Parshat Emor Vol.10 No.31

Date of issue: 19 Iyar 5761 -- May 12, 2001

This week's issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by 
Joyce & Daniel Straus 
in honor of their son Joseph's Bar Mitzva.

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This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Joel Grossman
Yair Manas
Sam Wiseman
Noam Block
Yisrael Glassberg
Halacha of the Week
Food For Thought
-by David Gertler and Ilan Tokayer

Counting Up
by Rabbi Joel Grossman

In this week's Parsha we have the Mitzva of Sefirat Haomer. In 23:15 the Torah says Usefartem Lachem Mimacharat Hashabbat Miyom Heviachem Et Omer Hatnufa Sheva Shabatot Temimot Tehiyena, "And you shall count from the day after Shabbat (which the Talmud explains is the second night of Pesach) from the day of the waving of the Omer sacrifice, seven full weeks it shall be." We see that the Mitzva of Sefirat Homer is a commandment from the Torah. Nowadays, since we no longer have the Bait Hamikdash, there is Machloket Rishonim about the status of this Mitzva. The Rambam holds that even though there is no Korban Omer the Mitzva of Sefirat Haomer is still a Mitzva Deoraita, perhaps because there is another aspect to this Mitzva: counting the days until Kabbalat Hatorah, which took place on the holiday of Shavuot. Since we can still fulfill that aspect of Sefirat Haomer it remains a Mitzva Mideoraita even in the absence of the Korban Omer. The Baalei Tosafot and most Rishonim argue that Sefirat Haomer is only a Mitzva Miderabbanan. What would be a practical difference between the opinion of the Rambam and the opinion of the Baalei Tosafot? The Magen Avraham (Orach Chaim) writes that by a Mitzva Dioraita we hold Mitzvot Tzrichot Kavana, that intent is required in order to perform the Mitzva. By a Mitzva Derabbanan the Magen Avraham (60:3) rules that Mitzvot Einan Tzrichot Kavana, that one fulfills a Mitzva Derabbanan even without intent to fulfill the Mitzva. Therefore on the third night of the Omer if it is after dark and you have not counted yet and someone asks you what night of the Omer it is, you should respond last night was the second night of the Omer. Why can't you say that tonight is the third? Since we rule in accordance with the Baalei Tosafot that Sefirat Haomer nowadays is only Miderabban and by a Mitzva Miderabbanan we rule Mitzvot Einan Tzrichot Kavanna one is considered to have already counted and he would not be able to recite a Beracha when counting the third night.

What is the purpose of the Mitzva of Sefirat Haomer? The Sefer Hachinuch writes (Mitzva 306) that the Torah is the root of the Jewish people and it is because of the Torah that Hashem created the heaven and earth. The reason Hashem took us out of Egypt was in order for us to accept the Torah at Mount Sinai and fulfill the Torah. Therefore just as we count to any great day in our lives, so too, we count to Kabalat Hatorah. The Sefer Hachinuch asks why do we count how many days have passed instead of how many days remain? He answers that beginning by saying that there are still forty-nine days left until Kabbalat Hatorah will show that there is still a long time left before Kabbalat Hatorah and we do not want to do that. He asks, "After the midway point why don't we switch to how many days are left until Kabbalat Hatorah?" He answers, "When the Chachamim made a format for Berachot they do not change it midstream."

Rav Moshe Feinstein Zatza"l made a very interesting observation about the upcoming holiday of Shavuot. He asks, "Why by every other holiday does the Torah give the exact month and day?" He answers, "if the Torah gave an exact date people might think that we only have to accept the Torah on that date. Since the Torah does not record a date we realize that we must strive to accept the Torah anew every day of the year."

After counting the Omer each night we recite, "May Hashem return for us the service of the Bait Hamikdash in its place, speedily in our days, Amen." The Baalei Tosafot in Massechet Megila ask why specifically by this Mitzva do we pray for the rebuilding of the Bait Hamikdash and not by other Mitzvot such as Shofar and Lulav. They answer that today Shofar and Lulav are fulfilled on the same level that they were when the Bait Hamikdash stood but today the Mitzva of Sefirat HaOmer is only a Mitzva Derabbanan, and when the Bait Hamikdash will be rebuilt, it will become a Mitzva Deoraita once again. Therefore, specifically by this Mitzva we pray for the restoration of the Bait Hamikdash to be. During this period of Sefirat HaOmer the Gemara (Yevamot 62b) teaches us that we must mourn for the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva who died in the plague because Lo Nahagu Kavod Zeh Lazeh, they did not show proper respect to one another. The Gemara (Yoma 9b) teaches us that the reason the second Bait Hamikdash was destroyed was because of Sinat Chinam, people hated each other for no reason. We must strive to perform Ahavat Chinam. As Rav Kook æö"ì said, "I want people to say about me that I love other Jews for no other reason than they are Jewish."

May we learn this lesson of showing proper respect to other Jews and may Hashem accept our prayers this year and hopefully we will have the Bait Hamikdash by Shavuot so we will be Zocheh to bring the Korban Shtai Halechem properly.

Blemish Free
by Yair Manas

In Chapter 21 Pasuk 18 the Chumash states that a Kohen with a blemish may not perform the service in the Bait Hamikdash. To explain this prohibition, Rashi quotes from the book of Malachi (1:8), which says that a king would not accept an animal with a blemish. If bringing an animal with a blemish shows a lack of respect, we can assume the same principle would apply to the Kohanim, the servants of the King.

Rambam views the requirement that the Kohen not be blemished to be based on the nature of public opinion: that a man is not judged by who he is, but by his appearance. Therefore, it is necessary for the Kohanim to be unblemished so that the Mikdash would remain honored and revered by all. The Rambam points out that this prohibition applies only to Kohanim and not the Leviim since the Leviim did not offer sacrifices and were not considered agents in asking for forgiveness.

The Ramban differs from the rationalist view of the Rambam. He says that bodily blemishes render the Kohen unfit for work in the Mikdash because these physical blemishes are a reflection of spiritual defects that he might have.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai suggests a very different approach. The laws pertaining to blemishes fit into the general framework of the origin of evil. The forces of evil exist in nature to play a role in the harmony of Creation. However, the power of the forces of evil is restricted and limited to the superficial aspects of life, to the external appearance, not to the core of the person.

This Parsha is teaching us that evil affects the body, not the soul. The Kohen, who is the epitome of purity and holiness, is not protected from evil and can therefore have blemishes. However, his soul is not affected by the evil. The Torah tells us this by saying that even though a Kohen with a blemish cannot approach the altar, he can eat "the food of his God, from the most holy and from the holy" (Pasuk 22). By saying that a Kohen with a blemish can eat from a Korban, the Torah confirms that his blemish is merely external, and has no affect on his soul.

Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai equates this to the moon. Because the moon disappears each month, it seems to have a blemish in comparison with the sun. The moon shows us that there is evil in this world, but this evil does not affect the soul, since each month the moon recovers its full powers again. The prophet Yishayahu (30:26) speaks of the day when "the light of the moon will equal the light of the sun." When this happens, the evil of this world that afflicts blemishes on Hashem's creatures will also disappear. 

Whose Fault is it?
by Sam Wiseman

At the very end of this week's Parsha, the Torah relates the story of the "Ben Isha Yisraelit" (Vayikra 24:10). The Torah tells us about a man, the son of a Jewish woman, who left (Vayetze) from some unnamed place into the midst of the camp and fought with a Jew within the camp. These events culminate in the "Ben Isha Yisraelit's" cursing Hashem. He is subsequently brought to Moshe, who places him in confinement so that Moshe can ask Hashem what to do. This is one of the few instances in the Torah where Moshe does not know how to proceed and must consult Hashem.

This story obviously is missing much information, and many Rishonim disagree as to what exactly is going on. The Torah states that the blasphemer's father was not Jewish and that his mother was Jewish. Rashi, citing a Midrash, asserts that Vayetze refers to his leaving the Bait Din of Moshe. He says that this man tried to settle among Shevet Dan (the tribe of his mother), and they would not permit him to do so. Therefore, this man went to Moshe to inquire whether he in fact was allowed to settle with the rest of Bnai Yisrael. Moshe replied no, and it is for this reason that this man was infuriated to the extent that he cursed Hashem. Ramban helps us understand what the actual status of this "Ben Yisraelit" was. He concludes that according to Halacha this man was considered a Jew, but one who had no right to land.

Now that we understand where this man is coming from, we have to find out what actually transpired when he reached the camp for the second time. The Malbim points out that when the Torah describes the fight, it calls one person the "Ben Yisraelit" and the other "Ish Yisraelit." Why would this be if at this point in time the "Ben Yisraelit" had converted? The Malbim suggests that it is because Bnai Yisrael treated him as if he were an outsider and not one of them. Let us not forget who this man is. According to the Midrash, he is the son of the Mitzri that Moshe killed in Mitzrayim. Bnai Yisrael treated this convert so badly that he began to think about where he actually came from. He became enraged to the extent that he used the very same Shem Hameforash to curse Hashem here that Moshe used to kill the his father.

Perhaps this was Moshe's dilemma. Perhaps this is why he did not know what exactly to do with this man who clearly violated the Issur of "Mevarech Shem Hashem," yet was pushed into it by his inconsiderate peers. Further support may be derived for this position from what happens later in the story. Moshe is commanded to stone him, and anyone who heard the "Ben Ish Yisraelit's" curse was commanded to do Smicha, or put all their weight on the Mekallel. Perhaps this represents the fact that the people around the "Ben Yisraelit" were at fault as well, and that is why they all had to lean on him. They needed to show part ownership, much like the way Bnai Yisrael leaned on the Leviim during the Pidyon in Sefer Bemidbar Sinai to achieve forgiveness (Chizkuni).

Therefore, we can conclude that although the "Ben Yisraelit" did something wrong and deserved to be punished for it, it was also somewhat the fault of Bnai Yisrael who could not accept a Ger in their midst.

Shtei Amirot
by Noam Block

This week's Parsha begins with Hashem telling Moshe to advise the Kohanim concerning the prohibition of coming into contact with a dead person, Vayomer Hashem El Moshe Emor El Hakohanim Benai Aharon Veamarta Aleihem...
The obvious question is why the Torah, which never wastes a word, repeats itself by saying Emor El Hakohanim and then again Veamamrta Lahem. The Baal Haturim explains that the first Amira comes to warn the Kohanim that they are forbidden to come into contact with a dead person. The second Amira advises the Kohanim as to the exceptions to that rule and how they are allowed, even required, to be defiled in a situation of a Met Mitzva, where there is no one to care for the deceased and to tend to the body.

Rashi presents the well known answer Lehazhir Gedolim Im Ketanim. The Mizrachi, a well known commentator on Rashi, explains that Moshe was to instruct the Kohanim and the Kohanim in turn were to instruct their children. However, if indeed this second telling is for the Kohanim to tell their children, then it should say Veamartem in the plural form and not Veamarta in the singular. Rav Moshe Feinstein explains Rashi's comment as follows: when one teaches Torah and Mitzvot, it must be done from two vantage points. 

The first is to simply teach the details and specifics of the Mitzva, while the second is to teach one to love doing the Mitzvot. Chances of success in the educational effort are much greater when both approaches are taken into consideration and emphasized. Accordingly, we can understand Rav Moshe's understanding that both Amirot, representing the different emphases involved in the teachings to the Kohanim, were made by Moshe to the Kohanim, who in turn would pass it on to the younger Kohanim. 


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).

Food for Thought
by David Gertler and Ilan Tokayer

1) Why is the story of the Ben Ish Mitzri juxtaposed to the Halachot of the Chagim?
2) Why does the Torah, in the beginning of Rishon, say,Isha Zona Vechillila Lo Yikachu and then seem to repeat itself at the end of the Aliya, when it says, Almana Ugrusha Vechillela Zona Lo Yikach?

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