Emor: Connecting with your Fellow Jew
Thursday, May 03, 2007 / 15 Iyar 5767
“…He shall not contaminate himself to his father or his mother.” (21:11)
Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch provides further explanation.
The reason why the Torah permitted the Kohen in the Beis Hamigdash to become ‘Tamei – or impure’ when one of his close relatives died was so that the honor of the deceased not be violated and that a proper and respectful burial be ensured. Thus, the Torah allowed the Kohen to participate so that everything would be cared for.
However, the Kohen Gadol – the High Priest – was not allowed to involve himself even in the unfortunate passing of his parents. Why?
Explains R’ Shternbuch, the Kohen Gadol was the representative of the Jewish nation in the holy Temple. Likewise, it was incumbent upon the nation as a whole to care for all of his personal needs so that he be able to care for their daily spiritual needs in the Temple.
Therefore, the Torah instructed the Kohen Gadol not involve himself because it was the Jewish nation who was required to care for his deceased relative.
The Rebbe of Kotzk takes it one step further. The Kohen Gadol was the representative of the Jewish people who would perform the daily service on behalf of all Jews no matter where they were or who they were.
Hence, all Jews – be they his relatives or not – were in the same category. They were all simply his Jewish brothers and sisters. Thus, the death of his relative was tragic, but no different then the passing of any single Jew. Just as he wouldn’t make himself impure for a non-relative, he wouldn’t do so for a relative.
He was required to connect in his heart with all Jews from all across the spectrum.
The following story illustrates how one Torah giant connected with each and every Jew no matter how great or small his stature was.
The Chozeh of Lublin would serve the even the most simplest guests who dined at his home himself. Once, at the conclusion of the meal, a poor attendee saw how the Chozeh was clearing the table.
Bewildered, he asked, “I understand that you serve us personally to fulfill the commandment of Hachnosas Orchim (hospitality), but why do you clean up afterwards? You can have your servants do that.”
The Chozeh replied, “On the Day of Atonement, when the Kohen Gadol would complete the service in the holy of holies (the Kodesh Kadashim) he himself would remove the fire pan and its’ spoon. This mitzvah is no less important.”
(Source: Major Impact! By: Rabbi Dovid Kaplan)
We all belong to one nation. One heart, one soul. By caring for and connecting with all of our ‘family’ will we merit the rebuilding of the Beis Hamigdash, Amen.
Quote of the Week: “Getting to the top of the ladder is just the beginning.” (Jewish proverb)
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Emor: The Internal You
Thursday, May 08, 2008 / 3 Iyar 5768
“They shall not make a bald spot on their heads, and they shall not shave an edge of their beard; and in their flesh they shall not cut a gash. They shall be holy to their G-d…” (Vayikra 21:5-6)
The Maharal Diskin offers an enlightening explanation. The leaders of other faiths are known for their alternative modes of dress, in comparison to their followers. This, explains the Maharal, is due to the lack of difference between the two deep within their hearts. Thus, there is a necessity to outwardly distinguish themselves from their followers.
However, when it comes to the Kohanim, the high priests in the Beis Hamigdash, the Torah required that, “They shall be holy to their G-d…” (Ibid.). By doing so, they, as a result if their lofty spiritual ideals and actions, will be set on high on a spiritual plateau.
What defines our leaders is based upon the difference between our levels of spirituality and theirs. We do not look merely at the outside manifestation. Being a leader is a matter of privilege not choice.
And so, this is how it has been over the history of our nation. Our leaders are ones of standing, knowledge, and example who guide us along throughout turbulent times based upon the Torah’s code of conduct. We do not look up to figure heads who lack the essential traits and tenets of leadership, but seek counsel from those who are recipients of our rich heritage and tradition.
One such leader was the late Chassidic Rebbe of Satmar. The Rebbe enjoyed a close relationship with a famous community activist, Mike Tress, who held tremendous respect for the Rebbe though he himself was not a Chasid.
The Rebbe’s followers once asked him as to why the Rebbe held the man in such regard. He was a ‘litvak’ (non-Chasidic), had no beard and stood out in their community.
The Rebbe replied sharply. “After 120 years, when Mike goes up to heaven they will ask him, Yid Yid (Jew, Jew), where is your beard? When you ascend, they will ask, Beard Beard, where is your Yid?”
The lesson is clear. In a society where marketing and looks define the person, place and thing, it is imperative that we look beyond the externals and focus on truly lies within.
Whether it’s choosing a leader and ensuring that his outlook is based upon the beliefs we stand for, or in our personal and spiritual lives where we constantly choose what we make part and parcel of our lives.
There comes a time when we all need to take stock of what we cling to, and what defines our lifestyle. In the spirit of Parshas Emor, and the command of ‘They shall be holy’, there is no better time. Let us begin.
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