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Parshas Emor - Vol. 4,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
V’chi sibechu zevach todah l’Hashem lirtzonchem tizbachu (22:29)
The Torah teaches that a person who brings a Korban Todah (Thanksgiving-Offering) must do so willingly. This requirement is difficult to understand. The Gemora in Berachos (54b) teaches that a Korban Todah is brought by four groups of people after they have been saved from potentially dangerous situations. Although these individuals are certainly grateful for their salvations, how can they be expected to feel and express a desire to have originally been placed in such a situation?
An insight into resolving this question may be derived from a fascinating story recounted by the Me’am Loez. The Ramban had a student who became deathly ill. Upon visiting his student, the Ramban quickly realized that there was unfortunately no hope for him. Realizing that his student’s time was near, the Ramban asked him to do him a favor.
The Ramban explained that there were a number of questions which had been troubling him regarding Hashem’s conduct toward the Jewish people, who were suffering greatly at that time. As he was deeply versed in the secrets of Jewish mysticism, he wrote for his student a kamea (amulet) containing Divine names. After his death, the student would be able, with this kamea, to ascend to a very high level of Heaven where he could ask these questions and return in a dream to tell his teacher the answers.
Shortly after the student’s death, he appeared to the Ramban and explained that everywhere he arrived, he simply showed the kamea and was permitted to continue his ascent. However, when he finally reached his destination and began to ask the questions that he had prepared, everything became so crystal clear to him that there were no longer any difficulties that needed resolution. With his newfound insight, it was immediately clear that any apparent suffering was, in the big picture, actually for the good.
With the lesson of this story, we can now understand the answer given by the K’sav Sofer to our original question. After a person is miraculously saved from peril, it is human nature to express gratitude to Hashem for watching over us and rescuing us from danger. However, we certainly don’t feel appreciation for having been placed in the situation to begin with, as we would clearly prefer to have never been placed in the line of danger than to have been exposed to death and rescued from it.
To counter this attitude, the Torah teaches us that a person who brings a Korban Todah is required to express gratitude not only for his salvation, but also for being exposed to the perilous situation from which he was rescued. Although it may not have been clear to him at the time, he is nevertheless expected to recognize that the suffering itself was ultimately for his benefit. Suffering can effect atonement for misdeeds or bring in its wake unexpected good. Even if we aren’t yet able to see the benefit in a given situation, the knowledge that it is there and that we will eventually recognize it can give us the strength to persevere with faith and trust until the goodness is ultimately revealed.
U’sfartem lachem mi’macharas HaShabbos miyom heviachem es omer ha’tenufa sheva Shabbasos temimos tih’yena (23:15)
One of the reasons for the happiness associated with Lag B’Omer, which begins on the night of May 11, is that on this day, the students of Rebbi Akiva, who had died en masse every day since Pesach, stopped dying. As there are no coincidences in Judaism, why did they specifically stop dying at this time?
The seven weeks between Pesach and Shavuos represents a period in which we prepare ourselves to celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavuos. The leaders of the Mussar movement point out that the Mishnah in Avos (6:6) teaches that there 48 traits by which the Torah is acquired. Since there are 49 days during which we prepare to reaccept the Torah, they maintained that it would be appropriate to use this time to develop within ourselves the qualities and attributes which are necessary to accept and acquire the Torah on Shavuos. Therefore, on each day of this period, they worked on understanding and instilling within themselves one of these qualities. Since there were only 48 traits, they used the last day for a general overview of all of them.
In his work Lekach Tov, Rav Yaakov Yisroel Baifus suggests that if the founders of the Mussar movement engaged in this commendable practice, certainly the lofty Sages of the Gemora did so as well. The 32nd trait by which the Torah is acquired is love of one’s fellow man. The Gemora teaches (Yevamos 62b) that the reason for the death of Rebbi Akiva’s disciples was that they didn’t feel and display appropriate respect toward one another. Rav Baifus suggests that once they had worked on the trait of loving one another on the 32nd day, they rectified the cause of this tragedy, and indeed on the following day the students stopped dying!
Daber el B’nei Yisroel leimor bachodesh ha’shevi’i b’echad lachodesh yih’yeh lachem Shabbason zichron teruah mikra Kodesh (23:24)
The Gemora in Rosh Hashana (29b) points out that in Parshas Pinchas (Bamidbar 29:1), the Torah refers to Rosh Hashana as “Yom Teruah” – the day of blowing the shofar – while our parsha calls it “Zichron Teruah” – a remembrance of the shofar blasts. The Gemora explains that Parshas Pinchas discusses a scenario when Rosh Hashana falls out during the week and the shofar is actually sounded. Our parsha, on the other hand, refers to a year in which Rosh Hashana falls on Shabbos, on which there are no shofar blasts but only the remembrance of them.
This enactment was made due to a fear that a Jew may be unfamiliar with the proper way to blow the shofar. To learn how to do so, he may carry it to the Rav’s house, in the process violating the prohibition against carrying in the public domain on Shabbos. Although this would be a tragedy, why did the Sages deny tens of thousands of people this invaluable and irreplaceable merit simply because one Jew may carry it – unintentionally, and for the sake of a mitzvah – to a Rav to learn how to blow it?
Rav Yitzchok Blazer explains that the impending arrival of Rosh Hashana is heralded by the blowing of the shofar each morning during the month of Elul. Certainly, when Rosh Hashana itself comes, everybody will come to the synagogue, anxiously awaiting the 100 blasts which are sounded. When the normal time for the blowing of the shofar arrives but no sounds are heard, people will become curious about the omission. Upon asking, they will be told that it is because of the aforementioned fear of another Jew accidentally carrying the shofar outside on Shabbos. The questioner will press on, wondering why so many people must lose out over such an improbable fear, one which would seem to be greatly outweighed by the guaranteed downside of Jews across the world being unable to hear the shofar blasts.
However, from the fact that Chazal made their decree, we see that they understood that indeed, the possibility that one Jew may inadvertently carry the shofar outside – even for the sake of a mitzvah – is so incredibly detrimental that they saw no choice but to forbid the blowing of the shofar for everybody. Upon understanding this, the questioner will be left with a new appreciation of the severity of even an accidental sin and all the more so an intentional one. This new recognition will inspire him to a newfound resolve to repent his sins in a way that even the sound of the mighty shofar couldn’t have accomplished!
Answers to the weekly
Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Mishnah in Gittin (90a) contains a dispute regarding when a man may divorce his wife. Beis Shammai maintains that he may do so only if she commits an immodest act, while Beis Hillel opines that he may do so even if she merely burned his food, and Rebbi Akiva posits that he may do so even if he finds another woman who is more attractive. According to Beis Shammai, why does the Torah need to forbid (21:7) a Kohen to marry a divorced woman when she would be forbidden to him regardless as a harlot? (P’nei Dovid, Har Tzvi 22:13, Derech Sicha Vol. 2)
2) The Torah commands us (21:8) to sanctify the Kohanim and to treat them respectfully, giving them precedence in all spiritual matters. If a Kohen and a Yisroel ask a mohel to circumcise their sons on the same day, is there a mitzvah to circumcise the son of the Kohen before the son of the Yisroel? (Keren Orah Horayos 12b, Rav Shlomo Kluger quoted in Bishvilei HaParsha)
3) Can a person fulfill his obligation to count the Omer (23:15-16) by writing that day’s count on paper, or must he verbally say it? (Shu”t Rav Akiva Eiger 29-32, Shu”t Chasam Sofer 6:19, Shaarei Teshuvah Orach Chaim 489:1, Shu”t Yabia Omer 4:43)
4) If the Jewish people lived in sukkahs during their sojourn in the wilderness (23:43), were they exempt from the mitzvah of mezuzah during this time just as our sukkahs are exempt from mezuzahs? (Beis Elokim Shaar HaYesodos 37, Gilyonei HaShas Eiruvin 55b)
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