MAY 11-12, 2000 19 IYAR 5761
Day 34 of the Omer
- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"Say to the Kohanim and say to them..." (Vayikra 21:1)
The Torah repeats the word "emor, v'amarta" as if emphasizing this commandment that the Kohanim should not become defiled by a dead body. The Rabbis learn from the extra word that we must train our children to keep the misvot just like we do. The question is asked, "Why is the obligation to teach our children to keep the commandants said by the laws of Kohanim and their prohibition to become impure?"
One possible answer is that when a Kohen tells his son not to come in contact with impurity, the son may question his father, "How come the other people don't have this restriction? Even very observant people are allowed to touch a dead body. How come I may not?" The Kohen father must tell his son, "You are different, my son. You are a Kohen. We have greater responsibilities; therefore, more is expected of us." This is the way we should train our children. We have to build them up and show them how great they can be, and that more is expected of them than of the rest of the world. The Jewish people have a mission in this world and when a child realizes that he has a part in that mission, then he will rise to the occasion and become that special person. Compared to the rest of the world, we are a kingdom of Kohanim and therefore have to act and live on a different level! Shabbat Shalom.
- Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And Hashem said to Moshe, 'Speak to the Kohanim'" (Vayikra 21:1)
Usually, the paragraphs in the Torah that teach us laws begin with the word "vaydaber - and Hashem spoke." The word vaydaber carries a connotation of unbending strictness that pertains to laws. It is interesting to note that our perashah, which outlines the laws relating to the sanctity and purity of Kohanim, begins with the word "vayomer," which implies an undemanding manner of speaking. Why this departure from the normal word of vaydaber?
Although the Kohanim serve in the Temple to bring the sacrifices onto the Altar, the class of Kohanim has another important job. They are the teachers of our nation. As it says in the Torah, "They shall teach your ordinances to Ya'akob and your laws to Yisrael" (Debarim 33:10). In addition, the Kohanim are subject to numerous restrictions in their everyday activities, as listed in our perashah. However, the Torah prefaces these restrictions with "vayomer" an undemanding term. With this, Hashem is telling the Kohanim that they should view their additional restrictions and responsibilities in a positive light, seeing them as added opportunities open to them. If he views them in this light the Kohen will fulfill his duty with joy and enthusiasm. If he finds it a burden he isn't worthy of being a Kohen.
This is a message to all who are active in the field of Torah education. They are burdened with difficulties with students, parents and the curriculum. Each teacher must be joyful of his opportunity to teach. The same holds true with all of us, and with our Torah. Our misvot are opportunities. For example, one should feel rested and happy on Shabbat, not restricted and anxious to break out on Saturday night. Our day off is Shabbat, not Sunday. Shabbat Shalom.
"And you shall observe My commandments and do them, I am Hashem. And you shall not desecrate My holy Name and I will be sanctified among the Children of Israel, I am Hashem Who sanctifies you" (Vayikra 22:31,32)
The Hatam Sofer commented that verse 31 is an introduction to verse 32. Rashi states that "you shall observe My commandments" refers to studying Torah, (the only way to observe is to study first). Therefore the Torah immediately warns those who study Torah against hilul Hashem, desecration of Hashem's Name, and obliges those who study to make a kidush Hashem, a sanctification of Hashem's Name. The behavior of anyone who studies Torah should be on such a level that it will be an expression of the sanctity of Hashem. People who observe those who study Torah should be able to say that the Torah gives those who study it much wisdom and promotes excellence in their daily behavior. This obligation is especially important when talking to people who are far from Torah observance. They will judge the value and effect of Torah study and observance by the behavior towards them of those who observe misvot. Have in mind that each encounter is an opportunity for the great misvah of kidush Hashem. Even if at first someone is very hostile, a persistent showing of politeness and kindness on your part will eventually change the other person's attitude. Do not use the other person's negative manner towards you as your guide for how you speak to him.
In short, make certain to talk to everyone you meet in a manner that will cause them to say, "I'm really impressed with this person. I want my children and relatives to study Torah also if this is the way they will behave." (Growth through Torah)
This week's Haftarah: Yehezkel 44:15-31.
Our perashah discusses many laws regarding Kohanim. In the haftarah, the prophet Yehezkel also tells many laws that will pertain to the Kohanim in the times of the Mashiah, such as the clothes they will wear, the women they may marry, and the gifts (terumah, bikurim, etc.) they will receive from the people.
Answer to Pop Quiz: A widow.
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