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ולקחתם לכם ... פרי עץ הדר כפת תמרים וענף עץ עבת וערבי נחל

You shall take for yourselves … an esrog (the fruit of a citron tree), a lulav (the branches of date palms), hadas (twigs of a plaited tree/myrtle), and aravos (brook willows). (23:40)

Chazal (Succah 37b) state that one is to take the lulav (held) in his right hand, while he takes the esrog in the left. The reason for this is that the lulav includes three mitzvos: lulav, hadas, aravah; the esrog is singular. This does not seem consistent with the Midrash’s (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12) characterization of the symbolic representation of each of the arba minim, four species. The four species allude to four types of Jews. The esrog, pri eitz hadar, the beautiful fruit of a tree, has taam and reiach, taste as well as fragrance. It parallels the talmid chacham,…

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ועל כל נפשת מת לא יבא לאביו ולאמו לא יטמא

He shall not come near any dead person; he shall not contaminate himself to his father or his mother. (21:11)

Rashi infers from the pasuk (which on the surface appears superfluous) that, while the Kohen Gadol may not contaminate himself even to a family member, he may contaminate himself to a meis mitzvah, deceased who has no one to bury him. To better understand this, we will explain what it means to be alone at the time of death. By nature, the human being seeks connection and companionship. Human beings are social creatures. As such, during moments of vulnerability, the need for companionship intensifies. Having said this, we turn to the laws concerning the meis mitzvah, man who dies alone,…

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ובת איש כהן כי תחל לזנות את אביה היא מחללת

If the daughter of a Kohen will be desecrated through adultery, she desecrates her father. (21:9)

The Torah explains what a tragedy truly is. A young woman, married or betrothed, commits an act of adultery. The actual act is an egregious sin in its own right, but her pedigree magnifies the sin. This woman’s father is a Kohen, member of the Priestly family. Thus, not only does she disgrace herself, but she also humiliates and defames her father. As a result, her punishment is more harsh than if she had been the daughter of a Yisrael. The word seichel is translated as desecrated, a derivative of challal or chillul. Seichal, posits Horav Shlomo Kluger, zl, can…

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ויניחהו במשמר לפרש להם על פי ד'

They placed him under guard to clarify for themselves through Hashem. (24:12)

The incident of the megadef, blasphemer, is a sad entry in the history of our people. It is not as if we have not had wicked, insecure people whose actions against Hashem warranted swift and extreme punishment. He was, however, the first to act so contemptibly. Thus, the punishment to be meted out to him was uncertain. Hashem had to inform Moshe Rabbeinu what form of execution – if any – he should receive. He was placed in a holding cell until Hashem clarified his punishment. The megadef was not the only sinner spending his time in a cell. The…

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וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את עמר התניפה שבע שבתות תמימת תהיינה

You shall count for yourselves from the morrow of the rest day, from the day when you bring the Omer of the waving – seven weeks, they shall be complete. (23:15)

The mitzvah of sefiras haOmer, counting of the Omer, is the injunction to count every day (49 days) from the second day of Pesach, when the Omer is brought, until the fiftieth day, which heralds the Festival of Shavuos. Every single day of sefiras haOmer is an individual period of preparing oneself, refining one’s spiritual attributes, yearning for the moment when we receive the Torah. The seven-week period comprised of forty-nine days follows in the Torah’s tradition of dealing with a transition from a lower to a higher standard of morality, from a primitive, raw condition to one of advanced…

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שור או כשב או עז כי יולד והיה שבעה ימים תחת אמו... ושור או שה... אותו ואת בנו לא תשחטו ביום אחד... וכי תזבחו זבח תודה לד' לרצונכם תזבחו... ולא תחללו את שם קדשי ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל

An ox, lamb or goat, when it is born shall be with its mother for seven days… (22:27) But an ox or a sheep… you may not slaughter and its offspring on the same day… (22:28) When you slaughter a feast thanksgiving offering to Hashem, you shall slaughter it to gain favor for yourselves. (22:29) You shall not desecrate My Holy Name, rather I shall be sanctified among Bnei Yisrael. (22:32)

Four pesukim in sequence: the first three address korbanos, offerings; the fourth pasuk addresses chillul and kiddush Hashem, profaning and sanctifying Hashem’s Name. Clearly, the Torah’s arrangement of pesukim is not haphazard. Every pasuk, every letter, every crown, is in its specific place by Heavenly design. What is the rationale behind the positioning of these four pesukim? Horav Shimon Schwab, zl (Rav Schwab on Chumash), examines the common denominator in these pesukim. It is about life and living. First, the Torah teaches us that not just any animal, regardless of age, may be sacrificed. It must be, at minimum, eight…

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ובת איש כהן כי תחל לזנות את אביה היא מחללת באש תשרף

If the daughter of a Kohen will be desecrated through adultery, she desecrates her father – she shall be consumed by fire. (21:9)

The less than savory activities of one’s offspring – whether intended or not – will affect his parents’ reputation. People like to talk. It is a disease that affects many of us, and, when someone’s child acts in an uncomplimentary manner, people have reason to talk – and they do. This is especially true when the children are products of an illustrious lineage. This adds fuel to the fire. The bas kohen that desecrated herself receives an unusual punishment which is not consistent with the sin of adultery. Rightfully, an adulteress is stoned for her contemptible behavior. The bas kohen…

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אמור אל הכהנים בני אהרן ואמרת אליהם...ויצא בן אשה ישראלית והוא בן איש מצרי בתוך בני ישראל

Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and tell them (21:1)…The son of an Israelite woman went out – and he was the son of an Egyptian man. (24:10)

Horav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv, zl, makes a practical connection between the opening command of our parshah, in which Hashem commands– in what appears to be a redundancy– that Kohanim should maintain their purity, and the conclusion of the parshah which relates the sad incident of the megadef, blasphemer. Emor el ha’Kohanim – v’amarta aleihem. Rashi comments: “The Torah uses the redundant wording emor – v’amarta, ‘say,’ followed by, ‘and you shall say,’ l’hazhir gedolim al ha’ketanim, to enjoin adults with regard to minors. The Torah writes va’yeitzei ben ishah Yisraelis, “The son of an ishah Yisraelis went out.” Chazal ask,…

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אמור אל הכהנים בני אהרן ואמרת אליהם

Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and tell them. (21:1)

Emor, say; v’amarta, and tell them, is an apparent redundancy. Rashi explains emor, v’amarta as an enjoinment, l’hazhir gedolim al ha’ketanim, that the Kohanim convey this teaching to others; More specifically, adult Kohanim were cautioned (l’hazhir) regarding the children, the young Kohanim, for adults are not permitted to cause children to become contaminated. The commentators, each in his own inimitable manner, explain the idea of l’hazhir gedolim al ha’ketanim. If I may use my writer’s license, I would suggest that l’hazhir, which also means illuminated and cause to shine, is an enjoinment to parents to make their children’s positive achievements…

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ויצא בן אשה ישראלית והוא בן איש מצרי ... ויקב ... את השם ויקלל

The son of a Yisraelite woman went out and he was the son of an Egyptian man… and he pronounced the Name and he blasphemed. (24:10,11)

The story of this Jew who committed the abhorrent sin of blasphemy, is without a doubt a gut-wrenching tale whose placement in the Torah leaves one bewildered. It happened once – one person from a murky pedigree, the only one like him in all Klal Yisrael. His mother was the only immoral woman in the entire nation. He was the only Jewish man fathered by an Egyptian. His father was the one Egyptian that was killed by Moshe Rabbeinu to protect a Jewish man. Rabbeinu Bachya wonders why the Torah felt it necessary to include this tragic debacle in the…

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