Torah Fax    

Friday - Shabbat April 30 - May 1

Torah reading: Emor (Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23)
Candle Lighting Time 7:33 PM
Shabbat ends 8:37 PM 
Pirkei Avot Chapter 4 

A Few Words Before I Speak              

This week’s parsha begins with G‑d telling Moses to address the Kohanim-priests about the laws that apply specifically to them. The first subject that is introduced deals with a Kohain’s prohibition to come in contact with the dead, with the exception of his immediate family.

But before we examine that prohibition it is important to explain the manner in which G‑d tells Moses to address them: “Speak to the Kohanim the sons of Aaron and say to them.” Commentators have grappled with the apparent redundancy here. It could have simply stated “Speak to the Kohanim,” or “say to the Kohanim” Why add on the words “and say to them?”

Rashi presents the Talmudic explanation that Moses wanted the elders to admonish the youth. In other words, first one has to speak to the elders and they, in turn, must impart the lesson to the youth.

Another approach is that when we speak to the youth—external youth or the internal youthful state we all possess, regardless of our age—we should preface what we are about to say with a few introductory thoughts, as the story goes of the rabbi who got up to speak and said, “Before I speak, I’d like to say a few words...”

These few words must be said in order to break the ice; remove the barriers that separate the seasoned aspects of our souls from the youthful and untamed aspects of our personalities. Say something heartwarming. Even a witty remark or some humor is in order as a way of making sure that the message that follows will penetrate.

There is another approach to answering the question concerning the redundancy in the words “speak and say” that relates to the relatively unknown holiday of Pesach Sheni that we observed this past Wednesday and which occurs in the week that the Torah portion of Emor is read.

Pesach Sheni, or the Second Passover, was introduced one year after the Exodus, on the first anniversary of Passover that the Jewish people observed in the desert. A group of Jews, who were involved in the burial of the dead and were thus prohibited from bringing the Paschal offering that year, approached Moses with a complaint: “Why should we be deprived of the opportunity to bring the Paschal offering?” Moses then approached G‑d who responded by giving the Jewish people the holiday of Pesach Sheni when any Jew who did not bring the paschal lamb on Passover—for whatever reason, even if it was willful—could bring it one month later.

Two lessons can be gleaned from this episode are. One is that it is never too late. We can always make up for lost opportunities in one form or another. The second lesson is that it is proper—and even desirable—to complain when a Jew is unable to serve G‑d freely.

Both of these lessons can be said to derive from the repetition of the phrase “Speak to the sons of Aaron and say to them” found at the beginning of our Parshah. The implication here is that sometimes speaking once does not suffice. The listener might have missed something in the communication. The repetition of the words “and say to them” is that one must always give the listener another chance.

Even if the student was insensitive and resistant to the message, say it again; give him or her another opportunity, just as G‑d gives us the chance to make up for lost opportunities.

And the second lesson can also be said to be alluded to in the repetition of the words “Speak…and say.” As stated, the second lesson of Pesach Sheni is that a Jew has the right and even the obligation to demand that G‑d give him or her the opportunity to serve Him.

The greatest handicap in our service to G‑d is that we are in exile. Because of exile conditions—most notably the fact that the Temple has been destroyed—most of the 613 commandments cannot be presently be fulfilled. Because of the exile —prior to the Messianic Age—we are plagued with anxiety that detracts from the quality of our Jewish observance and Torah study as well. In short, our ability to be Jewish—as good as it may be now—is lacking. As such, every Jew who prays the Amidah prayer knows that we are constantly beseeching and imploring G‑d to bring Moshiach and the future Redemption at which time there will be universal peace and tranquility, which will be the means to living an enhanced Jewish life with unlimited spiritual opportunities.

Thus the meaning of “Speak and say” is to never get tired of imploring G‑d to provide us with expanded opportunities to be better Jews. And even though we have been praying for Moshiach for the last 2,000 years, we can never cease praying for Redemption.

Upon deeper reflection, this message can also be related to the specific topic with which the Torah portion begins: The law that prohibits a Kohain from coming in contact with a corpse.

A Kohain is person whose entire life is dedicated to higher spiritual ideals. In essence, every Jew is a Kohain. Exile is symbolically associated with the idea of a corpse because, like the corpse, it lacks a soul.

A corpse can be said to represent one who might do the right things but without enthusiasm and vitality. A Kohain and a corpse are two antithetical concepts. Similarly, A Jew and exile are mutually exclusive entities.

But exile has the capacity to cover up the realization of who we are and where we belong. And therefore, the Torah admonishes us to do everything in our power to not come in contact with a corpse (read: exile mentality). One of the things we must do is to cry out to G‑d: “Ad matai”—How much longer?!” And the lesson of the repetition of the words “speak” and “say to them” is that no matter how much we’ve petitioned G‑d—along with our efforts of bringing the life and vitality of our soul into our lives—we ought to say it again.

Finally, we must realize that we are not just saying it to G‑d; it is imperative that we say this to ourselves, as many times as it takes to get out of the Galut-exile mindset; to live and breathe liberating thoughts, that will help us prepare for the imminent arrival of Moshiach and the future Redemption.

Moshiach Matters  

The holiday of Lag B’Omer is hinted to in the Bible in the verse (Psalm 119) “Gal Ainai - uncover my eyes and let me behold the wonders of your Torah.” (The word Gal is made of the same letters as Lag.) This means that Lag B'Omer is a time most appropriate for Moshiach to come and reveal our eyes to the wonders of G‑d’s Torah.

Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit  

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