| Parshah |

Parshas Emor: Suffer and Tougher

We want to show everyone that we need Hashem and we serve Him at any and all stages and facets of life


“Speak to Aharon, saying, ‘Any man from among your children in all future generations who has a blemish should not come close to offer the bread of his Hashem.’ ” (Vayikra 21:17)

What a strange thing! Why should someone with a blemish not be allowed to serve Hashem in the Beis Hamikdash? What kind of a lesson is the Torah teaching us by seemingly disqualifying those who are physically disabled or blemished? (Rabbi Zvi Zimmerman)

I glanced at the three seminary girls sitting on my couch. Back in my seminary-teaching days, I’d hosted girls all the time, but lots of water had gone under the bridge since. This Shabbos, with my older bochurim out of the house, I was back in the mode. But gosh, they sure make ’em younger these days. I was feeling like a dinosaur.

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch says it’s clear from the clothing the Kohanim are required to wear while serving Hashem that the Kohein represents something great and must appear likewise. The Kohein himself cannot be in any way a contradiction to the character necessary to make the korban he is bringing worthy of being desirable.
There’s a great lesson to be learned from the fact that a blemished person cannot bring the korban. It might seem to us that someone who brings a korban must have something wrong with him. He sinned. He owes something to Hashem. This is actually an idolatrous outlook on life, where it seems that only the afflicted and those who have issues can raise themselves up through the avodah and the korbanos. This mistakenly suggests that only the weak and sick need Hashem, while everyone else can live a happy, harmonious life without Him.

“So what do you like best about Eretz Yisrael?” I asked them.

“The ice coffee!” one gushed.

“But seriously,” another gestured, “life is so different here. I’m totally in awe of how people sacrifice here. It seems like everyone here has it so tough, but they just, you know, keep on going!”

I glanced surreptitiously around my dining room. Did I look like I had it so tough? Had Yitzi been complaining again how hard it was to set the table every week?

The third girl chimed in, “Yeah, like people come over to you for tzedakah, and you can see that they really need it. They look like their lives are so difficult. But it just inspires me how great they are ’cuz, you know, I’m not living like that.”

Hmm. Inspiration through deprivation. Well, there was something to that. But there was another point I wanted to make.

Our Kohein and our avodah represent something different. It should be that even (and maybe especially) one who lives a complete life, filled with vitality and vigor, must consecrate himself to Hashem and serve Him with all he has. We need a perfectly whole human being to bring this korban, to show that everyone, even someone who seemingly doesn’t need Hashem, must have Hashem at his side to succeed. That’s why the Kohein must be unblemished and appear perfect. We want to show everyone that we need Hashem and we serve Him at any and all stages and facets of life.

“Let me ask you a question,” I tried. “Do you like the principal of your seminary?” (They’d better answer in the affirmative, I thought; she’s a friend of mine.)

“Oh, she’s great. She’s the real thing. Her classes are incredible. I’m learning so much!”

“And tell me, does she look, like you said, kind of pathetic and sacrificing?”

“No, of course not! She’s so… sort of regal!”

“But she’s an inspiration?” I pushed my point. Looking at their young and earnest faces, I remembered being so idealistic at that age. (Did we all dress alike then, too?) But I wanted them to have a dose of realism. “Sometimes you can get inspiration by seeing people triumph in tough lives. But it’s crucial to remember, there’s tremendous growth and dveikus attainable in day-to-day normal lives. Don’t think you’re not offering anything to Hashem if you’re not suffering.”

Just then the front door opened. Shloime burst into the room and threw himself into my lap.

“I only got three toffees at Shir Hashirim and my friend got four!”

I wondered if it would be helpful to point out to Shloime, too, that it’s not necessary to suffer for life’s growth. But as his wails gained momentum, I conceded defeat. At his age, he was determined to suffer through it.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 893)

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