Parshat Emor 5772: The Kohanim as a Paradigm of Chessed Purity

by Moshe Burt

The positioning in Torah of our Parsha Emor, following last week’s Parsha Kedoshim gives rise to thought and contemplation. In the previous 2 twin Parshas; Acharei Mos and Kedoshim, and Tazria and Metzora before them, we learn about the Kohen as the only one Divinely invested with ruling as to Tumah or Ta’Hara regarding ones’ skin, hair, clothing or homes as well as with being the vehicle for Yom Kippur avodah in the Kadosh Kedoshim and as the model, the paradigm of the Darchim for the entire B’nai Yisrael to emulate as a model for all mankind.

There is a posuk in our parsha (Sefer VaYikra, Perek 22, posuk 9) regarding the Kohanim and their consumption of donations:

“They shall observe my charge, and they shall not bear sin for it.”

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in “Growth Through Torah” (pages 283-284) notes that Rashi explains that this warns the Kohanim not to eat terumah while in a state of tumah (spiritual impurity). R’ Pliskin explains:

Even though eating terumah is the fufillment of a mitzvah for the priests, they must be careful not to do so in a manner that will transform the potential good into a transgression. Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz (Daas Torah, Vayikra, page 210) commented that we see here an important principle: even when a person is involved in doing the Almighty’s service, he must be very careful that no transgressions should come from it, On a practical level, whenever… engaged in doing a good deed or involved in a worthwhile project, be on guard that the good… is complete and does not include any transgressions.

The above citing would indicate that a mitzvah, a chessed done should be out of pureness of heart and mind, untainted by any ulterior motivation, i.e. lust for kavod (for credit or notoriety), or any tinges of wrongdoing. From R’ Pliskin’s citings of Rashi and of R’ Levovitz, it would seem that tzedakah, mi’eser (10% of earnings) given of dirty, ill-gotten, laundered money is not tzedakah at all. Similarly, those organizations which are recipients of tzedakah need to be straight and above any possible opening for criticism.

R’ Pliskin’s citing of R’ Levovitz would also provide food for thought in light of recent media revelations regarding various alleged fraud or corruption charges against chessed institutions, such as the alleged fraud charges against an officer and a number of employees of a chessed organization in Israel which run soup kitchens, vocational training courses, free dental clinics as well as food distribution centers. Chessed organizations need take special care to insure that their activities are lilly-white and totally above reproach.

Extending on the concept that a mitzvah, a kindness be clean and devoid of wrongdoing, the Admor Piaseczna, R’ Kalman Menachem Shapira, descended from the renowed Aish Kodesh, teaches that the purest kindness or tzedakah is that done or given in anonymity.

In short, it seems that not only should a mitzvah, a chessed, a tzedakah be complete, wholehearted and devoid of even a tinge of wrongdoing. A mitzvah should be done in the model of being free of desire for praise, or perhaps, even thought and desire for mitzvah points in Shemayim.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage, backbone and moral stength of conviction to prevent both the eviction of Jews from their homes in all or any part of Eretz Yisrael and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May 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 to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

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.