A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Emor            8 Iyar 5763              May 10, 2003              Vol.12 No.28

In This Issue:

Rabbi Avi Pollak
Willie Roth
Jesse Dunietz
Natan Santacruz
Food for Thought
Rabbi Howard Jachter

This week's issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by Stuart and Ora Verstandig (Kew Garden Hills) in honor of Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, an outstanding dedicated leader for Klal Yisrael.


Through Heaven's Eyes
by Rabbi Avi Pollak

The first miracle that Elisha HaNavi performed during his many years of leadership was the sweetening of the bitter waters of Yericho.  The Pesukim in Melachim Bet (Perek 3) record that the people of Yericho complained that their water supply had turned sour and unusable.  Facing a dire crisis, they turned to Elisha for help.  Elisha took a bowl, filled it with salt and promptly poured it into the water supply.  In a moment, the water became pure and usable.

This story is strikingly similar to the miracle at Marah  (see Shmot 15:22-26).  Just days after the Jews crossed the sea they ran out of water.  When they finally encountered an oasis in the desert, its waters were found to be bitter and unfit for drinking.  The desperate Jewish People turned to their leader, Moshe Rabbeinu, for help.  Moshe took a tree - etz, threw it into the water and miraculously sweetened the waters.

In both accounts of terrible drought, the Jews were saved with almost identical miracles; bitter waters were sweetened with an equally bitter added agent. 

Why did God and the prophets choose to sweeten the waters by adding more bitterness to the waters rather than adding more sweetness?

The Midrash underscores this difficulty by noting that God does not work the same way that people do.  When people want to sweeten something bitter, they add something sweet.  When God wants to sweeten something bitter, he adds more bitterness.

What are Chazal trying to teach us about God in this puzzling Midrash?

Some Meforshim explain that the key to our questions lies in appreciating the completely opposite perspectives with which man and God view the world.   Man tries to improve difficult situations by injecting good or by removing bad.  But God does not need to add or remove good or bad to improve a situation.  God demonstrates to us that the bad that we observe is only superficially bad and from His perspective everything that occurs fits into the master plan.  We strive to believe that the very things that seem most bitter to us are really not bad in the end and are choreographed by God Himself.  Even bitterness can taste sweet when viewed "through heaven's eyes."


Live Torah, Love Torah
by Willie Roth

In the first Pasuk in this week's Parsha, Hashem says to Moshe: "Emor El Hakohanim Bnei Aharon Viamarta Aleihem," "Say to the Kohanim the sons of Aharon and tell them."  Immediately, Rashi explains why there is a double language of "Emor Viamarta" by saying that Moshe was supposed to speak to the adult Kohanim who should warn and educate the young Kohanim about everything that is said.

However, Rav Moshe Feinstein z"l asks why the word "Viamarta" has anything to with the children - the word Viamarta could be referring to the adult Kohanim!.  He explains that for a father to simply repeat to his child what was told to him is not considered educating the child.  If the child does not see that the commandments are precious to the father, then the child will never listen to the father.  If all that the child hears from the father is the difficulty that the father endures in regard to Shabbos and Yom Tov, then all that the child will learn is that he must stand up to tests.  As a result, the child will not be educated and he will say that he cannot fulfill these tests because he is too weak to conquer his Yetzer Hara.  However, when the child hears how beloved these Mitzvot are to the father, and how these Mitzvot are the father's way of life, then the child will be educated.  This is why the double language is necessary.  One word alludes to the obligation that the father has to fulfill the mitzvot, and the other word is for the love that the father has for the Mitzvah.  Only a lesson like this can be told over to the child.

In these crucial times, it is important for a person to recognize how precious the mitzvot are.  During the Seder on Pesach, it was the wicked son that was not properly educated by the father.  This son did not see how beloved the mitzvot are to the Jewish People.  However, with the Shavuot approaching, we have a chance to reaccept the Torah properly, and we can accept the Mitzvot out of love.  Only then can a person be truly considered educated - when he learns to love the Torah.

The Meaning of a Moed
by Jesse Dunietz

The well-known Parshat HaMoadot, which delineates the specific mitzvot of each of the chagim, is introduced with 23:2: "Daber El Bnei Yisrael Viamarta Aleihem Moadei Hashem Asher Tikreu Otam Mikraei Kodesh - Eileh Heim Moadai."  This comes on the heels of a string of halachot relating to korbanot.  Why the juxtaposition?

The simplest approach is that of Ibn Ezra.  He explains that since the Torah has just spent time telling us about the korbanot themselves, it is logical for the Torah to tell us when we bring them.  However, this explanation seems somewhat difficult.  The section before dealt primarily with individuals' voluntary korbanot, not the communal ones brought on the chagim.  Additionally, the Torah does not describe the musafim of the different chagim here at all; they appear in Parshat Pinchas! 

Sforno has a different, but more philosophical idea, which carries a great lesson.  The previous sections have dealt with the avodah, whose purpose is largely to cause Hashem's Shechinah to rest on Am Yisrael.  Now, the Torah moves on to the moadim, when we try to dedicate our time to learning and other holy matters, through which we also bring Hashem's Shechinah to us.

R' Samson Raphael Hirsch takes a related concept even further.  He explains that the term "moed" indicates something set aside for a specific purpose, i.e. becoming closer to Hashem.  Thus, avodah and the chagim are different manifestations of this same characteristic.  The avodah in the Mishkan (or Ohel Moed) "sets Hashem's Torah as the center point of our lives" - it designates a specific place that has become a moed, a place for closeness to Hashem.  Similarly, the chagim are times that, by virtue of historical events and special commandments, have become occasions to unite with Hashem.

This is the challenge of the moadim.  They are not simply days on which we do the mitzvot described in the Parshat HaMoadot.  We must take advantage of them to engage in holy activities, as the Sforno said, to bring the Shechinah closer, and to recognize their special potential as moadim for connection to Hashem.  May we be zocheh to live up to this challenge, and to become closer to Hashem through His chagim and through our constant devotion to Him.


Building a Legacy
by Natan Santacruz

In Parshat Emor 21:1, the Torah says, "Hashem said to Moshe:  Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and you shall say to them:  to a dead person [the Kohen] should not become impure among his people."  This Pasuk seems repetitive - why does the Torah have to tell us "say to the Kohanim" and then "and you shall say to them"?

The Gemara in Yevamot 114a explains that the Torah is obligating the Kohanim to watch their children's impurity.  The Pasuk is actually saying, "say to the Kohanim that they should tell their children not to come in contact with the dead."

A very valuable lesson can be learned here.  Everyone can teach their children how to do Mitzvot, but how can anyone inspire their children to do Mitzvot on their own?  If the children see their parents refraining from coming in contact with the dead or refraining from eating a food with a questionable Kashrut, they will look up to them and be influenced to also watch themselves from coming in contact with the dead, like in this week's Parsha.


Food for Thought
by Jerry Karp

1. Why is Vayikra 21:13, "Vehu Isha Bivtuleha Yikach," necessary if the next Pasuk delineates marriages that are prohibited to a Kohen and repeats that the Kohen should marry a Betulah?

2. Why are the instructions to bake Lechem Hapanim in Emor, and not in Parshat Terumah where the Torah writes, "Vinatata Al Hashulchan Lechem Panim Lifanai Tamid" (25:30)?

3. Why is the Mikalel referred to primarily as the "the son of a Jewish woman" if the Torah is so intent on introducing him as "the son of an Egyptian man"?

If you have a response to these questions, please contact us.
Responses may be published on agreement of the provider.

Halacha of the Week
If a male has discovered that he has recited Shemoneh Esrei without wearing a Kippah he should repeat Shemoneh Esrei.  Rav Moshe writes that Davening without a Kippah constitutes an abomination (Toevah).


Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Shuky Gross, Effie Richmond
Publication Editors: Jerry Karp, Sam Wiseman
Publication Managers: Orin Ben-Jacob, Danny Shulman
Publishing Manager: Ely Winkler
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