|Back to Parsha homepage||Previous issues|
Say to the Kohanim,...and tell them (21:1)
Rashi explains that the Torah's dual injunction, "Emor V'omarta, emphasizes the significance of "saying." This suggests "I'hazhir gedolim al haketanim," that the older ones should warn and instruct the younger ones. In a salutary lesson for the Kohanim, the Torah teaches us a valuable lesson. Only by appropriate attention to the education of the children can our future be assured. Ignoring the process of education can have devastating effects.
Deviating from the usual interpretation of this pasuk, Chazal assert that in the normative educational process, the older generation should teach the younger generation. Woe is the generation in which the young teach the older ones. In a poignant analogy, they relate the story of a child whose father was recovering from a grave illness. He was literally being trained to walk again on his frail legs. As he tried to walk, he fell, to the anxiety and anguish of those watching his labored movements. His young son who stood observing in wonderment asked his father, "When my little brother was learning to walk and occasionally fell down in his attempt, even if he hurt himself, everyone laughed and was happy. Why is it that now, as you are learning to walk and you fall down, everyone is concerned and sad?" The father responded in the obvious manner, "When I was teaching your little brother to walk, it was following the normal course of events; a child was learning to walk as he developed. This is a reason for happiness. When a child must teach his father to walk, however, it is tragic."
The message is apparent. In the normal course of events, the gedolim, older generation, teach the young. Today, regrettably, we find the ketanim, younger generation, have returned to Torah. They have had parents who, despite their own lack of education, sought to educate their children. These children are teaching the gedolim, older generation. Young people are compensating for lost time. They are encouraging their fathers and mothers who did not, for whatever reason, have the opportunity to enrich their lives through Torah. That is not the way it is supposed to be. Hashem gave us the Torah to be transmitted from father to son - not the reverse.
"You shall sanctify him for the bread of your G-d he offers, he shall be holy unto you." (21:8)
Horav Elyakim Schlesinger, Shlita, cites the Chazon Ish who once commented regarding a certain Torah scholar. This man had disagreed with him regarding a halachic matter. He said that the scholar was actually an am ha'aretz, illiterate. The Chazon Ish explained that the degree of one's erudition is consistent with his ability to appreciate another person's gadlus, superiority, in Torah learning.
One who has himself achieved literacy in Torah, recognizes its profundity. He will, consequently, defer to another's academic attainment in Torah. One who is truly illiterate, and whose arrogance denies him the ability to perceive his own deficits, will often denigrate others. A true talmid chacham gives honor where it is due. An am ha'aretz lowers himself when he speaks disparagingly of others.
This is the pasuk's message: "You shall sanctify him," for it is a mitzvah to dignify the Kohen who has been chosen to serve Hashem and offer your korbanos. Hashem has adjured us to appreciate the kedushah, distinct holiness, of the Kohen , and act accordingly. If we do not act properly toward the Kohen, it is a result of our own inability to recognize and appreciate kedushah.
This concept applies to the talmid chacham, Torah scholar, as well. It is incumbent upon us to exhibit the proper reverence to one who embodies Torah. Regrettably, there are individuals who, simply because they have spent some time learning Torah in a yeshivah, feel that they have license to disparage anyone who is unfortunate enough to disagree with them. They feel that the command to show respect does not apply to them. After all, they know how to learn! The Chazon Ish enlightens us. One who does not exhibit proper respect for a Torah scholar demonstrates his own deficiency.
For a crown, the oil of his G-d's annointment is upon him, I am G-d. (21:12)
Bnei Yisrael would come to the Bais Hamikdash to see the Kohanim performing the avodah, service, accompanied by the Leviim, chanting their melodies and Psalms. Only one shevet, tribe, had access to the internal workings of the Bais Hamikdash. It must have troubled the average Jew that this unique group of people were selected over everyone to become Hashem's legion, His faithful servants. They must have questioned this phenomenon. What is really the reason that only the Kohanim and Leviim could act as agents for the people to offer korbanos. What trait rendered them so special?
Horav Y.A. Hirshovitz, zl, attributes their distinction to their grandfather, Aharon Hakohen. He stood up against those who would raise a hand against Toras Hashem, against those who chose to substitute divinity for a golden calf. Bnei Yisrael erred by making the Golden Calf. They compounded their sin by flaunting it, dancing and reveling before it. Aharon made a mizbayach, an altar, proclaiming, "(There will be) a holiday for Hashem tomorrow." Bnei Yisrael thought in different terms than Aharon. They thought that they would celebrate the worship of their man-made idol. Aharon referred to the following day when the Golden Calf would be ground to dust and the perpetrators who clung to it would be executed. There truly was a festival for Hashem - the Almighty's Name would be affirmed and sanctified.
Aharon created and represented the mercaz, central point, where people who feared and believed in Hashem would rally together. Yes, Aharon withstood the onslaught of rebellion. He stemmed the tide of assimilation. Those that created the incursion, who incited the people to idol-worship, were put to death. Aharon's mercaz, his sanctuary of kedushah, endured to serve as a bastion of inspiration to the people.
Whenever our people have been faced with spiritual and physical challenge, the Torah has infused them with strength to triumph over adversity. We have been guided by the memory of that first Kohen who stood his ground and encouraged the people with "Chag Hashem Machar," "There will be a holiday for Hashem tomorrow". Keep the faith and remain strong, for tomorrow we will celebrate as we triumph over those who would defeat us. Let us look to the Kohen of our generation, the spiritual giants who guide us, to inspire us to develop the courage to overcome both the internal and external challenges which face us.
Every native in Yisrael shall dwell in booths (23:42)
Every Jew is commanded to dwell in a succah for the prescribed period of seven days. Indeed, our ancestors went to great lengths to ensure that they fulfilled the mitzvah of succah according to halachah. A poignant story occurred concerning Horav Mordechai M'Nedverne that, while its focus is not actually on Succos, teaches us a timely lesson. In Rav Mordechai's city, there was an outbreak of cholera, a very contagious plague. The doctors warned the general populace to exercise extreme care in regard to sanitary conditions. It just so happened that it was just before the festival of Succos. Despite the plague, Rav Mordechai built his succah as usual. The mayor of Nedverne, who was infamous for his virulent anti- Semitism, insisted that Rav Mordechai dismantle his succah, claiming that it was against sanitary regulations to have a succah. The rav ignored the mayor's message, refusing to take down his succah. When the mayor saw that he was being ignored, he immediately dispatched a number of police to "reiterate" his demand and to warn Rav Mordechai of the dire consequences for non-compliance. Rav Mordechai responded, "I made the succah that it should stand, not so that it would be torn down." Overcome with rage, the mayor threatened the rav if he would not concede to his demand. Rav Mordechai looked at the mayor and said, "My great uncle was the great tzaddik, Rav Meir M'Premishlan ." The mayor heard those words and scoffed in anger, "Who cares who your uncle was? Tear down the succah now!"
During this whole dialogue, Rav Mordechai never lost his temper. He remained calm and cool in the face of the mayor's rage. He reiterated his statement yet again, which brought a torrent of threats to his physical well-being from the mayor. Yet, he would not budge. Finally, he said to the mayor, "Let me tell you a story, so that you will understand why it is that I invoked the name of my sainted uncle. "
There was once a priest who was blessed with ten tall, strong sons, who were the picture of health. The priest also was the proud owner of a beautiful garden filled with many fragrant flowers and trees. One day the priest decided that he wanted a small garden of little flowers. In order to fulfill his desire, it was necessary to cut down a number of beautiful trees. He proceeded to chop down the trees, planting little flowers instead. Suddenly, as soon as the priest completed his plan, his sons, one by one, became gravely ill and died. In no time, the priest was bereft of nine of his beautiful sons. All but one had died. Suddenly, the youngest son, the only child left to the unfortunate priest, became gravely ill.
The priest turned to doctors, to magicians, to anyone who, in his desperation, he thought could help him. Alas, everything was to no avail as his son lay dying."
A number of his close friends suggested that as a last resort he should travel to Rav Meier M'Premishlan, who was the pre-eminent Jewish sage of the time. He was known to all to be a virtuous, holy man. The priest figured that he might as well go to the great Rebbe. After all, nothing else seemed to work. What did he have to lose? He came to the Rebbe and recounted the terrible tragedies that had befallen him. He pleaded with the Rebbe to intercede on his behalf so that his last remaining son would live."
The Rebbe looked at him with stern eyes and said, "You had a beautiful garden in which grew wonderful fruit trees. You were not satisfied, however, with these trees. You desired a garden of flowers. So, you cut down the trees. Do you realize that you cut down G-d's trees! Are you aware that a man is compared to a tree. To cut down a tree is like destroying a life. The Almighty has taken your sons as punishment for your avaricious behavior. Your coming to me is an indication of your repentance. I, therefore, assure you that your remaining child will be spared." The Rebbe prayed on behalf of the child, and his prayers received a positive response; the child lived."
Rav Mordechai completed the story. Turning to the mayor, he said in an accusing voice, "You are that child that my uncle saved," How dare you repay the good that he produced for you by insisting that I dismantle my succah!" When the mayor heard the story, he fell to his knees in shame, pleading with Rav Mordechai to forgive his insolence. "It is true. It is true," cried the mayor. "I was that boy that was saved. I have forgotten the meaning of gratitude. You may keep your succah and celebrate your festival in the manner that you desire." While the story is loosely connected to the parsha, its message is timely. Hakoras hatov, recognizing the favor one receives and showing appreciation, is a phenomenon which is in great demand. If we would only open our eyes, we would see how much we owe to so many people. If we could only overcome the myopia with which so many of us are plagued , we would not only be better people, we would also be happier people.
You shall take fine flour and you shall bake it twelve loaves --- on the Shabbos day, on the Shabbos day, he shall set in order before Hashem always. (24:5,8)
The twelve loaves of Lechem Hapanim symbolize the twelve tribes. They simultaneously represent a prayer for sustenance of the twelve shevatim and an expression of our gratitude to the Almighty for His sustenance. From the word "tamid", "always," we derive that the Shulchan, Table, is never to be without its twelve loaves. Just as the Kohanim were about to remove the past week's bread in order to eat it, other Kohanim were at the same moment arranging the new weeks Lechem Hapanim on the table. What is the significance of the coincidence of these two actions? If a minute had passed without bread on the Table, would it have been so bad?
Horav Avigdor Miller, Shlita, explains that the concept of "tamid" in regard to bread implies Hashem's Providence. Although all living creatures are constantly consuming bread/ food, yet Hashem continues to supply additional amounts of food constantly. Never are we without Hashem's sustenance. If He were to halt this process for just a moment, we would have a food shortage. He provides all of the time. It is just that we have become accustomed to taking our bread/sustance for granted. Only when our bread is endangered, do we respond to Hashem's wake- up call.
1) Does the injunction regarding a Kohen not being permitted to become tamei to a corpse
apply equally to a Kohen baal mum?
Peninim on the Torah is in its 7th year of publication. The first three years have been published in book form.
The third volume is available at your local book seller or directly from Rabbi Scheinbaum.
He can be contacted at 216-321-5838 ext. 165 or by fax at 216-321-0588.
Discounts are available for bulk orders or Chinuch/Kiruv organizations.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.