by Rabbi Yisrael Kaniel – July 12, 2011

Upon discussing the Torah section of Pinchas, the renowned rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Torah Va’Daat, R. Avraham Yaakov Pam makes an intriguing comment (Sholom Smith, A Vort from Rav Pam pp. 194-195).

We read how Moses asks G-d to appoint a successor to him to lead the children of Israel into the promised land.  G-d tells him to place his hand on Joshua’s head, signifying the transfer of authority.  Moses then placed both his hands on Joshua’s head.  Rashi explains that Moses did so out of a sense of generosity, making Joshua like a vessel that is full and flowing over, generously passing on to him all his authority as the next leader.

To explain further, R. Pam points out that placing both hands on his head indicates that it is not done as a burden, but out of love, whereby one wishes to fully transmit the blessings that he is about to impart.  This is further seen in the manner that Moses’ brother Aaron transmitted his priestly blessing.  Whereas the verse is written, “Aaron raised his hand toward the people and blessed them” (Vayikra 9:22), the verse is read, “Aaron raised his hands toward the people and blessed them.”  This is to signify that while it may have been sufficient for Aaron to bless the people with one hand, he, nevertheless, in his feelings of love for the people, used both hands.  And in fact, this has become the requisite manner of performing the priestly blessing throughout the ages (Shulchan Arukh, Orach Chaim 128:12) to express the love that priests are to exhibit towards the nation, as is also evident by the priestly blessing’s ending with the expression “with love”: “Blessed are You G-d, our L-rd, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with the holiness of Aaron, and has commanded us to bless His people with love.”

R. Pam sums up his thought by noting that this Torah section is usually read at the beginning of the period of the “three weeks” that lead up to the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash (Holy Temple), the destruction of which was greatly due to sinat chinam, unwarranted hatred amongst Jews.  May the outpouring of love symbolized in the priestly blessing and in Moses’ blessing of Joshua inspire all of us.  Two hands are better than one.  May we all be imbued with the spirit of love towards another – a love that overflows – and may that love counteract the sinat chinam that brought on the destruction of the Bet HaMikdash, bringing us closer to the re-building of the Bet HaMikdash and the heightening of the glory of our nation along with it.