Parsha Potpourri: Parshas Emor


U’sfartem lachem mimacharas haShabbos miyom haviachem es omer hatenufah sheva shabbasos temimos tihyenah (23:15)

Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein relates that a weak and sickly centenarian once approached him shortly before Pesach with an interesting legal question. The law is that a person who forgets or is unable to count even one night of Sefiras HaOmer is unable to continue counting on successive nights with a blessing, as the nightly counting over the course of the 7 weeks is considered to be one extended mitzvah.

According to many opinions, the blessings which he recited until then are retroactively considered to have been in vain. The man’s doctors told him that based on his poor medical condition he would surely die before Shavuos, 7 weeks later. He wanted to know whether he was permitted to recite the nightly blessing when beginning to count Sefiras HaOmer, as the laws of nature seemed to indicate that he would be prevented from successfully completing the mitzvah, thereby invalidating his blessings.

Rav Zilberstein responded that when a clever child has a craving for a sweet which his mother refuses to give him, he will shrewdly recite its appropriate blessing “shehakol nihyeh bidvaro,” essentially forcing his mother to give him a bite so that his blessing shouldn’t be in vain. Similarly, Rav Zilberstein advised the man that by beginning to count with a blessing, he could in effect “force” the Heavenly Court to allow him to remain alive until after Shavuos in order to complete the mitzvah. It shouldn’t be surprising that, contrary to the doctor’s prognosis, the man indeed passed away the week after Shavuos.

U’sfartem lachem mimacharas haShabbos miyom haviachem es omer hatenufah sheva shabbasos temimos tihyenah (23:15)

One of the reasons given for the happiness associated with Lag B’Omer is that on this day, the students of Rebbi Akiva, who had died en masse every day since Pesach, stopped dying. As there are no coincidences in Judaism, why did they specifically stop dying at this time?

The 7 weeks between Pesach and Shavuos represents a period in which we prepare ourselves to celebrate the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai on Shavuos. The leaders of the Mussar movement point out that the Mishnah in Avos (6:6) teaches that there 48 traits by which the Torah is acquired. Since there are 49 days during which we prepare to reaccept the Torah, they maintained that it would be appropriate to use this time to develop within ourselves the qualities and attributes which are necessary to accept and acquire the Torah on Shavuos. Therefore, on each day of this period, they worked on understanding and instilling within themselves one of these qualities. Since there were only 48 traits, they used the last day for a general overview of all of them.

In his work Lekach Tov, Rav Yaakov Yisroel Baifus suggests that if the founders of the Mussar movement engaged in this commendable practice, certainly the lofty Sages of the Gemora did so as well. The 32nd trait by which the Torah is acquired is love of one’s fellow man. The Gemora teaches (Yevamos 62b) that the reason for the death of Rebbi Akiva’s disciples was that they didn’t feel and display appropriate respect toward one another. Rav Baifus suggests that once they had worked on the trait of loving one another on the 32nd day, they rectified the cause of this tragedy, and indeed on the following day the students stopped dying.

Dabeir el B’nei Yisroel leimor bachodesh hashevi’i b’echad lachodesh yihyeh lachem shabbason zichron teruah mikrah kodesh (23:24)

The Mishnah in Shabbos (2:5) discusses if and when it is Biblically prohibited to extinguish a burning candle on Shabbos. If a person does so because he is afraid of non-Jews or robbers, for medicinal purposes, or so that a sick person may sleep, it is Biblically permitted. If, however, he extinguishes the flame because he wishes to preserve the candle, the oil, or the wick, it is forbidden.

However, the Mishnah uses a peculiar expression when discussing the latter case. It discusses a person who puts out the fire because it is as if he wants to save the candle, oil, or wick. Why does it refer to him as somebody who wishes to save money and not as one who is actually doing so? The Gemora in Beitzah (16a) teaches that a person’s entire income for the year is determined on Rosh Hashana. However, the Gemora adds that the money one spends for the honor of Shabbos or Yom Tov or for the education of his sons is an exception to this rule. They are in a separate category, and whatever additional money a person spends for these purposes will be added to his preordained annual salary.

Therefore, the Vilna Gaon explains that somebody who extinguishes a candle on Shabbos in an attempt to save money by sparing the candle, the oil, or the wick, is in reality saving nothing. Had he allowed it to burn fully for the sake of Shabbos, the additional cost thereby incurred would have been repaid to him. The Mishnah therefore stresses that one who puts out the flame on Shabbos is only attempting to save money, as in reality the expenses of Shabbos are part of a separate calculation, and he ultimately will have no additional funds to show for his sin.

Ba’sukkos teishvu shivas yamim kol ha’ezrach b’Yisroel yeishvu b’sukkos (23:42)

The Torah commands us to dwell in the sukkah for 7 days, eating and sleeping there as we would in our own homes. Unfortunately, the size and layout of many houses aren’t conducive to building sukkahs large enough to accommodate the family’s needs. If a person’s sukkah isn’t big enough for everybody to fit in it, meals can be eaten in shifts. However, sleeping in shifts isn’t very practical. Is it permitted to wait until some of them are sleeping and then gently drag them out of the sukkah?

As far-fetched as this suggestion sounds, Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach actually rules that it is permissible. He explains that the mitzvah is only to go to sleep in the sukkah, but once a person is already sleeping, he is unconscious and exempt from any further obligation in mitzvos until he awakens. Although permissible, this may not be so feasible, as if the person wakes up while being moved, he must once again return to the sukkah to fall asleep, thereby defeating the entire purpose of the plan.

Nevertheless, Rav Yisroel Reisman suggests a more practical application of this ruling. If the weather forecast calls for a torrential downpour in the middle of the night and a person doesn’t want to be awakened by it, he can simply go to sleep in the sukkah, and once he is sound asleep, somebody can spread a cover across the top of the sukkah. Although this invalidates the sukkah, the person is already sleeping and exempt from the mitzvah, and doing so will allow him a warm and dry night’s sleep.

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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     How was Eliyahu HaNavi, who was a Kohen (Bava Metzia 114b), permitted to render himself impure to resurrect the dead son of the Tzarfatis woman (Melochim 1 17:17-24) when the Torah prohibits (21:1) a Kohen to have contact with the dead? (Tosefos, Tosefos HaRosh, and Shita Mekubetzes Bava Metzia 114b; Rabbeinu Bechaye Parshas Pinchas; Shu”t Radvaz 6:2203; Aruch L’Ner and Chochmas Betzalel Niddah 70b; Ma’adanei Asher 5768 Parshas Pinchas)

2)     Rashi writes (21:1) that although a Kohen is prohibited to have contact with the dead, he is required to have contact with the body of a îú îöåä – a dead Jew who lacks anybody to bury him. If there are non-Jews available to perform the burial, is it still considered a case of a îú îöåä? (Ayeles HaShachar)

3)     Even though the Torah seems to require (24:20) “an eye for an eye” – that somebody who harms another person shall be punished by having that same wound inflicted on him – the Gemora (Bava Kamma 84a) teaches that this is not meant literally. Rather, the damager must financially compensate his victim for the harm that he caused him. Why did the Torah write this law in a manner which could be misunderstood if this isn’t its true meaning? (Chazon Ish Kovetz Igros 3:102)

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