by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS EMOR 5767 BS"DCh. 21, v. 1: "Emor el haKohanim bnei Aharon v'omarto a'leihem l'nefesh lo yitamo" - Tell the Kohanim the sons of Aharon and you shall tell them to a soul he shall not defile himself - The Medrash Tanchuma says that this parsha follows the laws of divining through the prohibited ov and yidoni, a form of finding out what the future holds through occult pursuits dealing with the dead, to teach us that if a person might complain that he is now prohibited from pursuing this knowledge through these occult practices, and has no recourse, that he does have the opportunity of asking the Kohein Godol, who is empowered through the Urim and Tumim that he wears.
Rabbi Yonoson Eibeschitz in Tiferes Y'honoson says that based on this Medrash Tanchuma, we understand why the laws prohibiting Kohanim defiling themselves to dead bodies follows. This teaches us that we should not mistakenly believe that the Kohanim likewise derive their power of relating the future through involving themselves with the dead.
We have a double expression in our verse, "emor, v'omarto." Rashi explains that this means to tell the Kohanim that they likewise should say o their young, "l'hazhir hagdolim al haktanim." If so, it would be more accurate for the Torah to say, "v'omru a'leihem," and THEY, the Kohanim just mentioned, should say. Based on the Medrash Tanchuma and the insight of the Tiferes Y'honoson, we might say that both these commands are to Moshe. First, he should tell the Kohanim to refrain from defiling themselves to the dead, and then, Moshe should also relate this to them, the bnei Yisroel, so that they realize that the Kohanim's power to tell the future is based on the Urim and Tumim, and not on their involvement with the dead. (Nirreh li)
Ch. 21, v. 5,6: "Lo yik'r'chu korchoh, K'doshim yi'h'yu" - They shall not rip hair out, Holy shall they be - Clergymen of other religions would cut their hair in a unique manner, and would also scrape their skin, leaving marks. These acts were done to leave signs on their bodies that would make them recognized as clergymen. However, the Kohanim should not follow this practice. Those of other nations did this because one could not readily discern from their behaviour that they were "men of the cloth," as their everyday lives were fraught with all the shortcomings of the common man, including some very base behaviour. Hashem tells the Kohanim (this law applies to all the bnei Yisroel as well) that they should be holy and this will be their sign of their elevated priestly position. (Mahari"l Diskin)
Ch. 22, v. 32: "V'lo s'chal'lu es shem kodshi" - And you shall not desecrate My Holy Name - Rabbi Avrohom Bardki related that when he was a student of Yeshivas Eitz Chaim in Yerusholayim a few students got into a heated argument in the street in front of the doorway of the Yeshivah. Rabbi Aryeh Levine, the tzadik of Yerusholayim, saw this and brought the students into the building. He read for them the gemara Yoma 86a, which elaborates on the extreme severity of the sin of "chilul Hashem." He began crying and said that he would rather die on the spot than cause a "chilul Hashem." Needless to say, the students got the point.
The Holy Admor of Satmar zt"l related that when he came to the USA, he noted that when a Yeshiva bochur wore his tzitzis visibly, or had pei'os, more "enlightened" Jews would say that this was a "chilul Hashem." When one would wear Chasidic style clothing he would be strongly derided for his "chilul Hashem." The Satmar Rebbe said that he merited to eradicate this "chilul Hashem."
Ch. 22, v. 32: "V'nikdashti b'soch bnei Yisroel" - And I shall be sanctified among the bnei Yisroel - Rabbi Chaim Meyer Hager, the Holy Admor of Viznitz, had the remains of his father, the "O'heiv Yisroel, reburied in the Zichron Meir cemetery in Bnei Brak. This was approximately ten years after his death. The Chazon Ish sent a message to Rabbi Chaim Meyer that he should have the coffin opened in public so that there would be a great sanctification of Hashem's Name, namely, that people would see that the remains of such a holy person were still intact, not subject to decomposition, even after numerous years. (P'eir Hador)
Ch. 23, v. 2: "Mikro'ei kodesh" - Holy callings - The gemara Chagigoh 18a says that "cholo shel mo'eid" is included in "mikro'ei kodesh." The gemara Yerushalmi Mo'eid Koton 2:3 cites Rabbi Aba bar Mamal, who says that if he had another person who would join forces with him, he would institute a leniency, to allow for people to work on "cholo shel mo'eid." This is because he found that people had a lot of free time on their hands and would while away the time with frivolous parties and entertainment. The Kol Bo derives from this that it is a greater sin to involve oneself in these activities than working. This is because Yom Tov, including "cholo shel mo'eid," was given to connect with Hashem through the lessons of that Yom Tov and studying His Holy Torah. Working is only a parve diversion, while frivolities are a total contradiction.
The gemara Yerushalmi Shabbos at the end of chapter #15 says that Shabbosos and Yomim Tovim were given us for the purpose of toiling in Torah, as per the verse, "Ki ekach mo'eid ani meishorim eshpote" (T'hilim 75:3).
There seems to be a contradiction of values in a Yom Tov programme of the highest standards of kashrus, scholar on site, etc., and forms of entertainment that ring of frivolity and "goyishe" copy-cat activities, "v'ha'meivin yovin."
Ch. 23, v. 24: "Bachodesh hashvii b'echod lachodesh" - In the seventh month on the first of the month - As is the rule with every other Yom
Tov that we recite kiddush, on Rosh Hashonoh as well, we say "zeicher litzias Mitzrayim." On Pesach this is clearly understood. On Shovuos as well, it is either as a sort of continuum of Pesach, as explained in the Ramban on our parsha, or that the exodus from Egypt was predicated on our accepting the Torah, as per the verse in Shmos 3:13, "B'hotziacho es ho'om miMitzrayim taavdun es hoElokim al hohor ha'zeh." Sukos likewise has the Sukoh/clouds of glory connection. What is the remembrance of the exodus from Egypt aspect of Rosh Hashonoh?
Perhaps it is simply that historically the servitude in Egypt came to an end on Rosh Hashonoh, as stated in the gemara R.H. 10b. (Nirreh li)
Ch. 23, v. 28: "Ki Yom Kipurim hu l'cha'peir a'leichem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem" - Because it is Yom Kipurim to atone for you in front of Hashem your G-d - This is an explanation for the need to fast. The atonement takes place when you draw close to, and are in front of, "lifnei," Hashem Elokeichem. In front of Hashem, in His heavenly spheres, there is no eating, nor drinking. (Nirreh li)
The Chinuch mitzvoh #317 says that eating and drinking are a mental distraction from seeking atonement.
Ch. 24, v. 2: "Shemen zayis" - Olive oil - Paa'nei'ach Rozo writes that these words follow the holidays to teach us that it is preferable to use olive oil for the lights kindled in honour of the Yomim Tovim.
The Baal Haturim and Rabbeinu Chaim Paltiel write that it alludes to Chanukah follows Sukos.
"V'lokachto so'les v'ofiso" of verse 5 alludes to the Seudas Purim, and the story of the blasphemer being hung follows, alluding to Homon being hung. (R'i of Vienna)
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