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In The Garden Of The Torah
Insights of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Shlita
on the weekly Torah Readings

Emor 5754

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Publisher's Foreword

The essay to follow emphasizes the importance of speech in bringing a potential which is hidden into revelation.

This concept is particularly relevant in the present time.

For there are potentials whose revelation we are awaiting: the geulah and the miraculous recovery of the Rebbe Shlita, Melech HaMashiach.

These relate to fundamental points of faith, since the awareness that G-d can work miracles whenever He desires is an essential element of Jewish belief.

Our Sages teach (see Babylonian Talmud Berachos 8a, Jerusalem Talmud Berachos 9:1 and many other sources) that even the most severe heavenly decrees can be averted by heartfelt prayer. And it is "every day" that we must "await [Mashiach's] coming."

One of the means to hasten the revelation of these potentials is by talking about these matters, and doing so, without embarrassment at what other peoples' response will be.

For in truth people all over the world are hoping for the recovery of the Rebbe Shlita, Melech HaMashiach and his revelation.

When a person believes sincerely and talks about these matters with confidence, his talk will generate only respect for his faith.

May this positive talk, coupled with the influence of studying the teachings of the Rebbe Shlita, Melech HaMashiach arouse G-d's blessings, including the blessings which are most necessary: the complete and immediate recovery of the Rebbe Shlita and his consummate revelation as Melech HaMashiach.

Pesach Sheni, 5754

Inspiring Light

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos:
Vol. XXVII, p. 159ff;
Sefer HaSichos 5750, p. 443ff

What Happens When a Wise Man Talks

The Rambam writes: [1] "Just as a wise man can be recognized through his wisdom and his character traits, and in these, he stands apart from the rest of the people, so too, he should be recognized in his conduct."

The Rambam's intent is that the Jewish conception of knowledge is not a theoretical one.

Instead, a person's knowledge must shape his character, and more importantly, influence his actual behavior. This is what distinguishes him as wise.

Among the types of conduct mentioned by the Rambam as appropriate for a wise man is refined speech, as he continues: [2]

"A Torah scholar should not shout or shriek while speaking.... Instead, he should speak gently to all people.... He should judge all [his fellow]men in a favorable light, speaking his colleague's praise, and never mentioning anything that is shameful to him."
The wording employed by the Rambam, "judging... in a favorable light" and "never mentioning anything that is shameful" indicate that the Torah scholar may recognize faults within a colleague's character. Even so he will also "speak his colleague's praise."

When speaking to his colleague privately, he will patiently and gently rebuke him for his conduct. [3] But when speaking to others - and when viewing his colleague in his own mind - he will think and speak favorably of him.

This is not only a reflection of the scholar's own personal refinement.

By continually highlighting the other person's positive qualities, he actually encourages their expression.

Causality is a multifaceted system, and thought and speech can bring about appreciable changes within our world.

For this reason, at times, the Maggid of Mezeritch would recite concepts which he knew that his listeners could not understand, with the intent of drawing the idea into our world, so that later, it would be possible for it to be comprehended by others. [4]

To cite a similar concept in the realm of human relations:

Our Sages state [5] that lashon hora (malicious gossip) [6] kills three people: the one who speaks it, the one who listens, and the one about whom it is spoken.

We can understand why such conversation effects the one who speaks and the one who listens - both are party to a sin which our Sages consider [7] as equivalent to the combined effects of idol worship, murder, and adultery. But why should the person about whom the gossip was spoken be affected? He did not take part in the transgression.

In resolution, it can be explained that speaking about a person's negative qualities spurs their expression.

Although the person might not even be aware that he is being spoken about, the fact that his character faults are being discussed fans the revelation of these qualities.

Had these faults not been spoken about, there is a greater probability that they would have remained hidden.

"Positive attributes are more powerful than the attributes of retribution," [8] and similar concepts apply with regard to speaking about a person's positive character traits.

The consistent mention of the good a person possesses - and within every individual, there are unfathomed reservoirs of good - will facilitate the expression of that good in the person's conduct.

A Command to Speak

The above concepts relate to our Torah reading which is called Emor.

Emor is a command, telling one to speak.

In the context of the Torah reading, this command has an immediate application: to communicate the laws pertaining to the priesthood.

Nevertheless, the fact that this term is used as the name of a Torah reading indicates a wider significance: A person must speak. [9]

And yet, we find our Sages counseling: "Say little," [10] and "I... did not find anything better for one's person than silence," [11] implying that excessive speech is not desirable.

Nor can we say that the charge "emor" refers to the commandment to speak words of Torah, for there is an explicit command, [12] "And you shall speak of them," encouraging us to proliferate words of Torah.

Instead, the charge "emor" refers to speaking about a colleague's virtues as explained above. [13]

Learning With Light

Our Sages [14] associate the command "emor" with the obligation of chinuch, the education of our children, commenting:

[It is written:] [15] "Speak" and [it is written,] "tell them." [Why the redundancy in the same verse?] To adjure the adults concerning the children.... Lihazhir, the Hebrew word translated as "to adjure," shares the same root as the word zohar, meaning "radiance."

This communicates a fundamental lesson with regard to education; it must be characterized by radiant light.

In general, there are two ways to educate children to reject undesirable behavior: to emphasize how base it is, or to show the positive alternative.

Lihazhir underscores the importance of spreading light, confident that "a little light repels much darkness," [16] and that by shining light, one will arouse the inner light which every person possesses within his soul. [17]

As Light Kindles Light

There is a deeper dimension to the above concept.

In a complete sense, the chinuch (education) of one's children - and by extension, all the others whom one influences [18] - should not be viewed as a further obligation beyond one's own Divine service - another task to be accomplished - but rather as a natural outgrowth of that Divine service itself.

When a person's Divine service reaches a consummate peak, and in keeping with the thrust of ahavas Yisrael and achdus Yisrael (the love and unity of the Jewish people), he joins together with others, his contact with them will foster their personal growth.

The light that shines forth from his conduct will inspire and educate all those with whom he associates.

And this approach will lead to the era when "the wise will shine as the splendor of the firmament" [19] and "Israel... will leave their exile with mercy." [20]

May this take place in the immediate future.



  1. (Back to text) Mishneh Torah, Hilchos De'os 5:1.

  2. (Back to text) Ibid.:7.

  3. (Back to text) See ibid., 6:7.

  4. (Back to text) Maamarei Admor HaZakein HaKetzarim, p. 464. See also Keser Shem Tov, sec. 256.

  5. (Back to text) Vayikra Rabbah 26:2. See also Erchin 15b, Hilchos De'os 7:3.

  6. (Back to text) This is the direct opposite of the subject mentioned previously, speaking positively about a colleague despite the fact that he possesses faults. For as emphasized by Hilchos De'os 7:2, lashon hora does not refer to inventing lies about a colleague - that transgression is referred to as motzi shem ra. Lashon hora refers to making deprecating statements about a colleague even if they are true.

  7. (Back to text) Erchin, loc. cit., Hilchos De'os 7:3.

  8. (Back to text) Sotah 11a.

  9. (Back to text) The connection of the Torah reading to proper speech is also emphasized by its conclusion, the narrative of the blasphemer, which gives an example of the opposite approach. See Vayikra 24:11ff and commentaries.

    Parshas Emor mentions the Counting of the Omer, and is always read during this period of the Jewish year. The Counting of the Omer also shares a connection to the concept of proper speech, for this period is marked by certain customs of mourning in commemoration of the death of Rabbi Akiva's students (Shulchan Aruch HaRav 493:1).

    As the Maharsha (in his Chiddushei Aggados to Yevamos 62b) states, the spiritual source for the plague which killed Rabbi Akiva's students was their inability to respect each other, and the lashon hora which they would speak.

  10. (Back to text) Pirkei Avos 1:16.

  11. (Back to text) Ibid.:17.

  12. (Back to text) Deuteronomy 6:7.

  13. (Back to text) The importance of the potential of speech is also expressed by the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 26:1, commenting on the opening verse of our Torah reading) which focuses on the difference between G-d's speech, which brings existence into being, and ordinary human speech, which has no lasting effect in this world.

    Nevertheless, since "the righteous resemble their Creator" (Bereishis Rabbah 67:8), there is a potential for mortal speech to affect change as explained above.

  14. (Back to text) Yevamos 114a, quoted by Rashi in his commentary to Leviticus 24:1.

  15. (Back to text) Leviticus, ibid.

  16. (Back to text) Tanya, ch. 12.

  17. (Back to text) This approach is also emphasized by the word emor itself.

    The word dabber also means "speak," but it is associated with harsh tones (Makkos 11a, Sifri and Rashi, commenting on Numbers 12:1). Emor, by contrast, is associated with gentle words (Mechilta and Rashi, commenting on Exodus 19:3; Sifri and Rashi, commenting on Numbers, loc. cit.), an approach of giving.

  18. (Back to text) For students are also referred to as children (Sifri, Vaes'chanan 6:7).

  19. (Back to text) Daniel 12:3.

  20. (Back to text) Raya Mehemna, Zohar III, 124b-125a. This teaching explains that the Redemption will come in the merit of "this book of yours [i.e., of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai], the Zohar, the Book of Radiance." Significantly, the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon is usually celebrated in the week before or the week after the reading of Parshas Emor.

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