Torah Weekly

For the week ending 1 May 2010 / 16 Iyyar 5770

Parshat Emor

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The kohanim are commanded to avoid contact with corpses in order to maintain a high standard of ritual purity. They may attend the funeral of only their seven closest relatives: father, mother, wife, son, daughter, brother, and unmarried sister. The kohen gadol (High Priest) may not attend the funeral of even his closest relatives. Certain marital restrictions are placed on thekohanim. The nation is required to honor the kohanim. The physical irregularities that invalidate a kohen from serving in the Temple are listed. Terumah, a produce tithe given to the kohanim, may be eaten only by kohanim and their household. An animal may be sacrificed in the Temple after it is eight days old and is free from any physical defects. The nation is commanded to sanctify the Name of G-d by insuring that their behavior is always exemplary, and by being prepared to surrender their lives rather than murder, engage in licentious relations or worship idols. The special characteristics of the holidays are described, and the nation is reminded not to do certain types of creative work during these holidays. New grain may not be eaten until the omerof barley is offered in the Temple. The Parsha explains the laws of preparing the oil for the menorah and baking the lechem hapanim in the Temple. A man blasphemes G-d and is executed as prescribed in the Torah.


My Son – The Rabbi

“You should sanctify him (the kohen), for he offers the food of your G‑d…” (21:8)

After learning in a yeshiva for many years, a friend of mine finally decided that he would take smicha — a complex examination that would enable him to practice as a rabbi in a community.

When he passed the test and was awarded his smicha — a rather unimportant-looking document that looked more like a letter from the water company than a diploma — his rabbi suggested that he get it written out beautifully onto parchment by a scribe and present it to his parents so they would appreciate the significance of his achievement.

Outside the Torah community, the value of Torah learning is often not fully recognized. When told that a son is ‘learning Torah’ the question is often asked, “Well when is he going to finish learning and start working?”

Truth be told, there is no higher calling, no more important job than the learning of Torah for its own sake. Rabbi Chaim Velozhiner writes in Nefesh HaChaim, that were there a split second where someone somewhere was not learning Torah, the entire creation would return to primordial chaos.

But it’s difficult to see that, and so Torah scholars are often looked at as Torah schnorers.

When our Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, was supported totally by gifts from the community. Nevertheless it was forbidden to look down on him; rather “you should sanctify him” because “he is offering the food of your G-d.”

When the kohen ate from the offerings it was as though the offering was ascending from the Holy Altar to the Heavens for the benefit of the supplicant.

Similarly, “Anyone who wants to pour wine on the Holy Altar should fill the throats of Torah scholars with wine.” (Yoma, 71a)

Funding Torah scholarship is the same as an offering to the Holy Temple. It brings forgiveness and holiness to its patron.

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