Friday, May 17, 2019

A preface to the mitzvos

Emor el hakohanim bnei Aharon v'amarta aleihem...  There are two redundancies here: 1) the double emor... v'amarta 2) Kohanim = bnei Aharon, so why say both?

The Kohanim are about to get mitzvos that place more restrictions on them than on an ordinary person.  The Torah therefore prefaces the commandments with an introduction: Emor el hakohanim bnei Aharon, tell the Kohanim that they are the decendents of the great Aharon hakohen, they are the heirs to his legacy.  You have more restrictions not to make your life difficult, but because you are holy and special. (Chasam Sofer)

Chazal learn from the double emor... v'amarta the idea "l'hazhir gedolim al ha'ketanim." I would say this goes hand in hand with the Chasam Sofer.  The way to teach a child is to first make him feel special, make him feel privileged to be given mitzvos. That is the preface needed before anything else can be taught.

(Lzecher nishmas Eliezer been Meir)


  1. This thought goes nicely with the rashi on Devarim 26:17 where he explains the Shoresh - "aleph, Mem, Reish"..."they are expressions denoting “separation” and “selection”: “You have singled Him out from all strange gods to be unto you as God — and He on His part, has singled you out from the nations on earth to be unto Him a select people”.

    And the pasuk (26:18)ends with "Am Segulah"

    1. in order to more explicitly retrofit Vayikra 21:1 with the fine match of Devarim 26:17-18, we must say that the first 'say' of 21:1 (emor el-hakohanim bnei Aharon) refers to our selection of Hashem (26:17), and the second 'say' (v'amarta aleihem...) to His selection of us (26:18); the second 'say' is obvious enough, that He chose us (down to the very corpse, l'nefesh), but what of the first? must we get midrashic and say that though Elazar and Itamar [bnei Aharon] were not originally priests (R' Yehuda ha'Nasi, Zevachim 115b, on Shemos 19:24; and Shemos 24:1), they nonetheless zealously offered their assistance to their elder brothers, and/or boasted of* their older siblings in their priestly role, in either case >choosing< Hashem (His scheme of things)? {one could stretch and find in Elazar's selection of Putiel (Shemos 6:25) a 'choice' for Hashem (with the gemara's Putiel descended from Yisro and Yosef-- one struggled to find Torah, the other to keep it)}

      *very end of Rashi's comment, Dev. 26:17, 'boast'

  2. Here in South Florida where Spanish is often heard, it has to be noted that Amor (same shoresh) means 'love', similar to Rashi's explanation of singling out a person to make them special.

    To ensure that the next generation is receptive to their responsibility, it must be transmitted with'love'.

    1. As a fellow South Floridian who knows barely a word in Spanish, I can tell you that your observation has a source in Halacha and may be the reason why Kohanim must bless Yisroel B`Ahavah. Rav Moshe Dovid Valle, a talmud muvhak of the Ramchal in his sefer Shivtei Ka writes that “ the Torah, by writing ‘amor lahem‘ (literally ‘saying to them’) implies with great focus and with complete love. And there is a hint in the pasuk that it must be said with love.” What is the hint? “For the word amor in the language of other nations [Italian – Amore, French – Amour] means ‘love.”
      So that the Torah is commanding the Kohanim to bless the Jewish people and amor lahem- to do it with love.
      [See there in his Shivtei Ka where he discusses the seeming use of other languages in the Torah and how in truth Lashon Hakodesh is the Mother-Tongue and source for all language.]
      BTW, (and I hope Reb Chaim does not mind me asking) but can I find out who you are? I live in Miami Beach.


  3. It might be worth noting that this parashah is far from the only time when a mandate of communication is repeated. For example, in the beginning of Parashas Kedoshim (19:1-2), we find: "Vayedaber Hashem el Moshe leimor. Daber el kol adas Bnei Yisrael ve'amarta aleihem kedoshim tiheyu… — Hashem spoke to Moshe, saying: 'Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy…'"
    In this instance, we have the same construct: the command to tell others repeated by using the word "ve'amarta." If the addition of "ve'amarta" in our parashah compels the derashah of "le'hazhir gedolim al haketanim," why would the addition in Kedoshim (or any other parashah) not evoke a similar derashah?
    Rav Yisrael Taub, the Modzhitzer Rebbe (Divrei Yisrael) explains that the Torah is teaching us an important lesson in chinuch habanim. The root אמר is considered a lashon rakkah, a soft and pleasant way of speaking, while the root דבר connotes a lashon kashah, harsh and tough language. (See Makkos 11a; Shemos Rabbah 42:2; and Yisro 19:3, Rashi.)
    While we have other instances of the "daber" and "ve'amarta" construct, this is the only combination of "emor" and "ve'amarta." This is precisely what is bothering Rashi, says the Modzhitzer. Thus, Rashi's answer is "le'hazhir gedolim al haketanim," that this is the way to educate our children: using kid gloves and soft words, and repeatedly. In order to grow and thrive and appreciate what is being taught them, children require the extra gentle softness indicated by both "emor" and "ve'amarta," not the combination of "daber" (harshness) and "ve'amarta" (softness), which would be appropriate for the general population.

  4. "first make [a child] feel special"

    though this reverses the highly-touted 'na'aseh v'nishmah': this child first understands that he is special, and only then he does the deed {or does it point to a hidden "preface" to the honored phrase, namely 'nishmah v'na'aseh v'nishmah': we [will] understand that G-d is special, then we will do, and then we will hear?}