At the beginning of the Torah portion Emor, where the Torah teaches that a kohen is not permitted to defile himself, the verse states,
"Speak to the Kohanim ... and say to them." The Gemara explains
that the two expressions "speak" and "say" teach us that older individuals are not permitted to defile and give prohibited things to minors.
The reason why older individuals are not permitted to do so is because there exists some relationship between those who are older and those who are minors, otherwise the Torah would not command them concerning individuals with whom they have absolutely no connection.
The following question arises: These minors include even those who are so young that they are not capable of rational thought at all. What possible connection is there then between these mature adults and these infants, for which reason the older people are forewarned regarding the infants?
In point of fact, a very great and intrinsic connection does indeed exist between the two - the quintessential aspect of their Judaism, something in which all Jews are entirely equal.
One can draw an analogy to many matters of holiness from the physical. Here, too, we find something similar to the above with regard to the aspect of human life - regarding the essential aspect of being alive, there exists no difference between an adult and a child.
The difference that exists between them only applies to the degree of manifestation of the life-force within the individual, its degree of revelation. How we see a manifest difference between an adult and a child. For this revealed degree of life-force clothes itself in a more internal fashion according to the body that it animates. This difference between degrees of revealed manifestation also applies to the amount of revealed life vested within the individual limbs and organs within the person himself.
However, the essential aspect of life, that which is not delineated by the body it enlivens, is the same within all individuals. Just as it is incorrect to state that one bodily organ is essentially more alive than another, so, too, with regard to one person being intrinsically more alive than the next.
And just as this is so with regard to physical life in general, so too with regard to the life of the G-dly soul of each and every Jew, the soul responsible for the Jews' Jewishness: The differences that exist between one Jew and the other are merely differences that apply to their revealed senses and powers; the essential aspect of Judaism, however, is the same in all.
According to the above, we will also understand why the exhortation regarding the responsibility of the adults for the children is stated in the following fashion: "To warn - lihazhir - the adults about the minors." Logically, it would have made more sense for our Sages to state, "It is forbidden for the adults...":
When adults are not separate entities unto themselves, but rather devote themselves to the young ones as well, providing them will all their physical and spiritual needs, this will, in turn, provide an additional measure of growth and elevation within the adults as well.
As long as the adults are removed from others and are comfortable in their previously attained position, then, notwithstanding the fact that the Torah recognizes them as adults and persons who have achieved a marked degree of maturity, nevertheless, their maturity is quite limited - it only extends to the degree of the development of their revealed powers and potential.
However, when they leave their comfortable mode of existence and devote themselves to minors, those who are on a lesser level than themselves, they are then blessed with the revelation of their essence - that degree which is the same in all Jews, adults and minors, and which is altogether loftier than their revealed soul powers.
This is why the term "to warn - lihazhir" is used, for the Hebrew word lihazhir means not only to warn but also to shine and illuminate. By devoting themselves to the young ones, the adults are infused with an infinitely greater measure of Divine illumination.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, pp. 147-152
- (Back to text) Vayikra 21:1.
- (Back to text) Yevamos 114a.
- (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein, Orach Chayim, 343:5.
- (Back to text) See Shulchan Aruch, Hilchos Shabbos, ch. 330. See also Tanya ch. 32.
- (Back to text) See Ki Imcha 5700, ch. 4; Chayov Inish 5708, ch. 9, et al. See also Yoma 80b.
- (Back to text) Zeh HaYom 5708, ch. 2. See also Iggeres HaKodesh, conclusion of Epistle 7; Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1193.
The Torah reading of Emor contains the commandment of Sefiras HaOmer, counting the 49 days between the second day of Passover and the festival of Shavuos.
In the Siddur of the Alter Rebbe, we find a seeming anomaly with regard to Sefiras HaOmer. Although the text and order of his Siddur is based on that of the AriZal, the Alter Rebbe concludes his Siddur with Sefiras HaOmer, unlike the other Siddurim of the AriZal that conclude with the festivals of Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah.
We must perforce say that since "All goes according to the conclusion," the Alter Rebbe desired to conclude his Siddur with Sefiras HaOmer, inasmuch as it sheds light on and is uniquely related to the entire concept of prayer. But what relationship is there between the two?
Mitzvos are generally divided into two categories: commandments that require specific actions or speech, such as wearing tefillin, relating the tale to the Exodus, etc., and mitzvos that are "duties of the heart," such as love and fear of G-d - commands that are dependent upon the person's intent and feeling.
The mitzvah of prayer is unique in that, although prayer must be verbalized, nonetheless the act of prayer requires "that the person supplicate and pray daily," i.e., it is a manner of service that is entirely related to the individual's feeling - without this feeling of supplication the person's speech and words of prayer are not considered prayer at all.
Herein lies a striking parallel to Sefiras HaOmer. The Alter Rebbe rules: "It is permissible to count [the Omer] in any language that he understands. However, if he fails to understand the language with which he counted, then, even if he counted in Hebrew... he has not fulfilled his obligation, for since he does not know the count, it is not considered counting at all."
In other words, with regard to Sefiras HaOmer, the commandment lies not in verbalizing the count (although it is indeed necessary to verbalize it), but rather in the person's knowledge of the actual count, without which "it is not considered counting at all."
There is yet another strong similarity between prayer and Sefiras HaOmer. Prayer places the person on a very holy plane; when a person prays, he is on a much higher spiritual and sanctified level than usual.
This aspect of holiness too is stressed in Sefiras HaOmer, for each night after counting the Omer, we say: "You have commanded us...to count Sefiras HaOmer in order to purify us...and sanctify us with Your supernal holiness."
Prayer also differs from other mitzvos in that most other commandments are fulfilled by doing the deed itself - and in a more comprehensive state, by doing the deed accompanied by its proper intent.
Prayer, however, is very different: On the one hand, prayer involves supplicating G-d that He fulfill the person's request; on the other hand, fulfilling the commandment of prayer is not at all bound up with the person's supplication and request actually being granted - his very supplication entirely fulfills the commandment of prayer.
Here, as well, Sefiras HaOmer bears a striking resemblance to prayer:
According to many of our sages, the concept and mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer serves as a preparation to the festival of Shavuos, the time when G-d gave us the Torah. In the words of the Chinuch: "We were commanded to count from the morrow of the festival of Pesach until the day of the giving of the Torah, in order to demonstrate our great desire to reach that revered day...For counting [the days until a given day] demonstrates that the person's entire yearning and desire is to reach that particular day."
Notwithstanding the fact that Sefiras HaOmer acts as a preparation to Shavuos, it nonetheless is a mitzvah unto itself, with its own individual blessing, etc. - just as prayer involves beseeching G-d to fulfill a request, and nevertheless is considered a completed commandment, even if the person has yet to merit that his request be granted.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXII, pp. 114-119
- (Back to text) Vayikra 23:16:17.
- (Back to text) As stated in the faceplate of his Siddur.
- (Back to text) See Siddur HaRash m'Rashkov; Siddur HaAriZal Kol Yaakov.
- (Back to text) Berachos 12a.
- (Back to text) Cf. Beis Elokim of the Mabit, Shaar HaTefillah ch. 3.
- (Back to text) See Magen Avraham, Orach Chayim 101:2; Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein, ibid., subsec. 4.
- (Back to text) Rambam, Hilchos Tefillah 1:2.
- (Back to text) Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein, 489:10.
- (Back to text) Ibid., subsec. 1.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Chukas 66a.
- (Back to text) See Moreh Nevuchim 3:43; Chinuch, Mitzvah 306; Ran, conclusion of tractate Pesachim.