This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Emor is being sponsored anonymously in honor of the wonderful Beit Tefillah Yona Avraham community in Ramat Beit Shemesh. To our anonymous sponsor, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
The positioning in Torah of our Parshat Emor, following last week’s Parsha Kedoshim gives rise to thought and contemplation.
In the previous 2 pairings of Parshiyot; 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 the Yom Kippur avodah, on behalf of the nation, 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.
In Parsha Emor, we learn how the Avodah, the Service of the Kohanim necessitated them “…to maintain an especially high standard of purity and perfection.” (L’lmod L’Lamed, Rabbi Mordechai Katz, Parsha Emor, page 119)
Shem Mishmuel (Sefer Shem Mishmuel, Parsha Emor, pages 273-275) 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.
It bears repeating here that joining, unifying is the very essence of the Kohen. It’s worth repeating a citing of Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (page 253) regarding Parshat Tazria, where he cites the Rabbi of Alexander who posits as the reason why, when one suspected an affliction, with tzara’as, that he is mandated by Torah, by halacha, to go to a Kohen, rather than to a scholar, a Talmud Chacham:
One of the traits of Aharon was that he did everything he could to make peace between people.
The Sefer relates how Aharon “exaggerated and told untruths in order to bring about peaceful relationships between people.”
Whenever people quarreled, he would tell each side how highly thought of they were to the other. “When someone was told that the other person was speaking positively about him, he automatically felt positive about the other person and this greatly improved their relationship.”
Shem Mishmuel (Sefer Shem Mishmuel, Parsha Emor, pages 273-275) continues by noting 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 rips 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.’”
We learn that it is for these reasons that the Kohen is held to a higher level of behavior, morality and spiritual purity than the rest of the Jewish people. This higher level reflects itself in restrictions, such as to the Kohen’s exposure to tumah (impurity), i.e. the immediate relatives (wife, offspring, siblings and parents, or an unattended Jewish corpse) being the only ones for which the Kohen’s priestly responsibility is superseded by responsibility as a family member or human being to care for the burial of the deceased. This same higher level is reflected in restrictions as to whom the Kohan is permitted to marry, i.e. divorced women, women who converted to Judaism, women of Jewish mother/gentile father and women with the status of Chalutza (widowed woman who bore no offspring to their now-deceased husband) are all denied halachically to the Kohen. The Kohen Godol also has the further restriction that he may only wed a virgin.
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” on our Parsha (pages 283-284), brings a posuk, cites Rashi and comments regarding the Kohen as a paradigm of “The good you do should be complete”, also citing Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz (Daas Torah: Vayikra, page 210):
“And they shall observe My Charge, and they shall not bear sin for it.” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 22, posuk 9)
Rashi explains that this verse is a warning to the priests not to eat trumah while they are in a state of tumah.
Even though eating trumah is the fulfillment of a mitzvah for priests, they must be very careful not to do so in a manner that will transform the potential good into a transgression. Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz 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 [one is] engaged in doing a good deed or involved in a worthwhile project, be on guard that the good [done] is complete and does not include any transgressions.
It seems that this is to say, the good, the kindness should be untainted, with total pureness of heart and mind with no ulterior motives, i.e. without lust for kavod, credit or notoriety.
If the B’nai Yisrael were to only glean from the Kohen, to glean from paradigms of the righteous: constancy of service, kindness, humility, efficiency, the total honesty so as to elicit the implicit trust of others — whether or not they happen to be frum, or to what degree of frumkiet, and apply a higher level of morality and the unity of loving kindness to our brethren, as to ourselves; with Hashem’s help equivocal, corrupt governance in Israel would cease to exist, would be turned upside down and replaced by Torah governance. And then, B’ezrat Hashem, we’ll be zocha to fulfill our assigned mission, to serve as a light, a model to the nations of Hashem’s blueprint for creation and how a G’dly Nation acts on Its Land.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nearly 1 3/4 years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone 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, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — 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.