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The Chassidic Dimension - Volume 2
Interpretations of the Weekly Torah Readings and the Festivals.
Based on the Talks of The Lubavitcher Rebbe,
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson.


Emor

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Weekdays, Sabbaths & Festivals

At the beginning of the section of Emor - in which the festivals and their laws are enumerated - the verse says:[1] "Six days shall you work, and the seventh day is a Sabbath of Sabbaths... you shall perform no labor."

Rashi comments:[2] "What is Sabbath doing among the festivals? To teach you that whoever desecrates the festivals is considered as if he desecrated the Sabbath, and whoever observes the festivals is considered as if he observed the Sabbath."

Rashi's comment needs to be understood: What is it about the festivals that makes their observance (by not laboring) or their non-observance (by laboring) tantamount to observing or desecrating the Sabbath?

The phrase "six days" refers not only to six individual days, but to a unit of time that is six days long. Thus, when the Torah states "Six days shall you work" it implies that G-d made a distinct period of time during which, and only during which, labor is to be performed. Labor is thus prohibited during any and all times that do not fit in this weekday framework of six mundane days.

By prefacing the festival section with "Six days shall you work," the Torah defines two general time periods with regard to labor: a) six days during which work should be done; b) any other time, during which labor is prohibited.

We thus understand that by implication, "whoever desecrates the festivals is considered as if he desecrated the Sabbath; whoever observes the festivals is considered as if he observed the Sabbath." For although the punishment for performing labor during the festivals is less severe than that for working on the Sabbath, the general grounds for the prohibition during a festival is the same as on the Sabbath - neither time period is included within the six days during which work is permitted.

Our Sages say in the Mechilta that the phrase "Six days shall you work" is a positive commandment. Thus, not only is labor permitted during the six weekdays, it is a mitzvah. This is in keeping with the verse:[3] "G-d your L-rd will bless you in all you do," i.e., each person is to make of himself a natural receptacle for G-d's blessings.

However, this manner of conduct pertains only to the physical body, and to the Jew's soul as it is clothed within his body. Though the body tends to conceal the eternal qualities of the G-dly soul, the Torah commands every Jew to conduct himself according to nature. This is in accord with the sayings of our Sages: "One should not rely on miracles,"[4] "The laws of the land are valid laws,"[5] etc.

But with regard to the soul itself, labor is superfluous; the soul fulfills its purpose while enjoying the spiritual "rest" of Sabbaths and Festivals.

So two opposite aspects are required in the spiritual service of each and every Jew: During the "six days" in which a person is to labor, labor becomes a positive command. But when it comes to the Sabbaths and festivals, a Jew's soul shines forth in all its glory. He must then transcend the body and its needs.

Understandably, while in such a state mundane work is anathema.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XVII pp. 242-246.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Vayikra 23:3.

  2. (Back to text) Ibid.

  3. (Back to text) Devarim 15:18.

  4. (Back to text) See Pesachim 64b; Zohar I 111b, 112b.

  5. (Back to text) Gittin 10b.


G-d as Kohen and Kohen Gadol

The Torah portion Emor begins with the precept that a Kohen, a priest, may not ritually defile himself by coming into contact with a dead body, except in the case of a close relative, such as a son, daughter, etc.[1]

The Midrash states[2] that G-d Himself performs all the mitzvos that He commanded the Jewish people to perform. Understandably, this also applies to guarding against ritual defilement: Since "G-d is a Kohen,"[3] He guards against "defilement" as well.

Thus Tosefos[4] explains that G-d was "permitted" to "defile" Himself when He personally buried Moshe Rabbeinu, inasmuch as Jews are G-d's children, as it were, and a father who is a Kohen may defile himself while burying his child.

G-d, however, is not merely a Kohen, but a Kohen Gadol, a High Priest.[5] As such, He may not defile himself by coming into contact even with the body of a deceased child.[6] How, then, was G-d able to "defile" Himself by burying Moshe Rabbeinu?

Each and every detail of creation has its spiritual counterpart. Thus, the differences within created beings derives from differences in their sources Above.

This is why created beings can serve as a guide to their spiritual source; a thorough understanding of a particular being gives us some understanding of its spiritual counterpart Above.

Nevertheless, the inherent limitations of all created beings do not apply to their source and root Above. Thus, while created beings may serve as an analogy to the realm of the spiritual, they can do so to only a limited extent. Thus we say that just as the sun's rays do not effect any change in the sun itself, so too, creation does not effect any change the Creator.[7] Understandably, this analogy does not apply in its entirety, for the sun - itself a created being - has inherent limitations, while G-d is not bound in any way.[8]

The same is true with regard to the appellations Kohen and Kohen Gadol as applied to their counterparts Above: While a Kohen Gadol of flesh and blood is analogous to the Kohen Gadol Above, this is so strictly with regard to the additional measure of priesthood and sanctity that is to be found within a Kohen Gadol compared to a regular Kohen.

Those attributes of a physical Kohen Gadol that are found within him purely because he is encumbered by a physical body do not, of course, apply to the Kohen Gadol Above.

The inherent sanctity of a Kohen Gadol is such that he is separated and removed from any and all impurity.

The fact that he is subject to ritual defilement and impurity - thus the prohibition against defiling himself even for "his father and mother"[9] - stems not from his being a High Priest, but from the fact that he is limited by his physicality. Thus, with regard to the level of Kohen Gadol as it exists Above, the whole concept of defilement simply does not exist.

This, however, is not so with regard to the spiritual counterpart of a regular Kohen, for the fact that a regular Kohen can defile himself for a close relative is part and parcel of his priesthood; he is permitted (and required)[10] to defile himself for a close relative.

Thus, there is no problem with G-d as High Priest defiling Himself for Moshe Rabbeinu, for on His level there simply is no impurity. The only question is, how G-d as spiritual counterpart of the simple Kohen could do so. Here the answer is that Jews are His children, and a Kohen may defile himself in interring his child.

Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. VII, pp. 153-156.

   

Notes:

  1. (Back to text) Vayikra 21:1-4.

  2. (Back to text) Shmos Rabbah 30:9. See also Yerushalmi, Rosh HaShanah 1:3.

  3. (Back to text) Sanhedrin 39a.

  4. (Back to text) Ibid.

  5. (Back to text) See Zohar III, 17b.

  6. (Back to text) See Vayikra ibid., verse 11.

  7. (Back to text) Likkutei Torah, Shir HaShirim 14c, et al.

  8. (Back to text) See Hemshech 5666, p. 477.

  9. (Back to text) Vayikra, ibid.

  10. (Back to text) Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 373:3.


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