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The Lamplighter Weekly

Volume 26 Issue 19
May 12-18, 2024  - 4-10 Iyar, 5784
Torah Reading: Emor
 Candle Lighting : 7:57 PM
Shabbos Ends: 8:56 PM
Pirkei Avos: Chapter 3

Parsha Synopsis · A Word From the Rabbi

Essay · Thoughts That Count
Once Upon A Chassid · Tid Bits · Happenings · Notes From Israel

 

Parsha Synopsis

Emor
Leviticus: 21:1-24:23

The name of the Parshah, “Emor,” means “speak” and it is found in Leviticus 21:1.

The  Torah section of  Emor (“Speak”) begins with the special laws pertaining to the  kohanim (“priests”), the  kohen gadol (“high priest”), and the Temple service: A kohen may not become ritually  impure through contact with a dead body, save on the occasion of the  death of a close relative. A  kohen may not marry a  divorcee, or a woman with a  promiscuous past; a  kohen gadol can marry only a virgin. A kohen with a  physical deformity cannot serve in the  Holy Temple, nor can a deformed animal be brought as an  offering.

A newborn calf, lamb or kid must be left with its mother for seven days before being eligible for an offering; one may not  slaughter an animal and its offspring on the same day.

The second part of Emor lists the annual Callings of Holiness—the festivals of  the Jewish calendar: the weekly  Shabbat; the bringing of the  Passover offering on 14  Nissan; the seven-day Passover festival beginning on 15 Nissan; the bringing of the  Omer offering from the first barley harvest on the second day of Passover, and the commencement, on that day, of the  49-day Counting of the Omer, culminating in the festival of  Shavuot on the fiftieth day; a “remembrance of  shofar blowing” on 1  Tishrei; a solemn  fast day on 10 Tishrei; the  Sukkot festival—during which we are to  dwell in huts for seven days and take the “ Four Kinds”—beginning on 15 Tishrei; and the immediately following holiday of the “eighth day” of Sukkot ( Shemini Atzeret).

Next the Torah discusses the lighting of the  menorah in the Temple, and the  showbread(lechem hapanim) placed weekly on the  table there.

Emor concludes with the incident of a man executed for blasphemy, and the penalties for murder (death) and for injuring one’s fellow or destroying his property (monetary compensation).

 

A Word From the Rabbi

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TAILORING TORAH TO FIT OUR MOLD
Exhortation Against Jewish Revisionism 

As a gesture of her love and gratitude towards her longtime family Synagogue, an elderly congregant surprised the congregation with an intricately hand-embroidered mantel for the recently acquired Torah Scroll. A cursory glance at the work was enough to reveal the woman’s proficient talent. The lush fabric, colorful pattern and superb craftsmanship rendered the article a true masterpiece.

Delighted with the meaningful gift, the Rabbi wasted no time in putting it to the test. He quickly removed the Torah from the ark and replaced the old mantel with the new masterpiece.

As they shared a moment of delight adoring the lovely new cover, the Rabbi suddenly became crestfallen. To the disappointment of the onlookers, he shared his sobering discovery: The new cover was several inches shorter than the scroll. 

Thanking the woman for her sincere intentions and kind efforts the Rabbi gently explained that while it was a true piece of art it could not be used as is. It was just a little too short.

"Rabbi," exclaimed the woman in genuine surprise: "Considering the magnificent quality and workmanship of the artifact, couldn't we just trim away a few inches from the bottom of the Torah scroll to make it fit?"

"No, my dear lady," said the Rabbi with sincere regret, "I'm truly sorry but that is not possible. You see,” he explained, “Here we tailor the mantle to fit the Torah and not the Torah to fit the Mantel!"

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“Oh Rabbi, it’s time you got real! She may not be Jewish by your narrow (Halachic) standards, but she has a true Jewish heart; she is more Jewish than any Jewish woman I’ve ever met and that includes my own mother. And just so you know, she makes the meanest chicken soup... That surely counts for something, don’t you think?” I can’t imagine that there is a Rabbi in today’s day and age that has not come across this heartfelt argument.

Then there is the familiar “Religious at heart” argument; something to this effect: “It so happens that I know many religious Jews who keep Kosher, put on Tefillin and even sport those funny side-locks, yet they’re dishonest and cheat when it comes to their business affairs.., so much for all those holy rituals. I may not do any of that outward stuff, but I’m a good person and I’m religious at heart.”

Most of us have run into this type of logic one time or another. There are times when we may have even found ourselves lost for answers. Is there actually any validity to this type of rationale? The answer of course is a resounding no!

While chicken soup is very delicious and cheating in business is very bad and distasteful, you don’t become Jewish by eating or making chicken soup and someone else’s flaws and transgressions – whether they put on Tefillin and keeping Kosher or not – have nothing to do with your Jewish obligations. What these people are doing is “Rationalizing,” plain and simple. Man’s proclivity to rationalize is obviously not lost on the Torah. Indeed, this week’s Torah portion among others forewarns against this human tendency.    

The beginning of our Parsha; Emor, finds G‑d enjoining Moshe: "Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon and tell them, 'Each of you shall not contaminate himself with a dead person among his people.'" The repetitious language – "Speak" and then "Tell" the Kohanim – has captured the analytical eye of many a commentary. Why, as with most other injunctions they muse, wouldn’t one of the two terms suffice?

The Talmudic sages explain the redundancy to constitute an additional mandate on the part of the elder Kohanim to relate and inculcate this important injunction into the hearts and minds of the younger generation of Kohanim. In Rashi's words: "The repetition is intended to admonish the older [Kohanim] concerning the young ones."

Still, the question remains: Why is it specifically with this particular commandment that the Torah finds it necessary to include a special warning vis-à-vis the education of the youth? Isn't this the case with all Mitzvos? Do we not recite twice every day in the Shema “And the words that I command you today, shall be upon your heart, ‘you shall teach them thoroughly to your children…?’” Why then is this Mitzvah singled out in its focus on educating the youth? 

Numerous thoughts and ideas are presented which seek to identify the unique quality of this command – each containing its own novelty and beauty. We ought however not lose sight of the simple and obvious.

Sometimes our desire to do what feels right, beckons us to “Overlook” or “Transcend” the will of the Almighty. This is especially true with regards to emotionally charged matters. The injunction against attending the funeral of a close family member or friend can easily fit this category.

Imagine how difficult it is for a Kohen to hold back from attending the funeral of a dear friend or family member. After all, “The family can use my support...” and “I need the closure.” Because this commandment goes against the grain human nature and is very difficult to uphold, we are exhorted to implant this trait in the hearts of the very young.  

It is for this very reason that when discussing the prohibition of defilement of the priesthood by coming in contact with the corpse of a loved one, the Torah makes a point to emphasize: "Tell them, and tell them to teach the minors." 

The temptation to tailor the Torah towards our own feelings, even in face of its very transgression, is a reality of human nature. This fallacy is often accompanied by the rationalization that "It's the right thing to do,” or, “It's actually a Mitzvah.”

It is not uncommon nowadays for individuals, or even entire movements, to advocate for causes that are inherently antithetical to the very essence and core of the religion in whose name it is being championed – causes that run against the very foundation and fiber of the religion in whose name they are being promoted. 

Who, for example, would imagine that anyone would advocate on behalf of homosexuality in the name of Judaism, when the Torah – the constitution of the Jewish faith – not only explicitly forbids this behavior, but actually refers to it as an abomination. Talk about revisionist mentality.  

If someone were to treat the American Constitution in the same manner, it would be considered treason; there would be an outrage. It could conceivably lead to civil war. Yet concerning religion we somehow find a way to rationalize. We don’t see the blatant dishonesty in taking what the Torah refers to as “Sinful” and “Abomination” and turning it into a Mitzvah or a social cause for which we advocate in the very name of the religion that openly prohibits it. Such is the power of rationalization

The core message of the redundant language vis-à-vis the prohibition against the defilement of the Kohanim is hence rather clear. It is our duty to impress upon our children, from the very beginning, especially concerning emotionally charged issues, that Judaism is not to be confused with what tends to “Feel right,” or makes us “Feel good.” We must impart the notion that right and wrong – holy and its opposite must be tailored in accordance with Torah and not visa-versa.

In taking to heart the lessons of this week’s Parsha, particularly the charge to the Kohanim – which includes us all, since we are a “Nation of Kohanim” – regarding the preservation and perpetuation of the sanctity of the Priesthood, we will certainly help preserve the Divine separation between the holy and the mundane, as well as between the nation of Israel and the other nations. The latter will increase our effectiveness in accomplishing our mission of elevating and transforming our lowly world into the realm of holiness. This will in turn hasten the arrival of the righteous Moshiach BBA. 

Gut Shabbos!

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Rabbi Kahanov is the founder/director of Chabad in Northeast FL, consisting of 6 Chabad Centers
He is also the author of "What Chabad Really Believes"
If you like this, you might be interested in purchasing his book click here for more information 

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Lighting Up the Table

The menorah and the showbread table stood opposite each other in the outer chamber of the Tabernacle, and later of the Temple in Jerusalem: the menorah standing against the southern wall, and the table against the northern wall.

The menorah was kindled every afternoon, and remained lit throughout the night. The lights of the menorah symbolize the illumination provided by Torah and mitzvot: “For a mitzvah is a candle, and the Torah is light.” The spiritual illumination supplied by studying Torah and observing G‑d’s commandments lights up the darkest and coldest nights. As Isaiah said, “For behold, darkness shall cover the earth . . . and the L‑rd shall shine upon you.”

Every Shabbat twelve loaves of bread were placed on the table, where they remained until the following Shabbat. Bread is the staff of life, and a metaphor for all forms of nourishment. Thus, the table symbolizes all our material needs.

The Temple serves as the portal to heaven. As Jacob said regarding the Temple Mount: “This is none other than the house of G‑d, and this is the gate of heaven.”  This gateway serves a dual purpose: it is the path through which our prayers ascend to heaven, and it is the conduit through which we receive all beneficence which descends from Above. Both our spiritual and physical needs are provided by G‑d, and both come to us via the Temple: the spiritual needs are channeled through the menorah, and material largess through the table.

The biblical commentator Rabbi Shmuel ben Meir (Rashbam), explains that the menorah’s practical purpose was to provide light for the table. After all, the royal table needs to be illuminated by a royal candelabrum!

The message is quite clear. Our Torah and mitzvot must “illuminate” all our physical pursuits. We cannot relegate the spiritual to the synagogue, or to the hour or two of the day which we dedicate to Torah study, prayer and good deeds. Our connection with G‑d must be apparent even while involved in a business meeting, or when sitting down to eat.

A home whose “table” is illuminated by its “menorah” is truly worthy of being a sanctuary wherein G‑d willingly dwells.

Rabbi Naftali Silberberg is a writer, editor and director of the curriculum department at the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute. Rabbi Silberberg resides in Brooklyn, New York, with his wife, Chaya Mushka, and their three children.

Thoughts That Count
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When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap the corner of the field or the gleaning of the harvest. Leave them for the poor.... (Lev. 23:22)

Rabbi Abdimi asked, "Why did Scripture choose to place this law in the middle of the section dealing with the festivals? To teach us that whoever leaves the 'corners' and 'gleanings' for the poor, it is as if he built the Holy Temple and presented his [festival] offerings there.

And you shall not profane My holy name (Lev. 22:32)

The opposite of profaning G‑d's name is the sanctification of G‑d's name. When a Jew performs a mitzva (commandment) with devotion, and with pure intent, he is sanctifying G‑d's name. When a Jew behaves in such a manner that only good things are heard about him, that too is a sanctification of G‑d's name. However, the opposite is also true. (Rambam)

And you shall count for yourselves... (Lev 23:15)

The word "u'sefartem - and you shall count" is from the same root as the words "sapphire" and "bright" as if to say, "Work on 'yourselves' until you are shiny and bright." (The Maggid of Mezritch)

In the manner that he has caused a defect in someone, so shall it be done to him (Lev. 24:20)

If one finds a defect or something lacking in his friend, this is a sign that "so shall it be done to him" - that he himself is the one that has the defect. "He who charges others, charges them with his own faults." (Kometz HaMincha)

Once Upon A Chassid

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The Light Slap

Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aaron, and say to them (21:1)

"Speak… and say to them" - warn the elders to warn the youngsters - Talmud, Yevamot 114a (cited as a biblical source for the concept of education)

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok of Lubavitch told:

Once, when I was about six years old, my father called me to his room and told me to make the blessing on the tzitzis. I replied that I had already made the blessing earlier in the day. "Nevertheless, say the blessing," said father. I refused.

Father slapped me lightly - this was the only slap I ever received from him - and said: "When I tell you to do something, you must obey." Tearfully, I burst out: "If one must recite the blessing for G‑d, then I have already done so; and if one must recite the blessing because of your command… well…"

Father replied: "One must recite the blessing for G‑d. But every father has been entrusted with the task to educate his children, and he must be obeyed."

Tid Bits
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Respect
tid bit

 

Self-respect, respect for other people, respect for other's property and opinions.

Respect never goes out of style, it's always politically correct, and it does not become obsolete as new isms, philosophies and technology catapults us into the unknown faster than we can blink.

The revered and venerated Sage, Rabbi Akiva, is renown for his teaching, "Love your fellow as yourself. This is a great principle of the Torah." A lesser known teaching of his is: "Beloved is a person, for he was created in the image of G‑d..."

Keeping this second teaching in mind can help one act on the first teaching; when we remember that every person is a Divine creation can we do anything less than respect him or her?

This coming Thursday we will celebrate the special day of Lag B'Omer. One of the events commemorated on Lag B'Omer is the suspension of a plague which had been afflicting the students of Rabbi Akiva. The plague, we are told, was caused by the students not displaying enough respect for one another.

A disciple is one who follows in the ways of his teacher. Is it possible that disciples of one whose entire life was consumed by the axiom, "Love your fellow as yourself" - so much so that this teaching is synonymous with the name "Rabbi Akiva" - did not display enough respect for each other?

An amazing insight of the Rebbe on this question is as follows: Each of Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students was so infused with love for his fellow that this love was all-consuming. He was not able to give his colleague "space." He loved his friend so much that he wanted to not only share his insights, opinions and interpretations but to convince his peer of their validity until the peer adopted them as his own - because of his tremendous love for his peer.

Remember, we're not talking about a person who is opinionated, arrogant, narcissistic, or condescending. We are talking about someone who loves the other person so much that he wants the other person to share his Truth (with a capital "t").

And this is where the hint of a suggestion of a lack of respect comes in. Respect includes giving another person space. It means allowing for divergent opinions. It acknowledges that G‑d created every person differently for a reason.

Yes, we can learn to harmonize, modify, accommodate, adapt, perfect. But we cannot expect to become the same, otherwise G‑d would have created us that way.

Most of us don't have to worry that our lack of respect for another is caused by such an all-encompassing love. We're still working on the regular, run-of-the-mill respect.

The way to encourage such respect is to begin looking at our fellow person as one who is created in the image of G‑d.

 

Happenings

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