The positioning in Torah of our Parsha Emor, following last week’s Parsha Kedoshim gives rise to thought and contemplation.
Kedoshim teaches “…You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your G’d.” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 1) And we learn that the epitome of this holiness is the principle taught by Rabbi Hillel to the convert, on one foot, says “V’ohavtoh L’reiachoh Komochoh” — “… you shall love your fellow as yourself…” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 18) The Halachot subsequently taught in Parsha Kedoshim are all built upon the emulation of Hashem.
Following on the heels of learning about the concept of kindness for one Jew to another, in Parsha Emor, we learn about the Avodah, the Service of the Kohanim and how the Kohanim are expected “…to maintain an especially high standard of purity and perfection.” (L’lmod L’Lamed, Rabbi Mordechai Katz, Parsha Emor, page 119)
Shem Mishmuel explains the function of the Kohen and the manifestation of his Kedusha in this way, “The Job of the Kohen is to join the physical world to it’s spiritual counterpart.” He performs the Avodah in the Beit HaMikdash, the place where heaven and earth meet. He brings Hashem’s fire upon the Mizbei’ach (altar) in a service which joins the physical earth to Hashem.
He continues by saying that the co-existence of physical and spiritual is broken by the tumah (defilement) associated with death. Therefore, it is inappropriate for a Kohen to come into contact with death as death tears apart the unity of the physical and spiritual.
He adds, in the name of the Arizal, that prior to death, a person is
attacked by impure forces. “The holy soul which rests within a person
can’t bear to be connected with those forces and departs from the body to alleviate it’s discomfort. This is the moment of death. The tumah induces a split between the body and soul which is totally opposite of the Kohen’s role as a unifier or ‘joiner.'” (Sefer Shem Mishmuel, Parsha Emor, pages 273-275) We can gain deeper insight from this explanation as to why it is the Kohen, rather than a Talmud Chacham, who rules as to tumah or tohar in cases of tzara’as as we previously learned in Parshas Tazria/Metzora.
Shem Mishmuel extends the Kohen’s attribute of being a unifier or a
“joiner” even to the subject of prohibited marriages and quotes Rabbi
Akiva, “a man and a woman, if they so merit, the divine presence rests
between them: if they do not merit, fire consumes them.” (Sotah 17a)
Further, Shem Mishmuel relates Chazal tell us that when a couple divorces, the power of divine unity is removed from them leaving both of them with a sense of division and disunity. “Thus a divorced woman is no longer in a spiritual position to marry a Kohen whose very being demands contact with only unifying forces. For a divorcee to have a relationship with a Kohen would frustrate the Kohen’s personal mission.” The divorcee has lost the innate ability to be solely unified with one person and thus may not marry a Kohen.
And so, the function of the Kohen in relationship to his fellow Jews is meant to be the paradigm of how the Jews are meant to relate, as a light unto the world, to the nations. The point is that the Kohanim are meant to be a paradigm, to set an example for all of B’nai Yisrael; of derech, of midos, of chessed to one’s brothers — ones fellow Jews, and of Avodat Hashem.
To expand on this, the B’nai Yisrael are meant to be the paradigm of Derech Hashem providing light unto the nations. And, indeed history shows the influence and impact of Torah principles in the creation of institutions, laws and government in Western Democracies.
However, contrast the Divinely-ordained role of the Kohen, and of B’nai Yisrael, with the current on-the-ground reality of what the Jews show the nations as an example of how man should treat his fellow man, how nation should treat nation when successive vindictive, cruel, heartless, effete elitist, dictatorial minority regimes, represent themselves as embodying and exemplifying Medina Yisrael. How much credibility can such regimes have before the nations when they pit Jew against Jew strictly for political expedience, advancement and enpowerment. How do the nations see a purported “Jewish” government which separates out religious Jews for disdain and villification as sub-human, asaf suf, rif-raf while glorifying hedonism and satisfaction of self? What does the world see and learn when national defense becomes subserviant to elitist divorce from anything Jewish? Are we not a paradigm, a laughing stock viewed with disdain before the world when Jew vs Jew divisiveness, self-enrichment, self-aggrandisement, self-empowerment supersede the national good and wellbeing and a united sense of national purpose?
What do governmentally-planned and expedited expulsions, Chillulim Hashem; spectacles of endoctrinated, brainwashed, robotic Jews hard-heartedly, cruelly, forcefully, vindictively and violently expelling their Jewish brethren from Jewish Land show and tell the other peoples, the other nations about the nature of the Jew? What message do such despicable actions give to the nations as to how Jews value Torah and it’s very first precept; “Breish’t bora Keilokim …”? What does Geirush; Jew vs Jew show the nations regarding a paradigm for treatment of Jews throughout the world?
What contradictory message does Jew expelling Jew hand the nations
concerning Hashem’s sovereignty over the universe? Can it bode
anything but ill for Jews when the world laughs hysterically and
disdainfully at a weak-kneed, weak-willed people, who expel
their brethren from any part of Jewish Land?
Finally, just as with the divorcee who is forbidden halachically from marrying a Kohen due to loss of the ability to unify with one person as a result of the divorce, what about the unity of B’nai Yisrael after Jews have divorced themselves from Jews, after purity is soiled by the tumah of division and disunity?
May we be zocha in this coming year that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the 3 captive Chayalim and the other MIAs be liberated and returned to us and that we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.