the performance] of [only] one commandment - is considered as if he violated three positive commandments, as Numbers 6:23-27 states: “This is how you shall bless the children of Israel,” “Say to them,” “And you shall set My name...” - The Rambam's statements are based on Sotah 38b. There, the Talmud states that one “violates three positive commandments.” The Rambam amends that statement, explaining that although there is only one commandment for the priests to bless the people, the Torah mentioned the commandment in three different ways to emphasize the importance of its fulfillment. Thus, the failure to bless the people is considered as nullifying the observance of three commands.

In Sefer HaMitzvot (Shoresh 9), the Rambam cites this teaching as a classic example of a fundamental principle regarding the reckoning of the 613 mitzvot. Though the Talmud often states that many mitzvot are involved in the performance or transgression of a particular commandment, this does not mean that the mitzvah should be counted as more than one mitzvah when calculating the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. Rather, the Talmud means to say that the performance of this mitzvah is considered as important as if many mitzvot were involved.

Any priest who does not recite the priestly blessing will not be blessed, and any priest who blesses the people will be blessed, as Genesis 12:13 states: “And I will bless those who bless you.” - Chulin 49a quotes a difference of opinion between Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Yishmael. Rabbi Akiva's statements are quoted by the Rambam, while Rabbi Yishmael explains that the blessing for the priests is derived from Numbers 6:27: “And you will set My name upon the children of Israel and I will bless them.” “The priests bless the Jews and God blesses the priests,... together with the Jews” (Rashi).

By quoting the verse from Genesis, “and I will bless those who bless you,” Rabbi Akiva emphasizes that the blessings bestowed upon the priests - as well as the blessing conveyed by the priests - stem from God's infinite goodness (Likkutei Sichot, Vol. 10).

Blessed be the Merciful One who grants assistance.

Tefillin, Mezuzah and Sefer Torah - Chapter One

HILCHOT TEFILLIN UMEZUZAH V'SEFER TORAH
THE LAWS [GOVERNING] TORAH SCROLLS, TEFILLIN, AND MEZUZOT

They contain five positive commands, which are: 1) For tefillin [to be placed] on our heads; 2) To tie [tefillin] on our arms; 3) To affix a mezuzah at the entrances to our gates; 4) For every man to write a Torah scroll for himself; 5) For a king to write a second scroll for himself so that he will have two Torah scrolls.

The explanation of these mitzvot is contained in the following chapters.

Halacha 1

Four passages [of the Torah]: Kadesh Li and V'hayah ki y'viacha Ado-nai in the book of Exodus (13:1-10 and 13:11-16) and Shema and V'hayah im shamo'a (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21) should be written separately and covered with leather. They are called tefillin.

They are placed on the head and tied on the arm. According to Torah law, even a mere point of one of the letters from these four passages prevents all of them from being acceptable. All four must be written in the proper manner.

Halacha 2

Similarly, if even one letter of the two passages contained in the mezuzah, Shema and V'hayah im shamo'a (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21), is lacking a point, it is not acceptable according to Torah law, which requires that they [each] be written in a perfect manner. Similarly, a Torah scroll which is lacking even one letter is unacceptable.

Halacha 3

There are ten requirements for tefillin. All of them are halachot transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai. It is necessary to fulfill them all. Therefore, if one made any changes with regard to them, the tefillin are not fit for use: Two of them involve their composition, and eight involve the coverings [placed around the passages] and the tying of their straps.

These are the two that involve their composition:

a) They must be written in ink;

b) They must be written on parchment.

Halacha 4

How is ink prepared? One collects the vapor of oils, of tar, of wax, or the like, [causes it to condense,] and kneads it together with sap from a tree and a drop of honey. It is moistened extensively, crushed until it is formed into flat cakes, dried, and then stored.

When one desires to write with it, one soaks [the cakes of ink] in gallnut juice or the like and writes with it. Thus, if one attempts to rub it out, he would be able to.

This is the ink with which it is most preferable to write scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot. If, however, one wrote any of the three with gallnut juice or vitriol, which remains without being rubbed out, it is acceptable.

Halacha 5

If so, what was excluded by the halachah conveyed to Moses on Mount Sinai, which stated that it be written in ink?

It excludes tints of other colors, such as red, green, and the like. If even one letter of a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzot is in another tint or in gold, they are invalid.

Halacha 6

There are three types of parchment: g'vil, k'laf, and duchsustos.

What is implied? The hide of a domesticated or wild animal is taken. First, the hair is removed from it. Afterwards, it is salted and then prepared with flour. Then resin and other substances which cause the skin to contract and become harder are applied to it. In this state, it is called g'vil.

Halacha 7

After the hair is removed, the hide may be taken and divided in half in the manner known to the parchment processors. Thus, there are two pieces of parchment: a thin one, which is on the side where the hair grew, and a thicker one, on the side of the flesh.

After it has been processed using salt, then flour, and then resin and the like, the portion on the side where the hair grew is called k'laf and the portion on the side of the flesh is called duchsustos.

Halacha 8

It is a halachah transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai that a Torah scroll should be written on g'vil on the side on which the hair had grown. When tefillin are written on k'laf, they should be written on the side of the flesh. When a mezuzah is written onduchsustos, it should be written on the side of the hair.

Whenever one writes on k'laf on the side of the hair or on g'vil or duchsustos on the side of the flesh, it is unacceptable.

Halacha 9

Although it is a halachah which was transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai, that if one wrote a Torah scroll on k'laf, it is acceptable. G'vil was mentioned only to exclude duchsustos. If a Torah scroll was written on the latter, it is not acceptable.

Similarly, if a mezuzah was written on k'laf or on g'vil, it is acceptable. Duchsustos was mentioned only as a mitzvah.

Halacha 10

[Torah] scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot may not be written on hide from a non-kosher animal, fowl, or wild animal. One may write on the hides of [all] kosher animals, wild beasts, and fowl. This applies even when these animals died without being ritually slaughtered or when they were killed by wild beasts.

We may not write on the skin of a kosher fish because of the foul secretions, since the processing of the skin will not cause the foul secretions to cease.

Halacha 11

The g'vil for a Torah scroll and the k'laf for tefillin and for a Torah scroll must be processed with this purpose in mind. If they were not processed with this intent, they are not acceptable.

Accordingly, if they were processed by a gentile, they are not acceptable. Even when [a Jew] instructed a gentile to process the parchment with the intent that it be used for a Torah scroll or for tefillin, it is not acceptable. The gentile follows his own intentions and not those of the person who hires him. Therefore, whenever an article must be made with a specific intent in mind, it is unacceptable if made by a gentile.

[The parchment used for] a mezuzah need not be processed with this purpose in mind.

Halacha 12

It is a halachah transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai that a Torah scroll or mezuzah should be written only [on parchment] which has been ruled. [The parchment used for] tefillin, however, need not be ruled, because they are covered.

It is permissible to write tefillin and mezuzot without [looking at] an existent text, because everyone is familiar with these passages. It is, however, forbidden to write even one letter of a Torah scroll without [looking at] an existent text.

Halacha 13

A Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah written by an apikoros should be burned. If they were written by a gentile, an apostate Jew, a person who betrays [the Jews] to a powerful person, a slave, a woman, or a minor, they are not acceptable and must be entombed, as [implied by Deuteronomy 6:8-9]: "And you shall tie... and you shall write." [Our Sages explain that this includes only] those who are commanded to tie [tefillin on their arms] and those who believe in what they write.

[Sacred articles] which are found in the possession of an apikoros, and it is not known who wrote them, should be entombed. Those which are found in the possession of a gentile are kosher. We should not, however, purchase Torah scrolls, tefillin, or mezuzot from gentiles for more than they are worth, so that they do not become accustomed to stealing them.

Halacha 14

A Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah that was written on parchment from a non-kosher animal, beast, or fowl, or on parchment that was not processed [properly, is not acceptable]. [Similarly,] a Torah scroll or tefillin that was written on parchment that was not processed with the intent to use it for these sacred purposes is not acceptable.

Halacha 15

When a person writes a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah without having [the proper] intention, should he write one of God's names without the desired intent, they are not acceptable.

Therefore, when a person is writing God's name, he should not reply even if the king of Israel greets him. If he is writing two or three names, he may interrupt between them and reply.

Halacha 16

[When a scribe] dips his pen [in ink] to write God's name, he should not begin [writing] one of the letters of God's name. Rather, he should begin with the letter preceding [God's name].

If [a scribe] forgot to write God's name in its entirety, he may insert it in between the lines. It is, however, unacceptable to have a portion of God's name on the line and a portion inserted [between the lines]. With regard to other words, if one forgets, one may write half the word on the line and half above the line.

When does the above apply? With regard to a Torah scroll. In contrast, with regard to tefillin and mezuzot, one should not insert even one letter [between the lines]. Rather, if one forgets even one letter, one should entomb what one has written and write another one.

It is permitted to write God's name on [parchment where letters] have been scraped off or rubbed out on all [of these sacred articles].

Halacha 17

Scribes who write Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot may not turn the parchment face down. Rather, they should spread a cloth over them or fold them.

Halacha 18

[The following rule applies when] a scribe who wrote a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah states: "I did not write the names of God with the proper intent." Once they have left his hand, his statements are not believed with regard to the disqualification of the scroll. They are, however, accepted to the extent that he must forfeit his entire wage.

Why isn't he believed with regard to the disqualification of the scroll? Because it is possible that he wanted to cause a loss to the purchaser or to the person who hired him, thinking that with this statement all that he would be required to forfeit would be the payment for the names of God.

Accordingly, were he to say that the parchment of this Torah scroll or tefillin was not processed with the proper intent in mind, his statements are accepted with regard to the disqualification of the sacred articles because, [by virtue of these statements,] he forfeits his entire wage. Everyone knows that if the parchments were not processed with the proper intent, he does not deserve any payment.

Halacha 19

Tefillin and mezuzot may be written only in Assyrian script. Permission was granted to write Torah scrolls in Greek as well. That Greek language has, however, been forgotten from the world. It has been confused and has sunk into oblivion. Therefore, at present, all three sacred articles may be written using Assyrian script alone.

One must be precise while writing them, making sure that one letter does not become attached to another one, because any letter which is not surrounded by parchment on all four sides is unacceptable.

Any letter that cannot be read by a child who is neither wise nor foolish is not acceptable. Therefore, one must be careful with regard to the form of the letters, so that a yud will not resemble a vav, nor a vav a yud; a kaf should not resemble a beit, nor a beit a kaf; a dalet should not resemble a resh, nor a resh a dalet.

[The same applies in] other similar instances. [The text must be written in a manner] that a reader will be able to read without difficulty.

Halacha 20

[The following rules apply to] parchment which has holes: One should not write over a hole. If, however, ink passes over the hole [without seeping through], the presence of the hole is of no consequence, and one may write upon it. Accordingly, if the skin of a fowl has been processed, it is permissible to write upon it.

[The following rules apply] when a parchment becomes perforated after it has been written on: If the perforation is within the inside of a letter - e.g., in the space inside a heh, inside amem, or inside any of the other letters - it is acceptable.

Despite the fact that a leg of a letter becomes perforated to the extent that it becomes separated [into two portions], it is acceptable if:

a) [the length of the leg] is equivalent to that of a small letter; and b) the letter's [present form] does not resemble another letter.

If [the length of the leg] is not equivalent to that of a small letter, it is not acceptable.

Commentary Halacha 1

Four passages [of the Torah]: - contain references to the mitzvah of tefillin.

Kadesh Li and V'hayah ki y'viacha Ado-nai in the book of Exodus (13:1-10 and 13:11-) - The commentaries suggest that, in this instance, the Rambam cited the source for these passages because there is also a passage in the book of Deuteronomy that begins V'hayah Ki Y'viacha.

and Shema and V'hayah im shamo'a (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21) - Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 422) explains that these four passages were chosen because they include the concepts of the oneness of God, the acceptance of His yoke and the yoke of His commandments, and the description of the exodus from Egypt. These are fundamental principles of the Jewish faith.

should be written separately - on parchment

and covered with leather - as described in Chapter 3.

They are called tefillin. - Tosafot, Menachot 34b states the word is related to the root ללפ, which means "dispute." The Tur (Orach Chayim 25) inteprets the word as meaning "sign." Tefillot Yisrael associates the term with the power of thought, citing Genesis 48:11. The Pri Megadim (Orach Chayim 25:20) understands the term as meaning, "mark of distinction."

They are placed on the head and tied - The commentaries note the difference between the two verbs, "placed" and "tied." See also our commentary on Chapter 4, Halachah 4. It is, nevertheless, worth noting that in the listing of the mitzvot in the introduction to the Mishneh Torah, the Rambam mentions "tying the tefillin on the head."

on the arm. - Sefer HaMitzvot (Positive Commandments 12 and 13) and Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvot 421 and 422) consider these obligations to be two of the Torah's 613 mitzvot. (See Menachot 44a.) Since they are two separate mitzvot, the performance of one is not dependent on the performance of the other, as stated in Chapter 4, Halachah 4.

According to Torah law, even a mere point of one of the letters - for example, the yud has a short foot in its lower right-hand corner. If that foot is missing, it is considered to have been improperly formed. Therefore, not only it, but the entire passage is not acceptable.

from these four passages prevents all of them from being acceptable. All four must be written in the proper manner. - If even one of the passages is not written in the proper manner, the person is not considered to have fulfilled the mitzvah at all. (See also the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Menachot 3:7.)

Accordingly, it is proper to have one's tefillin checked from time to time to make sure that none of the letters have faded. (See the commentary on Chapter 2, Halachah 11.)

Commentary Halacha 2

Similarly, if even one letter of the two passages - which mention the mitzvah and, hence, are

contained in the mezuzah, Shema and V'hayah im shamo'a (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21), is lacking a point - from its proper shape,

it is not acceptable according to Torah law, which requires that they [each] be written in a perfect manner. - In this instance, as well, a disqualifying factor in a single point of a single letter prevents the entire mitzvah from being fulfilled.

Similarly, a Torah scroll which is lacking even one letter - The Ben Yedid explains that the difference in the phraseology used by the Rambam with regard to tefillin and mezuzot ("lacking a point") and a Torah scroll ("lacking even one letter") alludes to the difference in the phraseology used by the sources for these laws (Menachot 34a and Bava Batra 15a).

is unacceptable. - Though Rabbenu Nissim (Megillah, Chapter 2) appears to contest the Rambam's statements on this issue, the Rambam's view is accepted by most authorities. (See also Chapter 7, Halachah 9.)

Commentary Halacha 3

There are ten requirements for tefillin. - Though all of the ten principles mentioned by the Rambam have their source in the Talmud, their organization into a list of ten is original.

All of them are halachot transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai. - Yad Malachi interprets the latter expression as a law which has all the authority of a Torah commandment, even though there is no allusion to it in the Written Law. (See also the Rambam's Introduction to his Commentary on the Mishnah, Chapter 4.)

It is necessary to fulfill them all. Therefore, if one made any changes with regard to them, the tefillin are not fit for use: - A person who wears tefillin which do not fulfill these requirements is not considered to have fulfilled the mitzvah at all.

Two of them involve their composition - These are listed below and discussed in the following halachot.

and eight involve the coverings [placed around the passages] and the tying of their straps. - These eight conditions are mentioned in Chapter 3, Halachah 1, and discussed in the subsequent halachot of that chapter.

These are the two that involve their composition: a) They must be written in ink; - as opposed to other tints

b) They must be written on parchment. - This translation is not precise. Note Halachah 7 for a more specific definition of the term ףלק.

Commentary Halacha 4

How is ink prepared? One collects the vapor of oils - Shabbat 23a states that it is preferable to use olive oil.

of tar, of wax, or the like, [causes it to condense,] - See Shabbat, ibid., and commentaries, where it is explained that they would heat the above substances and hold a glass above, upon which the vapors would condense. Afterwards, the soot would be collected.

and kneads it together with sap from a tree - Shabbat, ibid., states that it is preferable to use balsam sap.

and a drop of honey. It is moistened extensively, - In one of his responsa, the Rambam writes that it is customarily moistened with oil.

crushed until it is formed into flat cakes, dried, and then stored. - Niddah 20a teaches us that their ink was stored while dry.

When one desires to write with it, one soaks [the cakes of ink] - From the statement in Shabbat forbidding ink to be soaked on the Sabbath, we can assume that the normal process is to soak it before using it.

in gallnut juice - which endows the ink with a lasting quality. In contrast, the Rambam writes in one of his responsa that if one were to soak the ink in water, it would fade rapidly.

In the same responsum, he states that a liquid possessing qualities similar to gallnut juice can be obtained from pomegranate shells or the outer shells of other nuts.

or the like and writes with it. Thus, if one attempts to rub it out, he would be able to. - Sotah 20a derives this concept from Numbers 5:23, which states, "He shall write and he shall blot out." Proper ink should be able to be blotted out after writing.

This is the ink with which it is most preferable to write scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot. - Note the Zohar (Vol. II, p. 159a), which requires that ink be made from substances that are derived from the plant kingdom.

If, however, one wrote any of the three - Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot.

with gallnut juice - itself, and not in a mixture with other substances

or vitriol - a substance produced by the rusting of metal. Our translation is based on Rav Kapach's commentary which has its source in the Rambam's responsa. Others render this phrase "with gallnut juice and vitriol," implying that the two substances should be combined.

which remains without being rubbed out, it is acceptable - after the fact (בדיעבד).

Commentary Halacha 5

If so, - i.e., if there are no specific substances which are excluded, as stated above

what was excluded by the halachah conveyed to Moses on Mount Sinai, which stated that it be written in ink? It excludes tints of other colors, such as red, green - Megillah 17a explicitly disqualifies a megillah written in red ink. From that and other sources, it appears that such ink was frequently used at that time, but was deemed unacceptable for use for a Torah scroll.

and the like. - Note the Bi'ur Halachah (32), which states that even blue ink is unacceptable.

If even one letter of a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzot is in another tint or in gold - Soferim 1:9 relates that a Torah scroll was written for Alexander with every one of the names of God written in gold. When the Sages heard about this, they said that the scroll should be entombed.

Besides excluding the use of gold-colored ink, the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:3) explains that covering the ink with gold dust is not acceptable.

they are invalid. - From this, we learn that all black inks are acceptable, regardless of their makeup. Though scribes continue to make ink in the traditional fashion, there is no prohibition against using commercially produced black ink.

Commentary Halacha 6

There are three types of parchment: g'vil, - whose preparation is described in this halachah.

k'laf, and duchsustos - whose preparation is described in the following halachah.

What is implied? The hide of a domesticated or wild animal is taken. - As mentioned in Halachah 10, the animal must be kosher.

First, the hair is removed from it. - Shulchan Aruch HaRav (32:10) states that if the hair is not entirely removed, the parchment is not fit to be used. Even after the fact, it is unacceptable. The Mishnah Berurah quotes this opinion as well, but also mentions other opinions, which do not invalidate the parchment if some hair remains, as long as it had been placed in lime for a long enough time for thehair to fall off.

Afterwards, it is salted and then prepared with flour. Then, resin and other substances which cause the skin to contract and become harder - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:8) mentions that lime is customarily used for this purpose.

are applied to it. In this state, it is called g'vil. - In one of his responsa, the Rambam explains that the term g'vil is used to describe any coarse, uneven surface. Note a parallel usage in Bava Batra 3a.

If the hide is not prepared in this fashion, it is referred to as diftera, and a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah, written upon it is invalid. Even בדיעבד (after the fact), such parchment is not acceptable, as stated in Halachah 14.

Commentary Halacha 7

After the hair is removed, the hide may be taken and divided in half in the manner known to the parchment processors. - There is, however, no obligation to divide the parchment. If it has been processed correctly, it may be used for a Torah scroll without being separated, as stated in the following halachah.

Thus, there are two pieces of parchment: a thin one, which is on the side where the hair - or wool of the animal

grew, and a thicker one, on the side of the flesh.

After it has been processed using salt, then flour, and then resin and the like, - Several of the Rambam's responsa were addressed to communities where it was not customary to prepare hides in this manner. In these letters, the Rambam stresses that even after the hair is removed from the hide, it must be processed in this manner. Otherwise, it may not be used for either a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah.

the portion on the side where the hair grew is called k'laf - which means "peel." It is given this name because it is a thin layer of flesh which is peeled easily.

and the portion on the side of the flesh is called duchsustos. - Duch is Aramaic for "place," and sustos is Greek (Median in other texts) for "meat." Thus, the word means "the place of the meat" (Aruch).

Our translation and commentary follows the standard published text of the Mishneh Torah, which is quoted in the Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:7. It must, nevertheless, be emphasized that the authoritative Yemenite manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah reverse the interpretations of k'laf and duchsustos. The latter interpretation is reinforced by several responsa of the Rambam on the subject. It also is supported by Hilchot Shabbat 11:6. The Rashba's text of the Mishneh Torah also contained this version, as is obvious from his responsa (Vol. 1, Responsum 579).

Commentary Halacha 8

It is a halachah transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai that a Torah scroll should be written on g'vil - From Bava Batra 14b, it appears that Moses wrote the Torah scroll which he placed in the holy ark on g'vil. Similarly, Gittin 54b mentions that Torah scrolls would be written on g'vil.

on the side on which the hair had grown. - This side is smoother and better to write on.

When tefillin are written on klaf - The Rambam's expression is somewhat inexact, because it is permissible to write tefillin only on k'laf. If they are written on g'vil or duchsustos, they are unacceptable (Shabbat 79b).

they should be written on the side of the flesh - i.e., on the portion of the k'laf where it is separated from the duchsustos.

When a mezuzah is written on duchsustos - As stated in the following halachah, it is preferable - but not obligatory - to write a mezuzah on this type of parchment.

it should be written on the side of the hair. - i.e., on the portion of the duchsustos where it is separated from the k'laf.

Whenever one writes on k'laf on the side of the hair - the epidermis

or on g'vil or duchsustos on the side of the flesh - the side facing the inside of the body

it is unacceptable. - The Aruch states that this practice is alluded to by Proverbs 25:2: "The glory of God is in the concealment of a matter." Only "the concealment of a matter," the sides of the parchment which are naturally concealed, are fit to be used for "the glory of God," the fulfillment of mitzvot.

It must be emphasized that the Yemenite manuscripts mentioned in the previous halachah, which reverse the definitions of k'laf and duchsustos, do not change the text of this halachah. Thus, according to these texts, when writing on the thin upper parchment, one should write on the epidermis, and when writing on the thick lower parchment, one should write on the part facing the inside of the body.

There is an advantage to this version. According to the standard texts, there is an apparent contradiction. Although one should write on the epidermis when writing on g'vil, it is improper to do so when writing on k'laf.

Commentary Halacha 9

Although it is a halachah which was transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai, that if one wrote a Torah scroll on k'laf, it is acceptable. - The entire scroll, however, must be written on one or the other of these types of parchment. If half was written on k'laf and half on g'vil, it is unacceptable (Chapter 7, Halachah 4; Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 271:4).

G'vil was mentioned only to exclude duchsustos. If a Torah scroll was written on the latter, it is not acceptable. - Though this concept is not mentioned explicitly in the Talmud, the rabbis derive it from their understanding of Bava Batra 14b.

Similarly, if a mezuzah was written on k'laf or on g'vil, it is acceptable. - Even in Talmudic times, Shabbat 79b mentions that on occasion it was preferable to write a mezuzah on k'laf, because the mezuzah would be preserved better than if it were written on duchsustos.

Duchsustos was mentioned only as a mitzvah - i.e., it is preferable to do it in this manner.

It must be noted that at present, a single type of parchment is used for all three sacred objects. The parchment is not separated in two. A thin portion is removed from the upper layer, and the majority of the - if not the entire - lower layer is rubbed off. The parchment produced in this manner is more attractive and also lighter (a factor significant with regard to a Torah scroll. (See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:7; Ramah, Yoreh De'ah 271:3, 288:6; Siftei Cohen, Yoreh De'ah 271:9.)

Commentary Halacha 10

[Torah] scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot - Shulchan Aruch HaRav 32:14 expands the scope of this law, stating that it is not befitting to write the name of God on parchment from a non-kosher animal. This applies even when the intent is not to use the parchment for a sacred purpose.

may not be written on hide from a non-kosher animal, fowl, or wild animal. - Shabbat 108a derives this concept from the exegesis of Exodus 13:9, "So that the Torah of God will be in your mouths." They conclude: Only what is permitted to be "in your mouths" - i.e., species which are kosher - is acceptable for a Torah scroll. Even בדיעבד (after the fact), such parchment is not acceptable, as stated in Halachah 14.

As explained in Chapter 3, this requirement applies not only to the parchment, but also to all the other elements involved in making these sacred articles.

One may write on the hides of [all] kosher animals, wild beasts, and fowl. - See Halachah 20 in regard to writing on parchment made from the skin of birds.

This applies even when these animals died without being ritually slaughtered or when they were killed by wild beasts. - Shabbat (ibid.) offers the following parable to explain why even though such animals may not be eaten, it is permitted to use their hides. There were two people who were sentenced to death. One was executed by the king himself and the other by the executioner. Which is more noteworthy? Obviously, the one whom the king executed himself.

Similarly, in the present instance, the fact that these kosher animals were "executed by the king" - i.e., their death came about at God's decree - distinguishes them from other animals which are never fit to be eaten.

We may not write on the skin of a kosher fish because of the foul secretions, since the processing of the skin will not cause the foul secretions to cease. - Hilchot Keilim 1:4 states: "The skin of a fish is not susceptible to contracting ritual impurity and would be fit for tefillin to be written upon, were it not for its foul secretions." This implies that the only problem is the secretions of the fish skin.

Commentary Halacha 11

The g'vil for a Torah scroll and the k'laf for tefillin and for a Torah scroll must be processed with this purpose in mind. - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:8; Yoreh De'ah 271:1) states that when placing the skin in lime at the beginning of the process of making it into parchment, one should explicitly say that one is processing it for these purposes.

Shulchan Aruch HaRav (32:11) and the Mishnah Berurah (32:26-27) explain that parchment processed to be used as a Torah scroll may be used for tefillin (or for a mezuzah). Parchment processed for the sake of tefillin, however, may not be used for a Torah scroll, because a Torah scroll is on a higher level of holiness.

If they were not processed with this intent, they are not acceptable. - Even if no parchment that was processed with the proper intent is available, this parchment should not be used, as stated in Halachah 14.

Accordingly, if they were processed by a gentile, they are not acceptable. Even when [a Jew] instructed a gentile to process the parchment with the intent that it be used for a Torah scroll or for tefillin, it is not acceptable. - Even if the gentile states that he is processing the parchment with the intent that it be used for these purposes, we do not rely on his word, because we suspect that

The gentile follows his own intentions and not those of the person who hires him. - Note the comments of Rav Chayim Soloveitchik, who approaches the concept differently, and explains that the above phrase, "the gentile follows his own intentions...," is a description of the gentile's fundamental nature. It is not that we suspect that the gentile will not listen to the person who hires him, and his act is therefore not acceptable. Rather, because his nature is to "follow his own intentions," he is disqualified from performing any act that requires a sacred intention.

According to this interpretation, the question of whether a gentile's actions are accepted if he is supervised by a Jew must be understood as follows: The act of preparing the parchment for a Torah scroll is not, in and of itself, a sacred act, but merely a preparation for performing such an act. Accordingly, one might assume that it is sufficient for a Jew to command the gentile to process the scroll for the proper intent. The gentile would be considered like a machine which performs activities with no will of its own, and it would be as if the Jew performed the act himself. In conclusion, however, it is accepted that because the gentile acts independently, the intention of the Jew who hires him cannot be associated with his acts.

Therefore - the scope of this ruling can be expanded:

whenever an article must be made with a specific intent in mind - e.g., the strands of tzitzit (Hilchot Tzitzit 1:11) or a bill of divorce (Hilchot Gerushin 3:16)

it is unacceptable if made by a gentile. - Rabbenu Asher does not accept the Rambam's ruling with regard to these parchments. Though he accepts the general principle, he explains that this particular instance is an exception.

In other instances, the gentile must act according to the Jew's intent for a prolonged period of time. Here, it is absolutely necessary to have the intent to use the parchment for tefillin or a Torah scroll only at the moment it is placed in the lime. We can assume that if a gentile is given instructions to place it in the lime with that intent, he will do so with that intent.

The Shulchan Aruch quotes both opinions in Orach Chayim 32:9. Yoreh De'ah 271:1, however, mentions only the Rambam's opinion. In both places, the Ramah states that it is customary to follow Rabbenu Asher's opinion.

Shulchan Aruch HaRav 32:12 and the Mishnah Berurah 32:28-29 quote Rabbenu Asher's statements that a Jew should be present at the time the parchment is placed in the lime and that he should explicitly tell the gentile to put it in the lime to be used for a Torah scroll. Afterwards, he should assist the gentile somewhat in the process of preparing the parchment.

[The parchment used for] a mezuzah need not be processed with this purpose in mind. - The Jerusalem Talmud (Yoma 3:6) states, "Parchment which was processed for use as a talisman is acceptable for a mezuzah."

In one of his responsa, the Rambam explains that the reason for the difference in law between a mezuzah, on the one hand, and a Torah scroll and tefillin, on the other, stems from the fact that a Torah scroll and tefillin are mitzvot which each person is obligated to fulfill. In contrast, the mitzvah of mezuzah is an obligation that is not incumbent on a person unless he dwells in a house that requires one. (It must be noted, however, that there are opinions which maintain that this responsum was not written by the Rambam.)

This ruling is not accepted by the other authorities. The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 288:5) states that לכתחילה (at the outset), one must seek a mezuzah that was written on parchment processed with this intention in mind. Only if it is impossible to find such a mezuzah, may one use a mezuzah which was not processed with this intent. (Note also our commentary on Chapter 3, Halachah 15.)

Commentary Halacha 12

It is a halachah transmitted to Moses on Mount Sinai that a Torah scroll or mezuzah should be written only [on parchment] which has been ruled. - The parchment should be ruled with a stylus or a reed. It is improper to use a substance that leaves a mark. Each line of the parchment should be ruled and a border made on both sides. If unruled parchment is used for a Torah scroll or for a mezuzah, it is unacceptable (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 271:5, 288:8).

[The parchment used for] tefillin, however, need not be ruled - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:6) states the top line of tefillin must be ruled because the Sages forbade writing more than three words from a verse from the Bible without ruling the line above them. See Chapter 7, Halachah 16, and also see the Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 284:2).

In Orach Chayim, the Shulchan Aruch continues, explaining that a person who cannot write on a straight line without ruling the parchment should rule the parchment before writing tefillin. The Ramah states that it is customary for even the most competent scribes to write tefillin on ruled parchment. If, however, one wrote tefillin without ruling the parchment, the tefillin are acceptable even if the lines are crooked (Mishneh Berurah 32:21).

because they are covered. - This explains why although a verse from the Torah must always be written on ruled parchment, we are not required to do so for tefillin.

Even though a mezuzah is also covered, ruling the parchment is required because it can be removed from its covering easily and must be checked twice in seven years. In contrast, there is no obligation to check tefillin and the parchments are almost never removed from their compartments (Kessef Mishneh, Rabbenu Nissim).

It is permissible to write tefillin and mezuzot without [looking at] an existent text, because everyone is familiar with these passages. - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:20, 29), however, emphasizes that one should carefully check the passages of the tefillin to make sure that they were written correctly. One who does not know the passages by heart should write from an existent text.

It is, however, forbidden to write even one letter of a Torah scroll without [looking at] an existent text. - Even a person who knows the passages by heart may err, because sometimes the spellings of words are different from their pronunciations (Megillah 18b).

The Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 274:3) quotes a difference of opinion among the Rabbis if, after the fact, it is permitted to use a Torah scroll that was not written from an existent text.

Commentary Halacha 13

A Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah written by an apikoros - The phraseology used in this halachah is a matter of question. Though our texts follow the standard published texts of the Mishneh Torah, the authoritative manuscripts substitute the word min for apikoros.

The difference between the two versions is significant. In Hilchot Teshuvah 3:8, the Rambam defines an apikoros as a person who denies the Torah and/or the prophetic tradition, while in Hilchot Teshuvah 3:7, he describes a min as a person who does not believe in God. When a min writes a Torah scroll, the names of God it contains do not possess any holiness, because he does not believe in God at all. In contrast, since an apikoros does believe in God, were he to write a Torah scroll the names he writes would possess a certain dimension of holiness.

should be burned. - In Hilchot Yesodei Torah 6:8, the Rambam explains why burning such a scroll does not violate the prohibition against destroying God's name:

He does not believe in the sanctity of [God's] name and did not compose it for a sacred purpose. Rather, he considers this to be similar to any other text. Since this is his intent, the names [of God he writes] do not become holy.

Significantly, the Rambam does not state that we presume that the scribe had the intention that the name of God refer to a false deity. Note, however, the Rambam's statements in Hilchot Avodat Kochavim 2:5: "[It can be assumed that] a min's thoughts are concerned with false gods." Shulchan Aruch HaRav 39:4 and the Mishnah Berurah 39:13 refer to the latter statement and explain that the passages should be burned, because the names of God refer to a false deity.

Shabbat 116a draws a parallel between the burning of such a Torah scroll and the scroll of a sotah (a woman accused of adultery). In the process of a sotah's trial, a scroll on which is written a passage containing God's name is blotted out. Our Sages conclude that just as God is willing to allow His name to be wiped out to establish peace between a man and his wife, so, too, He allows His name to be destroyed because of these individuals who disturb the peace that exists between Him and His people.

If they were written by a gentile, an apostate Jew, a person who betrays [the Jews] - or Jewish property

to a powerful person - It was quite common in the Second Temple period for Jews to betray their countrymen or their property to the Roman authorities. The severity of this transgression is emphasized by the Rambam, who includes a moseir in the 24 categories of individuals who do not have a portion in the world to come. (See Hilchot Teshuvah 3:6,12.)

Similarly, in Hilchot Chovel UMazik 8:10, the Rambam states that a moseir may be killed to prevent him from betraying a Jew's life or property to gentiles. Because of the severity of this transgression, the Rambam considers such an individual equivalent to an outright nonbeliever.

a slave, a woman, or a minor - This includes even a minor who has reached the age when he is trained to wear tefillin (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 39:1).

they are not acceptable - for use

and must be entombed - lest they be used. (See Turei Zahav, Yoreh De'ah 281:1.) Since there is a possibility that the names of God they contain were written with the proper intent (and hence, they would possess a dimension of holiness), they are not burned.

as [implied by Deuteronomy 6:8-9]: "And you shall tie... - tefillin

and you shall write" - a mezuzah.

[Our Sages - Gittin 45b

explain that this includes only] those who are commanded to tie [tefillin on their arms] - Thus excluding slaves, women and minors, as stated in Chapter 4, Halachah 13.

and those who believe in what they write. - Thus excluding Jews who do not believe in their heritage, gentiles, and mosrim.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 39:2) states that anyone who is disqualified from writing tefillin is also disqualified from performing any other activity necessary to prepare them.

[Sacred articles] - Torah scrolls, tefillin, or mezuzot

which are found in the possession of an apikoros, and it is not known who wrote them - Since it is possible that the apikoros did not write them himself, they may not be burned. They, however,

should be entombed - and may not be used for sacred purposes, because it is possible that the apikoros (or one of his colleagues) wrote them.

Those which are found in the possession of a gentile - more precisely, the term kuti used by the Rambam means "Samaritan." At one point, the Samaritans converted and were considered to be Jews by the Sages. Towards the latter portion of the Second Temple period, it was discovered that they had remained idolaters. From that time onward, they were regarded as gentiles by the Sages, and the term kuti was used to refer to gentiles. (It must be noted that the authoritative manuscripts of the Mishneh Torah use the term goy, "gentile," rather than kuti.)

are kosher. - We presume that the gentile is offering sacred articles which he obtained from a Jew, and he did not make them himself.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 39:6, Yoreh De'ah 281:1) quotes this opinion. Yoreh De'ah (loc. cit.), however, also mentions a conflicting opinion, which forbids scrolls possessed by gentiles to be used. The Mishnah Berurah 39:16 explains that, at present, we can assume that the sacred articles are acceptable, because today a gentile would not know how to make them himself. Accordingly, we can assume that they were taken from a Jew.

Even the opinions which do not allow the sacred articles purchased from the gentiles to be used require that they be redeemed and entombed, because of our regard for the sacred articles and our fear that the gentiles would treat them sacrilegiously.

We should not, however, purchase Torah scrolls, tefillin, or mezuzot from gentiles for more than they are worth - The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 39:7; Yoreh De'ah 281:1) suggests paying slightly more than their worth.

so that they do not become accustomed to stealing them. - The Sages feared that if the Jews redeemed these sacred articles from the gentiles at more than their market value, the gentiles would make special efforts to steal them in order to receive these higher prices.

Gittin 45a establishes a similar principle with regard to human captives, stating, "Captives should not be redeemed for more than their worth."

Commentary Halacha 14

In this halachah, the Rambam restates principles that he had stated previously. His intent is to explain that the requirements which he had mentioned are not merely matters of preference. Rather, if they are not met, the sacred articles are disqualified entirely. Even בדיעבד (after the fact), they are not acceptable.

A Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah that was written on parchment from a non-kosher animal, beast, or fowl - See Halachah 10.

or on parchment that was not processed [properly, is not acceptable]. - See Halachot 6-7.

[Similarly,] a Torah scroll or tefillin that was written on parchment that was not processed with the intent to use it for these sacred purposes is not acceptable. - See Halachah 11.

Commentary Halacha 15

When a person writes a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah without having [the proper] intention - The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah 274:1) states that before a scribe writes a Torah scroll, he should state that he is writing it for the sake of the holiness of a Torah scroll. Making that statement at the outset is sufficient for the entire Torah scroll. If he fails to make this statement, the scroll is not acceptable. Similar rules apply to tefillin (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:19) and mezuzot.

Rav Chayim Soloveitchik notes that this is not the Rambam's view. The phrasing of this halachah clearly implies that the Rambam does not consider the lack of proper intention when writing a Torah scroll sufficient to render it unacceptable. Thus, with regard to preparing the parchment, one is required to have the intent that it be used for the mitzvah, while that intent is not necessary when one is actually writing the scroll.

Rav Chayim differentiates between the two deeds as follows: Preparing the parchment is, in essence, a mundane act. Accordingly, the dimension of holiness that makes the parchment fit for use as a Torah scroll must be added by our intentions. In contrast, writing the scroll is, in essence, a holy act. Accordingly, there is no need for anything to be added by our intention.

should he write one of God's names without the desired intent - i.e., when writing God's name, one must be aware of its holiness and write it with that intent in mind. Note the passage from Hilchot Yesodei Torah 6:8 quoted in the commentary on Halachah 13.

The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:19; Yoreh De'ah 276:2) states that one must write God's name with the intent of expressing its holiness.

they are not acceptable. - The Shulchan Aruch (Yoreh De'ah, loc. cit.) states that one must make a verbal statement of this intention. If not, the Torah scroll is unacceptable. The Siftei Cohen (276:1) differs and states that while making a verbal statement is preferable, as long as one intended to write the name with the desired intent, the Torah scroll may be used. The Ramah (Orach Chayim 32:19) also states with regard to writing God's name in tefillin, that, if the scribe made a verbal statement that he is writing the Torah scroll for the desired pupose, after the fact, it is sufficient merely to have had the desired intent in mind when writing God's name without expressing it verbally.

Therefore, when a person is writing God's name, he should not reply even if the king of Israel - The Kessef Mishneh notes that the words "of Israel" are significant. A Jewish king is expected to comprehend the sanctity of a Torah scroll and, hence, will understand if he is not answered. Should a gentile king greet a scribe and his failure to answer create a threat to his life, he is allowed to reply.

greets him. - The Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 276:4) rules that if the scribe does reply, the Torah scroll is not disqualified.

If he is writing two or three names - in succession - e.g., "God is our Lord. God is one," in the Shema, where three names of God are written in succession.

he may interrupt between them and reply. - When he begins to write again, the scribe should state that he is writing the name to express God's holiness (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 276:3).

Commentary Halacha 16

[When a scribe] dips his pen [in ink] to write God's name, he should not begin [writing] one of the letters of God's name - lest too much ink collect on the pen and create an ink blot that must be rubbed out. In doing so, one might also rub out God's name. This is prohibited, as stated in Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah 6:1-2.

Rather, he should begin with the letter preceding [God's name]. - Thus, if an error occurs, God's name will not be effected.

If [a scribe] forgot to write God's name in its entirety, he may insert it in between the lines. - Pit'chei Teshuvah 273:6 suggests writing another word above the line together with God's name.

It is, however, unacceptable to have a portion of God's name on the line and a portion inserted [between the lines]. - From the Rambam's phraseology, it appears that even after the fact, the Torah scroll is not acceptable. Although this decision is accepted by the Turei Zahav (Yoreh De'ah 276:4), the Bayit Chadash mentions a more lenient view.

With regard to other words, if one forgets, one may write half the word on the line and half above the line. - One should not, however, write the extra word in the margin between the columns of a Torah scroll (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 276:1).

When does the above apply? With regard to a Torah scroll. - Because there is no obligation that a Torah scroll be written in order. Indeed, one may intentionally write certain words or passages not in order.

In contrast, with regard to tefillin and mezuzot, one should not insert even one letter - of God's name or of any other word

[between the lines]. - The Jerusalem Talmud, Megillah 1:9, explains that a word cannot be inserted in the passages of tefillin and mezuzot. The commentaries explain that this is because these passages must be written ןרדסכ, "in order." If not, they are invalid. In this instance, the word which is inserted will not have been written in order.

Rather, if one forgets even one letter, one should entomb what one has written and write another one. - There is another alternative. One may rub out the words written after the omitted word (needless to say, provided that they do not include God's name), and then rewrite the words that were rubbed out.

It is permitted to write - any portion of a Torah scroll, even

God's name on [parchment where letters] have been scraped off - when the ink has dried

or rubbed out - while still moist. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chayim 32:24) states that it is preferable to wait until the ink dries and then scrape the letters off, rather than rub them out while the ink is still moist. In the latter instance, a mark of the ink is still left. Though it does not disqualify the religious article, it is not attractive.

on all [of these sacred articles]. - See also Chapter 7, Halachah 13.

Commentary Halacha 17

Scribes who write Torah scrolls, tefillin, and mezuzot - and desire to protect their work from being exposed to dust or other factors

may not turn the parchment face down. - This does not show proper respect for the sacred articles (Eruvin 98a).

Rather, they should spread a cloth over them or fold them. - By no means, however, should they leave them open and uncovered, for this is also a sign of disrespect. The Bayit Chadash and the Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 277:1) extend this principle to all sacred texts, explaining that they should never be left open.

Commentary Halacha 18

[The following rule applies when] a scribe who wrote a Torah scroll, tefillin, or mezuzah states: "I did not write the names of God with the proper intent." - As mentioned in Halachah 15, if a scribe did not have the proper intent when writing one of God's names, the scroll is not acceptable.

Once they have left his hand - becoming the property of another individual

his statements are not believed with regard to the disqualification of the scroll. - The Siftei Cohen (Yoreh De'ah 281:9) states that this law applies only when the scribe was paid for his services. If he wrote the scroll as a favor, his word is not accepted and the scroll is not disqualified.

They are, however, accepted to the extent that he must forfeit his entire wage. - Gittin 54b states that he may not collect his entire wage minus the payment due him for the names of God, because a Torah scroll is worthless unless God's names were written with the proper intent.

The Ramah (Yoreh De'ah 281:4) states that the scribe does not forfeit his entire wage. Although he is not paid the fee due him for a Torah scroll, he still should be paid for producing a text of theChumash.

At that time, printing presses were uncommon and books were written as scrolls. Though such a scroll could not be used for a communal Torah reading, it would be useful for individual study. [Note the objections of the Turei Zahav (Yoreh De'ah 281:4) to this ruling.]

Why isn't he believed with regard to the disqualification of the scroll? Because it is possible that he wanted to cause a loss to the purchaser or to the person who hired him, thinking that - he would not suffer a major loss

with this statement all that he would be required to forfeit would be the payment for the names of God. - Hence, he was willing to suffer a loss of this nature in order to irritate the purchaser.

Accordingly, were he to say that the parchment of this Torah scroll or tefillin - The Rambam omits a mezuzah, since, as he states in Halachah 11, a mezuzah need not be processed with a sacred intent in mind.

was not processed with the proper intent in mind - as required by Halachah 11

his statements are accepted with regard to the disqualification of the sacred articles because, [by virtue of these statements,] he forfeits his entire wage. - We assume that he would not be willing to suffer such a major loss only to cause difficulty to a colleague.

Everyone knows that if the parchments were not processed with the proper intent, he does not deserve any payment. - In this instance, as well, he deserves the remuneration appropriate for writing a scroll useful for individual study.

Commentary Halacha 19

Tefillin and mezuzot may be written only in Ashurit script. - This refers to the calligraphy used for the Hebrew alphabet that closely resembles the printed Hebrew we use today. One of the opinions mentioned in Sanhedrin 22a explains that this calligraphy was indigenous to the Jews, and the Torah itself was originally written in it. It was, nevertheless, not used by the Jews for an extended period until after the Babylonian exile, when it became the standard calligraphy for sacred writings.

In his Commentary on the Mishnah (Yadayim 4:5), the Rambam explains the latter opinion, stating that Ashurit means "the finest and most choice." This name was given to this calligraphy because:

It is the most choice calligraphy. Its characters are not interchangeable... nor do they resemble each other to the extent that doubt might arise.... This does not apply with regard to other scripts.

It was adopted by the Jewish people in the Babylonian exile after the destruction of the First Temple. In previous (and subsequent) generations, Hebrew was generally written with other characters.

Permission was granted to write Torah scrolls - This leniency was not extended with regard to tefillin and mezuzot. Megillah 9a derives this concept from the exegesis of Deuteronomy 6:6: "And these words shall be totafot...." Our Sages explain that the expression "shall be" implies that they shall remain unchanged from their Hebrew original.

in Greek as well. - From the Rambam's Commentary on the Mishnah, Megillah 1:8, 2:1, it appears that the intent is not to write a Greek transliteration of the Hebrew, but rather a translation. The Rambam explains that the Septuagint - the translation of the Torah into Greek at the order of King Ptolemy (Megillah 9a;Soferim 1:7) - had become popular. Hence, it was permitted to be used for a Torah scroll.

That Greek language has, however, been forgotten from the world. It has been confused and has sunk into oblivion. - I.e., contemporary Greek is very different from the classical tongue, to the extent that they can be considered to be two separate languages.

Therefore, at present, all three sacred articles may be written using Assyrian script alone. - Significantly, however, in Hilchot Megillah 2:3, the Rambam does not state that Greek is unacceptable at present. Note also Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 690).

One must be precise while writing them, making sure that one letter does not become attached to another one, because any letter which is not surrounded by parchment - In our commentary on the following halachah, we discuss the laws governing a letter which is not surrounded by parchment because of a hole that is located on its border.

on all four sides - There is no minimum amount of space required to be left between letters. Furthermore, one must be careful not to leave too much space, to the extent that it appears that the word is divided in two (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 274:4).

is unacceptable. - If the letters are attached, however, the difficulty may be corrected and, afterwards, the sacred article may be used (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:18).

Any letter that cannot be read by a child who is neither wise nor foolish - This refers to a child who is able to recognize letters, but not words. Were he able to recognize words, one could assume that he might identify a letter, not by its shape, but because of the meaning of the word in which it is located (Rashi, Menachot 29b).

is not acceptable. - Tefillin and mezuzot must be written in order (Chapter 3, Halachah 5; Chapter 5, Halachah 1). Therefore, if a letter which cannot be recognized by a child is written in tefillin or mezuzot, the parchment may never be corrected. Changing the form of the letter is tantamount to rewriting it in its entirety (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:25).

Therefore, one must be careful with regard to the form of the letters - This applies not only when the sacred article was originally written, but throughout the time it is being used. If a portion of a letter cracks, fades, is rubbed out, or is torn, in a manner which alters its form, the sacred article is unacceptable.

See also the Tur, Shulchan Aruch, and commentaries (Orach Chayim 36) for a detailed description of the proper form for each letter.

so that a yud will not resemble a vav, nor a vav a yud; - These two letters are very similar, the difference between them being that the leg of the vav is extended and that of the yud is not. Therefore, if a scribe would write a yud with a long leg or a vav with a short leg, difficulties may arise.

a kaf should not resemble a beit, nor a beit a kaf; - The difference between these two letters is primarily in the lower right-hand corner. In a kaf this corner is rounded, while in a beit it is square. Hence, a scribe's imprecision could cause a difficulty.

a dalet should not resemble a resh, nor a resh a dalet. - The difference between these two letters is primarily in the upper right-hand corner. In a resh this corner is rounded, while in a dalet it is square. Hence, in this instance as well, a scribe's imprecision could cause a difficulty.

[The same applies in] other similar instances. - Shabbat 103b mentions other pairs of letters which resemble each other, among them: a samech and a final mem, a zayin and a final nun, and a heh and a chet.

[The text must be written in a manner] that a reader will be able to read without difficulty. - Shabbat, loc. cit., breaks the word וכתבתם (Deuteronomy 6:9), which refers to the command to write a mezuzah, into two words, וכתב תם which mean, "And you shall write perfectly." Thus, the command to write a mezuzah - and, by association, tefillin - also serves as an imperative requiring that the writing be precise.

Commentary Halacha 20

[The following rules apply to] parchment which has holes: One should not write over a hole. - Rashi, Shabbat 108a, associates this ruling with the interpretation, וכתב תם, quoted from Shabbat 103b above. Writing which is "perfect" should not be broken by holes in the parchment.

If, however, ink passes over the hole [without seeping through] - As long as no ink seeps through the parchment, the writing can be considered as "perfect."

the presence of the hole is of no consequence, and one may write upon it. - This applies even if there is a slight hole in the parchment which can be seen when the parchment is held up to light (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 32:17; Mishnah Berurah 32:32).

[The latter principle has ramifications in contemporary society. Today, many scribes check mezuzot and tefillin using light tables and/or magnifying glasses. The cracks or perforations they find in this manner are not significant and cannot disqualify a parchment.]

Accordingly, if the skin of a fowl - which has many small holes where its feathers were

has been processed, it is permissible to write upon it. - Nevertheless, it is not common for scribes to use parchment of this origin.

[The following rules apply] when a parchment becomes perforated after - Halachah 19 deals with the requirement that the letters be surrounded by parchment while they are being written. This halachah mentions the ruling when the perforation is made afterwards.

it has been written on: - Since, at the outset, the writing was "perfect," the parchment is not disqualified because of a hole of later origin. Nevertheless, as will be explained, there are other halachic difficulties involved.

If the perforation is within the inside of a letter - e.g., in the space inside a heh, inside a mem, or inside any of the other letters - it is acceptable. - According to the Rambam, the letter is acceptable even though the hole touches the letter itself. Although the previous halachah states that a letter must be surrounded by parchment on all sides, that statement refers only to the external perimeter of the letter. There is no obligation that the letter be surrounded by parchment on the inside.

The Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 32:15, quotes the Rambam's opinion, but also mentions a passage from the Jerusalem Talmud (Megillah 1:9), which requires that the letter be surrounded by parchment on the inside as well. Most Ashkenazic halachic authorities suggest accepting the stringency of the Jerusalem Talmud's ruling.

Despite the fact that a leg of a letter becomes perforated to the extent that it becomes separated [into two portions], it is acceptable if: a) [the length of - the portion of

the leg] - which remains connected to the body of the letter

is equivalent to that of a small letter; - i.e., a yud.

In this context, Rabbenu Asher differentiates between the right and left legs of the heh. This distinction, however, is not accepted by the later authorities [Shulchan Aruch, Ramah, (Orach Chayim 32:15)].

and - if

b) the letter's [present form] - i.e., its upper portion

does not resemble another letter. - For example, when a perforation causes a vav to be separated into two portions, if its upper portion resembles a yud, it is unacceptable. If the length of the upper portion would prevent a child (see the previous halachah) from confusing it with a yud, it is acceptable.

If [the length of - the portion of

the leg] - which remains

is not equivalent to that of a small letter, it is - not large enough to be of consequence, and the letter is

not acceptable. - See also Beit Yosef (Orach Chayim 32).

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