Parshat Emor 5782: Why the Grammatical Loshen of “Emor?”

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua Emor is sponsored anonymously and dedicated lilui nishmas HaRav Yehuda Leib HaKohen ben HaRav Moshe Shimon HaKohen and Miriam bat Reb Menachem Mendel and Reb Zev Avraham ben Shlomo and wife Sima. To our anonymous donor, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Emor 5782: Why the Grammatical Loshen of “Emor?”

by Moshe Burt

Our Parshat opens:

“VahYomeir Hashem el Moshe; Ehmor el B’nei Aaron V’ahmartah aleihem…” [This author’s rendering of transliteration of Sefer Vayikra, Perek 21, posuk 1] “Hashem said to Moshe; Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aaron and tell them… ” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 21, posuk 1 rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

This author wonders about what seems to be an unusual grammatical loshen [expression or form] for “say,” “tell,” “speak,” “command” and the like.

Not being a “buckie” on either Hebrew grammar or some terminology used to describe English grammar, a friend indicated to me that “Emor” indicates an imperative:

absolutely necessary or required; unavoidable: It is imperative that we leave.
of the nature of or expressing a command; commanding.
Grammar. noting or pertaining to the mood of the verb used in commands, requests, etc., as in Listen! Go!Compare indicative.

a command.
something that demands attention or action; an unavoidable obligation or requirement; necessity.

If the above is the case, why not use a form like Dabeir or Tzav? It was indicated to this author that these terms are more harsh than the term “Emor.”

Why would Hashem use a milder expression to impart an imperative command, through Moshe, to explain to a limited group of Jews, namely, the Kohanim — Aaron and his sons, Halachot particular only to them and to all future generations of Kohanim?

Looking back to Parshat Tzav, Rashi provides this citing from Kiddushin 29a:

Whenever Torah uses “Tzav” rather than “Dabeir” or “Emor,” it indicates three points: (a) urging on; (b) that the command must be done immediately; and that (c) it must also be performed in future generations. (ibid, see Korban Aaron)

To this author, the recitation of the Halachot introduced in our Parsha by the expression of “Emor” seem to fit the criteria for the use of “Tzav” in the same way as Hashem’s command to Moshe to initiate the Kehunah (the priesthood). In fact, the commands enunciated with the expression of “Emor” are crucially important for all time to maintain the purity of the Kehunah.

In fact, Midrashim make constant reference to the term Amirah, which is also a loshen of “to speak,” “to say,” etc. in reference to tumah and taharah (impurity and purity). Hat Tip to Rabbi Avishai David, Sh’lita.

The Artscroll Stone Chumash (page 672) cites Ibn Ezra, the Ramban and Rashi:

…The Kohanim, whose Divine service places upon them a particular responsibility to maintain higher standards of Holy behavior and purity.

In the plain meaning, Ibn Ezra comments that the first statement to them [to the Kohanim — Aaron and his sons] was the recitation of the previous chapters and their interpretations, because the Kohanim, as scholars and teachers of Torah, would be responsible to safeguard it [Torah] and preserve its integrity, Then Moshe went to the special commandments to the Kohanim which are the subject [covered in the first two Perakim — Chapters of Parshat Emor]. (The Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Ibn Ezra)

Ramban maintains that a double expression [“Emor” and “Ahmartah”] indicates that a commandment is being stressed due to its importance or because it involves activity that runs counter to the prevalent habits of the people.

However, the Sages expound the apparent redundancy to imply that the Kohanim were to convey this teaching to others, who would otherwise not be subjected to this commandment. This teaches that adult Kohanim were cautioned regarding the children, for the adults are not permitted to cause children to be contaminated… (The Artscroll Stone Chumash citing Rashi: Yevamos 114a)

On the above dictum, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, z”l commented… that the Torah cautions adults to regulate their own behavior, because the example they set will have an effect on the children who see them.

So, what are the commands expressed by Hashem with the loshen “Emor?” The Artscroll Stone Chumash notes (ibid):

The Kohanim would have to alter their accustomed activities to comply with the special strictures against contamination.

These strictures relate to which family members — parents, siblings, offspring, wives for which he [the Kohen] is permitted to “contaminate himself.” These strictures also relate to modes of mourning, i.e. such matters as “not leaving his head unshorned [uncut]” and “not rending [tearing] his garments.” The strictures also cover a Kohen with “a blemish,” or who is a “zav” or a “metzora” who is prohibited from eating Kadoshim and performing Kohanic service.

These Halachot cover who is permitted or prohibited to a Kohen and to a Kohen Godol in marriage as well as laws prohibiting Kohanim from offering or eating from blemished animals and more.

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides insights from both Abravanel and Rav Moshe Feinstein, z’l regarding a “blemished Kohen” in his sefer, “Unlocking the Torah Text” which seems to capture the essence of our Parshat Emor (Sefer Vayikra, pages 189-190)

The Abravanel… maintains that blemished Kohanim are excluded from service [in the Beit Hamikdash] because of the unsettling effect that their involvement would have upon those present. (Rabbi Shmuel Goldin citing Abravanel on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 21, posuk 17)

Rav Moshe Feinstein, z”l goes a step further. In his comments… he notes Rashi’s opinion that Torah does provide a rationale for the laws concerning the blemished Kohanim. According to Rashi, asks Rav Moshe, why does the text feel compelled to offer an explanation for these regulations when so many edicts in Torah are presented with no recorded rationale?

Rav Moshe answers… [that] a reason must be proffered… because these edicts seem to contradict the very behavior we have come to expect from Hashem. Hashem’s presence is expressly found, according to Judaism’s tradition, among the downtrodden and the weak, among those most in need of His Divine support and sustenance. One would, therefore, specifically expect the inclusion of afflicted Kohanim in the service of Hashem. The text, therefore, informs us that the exclusion of these [the blemished Kohanim] is not for Hashem’s sake but for man’s. The Beit Hamikdash service must be honored, in all ways, in the eyes of the beholders.

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 and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Yishuv Chomesh be rebuilt at government expense; all due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her memory and spirit continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven 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 prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei 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!!!

Chodesh Tov and Good Shabbos!
Moshe HaKohen 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..