Teaching Through Sacrifice by Shimon Cohen


Parashat Emor begins, “VaYomeir Hashem El Moshe, Emor El HaKohanim Bnei Aharon VeAmarta Aleihem…” “And Hashem said to Moshe: Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and you shall say to them…” (VaYikra 21:1). What is the need for the double language; it seems superfluous! Obviously, when Moshe says, “speak to them,” it includes saying it to them. Why does the Torah need to write both?

The Gemara (Yevamot 114a) answers that the double language instructs the elders that they have a special commandment to train their young children to keep the laws. The double language reinterprets the Pasuk as, “Tell the Kohanim and they should teach their children.” The problem with this explanation, however, is that it does not fit in with the context of the Pasuk. It seems that the objective pronoun “them” seems to refer back to the Kohanim, not the younger generation.

The Beit Av suggests that both words are referring to the Kohanim. The first time is for the benefit of the adults, and the second time is for the benefit of the youngsters.

This suggestion is extremely relevant in our lives. When children are young, they are taught to do the Mitzvot. They are told to wear Tzitzit, recite Shema, and observe Kasharut. Only later do we learn Torah with them. The real question is, how do we then instill within them a real sense of Yir’at Shamayim, fear of Hashem?

The way to do this is by leading by example. When a youngster, or anybody for that matter, sees somebody caring about Mitzvot, it has a profound impact. There is a famous story told about the Steipler Ga’on and how he truly transferred his Yir’at Shamayim to all those around him.

The Steipler once met with a young woman to whom, he thought, he might get married. During his meeting with her, he fell asleep. When he awoke, he asked forgiveness from the young woman. Although she told him not to worry, he began to tell her the story of why he was tired. He said that he had to travel twelve hours by train to meet with this lady and realized he would not be able to learn very much on the train. To compensate for this, the night before, he had stayed up all night learning and expected to sleep on the train. When the Steipler got on the train, he realized there were upholstered seats, so he could not sit down and risk sitting on Sha’atneiz. The Steipler was therefore forced to stand for the entire twelve hour train ride.

While this is a very extreme case of Mesirat Nefesh, such methods are often the best ways to preach the lessons of Yir’at Shamayim to all those around us. Now we can understand the seemingly redundant language in the Torah. First, Moshe spoke to the Kohanim for themselves, but then he told them that doing the commandments would not be enough. They must also have some Mesirat Nefesh to impress upon others. The double language is not referring to the next generation; rather, it is up to the elder generation to do whatever they can to influence the younger generations.

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