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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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וביום השביעי שבת שבתון מקרא קדש כל מלאכה לא תעשו

And the Seventh day is a day of complete rest, a holy convocation, you shall not do any work. (23:3)

The Talmud (Shabbos 10b) teaches, “Hashem said to Moshe Rabbeinu, ‘I have a matanah tovah, good gift, in My treasure house and Shabbos is its name, and I seek to give it to Yisrael. Go and inform them about it.’” The Steipler Gaon, zl observes that, obviously, when Hashem instructed Moshe Rabbeinu to inform Klal Yisrael about Shabbos, it was not concerning hilchos, the laws of Shabbos, because Moshe had an obligation to teach the laws of all the mitzvos. In this area, Shabbos would not be unique. In what area was Shabbos distinguished from all other mitzvos that Hashem…

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ולא תחללו את שם קדשי ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל

You shall not desecrate My holy Name; rather I should be sanctified among Bnei Yisrael. (22:32)

The Torah commands us to sanctify Hashem’s Name and also to make certain not to profane it. The Sefer HaChinuch explains the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem as the only manner in which we may execute the purpose of our creation, “For man is created only for the purpose of serving Hashem. One who does not sacrifice his body in the service of his master is not a good servant. People give their souls for their masters, all the more so should we for the commandment of the King of Kings.” We derive from here (Rabbeinu Yonah 3:143) that one who…

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לנפש לא יטמא בעמיו

He shall not defile himself for the dead among his people. (21:1)

No Kohen may defile himself for a dead person who is not one of his seven close relatives as enumerated in the Torah. Sforno explains the reason why a Kohen may not defile himself to a corpse. “The Kohen is a chief, a leader among his people, whose function is to learn and to teach as the Navi Malachi says (2:7), ‘For the Kohen’s lips shall preserve knowledge, and they should seek Torah from his mouth.’ It is, thus, proper that such an individual conduct himself as a prince, so that his words will be listened to. It is (thus)…

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