Vertluch: Parshas Emor

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The parsha starts off with the pasuk- ‘Speak to the kohanim, the sons of Aaron, and say to them: Let none [of you] defile himself for a dead person among his people. (21;1) The apparent question here is why the need for the double loshon? Rashi quotes a gemara which says ‘to warn the elders on the youngsters’. But why here is there a necessity to mention that the elders should warn the younger ones not to transgress an aveira? Why davka by this aveira and not any other aveira?

We can answer that since the kohanim have more additional mitzvos than regular Jews, and have more kedusha, it was vital to make sure they understood just how exulted they were from the rest of the nation. There is also a discussion in the gemara if by a war one were to bring back a yifas toar would a kohen be allowed to marry her? Perhaps since he is on a higher level of kedusha this leniency shouldn’t apply to him?

We learn from this, that a kohen from a young age has been inculcated that he is different and special; he was born into the kehuna. Therefore, we have to watch and be careful and stress (the double loshon) of how a kohen must conduct himself-in order for him not to transgress any aveiros.

This is not only true by kohanim alone but this also applies to bnei Torah as well. The pasuk later on says ‘You shall not desecrate my holy name, rather I should be sanctified amongst bnei Yisroel I am Hashem who sanctifies you.’ (22; 32)

As part of klal Yisroel we are instructed not to make a chillul Hashem, to profane the holy name of Hashem. But the Torah goes even further and obligates us to do the exact opposite and to perform a kiddush Hashem. The concept of a chilul Hashem is extremely severe. The gemara states that for every aveira that a person commits, there is a kaparah. However, if one is mechalel Hashem-the only way to receive atonement is through death.

The Chofetz Chaim had a son who was a business man. The Chofetz Chaim would constantly remind him and advise him to be extra cautious as not to make a chilull Hashem. He would say since you’re very special and choshov, people will expect you to live up to a certain standard. You cannot disappoint them and behave lower than what they expect, for that will cause a chilul Hashem. Once, the son respectfully protested and said that everyone knows that I am just a simple salesman, why do I have to be so careful, I’m not a rabbi? The Chofetz Chaim answered by saying: you are right, you are a simple person. But the moment you act in an improper way and do something not expected of you, everyone is going to say ‘look at how the rabbi behaves’…people will automatically associate you and add titles to your name. The nature of people is to immediately associate one who did wrong with their biggest achievement. As soon as someone does something illegal, chas v’sholom, it’s all over the news as ‘rabbi’ or ‘leader’, etc. albeit the person hasn’t eaten kosher in the last fifty years. The nature of people is to associate someone with what hits them the hardest. The reason being is that human nature is such, that people automatically get on an elevated status when they break the law- because it brings them down harder. A person has to know that no matter where he goes or what he does, he must conduct himself in a certain way-for should something go wrong their going to look at us and announce that this is a product of a rabbi’s behavior. It’s our responsibility to protect that-this was the lesson the Chofetz Chaim was trying to instill in his son.

The same is true by the exact opposite; by being mekadesh shem shomayim. There’s a dispute amongst the poskim whether one makes a beracha or not prior to making a kiddush Hashem. For example, if a person grabs you and says ‘bow down to an avodah zara or I’ll shoot you’, a question can be asked as to why wouldn’t one make a beracha and close his eyes and take the bullet? The Rashba answers and says; similar to tzedakah, since it’s something that’s not dependent solely on him, he can’t make a beracha. For if this person decides not to kill you last minute (or the other person decides he’s not accepting or taking your tzedakah) you have just made a beracha in vain. However, Rav Yaakov Emden, Zt”l argues and says it’s not true because the main mitzvah of a kiddush Hashem is the actual decision. When one makes the decision not to bow, or not to kill, he has in essence already been mekadesh shem shomayim-even if in actuality he lives afterwards. Some poskim even hold when we read krias shema everyday and we say we love Hashem with all our heart and money (even if it means risking our lives) we are in essence making a kiddush Hashem because as we read those pasukim we have already made the decision to give up our lives and that’s actually being mekadesh shem shomayim.

We learn from here the importance of staying away from a chillul Hashem and on the contrary, how easy it is to be mekadesh shem shomayim. We must acknowledge that every move we make is being watched by everyone, everywhere.

May we all be zoche to continuously be mekadesh shem shomayim and in this merit may we witness the coming of Moshiach speedily in our days.