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ויציאו אתו כל העדה אל מחוץ למחנה וירגמו אתו באבנים ...ויוציאו את המקלל מחוץ למחנה וירגמו אתו אבן

And they took the blasphemer to the outside of the camp, and stoned him to death. (24:23) The entire assembly removed him to the outside of the camp, they pelted him with stones and he died. (Bamidbar 15:36)

The Torah is teaching us about the punishment meted out to the mekallel, blasphemer. In Sefer Bamidbar, the Torah relates the punishment which the mechallel Shabbos, desecrator of Shabbos, received. The mekoshesh eitzim, the individual who gathered twigs on Shabbos, was stoned, as was the blasphemer. While their punishments were similar, the Torah’s description of the actual execution is textually different. With regard to the mekallel, the Torah writes, Vayirgemu oso even, “They stoned him with even,” which means one stone. Concerning the meksohesh, however, the Torah writes, Vayirgemu oso b’avanim, “They stoned him with stones.” Why is the blasphemer stoned…

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וספרתם לכם ממחחרת שבת

You shall count for yourselves – from the morrow. (23:15)

The halachah, as recorded in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 493:1, states that the prevalent custom is not to make weddings between Pesach and Shavuos (during a specific thirty-three day period), because it was during this time that the students of Rabbi Akiva (twenty-four thousand) died. The Talmud (Menachos 29b) states: “Rav Yehudah said in the name of Rav, when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended Har Sinai to receive the Torah, he found Hashem attaching crowns to some of the letters of the Torah. Moshe asked, ‘Hashem, who is holding You back (preventing you from making the Torah larger)?’ Hashem replied, ‘One day, there…

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ובחמשה עשר יום לחדש הזה חג המצות לד'

And on the fifteenth day of this month is the Festival of Matzos to Hashem. (23:6)

One year, Horav Tzvi Hirsch Levin, zl, had occasion to invite the mayor of Berlin (a gentile, but one that was quite respectful and friendly to the members of the Jewish community) for the first Seder. The mayor entered the home to observe the rich finery of the tablecloth and napkins on a table bedecked with the finest china and silver flatware. The mayor had a superficial knowledge of Jewish traditions and customs. He was, thus, taken aback that Pesach, when we sit as kings, the young child traditionally asks the Four Questions, which begin, “Why is this night different?”…

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ולא תהללו את שם קדשי ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל אני ד' מקדשכם

You shall not desecrate My holy Name, rather I should be sanctified among Bnei Yisrael; I am Hashem Who sanctifies you. (22:32)

The Torah exhorts us to strive to be holy. Some make it – others do not. Some make the attempt – others do not even bother. One might think that the barrier to achieving success in ruchniyos, spirituality, is a lack of aptitude, a deficiency of talent, or whatever excuses we might advance to justify our own lack of trying. In an inspiring exposition on the Midrash related to this pasuk, Horav Tzvi Kushelevsky, Shlita, explains the real reason that many fail to achieve the mark of greatness. The Tanchuma (Emor 2) relates that, in desperation, Shaul Hamelech went to…

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אמר אל הכהנים בני אהרן ואמרת אליהם לנפש לא יטמא בעמיו

Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and you shall say to them: to a (dead) person he shall not become impure among his people. (21:1)

Chazal (Midrash Vayikra Rabbah 26:6) quotes the pasuk in Sefer Tehillim (19:10), Yiraas Hashem tehorah omedes la’ad, “Fear of Hashem is pure, it will stand for all eternity.” Rav Levi said, “Because Aharon HaKohen maintained such fear of Hashem, he was given this parsha, which will accompany his children and their descendants until the end of time.” Which parsha is this? The parsha which addresses the avoidance of impurity. It sounds as if the primary requirement imposed upon the Kohanim is the mandate that they maintain a heightened level of purity. What about the prohibition against marrying a divorcee or…

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את אביה היא מחללת

She desecrates her father. (21:9)

Why should her father be blamed? Veritably, parents often must accept blame for their children’s indiscretions, but it seems that here it is assumed. By exhibiting profligate behavior, the daughter of the Kohen has disgraced her father. We find a similar case concerning the family of Miraim bas Bilgah, whose family was disgraced as a result of her rebelliousness. Apparently, the Torah here blames the father. Later (Parashas Ki Seitzei) concerning the debasement of the naarah ha’meorasah, betrothed maiden, who was found guilty of infidelity, she is taken to the doorway of her father’s home to be stoned. Her parents…

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וכי תזבחו זבח תודה לד' לרצונכם תזבחו

When you slaughter a feast Thanksgiving to Hashem, you shall slaughter to gain favor for yourselves. (22:29)

Rashi understands this pasuk as an enjoinment to one who offers a Korban Todah, Thanksgiving-offering, to maintain the proper kavanah, positive intention, that it all be eaten on that day. If one has intention to prolong the eating until the next day, he not only disqualifies the korban, but he also loses favor for himself in the eyes of Hashem. A korban achieves efficacy if the individual offering the sacrifice adheres to the prescribed Biblical rules concerning its offering. Otherwise, the korban is invalid. L’retzonchem is required in order for a korban to be effective. Horav Avraham Pam, zl (cited…

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'ושמרתם מצותי ועשיתם אתם אני ד

You shall observe My commandments and perform them. (22:31)

Rashi explains the verbs in this pasuk practically: u’shmartem, “You shall observe,” as referring to Mishnah, study; and va’asisem; “and perform them,” as an enjoinment to action, to carrying out mitzvos. In contrast, the Chasam Sofer, zl, approaches the verb “u’shmartem,” homiletically. U’shmartem, “You shall guard them,” as we find concerning Yaakov Avinu’s understanding of Yosef’s dream; V’aviv shamar es ha’davar, “And his father kept the matter in mind” (Bereishis 37:11). Our Patriarch anticipated the results of the dream. He guarded it, anticipating its outcome. Thus, the Torah teaches us that it is not enough to merely execute the mitzvah;…

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ולא תחללו את שם קדשי ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל

You shall not desecrate My Holy Name, and I shall be sanctified among Bnei Yisrael. (22:32)

Some of us live under the misguided, self-imposed impression that Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying Hashem’s Name, is a one-time event – the ultimate sacrifice one must accept upon himself when the need arises and the situation is so pressing that there is no other way out other than abdicating one’s religious commitment. Horav Nissan Alpert, zl, understands otherwise from the text of this pasuk. According to the Rambam (Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah 5:1), this pasuk is the source for the mitzvah that all the Jewish People are commanded to sanctify the great and holy Name of Hashem Yisborach. As it says, V’nikdashti…

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והכהן הגדול מאחיו

The Kohen who is exalted above his brethren. (21:10)

The Kohen Gadol is described as the individual who is the most exalted above his brethren. Chazal define this greatness as exalted in piety, wisdom, handsomeness, wealth (which, if he does not have, is supplied to him), and strength. Obviously, the two most critical requirements are piety and wisdom; the other criteria are mentioned so that the average person, who does not look beyond the external, is still impressed. While appearance certainly does play a role, as does physical strength, why should wealth be important? Indeed, material wealth seems to be the antithesis of ruchniyos, spirituality. The Rebbe of Rizhin,…

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