by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues
SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS EMOR 5774 BS"DCh. 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 …… kodosh yi'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. 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. 21, v. 8: "V'kidashto" - Rashi says that one is required to sanctify a Kohein against the Kohein's will. The Holy Admor Rabbi Yitzchok of Vorke says that specifically a Kohein whose wish it is that he receive no preferential treatment is the Kohein who deserves to be sanctified.
While on the subject of a Kohein who wishes to not be held in sanctified esteem, if indeed he tells us that he wants to forgo this privilege are we still required to sanctify him?
The Rambam in his Sefer Hamitzvos writes that we must still do so. The Shulchan Oruch O.Ch. #128 writes that we need not give him special treatment. It seems that these two opinions are mentioned in the Tosefta Sanhedrin chapter 3, which says, "If a Kohein wishes to bathe with other people in the public bathhouse he may do so. Rabbi Yehudoh says that he may not, as per the word in our verse "v'kidashto."
Ch. 21, v. 14: "Ki im b'suloh mei'amov yikach ishoh" - The Moshav Z'keinim says that the reason the Torah prohibited a Kohein Godol from marrying a widow, who is allowed to a regular Kohein, is because if he were allowed to marry a widow there is a fear that when he is doing the service of the incense on Yom Kippur in the Holy of Holies, where his entreaties are readily fulfilled by Hashem, he might pray that the husband of a woman in whom he is interested in marrying, should die. This is a most startling "chidush," as he is involved in such holy service on the holiest day of the year in the holiest location in the world. As well, he is not assured that the woman who might be widowed would agree to become his wife. We see from the words of the Moshav Z'keinim that in spite of all this, there is a fear of his having such matters on his mind. This might be a new insight into why we read the parsha of forbidden marriage partners during the "minchoh" prayers of Yom Kippur.
Ch. 21, v. 21,22: "Kol ish asher bo moom mi'zera Aharon haKohein lo yigash l'hakriv, Lechem Elokov ...... yocheil" - The Torah teaches us an important lesson. If a person is unable to function in a capacity that would bring him sustenance we are responsible to sustain him, just as the Kohein who has a physical blemish that renders him unfit to serve in the Mikdosh is still allowed to eat of the sacrifices. On the other hand, if he is able to do any sort of work, he should pursue it, as we find in the gemara Yoma 54a that the Kohein who has a physical blemish that renders him unfit to serve in the Mikdosh is given the task of deworming the wood used as fuel on the altar. (Oznayim laTorah)
Ch. 23, v. 22: "Uvkutz'r'chem es k'tzir artz'chem" - Rashi explains why this mitzvoh of leaving over produce for the poor man is placed in the middle of the listing of the Yomim Tovim. A simple explanation is that it is between Shovuos and Rosh Hashonoh that the majority of produce develops and harvesting begins. This explanation is not very satisfactory as even agricultural charity to the poor man is still off topic in the middle of discussing the Yomim Tovim. Perhaps another insight might be that one might feel that upon accepting the Torah on Shovuos he is very strongly connected to Hashem. The Torah therefore tells us that this spiritual connection "bein odom laMokome" is not enough. One must also act with compassion in this physical world, embodied by agricultural pursuits, and leave of his produce for the poor man, "bein odom lacha'veiro." This would also explain the order of the mishnoh. Its first volume is Brochos and is followed by Pei'oh. The first mishnoh in Brochos deals with the laws of reading "Shma" and "V'hoyoh im shomo'a." These two chapters embody the commitment to believe in Hashem, "kabolas ole malchus shomayim," and commitment to fulfill the mitzvos, "kabolas ole mitzvos." Right on its heels follows the mishnoh tractate Pei'oh to teach that even when one has committed himself to Hashem he must still remember to be compassionate to his fellow man by leaving Pei'oh etc. in the field.
A GUTTEN SHABBOS KODESH. FEEL FREE TO DISTRIBUTE BY COPY OR ELECTRONICALLY.
FEEDBACK IS APPRECIATED. TO SUBSCRIBE, KINDLY SEND REQUEST TO: SHOLOM613@ROGERS.COM
Back to This Week's Parsha| Previous Issues
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.
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to email@example.com