Thursday, May 12, 2016

Dvar Torah for Parshas Emor

       The “nickname” of Sefer Vayikra is Toras Kohanim since it contains the special laws that pertain only to the children of Aharon. Parshas Emor fits this theme very well.
       The parsha begins with the important laws concerning Kohanim and impurity. “…אֱמֹ֥ר אֶל־הַכֹּֽהֲנִ֖ים בְּנֵ֣י אַֽהֲרֹ֑ן וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֣ אֲלֵהֶ֔ם לְנֶ֥פֶשׁ לֹֽא־יִטַּמָּ֖א בְּעַמָּֽיו“…Speak to the Kohanim, the children of Aharon, and say to them: ‘Let none of you defile himself for a dead person among his relatives.’ (Vayikra 21:1). One of the conditions of their special status is that Kohanim are not allowed to become tamei mes (spiritually impure as a result of coming into contact with a dead body) except to close relatives whom the Torah lists by name.
       The above quoted pasuk begins with seemingly superfluous phrases. First, the pasuk says to speak to “the Kohanim, the children of Aharon.” We know that the Kohanim are Aharon’s descendants; the pasuk only needs to say to speak to the Kohanim or the children of Aharon. Why does it write both? Secondly, the pasuk says to “speak to the Kohanim” and “say to them.” Only one of these phrases is needed for the pasuk to make sense, why are both written?
       The Kli Yakar explains that the pasuk is explaining the standard to which all Kohanim must hold themselves. Aharon, and every Kohen Gadol that followed him, was the holiest man on earth during his tenure as Kohen Gadol as he was the source for Hashem’s kedushah in this world. The kedushah would extend to his children, i.e. the other Kohanim, but was not as strong on them as on him since they were further from the source. Therefore, while Kohanim were allowed to become tamei mes to a few select relatives, the Kohen Gadol was not allowed to become tamei for anyone, even his parents! Since his kedushah came directly from Hashem, he was not allowed to “disturb” that flow. However, the other Kohanim only received their kedushah through him; their kedushah only came through their being “bnei Aharon”, while the Kohen Gadol’s came through his own greatness.
       This explains why the pasuk uses these extra phrases. First, the pasuk describes them both as Kohanim and as sons of Aharon so the Kohanim would understand that even though they are on a higher level of kedushah than the average Jew, they must know where their kedushah came from and appreciate the greatness of the Kohen Gadol.
       Then, the pasuk twice says to speak to them so they should understand the extent of their obligations. First, that Moshe should speak to them as Bnei Aharon, meaning that they are connected to Aharon and therefore shouldn’t become tamei in any capacity. The second time, the pasuk says he should speak to them, as themselves. This means that they don’t have an innate kedushah like the Kohen Gadol, and therefore, there are a few people to whom they can become tamei.
       Then the Kli Yakar brings an exact opposite explanation. Hashem tells Moshe to speak to the Kohanim as the sons of Aharon, stressing that they have a personal connection to the person who is the source of kedushah for the entire world! However, they may feel that if not for that connection, they would lack that special privilege of being a Kohen. Therefore, Hashem tells Moshe to speak to them, to show them that even without the direct connection to Aharon, they are still special; they are the Kohanim, the direct link between the nation and Hashem! Therefore, they can become tamei to certain people, but not all.
       Most of us are not Kohanim. But even though we aren’t genetic Kohanim, each and every Jew has an obligation to be a Kohen (See Shemos 19:6). This means that just like the Kohanim are on a spiritual level above the rest of the nation and have an obligation to maintain that level, we all have an obligation to be on and maintain a higher spiritual level than the rest of the world. May we all be zoche to become Kohanim in the truest sense!

Shabbat Shalom!

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