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This Issue's Halacha Article

Parshat Emor

17 Iyar 5767

May 5, 2007

Vol.16 No.29

In This Issue:

Charity for Hashem

by Rabbi Ezra Weiner

Rashi notes a difficulty in the Parashat Moadim, the section in Parashat Emor that deals with the holidays. In between the discussion of the laws of the Korbanot of Shavuot and Rosh HaShanah, there is a Pasuk that reviews the laws of gifts to the poor, the Matnot Aniyim. These gifts include Leket, Shichecha, and Peiah, which everyone is obligated to give from his field. However, we are already familiar with Matnot Aniyim from last week's Parasha, Kedoshim, where the Torah commands us, "UVeKutzrechem Et Ketzir Artzechem Lo Techaleh Pe'at Sadecha LiKtzor VeLeket Ketzirecha Lo Telakeit," "And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap the corner of your field or gather the gleaning of your harvest" (VaYikra 19:9). What message is the Torah teaching by restating this Pasuk while dealing with the Korbanot of the holidays?

The Midrash Torat Kohanim presents an answer in the name of Rav Avdimi ben Rav Yosef, who says that this Pasuk comes to teach us that anyone who properly gives Leket, Shichecha, and Peiah to the poor is considered as if he had built the Beit HaMikdash and offered Korbanot within it. Maharal wonders why this blessing is reserved for one who performs the Mitzvot of Leket, Shichecha, and Peiah and not for one who gives Tzedakah regularly as discussed in Parashat Re'eh. Why do Chazal make this comparison only in regards to Matnot Aniyim?

Maharal explains that as long as one gives Tzedakah as a response to the plight of the poor, he isn't giving because he wishes to fulfill the will of Hashem. Our performance of Mitzvot is governed by the principle of "Gadol HaMetzuvah VeOseh MiMi SheAino Metzuveh VeOseh," "One who performs Mitzvot because he is commanded to is greater than one who performs them when he is not commanded to" (Kiddushin 31a). Matnot Aniyim, on the other hand, are not given in response to any pleas, but rather are left for the poor to collect. Therefore, this charity is done solely because it is Hashem's will. Farmers don't necessarily see the poor, and therefore leave their gifts because Hashem commanded them to do so, and not because they feel compelled to help someone in need. Unlike regular Tzedakah, Matnot Aniyim are completely altruistic in nature, and therefore one who fulfills Matnot Aniyim specifically is likened to one who has offered a Korban to Hashem.

It is surely a great Mitzvah to give Tzedakah when requested to do so. But it is even greater to give it unsolicited out of desire to fulfill Hashem's will. By engaging all forms of Tzedakah, we can help speed the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash and the reinstitution of Korbanot.

Accept the Power

by Seth Feuerstein-Rudin

When discussing the special laws pertaining to the Kohanim, Hashem commands Moshe to tell Bnei Yisrael, "VeKidashto," "And you (singular) should sanctify him" (VaYikra 21:8). Shouldn't the command to those who need to sanctify the Kohanim be in plural, for it is incumbent upon all of Bnei Yisrael to sanctify them? Furthermore, if the Mitzvah is to glorify all Kohanim, why does the Torah command us to sanctify "him," the singular Kohen, and not "them," all of the Kohanim?

Our first difficulty can be alleviated by appreciating who the command was being transmitted to, namely Moshe. The command of "VeKidashto" was in fact rather revolutionary, as the obligation to sanctify the Kohanim elevated them to a level higher than Moshe. Therefore, Moshe might have felt some animosity towards the Kohanim for "stealing" his unchallenged superiority. However, with this new order Hashem told Moshe to embrace this command the same way that Aharon, the elder of the two brothers, had accepted Moshe's ascension to the leadership of Am Yisrael with unbridled happiness years before.

I would like to suggest an answer to our second question as to why the Kohanim, a plural entity, are mentioned in the singular. This singular person clearly refers to Aharon, since Aharon was the original Kohen and, as the Kohen Gadol, the leader of the Kohanim. In this case, while the command seems to relate only to him, Aharon is in fact serving as the representative of the Kohanim, as the commandment applies not only to him, but to all of his descendants as well.

Hashem's command to Moshe imbues the important message of accepting authority. There is a clear necessity to embrace our friends and the power they may enjoy, even if that grants them the ability to be greater than us. By giving our assistance and putting our support behind them, we can bring them, and hopefully ourselves, to even greater heights.

Careful Thought

by Binyamin Segal

The Pasuk in Parashat Emor states, "Almanah UGrushah VaChalalah Zonah Et Eileh Lo Yikach," "A widow or one who is divorced or a profaned women or a harlot; these [the Kohen Gadol] shall not take" (VaYikra 21:14). Why are the Halachot regarding whom a Kohen Gadol may marry different from those of a regular Kohen Hedyot?

The Moshav Zekeinim gives an answer. On the holiday of Yom Kippur, when the Kohen Gadol goes into the Kodesh HaKadashim, he recites the Sheim HaMeforash of HaKadosh Baruch Hu. While he is reciting the Shem HaMeforash, we are afraid that his thought might transfer to a married woman. This terrible thought of the Kohen Gadol would lead to the premature death of this woman's husband. For this reason, the Torah allows the Kohen Gadol to marry only a Betulah who was never before married. We learn from this that even the greatest leader of Bnei Yisrael can stand at the maximum height of spirituality, experience awesome revelations and still allow his Yeitzer Hara to overcome him. If a man of such high holiness can possibly have these terrible thoughts, how much more so we, who are on a much lower level, must improve our lifestyles to prevent thoughts like this.

Thanks for the Punishment?

by Avi Wollman

In Parashat Emor's discussion of the Korban Todah, the Torah states, "VeChi Tizbechu Zevach Todah LaHashem LiRtzonechem Tizbachu," "If you will bring a thanksgiving offering to Hashem, it shall be offered willingly" (VaYikra 22:29). According to the Meforshim who translate this phrase literally, the Torah's command is puzzling. Why would the Torah put such emphasis on the fact that the Korban must be brought willingly? Isn't it obvious that a thanksgiving offering is brought willingly?

The Ketav Sofer provides an ingenious answer to this question, based on an understanding of the circumstances referred to in the text. According to the Gemara, among the four types of people who thank Hashem via Korban Todah is a person who survived precarious situations such as a serious illness or some type of turmoil. After such a frightening experience, says the Ketav Sofer, one might be inclined not to give a Korban to Hashem, since the person would have been happier without the suffering in the first place! Therefore, Hashem specifically commands us that in such a case one must bring a Korban Todah willingly, even if he has no desire to give thanks to Hashem, for whatever Hashem does is for the best.

A story is told of two brothers, Reb Shmelke and Reb Pinchas, who wanted to learn exactly how one is supposed to thank Hashem for inflicting suffering upon him. They went to speak to Reb Zushe, a great Chassid. Upon reaching his completely rundown home, they asked Reb Zushe the question. While in his tattered clothes, Reb Zushe answered that coming to his extremely modest shack was a mistake. They should instead direct their question to someone who has experienced suffering, since he himself had never suffered a day in his life. Reb Zushe understood the message of the Korban Todah; suffering is not really suffering at all.

Through this seemingly superfluous command, the Torah is trying to teach us that we have to thank Hashem even for the suffering we must endure. We are expected to recognize that there is a higher purpose to our suffering, and not lament the past anguish. Upon reaching this realization, we should turn our suffering into a positive experience. May we all become as pious as Reb Zushe so that we will all be able to thank Hashem for our suffering "willingly."

A Year-round Yom Tov

by Dani Yaros

Parashat Emor discusses the various holidays of the Jewish calendar. It is interesting to note that while most holidays are associated with special Mitzvot, Shavuot is bereft of such Mitzvot. Pesach contains the Mitzvot of eating Matzah and recounting the story of Yetziat Mitzrayim, and Sukkot is associated with the Mitzvot of living in the Sukkah and taking the Lulav. No similar commandments exist on Shavuot. What is the reason for this lack of special Mitzvot on the day of Kabbalat HaTorah?

It is possible to suggest that in fact there is a Mitzvah of sorts on Shavuot, albeit an implicit one. On Pesach, we eat Matzah as a remembrance of being slaves in Egypt and being miraculously redeemed. By eating the bread of affliction, we recognize that the redemption was incomplete; we still did not have the Torah. On Shavuot, we finally completed the Geulah from Mitzrayim. In a sense, eating Chameitz on Shavuot is a completion of the Mitzvah of eating Matzah on Pesach, for it represents the conclusion of the remembrance of Geulah begun on Pesach. It is for this reason that the Korban HaOmer brought on Pesach does not contain Chameitz, while the Shtei HaLechem brought on Shavuot does. The Pesach experience peaks on Shavuot with Kabbalat HaTorah.

Rav Dovid Tzvi Hoffman gives an alternative answer to this difficulty. He suggests that because Shavuot is the day of Kabbalat HaTorah, the one Mitzvah we should have on Shavuot is to learn Torah. However, if Hashem had commanded us to learn Torah specifically on Shavuot, one could have mistakenly come up with the notion that he has to learn Torah only on Shavuot and not at any other time during the year. To preclude this misconception, Hashem did not mandate a specific Mitzvah of learning Torah on Shavuot. By contrast, Sukkot is the only time of the year that Jews must remember that they lived in tents while in the Midbar for forty years, and having this specific Mitzvah does not undermine any Mitzvah performance during the rest of the year.

An additional difficulty regarding Shavuot is why the Torah does not specify the precise date on which Shavuot should be celebrated. After all, every other holiday listed in the Torah is given an exact day and month on which to be observed. Perhaps one could answer this question using Rav Hoffman's idea. If Hashem had told us the exact day of Matan Torah, one could have misunderstood that only on that day must one remember and learn Torah. This is patently untrue (see Rashi to Shemot 19:1 s.v. BaYom HaZeh). By not telling us the exact day of the giving of the Torah, Hashem showed us the importance of learning, not merely on the day of Kabbalat HaTorah, but all the time.

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