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 Parshas Emor - Vol. 7, Issue 29
Compiled by Oizer Alport


U'min HaMikdash lo yeitzei (21:12)

            After detailing the laws governing Kohanim, the Torah turns to the unique requirements for the Kohen Gadol, one of which is that he may not leave the Beis HaMikdash. Rashi explains that this doesn't mean that he may never leave the Temple. Rather, it means that even if a close family members dies, he may not leave the Beis HaMikdash to follow the funeral procession. Rashi adds that from the requirement to remain behind in the Temple even if a close relative has died, the Gemora (Zevachim 99a) derives that the Kohen Gadol is permitted to continue serving there even at a time when he is legally classified as an àåðï - somebody whose close family member has died and has not yet been buried - even though other Kohanim are not permitted to perform the Divine Service in such situations.

            Rav Shneur Kotler explains that the reason that regular Kohanim are disqualified from serving in the Temple at such a time is that their hearts are so overwhelmed with grief and their minds are so distracted by the recent turn of events that they are unable to joyfully serve Hashem with the proper focus and concentration. However, from the fact that the Torah obligates the Kohen Gadol to continue working in this situation, we may derive that even at a time when his close relative has died and hasn't yet been buried, he is expected to overcome his personal pain to the point that he is able to serve Hashem in the with complete perfection and joy as if nothing unusual had occurred.

            Implicit in the command that the Kohen Gadol not leave the Temple is a requirement for him to elevate himself above all of the temporary events and circumstances surrounding him and to remain constantly focused on and connected to Hashem. Although the extent of this obligation is unique to the Kohen Gadol, it opens our eyes to the ability that every person possesses to remain calm and tranquil even in the most trying of circumstances.

Similarly, Rav Nochum Zev Ziv, the son of the well-known epitome of composure the Alter of Kelm, points out that in the middle of a good night’s sleep after an exhausting day of travel through a scorching desert, Moshe's wife Tzipporah awoke to the sight of her husband being swallowed whole by an angel seeking to kill him (Shemos 4:24-25).

Many women encountering such a horrific image would scream and faint. Had Tzipporah done so, Moshe would have been killed, and with him would have been lost the hopes of redemption for the Jewish people. Upon her eventual arrival in the Heavenly Court, Tzipporah would be found liable for Moshe's death, the extinction of the Jewish people, and the destruction of the world which would be brought about by the inability of the Jews to escape Egypt and accept the Torah at Mount Sinai. Instead, she maintained her cool, acting with equanimity in assessing the situation and doing what needed to be done – circumcising her son – in order to save Moshe’s life.

After relating this thought to his wife and family from his deathbed one Friday afternoon, Rav Nochum Zev concluded by admonishing them to similarly maintain their composure after his imminent death. He warned them not to become so absorbed in their mourning and grief as to inadvertently transgress one of the prohibited labors of Shabbos. The lesson of the Kohen Gadol and Tzipporah should inspire us to recognize the levels of inner calm and peace which can be reached through the study of Torah and Mussar.



U'lakachtem lachem bayom harishon pri eitz hadar (23:40)

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach related that there was a Jew who brought his esrog to the synagogue each year and proudly showed it to the other men present. After asking how much they thought it was worth, he would smugly boast that he had actually paid only one shilling (a very small amount). When they asked him how he was able to get such a beautiful esrog for such a cheap price, he explained that most people go shopping for an esrog immediately after Yom Kippur. Because demand is high at that time, the merchants are able to raise prices to very elevated levels. Recognizing this, he delayed his shopping until the afternoon of Erev Sukkos. At that time, the sellers realized that they had no chance of selling their remaining inventory and were happy to receive any token price.

The story bothered Rav Shlomo Zalman, and he approached the man to rebuke him. He told the man that the Gemora in Beitzah (16a) records a dispute between Shammai and Hillel regarding the proper manner in which to honor Shabbos. Shammai maintained that a person should already begin preparing for Shabbos on Sunday. Whenever Shammai found a nice animal for sale, he would purchase it for Shabbos. If he subsequently found a nicer one later in the week, he would buy the new one for Shabbos and eat the first one.

The Gemora relates that Hillel had a different approach – middah acheres haysa lo. He trusted Hashem each day to provide him with his needs for that day. He would immediately consume anything he purchased at the beginning of the week and would wait until Friday to purchase his Shabbos needs.

Rav Shlomo Zalman questioned why Hillel didn’t conduct himself in the manner that Shammai did, which seems to be the preferable approach. Further, what is the meaning of the Gemora’s phrase "haysa lo" (he had)? He explained that the Gemora emphasizes this to teach that Hillel conducted himself with this bitachon in all areas of his life, both in mitzvah performance and in his personal affairs. If he needed to purchase a new shirt, he didn’t do so in advance. He waited until just before he needed to wear it, trusting that Hashem would provide him with it at that time.

Because this was Hillel’s style across-the-board, he was permitted to use this approach for doing mitzvos. However, a person who conducts himself differently in areas relating to his personal needs, preparing in advance to guarantee himself the best item, but waits until the last minute in spiritual matters isn’t demonstrating financial savvy but a cavalier lack of respect for Hashem’s mitzvos!



Vayeitzei ben isha Yisraelis v'hu ben ish Mitzri b'soch B'nei Yisroel vayinatzu ba'machaneh ben ha'Yisraelis v'ish ha'Yisraeli (24:10)

            Parshas Emor concludes with a tragic episode in which somebody cursed and blasphemed Hashem. How did this incident come about? Rashi explains that the blasphemer was the son of a Jewish woman named Shlomis bas Divri and the Egyptian taskmaster who was slain by Moshe (Shemos 2:12). Because his mother was descended from the tribe of Dan, the blasphemer attempted to encamp amongst the tribe of Dan, but they refused to allow him to do so because his father was not from their tribe. Unable to resolve the conflict, they went to Moshe to rule on the dispute. When Moshe ruled in favor of the tribe of Dan, the man blasphemously uttered his curse.

            Although the tribe of Dan was correct in their argument that the blasphemer was not legally entitled to dwell amongst them, the Alter of Kelm questions why they were so adamant in their refusal. The Torah records (Bamidbar 1:39) that the male members of the tribe of Dan between the ages of 20 and 60 numbered more than 60,000, in which case the total number of men and women of all ages in the tribe numbered well over 100,000. If so, why were they so insistent in refusing to allow one additional person to live in their midst, especially in light of the fact that his mother was part of their tribe? The Alter suggests that we may derive from here that one spiritually impure individual has the ability to corrupt and contaminate an entire tribe consisting of more than 100,000 people, and in order to protect themselves from his negative influence, they had no choice but to refuse his request to encamp amongst them.

            When the Chazon Ish became Bar Mitzvah, he accepted upon himself a commitment to spend the rest of his life engaged in the pure study of Torah solely for its own sake. Not surprisingly, he grew up to become renowned for his Torah knowledge. More recently, somebody asked Rav Elozar Menachem Shach what a boy becoming Bar Mitzvah in this generation should accept upon himself? Rav Shach replied that he should make two commitments. First, he must pledge not to associate with friends who may serve as a negative influence. Second, he most promise not to idly linger in the streets, but rather to travel directly from his home to his yeshiva and to return home immediately upon the conclusion of his studies. Rav Shach added that somebody who sincerely does so is guaranteed to grow up to become a great Torah scholar.



Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     Parshas Emor begins (21:1) with the laws governing the Kohanim, the first of which is a prohibition against becoming impure through contact with the dead. Rashi notes that in teaching this prohibition, the Torah contains an apparent redundancy, with Hashem telling Moshe to relate it twice. Rashi explains that the second command was an instruction for the adult Kohanim to take care that their minor children not become impure through the dead. Why are the Kohanim cautioned regarding their children’s compliance more than anybody else? (Oznayim L’Torah)

2)     The Torah commands us (21:8) to sanctify the Kohanim and to treat them respectfully. Does this include allowing Kohanim to skip to the front of a line? (B'shvilei HaParsha)

3)     Rashi writes (24:10) that the blasphemer was upset about the Lechem HaPanim. He argued that if a human king is served warm, freshly-baked bread every day, it is disrespectful to serve Hashem old, stale week-old bread in the Temple. When another Jew rebuked him for speaking disparagingly about the mitzvos, they began fighting, at which time the scoffer blasphemously uttered Hashem’s name. How is it possible that somebody who was motivated by a desire to increase Hashem’s honor and glory fell so quickly and drastically, to the point that he committed the ultimate disrespect to Hashem by blasphemously invoking His Holy name? (Yalkut Yehuda)

  © 2012 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to


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