SPARKS OF TORAH
VOLUME 60 NUMBER 7
MAY 11, 2012
IYAR 19, 5772
Candle-lighting Time: 7:46 PM
3-Part Shavuos Series with Aliza Bulow, R’ Menachem Nissel and Ita Leban on 3 Monday nights, continues this week, May14th at 8:00 pm at the new Southeast JCC location.
Tell Me, Tell Me, Tell Me
by Rabbi Raphael Leban
In the beginning of this week’s Parsha, called Emor or ‘Tell’ in English, G-d commands Moshe to tell the Kohanim some particular laws which are unique to them. The first verse oddly repeats the word ‘tell’ three times. G-d tells Moshe to tell them and tell them. It goes without saying that Jews are good talkers, why does the Torah need to repeat the word ‘tell’ so much?
Our Sages explain the repetition as follows: it’s to impress upon the adult Kohanim to motivate their children to observe these special laws. Tell them, tell them and then really tell them.
How do you motivate someone? Besides shouting at them. Repetition. You repeat something that you want to make sure is being heard. Over and over and over again.
On the other hand, all of the Torah has to be taught to our children, and it’s certainly going to require more repetition than, “Take out the garbage.” Why does this parsha begin with a special reminder for Kohanim parents to be repetitive?
The laws that are unique to the Kohanim require special repetition, because they distinguish the Kohanim from the rest of the people. If a Kohen just goes with the flow, he’ll totally miss upholding these laws. He has to be especially watchful and careful to remember these particular things that set him apart from the crowd. Thus the repetition.
During the seven-week period known as Sefiras HaOmer, between Passover and Shavuos, we have a mitzvah to count the passing days. Each day we verbally count the day, one at a time, until we reach Shavuos. On that day, we stood at the foot of Mount Sinai and entered into an eternal bond with the Creator of the Universe. We became special.
Every night, when we count the Omer, it’s another reminder not to just go with flow. We repeat to ourselves over and over again, that only with watchfulness and care can we fulfill our national contract, and stand out from the crowd of humanity.
Must We Wait?
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
In Parshas Emor the Torah details different types of impurity which prohibit a Kohen from taking his portion from the various sacrifices. Sometimes he even needs to bring an offering as the concluding segment of his purification process. This indicates that even though he has immersed himself in the mikvah and has already begun the process, he is still somewhat impure and needs to bring his offering to become totally pure. Despite this, he is allowed, while still somewhat impure, to eat terumah, the tithe from the harvest which is given to the Kohen. The reason for this is because it is his ‘bread,’ or main staple of food. Although he is permitted to eat terumah, he cannot eat from the sacrifices until he has become completely pure.
Why does the Torah allow a partially impure Kohen to eat terumah, which is somewhat sacred, albeit not at the same level of sanctity as the offerings. Why permit this desecration of terumah when the Kohen could just wait until the next day after having brought his sacrifice?
We may suggest the following. Life is a balance between pursuing that which is beneficial to a person and avoiding corruption which contaminates one’s very essence. Here is a prime example of this. This Kohen has become defiled in some fashion. The very act of contacting that which is impure is in and of itself a contamination of the soul. Obviously, it is urgent for the Kohen to regain his prior status of purity. Shall we forsake such an individual and bar him from the normal necessities of life? Of course, the answer is a resounding no! Although we strive to attain a life steeped in service of Hashem and to avoid the distractions of life that serve to deter us from our goal, nonetheless we cannot circumvent and ignore the reality of this world and its necessities.
Indeed, Chovas Halevovos, written around the time of Nachmonides, says quite clearly that if one forsakes the reality of this world and severs his ties with the physical, he is not fulfilling the mandate that Hashem has set before him. On the contrary, we are charged by the Torah with the obligation to integrate the Torah’s ideals into the polluted waters that we swim in. Neither side of the equation is complete if we only follow one facet of life and ignore the other. We are certainly aware of the eventual downfall of a life devoted purely to the physical entrapments of this world. So too, the opposite. If one is only involved in the spiritual without involvement in the needs of this world, it is also not the avenue that Hashem desires us to follow.
Additionally, it may be suggested that this is the reason that the Torah refers to the terumah that the Kohen is allowed to eat as his meal or bread. Philosophically speaking, the Torah is alluding to this very viewpoint. One’s ‘bread’ or main staple is a reference to the fact that such an attitude toward life, one that merges the physical needs with the scope and depth of the spiritual, is the fundamental approach to success in life. This attitude is certainly definitive of Shavuos. Even though Shavuos represents the day when we received the Torah, we are cautioned to attend to our festive needs and enjoy the delicious meals that enhance this Yom Tov. For in the final analysis, the Torah was given to people, not to the angels, and therefore it must exist within that context.
Byte For Shabbos
The days of the counting of the Sefirah assist us in our service of Hashem. Just as our forefathers were transformed at this time from hard labor with mortar and bricks into a nation betrothed to Hashem and the Torah, so too can we utilize this time to increase our appreciation of the Torah.
Joke of the Week
A Hebrew school teacher said to her children, “We have been learning how powerful the kings and queens were in Torah times. But, there is a higher power. Can anybody tell me what it is?”
One child blurted out, “Aces!”
A Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher
The Torah commands us to sanctify the name of G-d, as the verse states, “And I will be sanctified among the children of Israel” (Leviticus 22:32). The Talmud (Sanhedrin 74a) explains that this mitzvah includes the obligation to give up one’s life rather than worship idols or convert to an idolatrous religion. Throughout Jewish history, many Jews both old and young have fulfilled this commandment and sacrificed their lives rather than submit to conversion and apostasy. However, commandments are generally only incumbent upon adult Jews (13 years of age for males, 12 years for females). Are minors included in the commandment of sanctification of G-d’s name? Rabbi Yaakov Kamenetzky (Emet L’Yaakov, Leviticus, ibid) maintains that since the commandment is phrased in passive form, “I will be sanctified,” it is not the action which is the commandment, but the resultant sanctification that is crucial. If the action would be emphasized then it would follow the normal rules for commandments and children would be exempt. However, since the goal is the result and that can be achieved by anyone, therefore all are obligated, even children.
Reprinted with permission from Parsha Partner, a publication of Partners in Torah. Please add us to your weekly Parsha reading list. www.partnersintorah.org/parshapartner