The importance of following the rules properly

In Parshat Naso we will read Birkat Kohanim (The Priestly Blessing). Throughout the world, on Shavuot, as well as on the other festivals, the Kohanim will bless the congregation with these same words. In many parts of Israel, the Kohanim bless the congregation every day.

The command to Aharon and his sons (the Kohanim) to bless the congregation is very specific in Bamidbar 6:23-26, “This is how you shall bless B’nai Yisrael, saying to them: May God bless you and protect you. May God cause His countenance to shine upon you and favor you. May God lift His face to you and grant you peace.”

Rabbi Shimshon Rephael Hirsch points out:

The Kohen who blesses is just an instrument, a medium through which the bracha is expressed. The death of the two sons of Aharon (Vayikra 10) the first heirs of the kehuna emphasized the irrevocable law that only service “which God had commanded” could be considered service. Service “which God had not commanded”- human deeds and machinations constitutes something alien and the very opposite of the service desired by God. This same principle applied to Birkat Kohanim- “This is how you shall bless B’nai Yisrael”- only this way and no deviation whatsoever is permitted…Only after being summoned by the congregation do they recite the bracha, with the representative of the congregation acting as the prompter so that the congregation invokes the divine blessing through the vocal medium of the Kohanim.

In the Harftara for Naso, Shimshon’s mother is told that he will be a Nazir from the womb which means that he will not be allowed to have anything from the grapevine, wine, aged wine and anything contaminated and he will not be allowed to get a haircut.

Both the Kohanim and Shimshon were born into a special status with special responsibilities (all of the other nazirim take nazirut upon themselves for limited amounts of time).

Shimshon did try hard to keep up with being a nazir as we see in Shoftim 14:5:

“Then Shimshon and his parents went down to Timna, and they came to the vineyards of Timna and behold a young lion roared against him.”

Malbim asks what happened to his parents, as they were just with him. He concludes that they went with him as far as the vineyard. They went through the vineyard but Shimshon didn’t as the Talmud advises the Nazir to make a detour and not go through a vineyard.

We also see how extremely careful Shimshon was not to let the Plishtim know that his strength was in his hair until he finally succumbed to Delilah.

Nechama Leibowitz points out that Shimshon did not conduct himself like the Nazirite of God, like the man charged with the Divine mission of saving Israel. He wasted his strength. Abstention from drink and shaving are purely external signs of the Nazir but they cannot make him a saint. Unfortunately he chose a wife from the Plishtim in spite of his parent’s protestations.

We see from here that when God chooses us for a specific mission, we have a lot to live up to. This includes each and every member of the Jewish people, as well as subgroups such as Kohanim and Leviim. We are expected to follow what we are commanded and not deviate from the laws in the way that Aharon’s sons and Shimshon did.

May we all receive only blessings.