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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 21, v. 1: "Emor el haKohanim .. v'omarto" - Commentators explain the double expression. However, Haksav V'hakaboloh says that these words are not a double expression. "Emor el haKohanim" is to be understood as "elevate the young Kohanim." We find that the word form "amir" means a new branch that sprouts at the top of a tree. Elevate the young Kohanim by telling them what is required of them.

Ch. 21, v. 1: "Emor .. v'omarto" - Rashi (gemara Y'vomos 114a) says that this teaches us "l'hazhir hagdolim al haktanim." Warn those who consider themselves great, "hagdolim," to be careful to not transgress even minor sins, "haktanim." (Kedushas Levi)

Ch. 21, v. 1: "L'nefesh lo yitamo" - The previous parsha ends with the prohibition against "ove vidoni," divining through the occult. The priests of the nations who do this communicate with the dead. In stark contrast, our verse tells the Kohanim to distance themselves from the dead. (Sfas Emes)

Ch. 21, v. 2: "Lish'eiro" - The gemara Y'vomos 22b says that this word means one's wife. Haksav V'hakaboloh explains that the literal translation of "sh'eir," is "that which remains." This is therefore a most fitting description of one's wife, as she enables her husband to reproduce and leave over children after his death.

Ch. 21, v. 8: "V'kidashto ki es lechem Elokecho hu makriv" - The M'lo Ho'omer asks, "Since there are numerous sanctified activities that only a Kohein may do, why does the Torah hinge our responsibility to sanctify him specifically on his bringing sacrifices to Hashem?" He answers that the gemara Chulin 11a derives the axiom "haloch achar horov," we follow the majority, i.e. the most likely probability, from the laws of offering sacrifices. They must be kosher. Technically we can never be sure that this is so since there may have been a flaw in the animal that renders it "treifoh." Even if after its slaughter we were to do an autopsy of sorts, literally dissecting the animal limb by limb, we cannot be sure that there was no flaw in it. For example, if we were to cut open its skull, perhaps there was a puncture exactly on the spot that it was cut. We must conclude, says the gemara, that we follow the majority. We assume that this animal was kosher, as the majority of animals do not have a flaw that renders it a "treifoh." Thus we have a proof that we follow the more probable possibility.

We now understand the linkage between the Kohein's offering sacrifices and sanctifying him. If one were to say that we should not sanctify any Kohein, as there is the possibility that his father is not a Kohein, i.e. his mother conceived from another person, we counter that we find that the Kohein offers sacrifices to Hashem, and we do not fear that the animal was a "treifoh," because we follow the axiom of "haloch achar horov," assuming that the animal is of the majority, which are not "treifoh," so too, everyone must sanctify the Kohein, assuming that he is indeed a Kohein because of this exact same reasoning.

Ch. 21, v. 8: "V'kidashto ki es lechem ElokeCHO hu makriv" - In other verses we find that the Kohein's sanctity is predicated on "THEIR G-d" or "HIS G-d," as in verse 6, where "(l)Eilokei'HEM" is mentioned three times, and in verse 7, "lEilokOV." Why in our verse does it say "lechem ElokeCHO," YOUR G-d? The Chasam Sofer answers that in our verse, which begins with the word "v'kidashto," we are discussing even a Kohein who has sinned by marrying a divorced woman. We sanctify him by forcing him to divorce this woman if he is not disposed to do so out of his own volition, as per the gemara Y'vomos 88b. Similarly we find that even if a Kohein is a sinner, he may perform the ritual of "n'sias kapayim," raising his hands in blessing the bnei Yisroel (Tur Shulchan Oruch O.Ch. #128). In spite of his still being allowed to perform this ritual, it is obvious that he does not bring a great measure of sanctity into his functions. This is why our verse says that this Kohein offers YOUR sacrifice to Hashem, not wanting to mention that it is also his offering.

Ch. 21, v. 8: "V'kidashto .. kodosh y'h'yeh loch" - Rashi (gemara Gitin 59b) says that we sanctify the Kohein by giving him the first turn and honouring him to lead the grace after meals.

These days the people whom we hold as Kohanim are people who have had this status from generation to generation, i.e. the previous generation tells us that the fathers of today's Kohanim received the first "aliyoh," that they "duchaned," gave the priestly benediction, etc.

If a complete stranger comes to a community and claims that he is a Kohein, do we believe him? If yes, to what extent? The Shulchan Oruch E.H. 3:1 says that these days if a stranger claims that he is a Kohein we do not believe him, neither regarding the privilege of receiving the first "aliyoh," nor regarding "duchaning." The Ram"o writes that we do allow him to do either of these two rituals, since the main concern we have is that if we trust him to do either of these two rituals there is the fear that he will gain the status of Kohein in the eyes of the masses, and one might offer him "trumoh," which may only be consumed by a Kohein. Since "trumoh" is not offered to any Kohein nowadays, we allow him the privileges of the first "aliyoh" and "duchanen." The Chelkas M'chokeik, a commentator on the Shulchan Oruch writes that the basis of the Ram"o's ruling is the writings of the Rama"k. However, the Rama"k only permitted his receiving the first "aliyoh," because even a Yisroel may receive the first "aliyoh." It is only by Rabbinical injunction to avoid discord that it was instituted to give a Kohein the first "aliyoh," as per the mishneh Gitin 59a. We therefore trust him, as the worst-case scenario is that he will only have transgressed a Rabbinical ruling. However, regarding "duchanen," if a non-Kohein does this ritual, he will have transgressed a Torah law, an "issur a'sei," as per the gemara Ksubos 24b. The Rama"k therefore does not allow a person to "duchan" based only on his own say so that he is a Kohein. The Beis Shmuel, another major commentator on the Shulchan Oruch, likewise agrees with the Chelkas M'chokeik.

The Chasam Sofer questions even his being allowed an "aliyoh" as a Kohein when there are other "established" Kohanim present. How can his "doubtful" right to "v'kidashto" push away their "definite" privilege of "v'kidashto"? The Chasam Sofer justifies the position of the Rama"k, Chelkas M'chokeik, and Beis Shmuel with an insightful approach to the mitzvoh of "v'kidashto." He says that the mitzvoh of "v'kidashto" is not centred on the so-called Kohein factually being a Kohein, but on our showing reverence to "k'hunoh," priesthood. If we believe that a person is a Kohein and sanctify him by giving him the first "aliyoh" because of this belief, even if factually it is not so, we have properly fulfilled "v'kidashto." However, this is not true regarding other matters, i.e. giving him "trumoh," allowing him to "duchan." Regarding these and other matters, the Torah requires an halachically acceptable Kohein.

It would seem that according to these words of the Chasam Sofer, one who claims that he need not sanctify a Kohein because there is the possibility that he is not truly a Kohein, as his mother might have conceived through a non-Kohein, an issue dealt with earlier in this verse by the M'lo Ho'omer, is rebutted.fs Even if he is halachically not a Kohein, i.e. we do not apply "haloch achar horov," as long as we sanctify him because we think he might be a Kohein, we have sanctified the institution of K'hunoh.

Ch. 23, v. 14: "V'lechem v'koli v'charmel lo sochlu ad etzem ha'yom ha'zeh" - This is the prohibition of consuming grain of the new crop before the "omer" meal offering is brought. The Chasam Sofer in his responsa O.Ch. #15 writes that one who does not avail himself of the Rabbinical loophole to write a "pruzbul" and collects his debts after the "shmitoh" year, should not be given the sixth "aliyoh" of parshas R'ei, because it contains the verse "lo yogose es rei'eihu" (Dvorim 15:2), the prohibition against collecting debts that are rendered null and void by the passage of the "shmitoh" year. One should not be honoured with the reading that he transgresses.

The Chasam Sofer writes that he learned this concept from his teacher Rabbi Noson haKohein Adler, who would not allow the "aliyoh" of Levi, which contains the prohibition against consuming "chodosh," to be given on Sukos to one who does not adhere to this prohibition. By the time Sukos rolls around the grain that was harvested is already "chodosh." How can we honour one with the "aliyoh" that contains the prohibition of "chodosh" if he transgresses it? Rabbi Noson haKohein Adler posits that the prohibition of "chodosh" is of Torah nature even today, as is the opinion of the majority of halachic authorities. For more on the "chodosh" issue, see Shulchan Oruch O.Ch. #489, Ba"ch on Tur Shulchan Oruch Y.D. #293, and Ta"z on Shulchan Oruch Y.D. #293 s.k. 2.

Ch. 23, v. 40: "Va'anaf eitz ovose" - These words refer to the "hadasim." In Shulchan Oruch O.Ch. 646:6-9 it states that if the "hadasim's" leaves are totally died out they are invalid. If however, they are only wilted they are acceptable. If the majority of the "hadasim's" leaves are totally dried out but we are left with a group of three fresh leaves at the top of each of the three "hadasim" stalks, they are also acceptable. However, if they are wilted they are invalid.

The Chofetz Chaim allegorically applied these rulings to the worldwide situation of the bnei Yisroel. When the majority of the bnei Yisroel is fresh, i.e. committed to the Torah's values, then even if they are somewhat flawed, it is acceptable by Hashem. If however, the majority is totally dried out, i.e. behaving in a manner that has no semblance of one who fulfills the Torah's precepts, then the few who are faithful must be fresh, totally committed to Hashem's Torah with no shortcomings to be able to protect the bnei Yisroel.



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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