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Parshas Emor 5777 - Elevating the People Around Us

 

אמור אל הכהנים בני אהרן ואמרת אליהם לנפש לא יטמא בעמיו.

“Tell the Kohanim the sons of Aharon… for the[dead] of the people they shall not be defiled.” (Vayikra21:1)

Although the Kohen has a unique status and is more sanctified than thecommon people, the Torah is commanding the Kohen not to become arrogant. Hashemchose the Jewish people from among all the nations; he chose the tribe of Levifrom all the tribes of Israel; he chose the sons of Aharon over the rest ofShevet Levi. Still, the Kohanim should not say, “We are the chosen ones and therest of the people are merely defiled commoners.” The verse can be read tomean, “Do not defile the people!” They too are holy and exalted, even if theydo not have the distinguished status of Kohanim.

We learn two important concepts in this parsha: 1)honor every person, even if he is unworthy, and you will bring him closer toHashem, and 2) on the other hand, the person who isbeing honored should not become arrogant and disdain others.

Our great Chassidic masters were personal examples ofthese important traits, as the following poignant anecdote indicates: The tzaddik Reb Dovid’lof Lelov once traveled to the Rebbe Reb Elimelech of Lizensk. Reb Elimelechasked him, “Who is the worst Jew in Lelov?” Reb Dovid’l thought for a momentand replied, “There is a certain individual in Lelov who is very sinful.” RebElimelech rebuked him, “If you can say this, you do not belong here! If youfeel there is a person in Lelov who is more sinful than you, you have no placein my court!” Reb Dovid’l quickly replied, “Of course, I am the worst person inLelov, but right now I am in Lizensk, not in Lelov, so that leaves him…” RebElimelech accepted this reply and allowed Reb Dovid’l to stay.

We see a similar message in the passage of the Torahregarding Pesach Sheni, where the people who were unclean on Pesach ask for asecond opportunity to sacrifice the Pesach Offering. “We are defiled,” theysaid, yet why shall we be denied a chance to bring the Koran Pesach? When Mosheheard them calling themselves “defiled” he told them to wait until he receivesinstructions from Hashem. Rashi points out: A worthy thing is brought aboutthrough worthy individuals.

People who consider themselves unworthy, are considered worthy byHashem!

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וקדשתו כי את לחם אלקיך הוא מקריבקדוש יהי' לך כי קדוש אני ה' מקדשכם.

Later in the parsha,the Torah discusses the special status of the Kohen: “And you shall sanctify him, for hesacrifices the bread of your G-d; he shall be holy for you because I, Hashemwho sanctifies you, am holy.” (Vayikra 21:8)

Rashi tells us how to treat the Kohen, due to his holiness :“Treat him with kedusha;he shall be the first in everything and he shall be the first one to say theblessing at a meal.”

The possuk abovetells us that we “shall sanctify” the Kohen and he should be “holy for you.”This seems like a command to the people, but how can we fulfill it? The Kohenis sanctified by Hashem, not by us, so how can we make the Kohen “holy for us?”

The Torah is telling us that we have the power to make aperson holy. It is up to us to sanctify the people around us – not just theKohanim. When we treat a person as if he is especially holy, even if he isunworthy of such respect, he will eventually grow into being a person worthy ofour admiration.

What a powerful message!

The Baal Shem Tov interpreted the famous Mishna “Hevei dan es kal adam l’kaf zechus -you shall judge every person favorably” in an insightful way: We allinstinctively judge the people around us according to what they do. When wehear something good or bad about another person, we judge him in our minds,deciding whether he is a tzaddik ora rasha.“When you judge a fellow person,” the Baal Shem Tov would say, “when you areabout to pass judgment on kaladam – the entire person, labeling him a tzaddik or rasha, then if you judgehim in a favorable light, you will turn him over l’kaf zechus – torighteousness!” The way we think about another person impacts his conduct andpersonal development. We wield tremendous power over the people around us, andit is up to us to use this power in a beneficial way.

This is the beauty of Rashi’s comment: The Kohen has tobe holy because of his unique role. But what if he isn’t holy, as he should be?Treat him with kedusha anyway,making him first in everything and honoring him with the first blessing atevery meal, and in the end he will become holy!

This Weeks Divrei Torah is dedicated in honor of:
Shmuel ben Chaim
Feinberg A"H
5708-5769 9 Shvat

This Weeks Divrei Torah is dedicated in honor of:

 
 
 
 
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