Numbers 6:27 – They shall bestow My Name upon the children of Israel, so that I will bless them.
Jerusalem Talmud, Gittin Chapter 5, Halacha 8: “From which verse do we know that a person should not say ‘this man is immoral or is a murderer and yet he is blessing me?’ God says ‘Who is it who is blessing you? It is Me, God, who is blessing you’. This is shown by our verse in the phrase ‘so that I will bless them.’”
Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation on Note #159:
Contrast this Gemora in the Jerusalem Talmud with the Gemora Berachos in the Babylonian Talmud (32b) where it states “Rabbi Yochanan states that any Cohen who has killed a person cannot participate and offer blessings in the communal blessing ceremony. This is proven by the verse in Isaiah (1:15) ‘And when you spread out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you…your hands are full of blood. Wash, cleanse yourselves, remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes, cease to do evil.’”
Apparently, this section of the Babylonian Talmud disagrees with the above section in the Jerusalem Talmud. The Beis Yosef explains this apparent contradiction by stating that the opinion in the Jerusalem Talmud (permitting participation by a Cohen who had killed someone) as dealing with the case where there is only a suspicion of the Cohen’s guilt. People in the community were suspecting that he was guilty. Therefore, the Gemora teaches that a suspicion of guilt is not enough to remove a person’s presumption of innocence. The Rambam agrees with this reasoning. To me, however, this does not appear to be a good explanation of the different opinions in the two Gemoras since it assumes that the Jerusalem Gemora is dealing with a situation that is actually not explicitly stated there.
Rather, it is possible to follow instead the opinion of the Tosafot in Sanhedrin (35b) who state that the Babylonian Talmud (forbidding a participation by a Cohen who had killed someone) is actually stating a stringency that is not the core legal opinion.
Alternatively, one can say that the lenient opinion of the Jerusalem Talmud is due to the fact that it is dealing with a case where the Cohen has repented. The would explain the specific phraseology used in the Talmud there. However, the Rambam in Chapter 15:3 of the Laws of Prayers stretches to say that even if a Cohen had repented, he still cannot participate and offer the communal blessings. He quotes the above verse from Isaiah to support this view. To me, this view is very astounding. Doesn’t the verse immediately follow with the advice: “Wash, cleanse yourselves, remove the evil of your deeds from before My eyes, cease to do evil.”? This verse shows that repentance does, in fact, help and would make a difference.
See also Tosfot Yom Tov (7:7) in Bechoros where it lists the various types of people who are permitted to participate and offer the communal blessings. He bases his opinion on the words of Rabbi Yochanan in the Babylonian Talmud without quoting at all the Jerusalem Talmud nor the Tosafot that I mention above nor the Beis Yosef. See also my comments in Devarim 17:1, Note 6.
Editor’s Note: Here the Torah Temimah is explaining to us the sources for his opinion that a murderer who has repented may participate and offer God’s blessings in the communal blessing ceremony.