Points to Ponder

Emor 5776

Emor (21:1) – Today’s Kohanim are commanded not to become Tamai. Notwithstanding the ability to perform the Avodah, these rules remain in effect.  In addition, the Kohein is given the chance to recite Birkas Kohanim – at which time they recite a prayer noting that they did “Mah She’Gazarta” that which you have commanded us. Why is Birkas Kohanim such a command? Rav Pam ztl. cited the Binyan Shlomo who suggested that it was a Gezaira that allowed even the Kohein who was a sinner to ascend the Duchan – unless he had taken a life. Rav Pam explains that lest a Kohein consider himself inadequate to offer a blessing in front of a distinguished assemblage – he can tell Hashem that it was a Gezaira that He had commanded to the Kohein. “You Hashem, commanded it – and I followed.”

When the daughter of a Kohein commits adultery, she receive the death penalty of Sereifa (21:9) – Why do all other adulteresses receive Chenek and she Sereifa? Why bump her death penalty 2 levels up? Rav Zeidel Epstein ztl. quoted the Alter of Kelm ztl. who explained that the Possuk provides the reason – that when one is of a higher station in life, more is demanded of him. When one grows up in a home of Kedusha and Kehuna or is raised in a home built on the foundations of Torah Avodah and Gemillas Chessed the demands from Hashem are higher but so is the potential for reward.


And from the mikdash he shall not leave (21:12) – The Talmud (Sanhedrin 18b) notes that the Kohein Gadol would follow the bier of a departed relative from a distance. We do not find such a scripted distancing in any other case in the Torah. Why are we so careful here? Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl. explained that the Kohein Gadol was the national symbol of holiness and purity. Everyone looked to him to know how to behave in all situations. If that is the case, he needed to be extra careful in his ability to preserve the demand of Kedusha as demanded of him by Hashem and explained by the Chachamim. He needed to be sure not to convey the message that when he was emotional, he was allowed to violate the rules of Min HaMikdash Lo Yetzai.

When you bring a Zevach Todah to Hashem (22:29) – Why does the Torah follow this section about bringing a Korban Todah with the laws of Chilul and Kiddush Hashem? What is the connection? Rav Chaim Kanievski Shlita answers that a Kafui Tov is Kofer B’Ikkar. This is a concept we find throughout the time that Bnei Yisrael were in the Midbar – that when the people were severely punished it was due to their lack of Hakaras HaTov that led to their constant complaints. The ability to bring a Korban Todah demonstrates the opposite – that I am NOT a Kafui Tov. This is the Alef Bet of making a Kiddush Hashem.

I shall be sanctified within Bnei Yisrael (22:32) – The gemara (Berachos 21b) notes the that in order to recite a Dvar She’BKedusha one needs a Minyan. Rav Moshe Tzvi Neriah ztl. noted the tension between the work of the mussar movement which stressed the spiritual ascent of the individual versus that of the Kedusha of the community as stressed by Rav Kook ztl (Olas Riya II: p. 275 footnote). While the mussar movement needed each individual to work on his sense of self and its perfection, Rav Kook explained that real kedusha can only exist in the communal context. Why? Rav Kook ztl. explains that while the process of self growth begins with Hisbodedus or focus on the individual, the greatness of man is not achieved fully when by himself. For that man needs to see himself as a functioning member of society and thus able to fully appreciate Kedusha.


Parshas HaMoadim: Why is Parshas HaMoadim mentioned in the middle of Chumash Vayikra which keeps the focus on the Kohanim? Rav Schachter Shlita quoted Rav Soloveitchik ztl. noted that in the time of the Beis HaMikdash a Kohein functioned for a single day twice a year. For this he needs Matnos Kehuna? The rest of the year their job was to teach and their main job was on Shabbos and Yom Tov. Thus, the Parshas HaMoadim was in Toras Kohanim in order to be a source of reminder of the Kohanim’s primary job of Yoru Mishpateicha L’Yaakov.

And the son of a Jewish mother went out (24:10) – Where did he go out from? Rashi cites the opinion of Rabbi Berechya that he came from the story of the Lechem HaPanim. He could not understand how it was proper to keep bread for Hashem for 9 days while regular bread goes stale relatively quickly. The Meforshim ask that why would he have come to the conclusion it was going to go stale? After all, we find Chazal (Yoma 21b) who identify the idea of when the Olei Regalim came to see the Shulchan, they were able to see the bread fresh. Where was the error? Rav Shmuel Brazil  Shlita explains that this is the meaning of Panim  -- in the Lechem HaPanim – it reflected the person’s outlook of himself. If he saw himself old and stale, he would see that in the bread too. If he saw his life’s mission as unique and he the one to fulfill it, then the bread appeared fresh too.

Haftorah: The Kohanim shall not eat any Neveilah or Tereifa (Yechezkel 44:31) – No one may eat a Neveila or Tereifa. Why specify the Kohanim? Rashi explains that since in the Mikdash there were Korbanos that they ate that did not undergo Shechita, one might think they were able to make changes to the rules or that the rules didn’t apply to them. Nothing could be further from the truth and thus the Torah makes the rules clear. Rav Gideon Rothstein points out that this is often the challenge to relevancy of timeless Torah law – it needs proper clarification in a modern context – not to be rewritten. It isn’t the PERSON who lives apart from the rules, it is the context wherein sometimes the rules are different.