Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 11   No. 29

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Parshas Emor

A Mitzvah to Count

The Torah prescribes three Mitzvos of counting: the forty-nine days of the Omer, the forty-nine years of the Yovel, and the seven days of a Zav and a Zavah.

Tosfos in Menachos (65b) assumes that, just as every individual recites a B'rachah before counting each night, so too, did the Beis-Din recite a B'rachah before counting each year of the Yovel. But he wants to know why a Zavah (and a Zav) do not recite a B'rachah on each of the seven days.

It is not appropriate, he replies, because should the Zavah have a sighting of blood, she must stop the counting (even if this occurs on the seventh day), and begin all over again.

The Torah Temimah asks why that should concern us. After all, he asks, she is fulfilling a Mitzvah, and why should we suspect that she may have a sighting, any more than we do regarding many other Mitzvos, where we recite a B'rachah without taking such an accident into account.

He therefore suggests that the counting of a Zavah is not an intrinsic Mitzvah, but a 'Hechsher Mitzvah', in preparation for her Taharah. This may be so, but we will still need to explain why it is any different than Sefiras ha'Omer, which is also only a preparation - for the fiftieth day, on which the Torah was given.


The Ya'avatz, commenting on Tosfos, adds that the Torah requires a Zavah to count seven days. In other words, unless she does, she has not fulfilled a Mitzvah (as the purpose of the counting, is so that, at its termination, she goes to Mikveh and is Tahor). What Tosfos therefore means is that, seeing as the fact that she is counting seven days in no way detracts from the likelihood that she will have a sighting (she does after all, have a Chezkas Tum'ah) and be forced to terminate the current counting and start all over again, a B'rachah is inappropriate.

The Rambam, on the other hand, does not list the counting of a Zavah as a separate Mitzvah, which seems to lend support to the Torah Temimah's answer, since one does not recite a B'rachah on a section of a Mitzvah. This explanation effectively answers the Torah Temimah's question.


The Tosfos that we cited takes for granted that a Zavah is obligated to verbalize the counting, in the same way as we count the Omer, and the Rosh on the Chumash, as well as Rabeinu Bachye, follows in his footsteps.

The Seifer ha'Chinuch however, in Parshas Behar (Mitzvah 330) has a different approach. He too, asks why a Zav and a Zavah do not recite a B'rachah (like Omer and Yovel). Evidently, he answers, they are not obligated to actually count the days, only to keep a careful check that they have seven clean days. And if there is no Mitzvah to count, it goes without saying, that there can be no question of reciting a B'rachah, and he attributes this distinction to kaboloh (tradition). It is based on tradition, he explains, that we actually count the days of the Omer and that the Beis-Din actually counts the years of the Yovel. And it is based on tradition that a Zav and a Zavah are not required to do so.

The Seifer ha'Chinuch maintains that it is quite common to find Pesukim that contradict each other with the concept of kaboloh, which can only be explained in this way. And he cites the example of the various Mitzvos of 'Zechirah'. There is a Mitzvah to remember Amalek, Miriam, and Yetzi'as Mitzrayim (inter alia). Yet sometimes, such as in the case of Amalek and of Yetzi'as Mitzrayim, we are commanded to actually verbalize them, and sometimes, such as in the case of Miriam and the other Mitzvos of Zechirah, we are not. That too, is a matter of Kaboloh. (to be continued)

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Parshah Pearls

Knowing One's Mother

"Only for his close relative ... for his mother and for his father" (may a Kohen render himself Tamei) 21:2.

The Rosh asks why here, the Torah places the Kohen's father before his mother, whereas a few Pesukim later, where the Torah speaks about a Kohen Gadol not rendering himself Tamei even for his close relatives, it inverts the order and puts his mother first?

The Rosh's answer is based on the principle 'Lo zu af zu' (that one tends to mention the less obvious first, as if to say 'not only this, but also that').

That being the case, bearing in mind that in the case of a Kohen hedyot, the Torah is permiting him to render himself Tamei, whereas in the case of the Kohen Gadol, it is forbiding him to do so, the explanation is clear. The Kohen, the Torah is now saying, may render himself Tamei not only for his mother (whom he knows for sure is his mother), but even for his father (of whom he cannot be certain). A Kohen Gadol on the other hand, is not only forbidden to render himself Tamei for his father, but even for his mother.


Eating Castrated Sheep

"An animal with crushed, badly cut, loose or severed beitzim you shall not bring to G-d, and in your land you may not do that" (22:24).

Seeing as the last phrase in the Pasuk serves as the prohibition to castrate any animal, asks the Rosh, on what grounds may we eat castrated sheep, and 'stuffed swans'. Why are they not included in the La'av of 'whatever Hashem has abominated, is forbidden to eat' (as the Gemara rules in Avodah-Zarah 66a)?

The answer, he explains, lies in the preceding phrase, forbidding us to bring them to Hashem as a sacrifice. This indicates that we are permitted to eat them (otherwise, it would be obvious that one may not bring them on the Mizbei'ach, and a Pasuk to that effect would not be necessary).


Opening a New Account

And you shall take for yourselves on the first day, (an esrog, a Lulav ... )" 23:40.

How can the Torah refer to "the first day", asks the Medrash, when it is talking about the fifteenth (of Tishrei)?

What the Torah therefore means is ' the first day' of the reckoning of sins. And it illustrates with the following parable in the name of Rebbi Levi.

It once happened that a certain province owed the King a large tax. The King sent his emissaries to collect it, but the debt remained unpaid. So the king set out with his retinue to claim his debt. He was within ten Mil of the province, when a delegation consisting of the top dignitaries came out to greet him and praise him, to indicate that their failure to pay was not an act of rebellion, but due to the fact that they did not have the means to pay. So the king waived a third of the debt. (I have quoted the Medrash Rabah's version of the parable in favour of that of the Tanchumah quoted by the Rosh.) When he reached a point only five Mil from the city, a delegation consisting of the middle classes came out to greet him, and began to praise him, and he waived another third of the debt.

No sooner did he enter the city, than all the inhabitants came to greet him, men, women and children. Upon which, he took pity on them and cancelled the entire debt. "Let bygones be bygones," he exclaimed. But as from that day, he warned them, a new chapter would begin, and they would have to comply with the rules.

And so it is with G-d and Yisrael. The whole year round they sin. As the New year approaches, Hashem sets out to' claim His debt'. Comes Erev Rosh Hashanah, however, and the leaders of the generation fast, so He pardons one third of their sins. During the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, men of higher stature fast, and He pardons another third. When on Yom Kipur, everybody fasts, men, women and children, Hashem in His mercy, cancels the entire debt. 'Let bygones be bygones', Hashem says, 'but from today, we will open a new account'.

However, from Yom Kipur till Succos everyone is busy, this one with his Lulav, that one with his Succah (so no-one has time to sin). On Succos, they stand before G-d with their Lulav and Esrog. And G-d repeats 'As from today, we will start a new balance sheet'. It is the first day of reckoning, on which they will be taken to task for the sins that they perform from then on.


Converting to Judaism

"And the son of the Yisre'eilis went out, and he was the son of an Egyptian man ... " (24:10).

We learned in the Medrash that after converting, the son of the Egyptian man came to pitch his tent in the tribe of Dan. But why did he need to convert, asks the Rosh? Have we not learned in Yevamos that if a Jewish woman gives birth to a baby whose father is a gentile, the child is Jewish? So why did the son of the Jewish woman (Sh'lomis bas Divri) need to be converted?

And he answers that the incident in Egypt took place before Matan Torah, when the B'nei Yisrael were still considered B'nei No'ach. Consequently, the Egyptian, who joined Yisrael only after Matan Torah, required conversion.


Too Evil to Die

"And they placed him (the man who cursed G-d) in prison to await instructions from G-d, as to what to do with him" (24:12).

What was Moshe waiting for, asks the Rosh? Why was it not obvious that he deserved death by stoning? Surely, if one is stoned for cursing one's parents, how much more so for cursing one's G-d?

That is true, he answers! But the question was whether stoning was good enough for someone who was guilty of such a terrible crime. Perhaps he was not deserving of such an easy atonement as death.

G-d however, in His deep humility, placed His own honour on a par with that of His two partners in man's creation (one's father and mother), and ordered Moshe to mete out the same punishment to the man who cursed his G-d as someone who curses his mortal father or mother ...


Ein Onshin min ha'Din

... In the name of the Kadosh from D'ru'ash, the Rosh suggests that perhaps Moshe's uncertainty was based on the principle 'Ein onshin min ha'din' (Beis-din cannot punish from a 'Kal-va'Chomer'). But if that is true, he asks, why do we not learn the principle of 'Ein onshin min ha'din' from here?

Indeed we could, he replies, only it so happens that the source occurs before this Parshah, in which case we already know it from before.


Placing the Blame Where It Belongs

"And all those who heard shall place their hands on his head, and the entire congregation shall stone him" (24:14). In no other case of death at the hand of Beis-Din is there an obligation of placing one's hands on the sentenced man's head. Why specifically here, asks the Rosh?

Before passing sentence, he explains, Beis-Din would order one of the witnesses to repeat what the accused had said, even though the mere mention of what he heard constitutes 'Birchas Hashem'.

Therefore, the witnesses would place their hands on the guilty man's head, as if to say that what he was now causing them to do should be on his head, and not on theirs.

And the Toras Kohanim explicitly says this.

* * *


(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 275:
A Kohen with a Permanent Blemish May Not Serve in the Beis-Hamikdash

A Kohen with a permanent blemish is forbidden to perform the service in the Beis-Hamikdash, as the Pasuk writes in Emor "A man from your descendents who has a blemish may not come near to bring the 'bread' of his G-d" (21:17), with reference to brining the Korbanos, since whatever is connected with food is referred to as "bread".

A reason for the Mitzvah is because most actions that a man performs are acceptable in the eyes of those who behold them depending largely upon their. When the performer has an air of importance and his deeds are good, then whatever he does will always find favour in the eyes of all who see him. Conversely, when his appearance is nondescript and his limbs deformed, or if his ways are not straight, then people do not view his deeds quite as favourably.

Therefore it is truly befitting for the man who serves as G-d's emissary on whom their atonement depends, to be a man of charm, of good shape and appearance, and pleasant in all his ways, so as to make a good impression on the people who rely on him to atone on their behalf.

Besides that, it is possible that the perfection of the Kohen's appearance helps to create the scenario that affects the thoughts of the person bringing the Korban, helping him to purify his soul and to elevate it. Any irregularity about the person bringing the Korban, will disturb his thought process, causing him to lose the desired affect that the Korban would otherwise have had on him.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Chazal have said that there are three categories of blemishes that disqualify a Kohen from serving in the Beis-Hamikdash. 1. Those that disqualify both a Kohen from serving and an animal from being brought on the Mizbei'ach; 2. Those that disqualify a Kohen but not an animal; 3. Those that disqualify neither (min ha'Torah), but which Chazal instituted on account of Mar'is ha'Ayin (because they resemble a blemish).

It is only external blemishes that disqualify a Kohen from serving. Internal blemishes, such as a missing kidney, a spleen or a punctured stomach, may render the Kohen a T'reifah, but do not prevent him from serving in the Beis- Hamikdash.

In fact, there are fifty blemishes that pertain to both a Kohen and an animal. Another twenty-three blemishes pertain to animals only, and a further ninety to Kohanim only.

In addition, there are four major blemishes that pertain to Kohanim only (even though they are not revealed blemishes, like all the others) - a Kohen who is a deaf-mute, one who is deranged, an epileptic (even on only certain days) and one who is governed by an evil spirit (even if it is only at given times).

Included in the fifty blemishes that pertain to both Kohanim and animals, is an aged Kohen (to the extent that he trembles from age when he stands); one who is sick (to the extent that he too, shakes, but as a result of illness and weakness); and one who sweats profusely.

A Kohen who is born via a cesarean birth is eligible to serve, whereas an animal is Pasul.

This Mitzvah applies to Kohanim at the time of the Beis-Hamikdash. In the event that a Kohen contravenes and serves when he is a Ba'al Mum, his Avodah is Pasul, provided that is, that his blemish is one of those that disqualify both a Kohen and an animal, irrespective of whether he is Be'shogeg or Be'meizid. And if he did so Be'meizid, he receives Malkos. If however, the blemish is one of the ninety blemishes that disqualify only a Kohen but not an animal, then his avodah is Kasher, despite the fact that he receives Malkos. If on the other hand, it is one of the blemishes that disqualify a Kohen only on account of 'Mar'is ha'Ayin', then he neither receives Malkos, nor is his Avodah invalid.


Mitzvah 276:
A Kohen with a Temporary Blemish May Not Serve in the Beis-Hamikdash

A Kohen with a temporary blemish is forbidden to serve in the Beis-Hamikdash, as the Torah writes in Emor (21:21) "Any man who has a blemish from the seed of Aharon shall not approach... ". Temporary blemishes incorporate such blemishes as boils, whereas by 'permanent', the Torah means a blemish such as a broken hand.

Refer to the previous Mitzvah for a reason or this Mitzvah.

The Beis-Din ha'Gadol convened each day in the Lishkas ha'Gazis, a room in the Beis-Hamikdash. Their main ongoing function was to examine the Kohanim with regard to Yichus (ancestry) and blemishes. Any Kohen whose Yichus was found to be flawed, would don black clothes and leave the Azarah immediately, whereas should it turn out to be sound, he would dress in the white Bigdei Kehunah and enter the Azarah to serve with his brothers the Kohanim.

A Kohen whose Yichus was found to be sound, but who had a blemish, would sit in the Lishkas ha'Eitzim (the room where the wood for the Ma'arachah was stored) and sort out the wood for the Mizbei'ach, removing all the logs that were wormy. He would receive a portion of Kodshim each evening together with the other members of his Beis-Av, and eat (even Kodshei Kodshim), as the Torah explicitly writes (Pasuk 22).

The remaining Dinim of blemishes are listed in the 7th Chapter of Bechoros.

This Mitzvah applies to Kohanim in the time of the Beis-Hamikdash. A Kohen who contravenes and serves in the Beis-Hamikdash with a temporary blemish be'Meizid, receives Malkos.

The Ramban does not list the prohibition of serving with a temporary blemish as a separate La'av, but incorporates it in that of a permanent one, since Chazal do not consider part of an existing Mitzvah a Mitzvah on its own.


Mitzvah 285:
Not to Sanctify Blemished Animals for the Mizbei'ach

It is forbidden to designate a blemished animal to bring on the Mizbei'ach, even if one does not actually sacrifice it. With regard to the designation alone the Torah writes in Emor (22:20) "whatever has a blemish, do not bring" (with reference to designating them).

A reason for the Mitzvah is that the Beis-Hamikdash is a place of perfection, and it is not befitting for a person who is imperfect to serve there or to bring there an imperfect sacrifice (See also the next Mitzvah - Mitzvah 286).

The Dinim of the Mitzvah ... ... which kind of blemish invalidates the Korban, and which one doesn't, the author already partially listed in Mitzvah 275 ... are all explained in detail in Bechoros (and in the Rambam, in the first Perek of Hilchos Isurei Mizbei'ach).

This Mitzvah applies everywhere to men and women alike. Anyone who contravenes and designates a Ba'al-Mum, even nowadays, has transgressed. It would seem that he did not receive Malkos, seeing as it does not involve an act. The Rambam however, rules that it is. Perhaps he compares it to Temurah (Mitzvah 352), which is subject to Malkos even though it does not involve an act, seeing as both are La'avin that pertain to Kodshim. In any event, the Seifer ha'Chinuch concludes, we must listen to the Rambam, for he is an angel of G-d.

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