Due to the eighth day of Pesach falling out on Shabbos, Eretz Yisrael and CHU"L will be one parsha off for the next several weeks. Since we are based in Eretz Yisrael, we will be following their schedule. Please click here for the dvar Torah and Podcast for this week's Parsha being read in CHU"L (Acharei Mos-Kedoshim).
Sefer Vayikra is known as “Toras Kohanim”, as it deals with many of the different laws concerning the Kohanim and their service in the Beis Hamikdash. Parshas Emor follows this theme by examining some of the requirements and restrictions in being part of the Kohen family. These were established in order to maintain the purity of the holiest sect of the Jewish people. However, there is a story, albeit a tragic one on the surface, which shows the holiness present within all members of Bnei Yisrael.
At the end of the parsha, the pasuk tells us of a fight between two people, a Jew and the son of the Jewish women. The second man ended up publicly cursing the name of Hashem, an offense punishable by death. Hashem commands the Bnei Yisrael, through Moshe, to kill the offender, and they comply eagerly to fulfill the word of Hashem. This is seen clearly as the parsha ends with the phrase, “וּבְנֵֽי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֣ל עָשׂ֔וּ כַּֽאֲשֶׁ֛ר צִוָּ֥ה יְהֹוָ֖ה אֶת־משֶֽׁה” “And the children of Yisrael did as Hashem commanded Moshe” (Vayikra 24:23).
By examining the pasuk in its entirety, however, we can question why it was necessary to say this phrase at all. The first half of the pasuk reads, “וַיְדַבֵּ֣ר משֶׁה֘ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵל֒ וַיּוֹצִ֣יאוּ אֶת־הַֽמְקַלֵּ֗ל אֶל־מִחוּץ֙ לַמַּֽחֲנֶ֔ה וַיִּרְגְּמ֥וּ אֹת֖וֹ אָ֑בֶן” “And Moshe spoke to the Bnei Yisrael. And they took the blasphemer outside the camp and stoned him” (ibid). Hashem told Bnei Yisrael to take him out and stone him and that’s exactly what they did; why does the pasuk have to follow that up by saying that they did exactly what Hashem told them? Can’t we tell that’s what happened?
The Ohr HaChaim gives several answers to this question. He explains that this whole story started as a fight between two men. You could assume that the nation was siding with the first guy and was only too happy to go along with Hashem’s command to get rid of the second. The pasuk points out to us that this was not true; they only went along with this because it was a direct commandment from Hashem, without any thoughts of revenge. The second answer he brings is that while it wasn’t possible for each and every person to physically take part in removing this person from the camp, they all had intent to perform the mitzvah of fulfilling the commandment of Hashem, and therefore they all received credit for it. So the pasuk first mentions the people who physically took part in the mitzvah and then includes everyone else in its fulfillment.
Perhaps the story of an entire nation willingly participating in the killing of an individual isn’t the greatest example to share of how eager we are to follow the word of Hashem. However, this was not an out of control mob thirsty for blood. The pasuk (12) clearly states that they placed him in holding until it was determined what to do with him. They were ready to accept whatever verdict they were told. Only once they knew what was required did they take him out and kill him. This whole story is a testament to the desire of the nation to do only that which Hashem commanded them to, and to do so with the purest of intentions. In this way, they were all from the holiest sect of the nation, just like Kohanim.
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