Parashat Emor

Dr. David Pelcovitz Interacting with our Children

אמר‭ ‬אל‭ ‬הכהנים‭ ‬‭ ‬‭… ‬ואמרת‭ ‬אלהם

The redundancy of the phrase “Say to the Kohanim… and speak to them” is meant to caution the adult Kohanim regarding the children (Rashi; Yevamot 114a)

Rabbis tell us that raising children is a balancing act. In the words of the Gemara (Sotah 47a), it is the balance between smol doche, the left and weaker hand pushing away, and y’min mekarevet, the right and stronger hand bringing closer.

As parents, it is important to consider one particular key ingredient, amongst many others, when focusing on our goals of raising children: the balance of love and limits.

Children thrive on a healthy dose of both love and limits. In fact, many kids today recognize themselves the need for boundaries. On one visit to Los Angeles, I was asked to speak about use of the internet to high school children attending various yeshivot. There were a couple key questions I was particularly interested in asking. One of them was: if you were the parent of an adolescent today, how would you handle the internet differently than your own parents handle the internet? When we heard the results of hundreds of kids responding to this question, my colleagues and I were taken aback. Most of them replied that if they were the head of a family and had to make rules for the internet, they would make many changes. They would set rules and insure parental supervision. They would essentially do everything possible to insure their children’s safety and well-being.

In one survey, seventy-five percent of kids who have cell-phones in America said they prefer texting to face to face contact with their friends. Such an assessment speaks to the times we live in today. But as we know from the words of Shlomo Hamelech,” כמים‭ ‬הפנים‭ ‬לפנים‭ ‬כן‭ ‬לב‭ ‬האדם‭ ‬האדם“- As Water reflects a face back to a face, so is one’s heart reflected back to him by another” (Mishlei 27:19).

Human interaction takes place through our hearts bouncing off each other in eye to eye contact. When it comes to building and maintaining relationships, especially with our children, our attention must remain undivided. Otherwise, transmitting our values to the next generation will be accompanied by much difficulty. Equally important to placing limits on our children is providing them with our valuable time and love.

I was once told by a friend how the son of Rav Elya Meir Bloch zt”l spent every morning of his childhood. Rav Bloch, the late Rosh Yeshiva of Telz in Cleveland, had an incredibly busy schedule. However, that didn’t stop him from spending time with his son. Every morning, before he went to pray, he would wake up his son and take him to the kitchen table to share a cup of tea. He would then say, “Tell me about your day yesterday? What are you expecting to do today? Let me tell you a little bit about my day.” After about a half an hour, the little boy would go back to sleep as his father would head off to praying.

Although the son of Rav Bloch may have had only a half an hour of undiluted attention from his father on a daily basis, during that time, he knew there was nothing more important to his father than him. It is precisely in this way that we build deep relationships with our children and shape them forever.

At a mental health conference, one psychologist told me the following story:

I had a session this morning with a sixteen-year old boy who, although growing up in a loving home, had become more and more rebellious. He came into my office and said, “Let me tell you what happened last night. I was walking past a pool hall where a gang, which I had been dying to get into, had gathered. All of a sudden, the head of the gang invited me in. I couldn’t believe it. What I had been dreaming about for so long was finally coming true. I took a seat with them and began thinking how maybe they would accept me into their group. After about two hours, the head of the gang took out some drug and casually threw it to me. “Doctor,” said the boy, “the strangest thing then happened. As I was about to put it into my mouth, the look of love in my father’s eyes when he blessed me Friday night came flashing through my mind. I thought to myself, ‘My father knows I am better than this; my father expects more of me.’ Viscerally, I threw back the drug and ran out of the pool hall. “Doctor, I promise, I will never go back there again.”

Such is the power of expectations, the power of connecting to our children face to face and the power of focusing on their uniqueness. Raising happy and healthy children may be a long and arduous journey with many ups and downs, but we can rest well assured that every ounce put in is well worth it.

simcha corner

A Buddhist monk goes to a barber to have his head shaved. “What should I pay you?” the monk asks.

“No price, for a holy man such as yourself,” the barber replies.

And what do you know, the next day the barber comes to open his shop, and finds on his doorstep a dozen gemstones.

That day, a priest comes in to have his hair cut. “What shall I pay you, my son?”

“No price, for a man of the cloth such as yourself.”

And what do you know, the next day the barber comes to open his shop, and finds on his doorstep a dozen roses.

That day, Rabbi Finklestein comes in to get his payot [sideburns] trimmed. “What do you want I should pay you?”

“Nothing, for a man of God such as yourself.”

And the next morning, what do you know? The barber finds on his doorstep a dozen rabbis!

An old Jewish beggar was out on the street in New York City with his tin cup.

“Please, sir,” he pleaded to a passerby, “could you spare 73 cents for a cup of coffee and some pie?”

The man asked, “Where do you get coffee and pie for 73 cents in New York? It costs a minimum of a dollar!”

The beggar replied, “So who buys retail?”

A rabbi, a priest, and an imam are asked the question “When does life begin?”

The priest says: “The moment of conception.”

The imam replies: “The moment of birth.”

The rabbi says: “The moment the kids are married off.”

facts of life: take this serious

Nobody Is Immune From Sin

A regular Kohen may not marry a divorcee. However, unlike a regular Kohen, a Kohen Gadol, may not even marry a widow. A Kohen Gadol must marry a woman who has never before been married. The Moshav Zekeinim Al HaTorah suggests a reason for this restriction on the Kohen Gadol.

Had the Kohen Gadol been allowed to marry a widow, we would have been afraid of the following scenario: Perhaps the Kohen would have his eyes on a married woman, who he really wanted to marry. When he went into the Kodesh Hakodashim on Yom Kippur to utter the Shem haMeforash — which has supernatural powers capable even of killing people [Rashi Shmot 2:14]), he might have in mind the husband of the woman who he wants to marry — and thereby cause his death. To avoid this potentially life-threatening situation, the Torah commands the Kohen Gadol to only marry a woman who was never previously married. We see from this Tosfot, that nobody, even the Kohen Gadol, is immune from sin.

Parsha Summary 

First Aliyah: The aliyah discusses the Kohen’s obligation to maintain a high level of ritual purity, and the women he may marry. An ordinary Kohen is prohibited to come in contact with a human corpse — except to attend the funerals of his next of kin — and may not marry a divorcee as well as some other women. The High Priest is not permitted to attend even family funerals, and is required to marry a virgin.

Second Aliyah: This section discusses bodily blemishes and ritual impurities which disqualify a Kohen from performing the Temple priestly duties. The aliyah then lays down the rules regarding who in the Kohen’s household may eat terumah, the tithe from produce given to the Kohanim.

Third Aliyah: Blemished animals are disqualified for sacrificial use. This aliyah also forbids the castration of animals, sacrificing animals before they are eight days old, and slaughtering a mother animal and her child on the same day. The aliyah concludes with the mitzvah of kiddush Hashem, sanctifying G‑d’s Name by giving one’s life rather than transgressing certain cardinal sins.

Fourth Aliyah: This section begins a lengthy discussion about the Jewish holidays. After making brief mention of the Shabbat, the Torah talks about the holiday of Passover and the mitzvah of eating matzah. On the second day of this holiday, an “omer” barley offering is brought in the Temple. This is followed by a seven-week counting period that culminates with the holiday of Shavuot. After discussing the Shavuot Temple service, the Torah briefly interrupts the holiday discussion to mention the obligation, when harvesting fields, to leave certain gifts for the poor.

Fifth Aliyah: The High Holidays are discussed. We are commanded to hear the shofar (ram’s horn) on Rosh Hashanah, and to “afflict” ourselves on Yom Kippur.

Sixth Aliyah: The autumn holiday of Sukkot is now introduced. During this seven-day holiday we are commanded to sit in outdoor booths, take the Four Species (citron, palm branch, myrtles, and willows), and rejoice before G‑d. The final holiday is Shemini Atzeret, a one-day holiday which immediately follows Sukkot.

Seventh Aliyah: We are instructed to use the purest of olive oils for the daily kindling of the Temple menorah, and to arrange twelve “showbreads” on the Temple Table every Shabbat. The Torah then tells the story of a Jewish man who was put to death for blaspheming G‑d. The portion concludes with the penalties for committing murder, property damages, and personal injury.

6‭ ‬Reasons‭ ‬Why We Rejoice On Lag BaOmer‭,‬

‭ ‬Rebbi Shimon‭ ‬Bar Yochai’s Yahrtzeit‭ ‬ But Fast On Moshe Rabbeinu’s Yahrtzeit

The Shulchan Aruch (OC 580:2) says that the day a Tzaddik was niftar(Passed away) is a fast day such as Adar 7 for Moshe Rabbeinu.  Yet Lag BaOmer, the yahrtzeit of Rebbi Shimon Bar Yochai is a day of happiness.  What is the difference?  The Sefer Ohr HaYikod Heim Yokdim gathered a list of reasons.  Among them include,

1.  Rebbi Shimon himself called it Yom Simchateinu.  The Shach paskens (YD 344:9) that if someone requests not to mourn him on his yahrtzeit we listen to him.  Rav Chaim Vital says that Rebbi Shimon appeared to the Arizal and complained of someone saying Nacheim on his yahrtzeit.

2.  Moshe Rabbeinu did not fulfill his desired mission of bringing Bnei Yisroel into Eretz Yisroel. Rebbi Shimon was very happy about the day of his passing away.

3.  When Moshe was taken 3,000 halachot were forgotten.  When Rebbi Shimon was niftar many Sodot HaTorah(Secret of Torah) were revealed in the Idra Zuta.

4.  Lag BaOmer we celebrate that Rebbi Shimon avoided death at the hands of the emperor.  It was only celebrated after his petira in order not to anger the Romans.  The day of his petira was the appropriate day since had he been killed by the Romans he would not have been buried.

5.  Death of a tzaddik causes a celebration in Shamayim(heaven) and mourning on earth.  When Rebbi Shimon was niftar the celebrations in Shamayim were revealed to the world who partook in the simcha.

6.  Rebbi Shimon left behind a son worthy of filling his role.  Moshe Rabbeinu did not.