Dedicated In Loving Memory of David and Jenie Gammal A'H By Michael and Sarah Gammal
In this week’s parasha, the Torah discusses the Divine service placed upon the kohanim and a particular responsibility to maintain higher standards of holy behavior and purity than the rest of the nation. In the first passuk, the Torah uses a double lashon—redundant language. “Emor el hakohanim b’nei Aharon ve’amarta — Say to the kohanim the sons of Aharon and say to them.” As we discussed before Pesach, the Torah uses the double lashon of say and say to emphasize the importance of chinuch—educating our children. Education in the home plays a pivotal role in a child’s development. It leaves an indelible imprint upon his character and attitude toward life religiously, socially, and philosophically.
As parents, we must understand the concept of chinuch before we can educate our children. The Vilna Gaon said that the way to educate is to fill the middle cup and let it spill over into the other cups. In other words, we, as parents, are the middle cup. By setting a good example, we ensure that our children will learn the proper way to act. It has been taught by many gedolim that the time to begin educating our children is not when they are four or five years old, but even before they’re born. In other words, first, we must work on ourselves to become good role models.
Consider a story that happened on a bus in Israel. Many schoolchildren got on the bus and were standing at the front to get their tickets punched. As each child’s ticket was punched, he moved to the back of the bus. One child was standing there, and the bus driver said, “Move! Go to the back!” The child said, “No, I can’t.” the bus driver then said, “Why not?” The child explained, “Because you didn’t punch my ticket.” The driver said, “Yes, I did.” The boy said, “No, you did not.” The driver angrily repeated, “Move!” and he reluctantly went to the back of the bus. A few moments later, the bus driver looked in the mirror, and he saw the young boy crying in the back of the bus. The driver stopped the bus, walked to the back and he asked the child, “What’s wrong?” The boy said, “This is forbidden. This is theft. I can’t ride the bus. It’s stealing.” And he held out his card. The bus driver punched the card again and patted the boy on the head. This little seven-year-old, unbeknownst to him, did such a beautiful act of kiddush Hashem—sanctification of G-d’s name.
We have to teach our children, for example, that when they enter a building, they should look and see if there is an adult behind them, and if there is, they should hold the door for them; that they should not call adults by their first name; that they should speak with the refined language of a ben Torah or bat Yisrael. This is the element of respect that we must ingrain in our children.
We are to understand the tremendous responsibility and the incredible potential that the Torah puts upon na’arei B’nei Yisrael. We do not simply teach children now so that they will have good manners when they grow up. The story is teaching us that these children can make a kiddush Hashem right now while they are still young.
If the parent or teacher is motivated purely by the student’s benefit, they will succeed. The relationship between adult and child is a very important factor in a child accepting the lesson, both at home as well as in school. A child must feel unconditionally accepted and loved. Rabbis in yeshivot often have this type of relationship with their students, a phenomenon that is rarely found in secular schools.
Rav Simha relates the story of a history professor in a large university who had to come to the yeshivah to say Kaddish for his father. The professor confessed to Rav Simha that he’s a lonely man now that he’s in his later years. The Rabbi asked him, “How many students have you taught in your forty years of teaching?” He did a calculation and came up with about 15,000 students. The Rabbi then asked, “How many have invited you to their wedding?” The professor replied, somewhat disheartened, “Not a single one.”
Imagine a student in a yeshivah not inviting his rabbi or rosh yeshiva to his wedding! It would be unheard of, because Torah is taught with love, and this creates a bond between the rabbi and the student. A rabbi views his students as his own children, and a close relationship is a natural consequence of this attitude.
Because the kohanim are designated to perform the holy services in the Bet Hamikdash, they have special rules they must follow so they don’t contaminate themselves. For example, at a funeral or in a hospital, they cannot be near a dead person unless it is their immediate family. That’s why even today, kohanim are not allowed to be in the same room as a deceased, and at a funeral, they must stay outside or in a special room that is designated for the kohanim.
Rabbi Hirsch comments on the next passuk, “You shall sanctify him,” explaining that the kohen is not merely an individual who acts as a representative of the Bet Hamikdash. Rather, he is responsible for the nation, and the nation is also obligated to compel him to remain true to his calling.
A kohen could not serve in the Bet Hamikdash if he was a baal mum-disabled. Is the Torah discriminating against disabled people? Of course not! The Torah would never condone such discrimination. The rule has less to do with the kohen himself and more to do with peoples’ nature because they won’t look at the kohen properly if they are distracted by a characteristic that marks him as different. The kohen is a chashuv—important person and has to be looked at that way by the people, as an elevated servant of Hashem. The true nature of people is that they would not look at the kohen properly if he had a missing limb or some other feature that stood out.
This is similar to a judge who wears a black robe in order to instill fear and respect in the people, so they will honor him. The underlying reason for all these laws has to do with the image the kohen is meant to project because he is to be treated and looked upon as royalty just as, lehavdil, a president or prime minister of a country would dress.
Making a Kiddush Hashem
In the next perek, we read, “You shall not desecrate My holy name, rather I should be sanctified among B’nei Yisrael; I am Hashem who sanctifies you (22:23).” This passuk teaches us that we have an obligation to always look for ways to make a kiddush Hashem.
Making a kiddush Hashem is the greatest mitzvah that we can do. We have seen throughout our history how so many people have made a kiddush Hashem by making the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. Although, B’H we don’t live in the generation of inquisitions and pogroms, where the Jews had to give up their lives for Hashem. Today we have much easier ways to make a kiddush Hashem.
We have many opportunities throughout our day to do a kind deed and sanctify G-d’s name. We could be simply driving somewhere in our car and letting someone go ahead of us. We can help an elderly person with a package or lend a hand to someone who needs assistance. We can return money to a non-Jew when given too much change. Making a kiddush Hashem is not just a nice thing to do, it’s a chance to show the nations of the world who the Jewish people are and to sanctify Hashem’s great name by emulating Hashem’s chessed that He does for all of us every second of every day.
Todah—Thank You, Hashem
“And when you slaughter a zevach todah—thanksgiving offering to Hashem… It shall be eaten on that day; do not leave it over until morning (22:29-30).” Rabbi Biderman writes in Torah Wellsprings that the Chatam Sofer explains that this passuk describes the mitzvah of thanking Hashem, through its requirement of eating it immediately. Just as we should not wait to eat the korban todah the next day, so too should we not put off thanking Hashem. Sometimes, we think bad things happen to us, and later, we look back and discover how that incident really was for our benefit. We are obligated not to wait until we can see in hindsight that the event helped us, rather, we should “eat the korban today” and thank Hashem before the puzzle pieces come together. The Chatam Sofer explained with a story from the Gemara (Nidah 31).
A merchant was rushing to catch a ship to do business overseas. As he was running to the boat, he accidentally stepped on a thorn. The pain in his foot slowed him down, and by the time he arrived at the port, the boat had already set sail. He was very upset. “If it weren't for the thorn, I would have caught the boat,” he said, disappointed. Later, he found out that the ship had sunk. Now, he praised Hashem for His kindness, for placing the thorn in his path, thereby saving his life.
Rabbi Biderman continues, “It is easy to praise Hashem in retrospect. Our job is to praise Hashem when things look bad. We must believe that, even then, everything that happens to us is by Hashem's merciful providence and for our own good.” Don’t wait until tomorrow to “eat the korban.” Thank and praise Hashem today, even for things that might seem “inconvenient” or “unfair.”
Olam Hazeh—This World
Rabbi Wallerstein ZT’L once recalled a time that the father of one of the girls he helped came over to him and said, “Rabbi, I’m jealous of your portion of Olam Habah—The Next World.” Rabbi Wallerstein promptly told him, “Don’t ever be jealous of my next world. But if you’re going to covet, be envious of my Olam Hazeh—This World. My Olam Hazeh is about making someone smile and helping someone out. I can’t do any of that in the next world. I’ll be sitting and learning all day. But this world? You can make a special needs child smile. In this world, you can make your wife, your parents, or a stranger smile. You can help someone through a crisis! How amazing is that?”
Rabbi Wallerstein brought down a Mishnah that says that one second of good deeds in this world is greater than the whole next world. Rabbi Wallerstein continued to the father that approached him. “In this world, you can give tzedaka, you can help people get married, you can give a person hope.” We all have to learn a lesson from Rabbi Wallerstein and be thankful for our amazing opportunities in this world today, because THIS, NOW, is when we can serve Hashem. We must live every day to the fullest and reach out to help and inspire others.
May we all recognize our kohanim as our representatives when we have the Bet Hamikdash again. May we respect the memory of all the previous generations who died to make a kiddush Hashem, and whose pious acts have given us the opportunity to continue the Jewish Nation until this very day. Let us teach our children to be kindhearted people who sanctify Hashem’s name. May we also remember to be thankful to Hashem even when things seem tough because the solution is right around the corner! May we live every day to the fullest and take advantage of our amazing opportunities to do chessed. Amen!
Rabbi Amram Sananes as written by Jack Rahmey
What are some ways that we can make a kiddush Hashem? Think about this with your children this Shabbat and discuss it with them at the Shabbat table.
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