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Table Talk: Emor

A Kingdom of Priests (Based on Exodus 19:6): “They shall not make a bald spot on their heads, and they shall not shave an edge of their beard.” (Vayikra 21:5) Rashi wonders why the Torah needed to specify the prohibition against a Cohen making a bald spot (no, it is not referring to having children or paying bills, or filing your taxes) when there is a prohibition against any Jew ripping out his hair in agony over someone’s death, as the verse says; “You are children to God – you shall not cut yourselves and you shall not make a bald spot between your eyes for a dead person.” (Deuteronomy 14:1) Rashi explains that we need both verses, the general prohibition and the one specific to Cohanim so that we can derive the laws of one from the other. The verse in Deuteronomy specifies “between your eyes” – (Sounds like what else that goes between your eyes?) – and we might have thought that the prohibition for a Jew only applies to the part of the head that parallels between the eyes. The verse in this week’s portion mentions the entire head. We derive the laws of one verse from the other and say, “Just as the prohibition specific to Cohanim applies to anyplace on the scalp, so too, the later prohibition applies to the entire head.” The Torah did not need to complicate matters. It seems that the Torah went out of its way to force us to link the laws of Cohanim with the laws for all Israel. It must be related to the original offer (that couldn’t be refused but was) of the entire nation being a Kingdom of Priests. Would we be any different as a nation if we were all Priests? What would we look like as such a nation? How does this change our relationship with the Cohen who helps us with our offerings in the Temple?


The Sins of Our Youth

“Say to the Cohanim and tell them.” (Leviticus 21:1) The apparent redundancy teaches that the Cohanim must teach these concepts and ideas to their children. (Rashi) The Sages’ phrase is literally: “To warn the older to care about the younger.” Major Halachic authorities take this phrase to mean that an adult must repair the sins of his youth. (Thank God, I was an angel.) The Ramah (Orach Chaim 343) teaches that the adult should accept some form of Tikkun – Repair – for sins committed before he was liable for punishment. The Sefer Chassidim (#692) tells a story of a man who came to consult with a rabbi about money he stole before he was Bar Mitzvah. The Rabbi insisted that he was actually liable for any sins that he could remember. Maimonides (Prohibited Relationships 3:17), Ra’avad, Ran (Nedarim 68a sv. “If you say”, the Rashba and the Ridbaz (Responsa, Volume 6:2094) all discuss an almost ten-year old boy who must bring a sacrifice and whether the sacrifice is a form of punishment or exclusively for atonement. The Chidah (Midair Admit 20:3), Sefer Chassidim (#573) and the Ari discuss how an adult must repair the moments when we, as children, did not properly honor our parents. (I’m in trouble for that one.) Discuss the arguments for and against our being liable for those sins of our early lives. (I’m firmly against.)

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