Emor: The Kohen and the Torah Scholar

Last week, the country celebrated Yom Ha'atzmaut (Independence Day) and Yom HaZikaron (Memorial Day), which generally give me mixed feelings.  On one hand, I must acknowledge that Israelis treat these days more properly than most Americans do on their days.  On Yom HaZikaron, they stop twice a day as a country, for a minute, to think about those who have been killed in wars and terror attacks.  I was told that there was a traffic jam just getting into the local cemetery, because so many people know somebody who has been affected.  Even my wife and I know several terror survivors personally.  Yom Ha'atzmaut, people get together with family and celebrate.  While in America, Memorial Day is an excuse to go shopping, and, from what I understand, if you are patriotic in today’s America, you are practically considered a Nazi; since it’s not "in" to like America.


On the other hand . . . most Israelis have no idea what Tisha B’Av is (the Jewish "Memorial Day"), and on Yom Ha'atzmaut, my son, and all other boys, are not allowed to wear a backpack to go learn Torah at their school, lest it causes trouble with secular Israelis.  Why?  Because they should be celebrating, not learning Torah! (Yes, it’s official school policy because of past issues.)


So, from the non-Torah, American point of view, I need to tip my hat to the Israelis for doing something that recognizes their losses and celebrates their gains.  However, from the Torah point of view, it’s quite sad the spiritual apathy that is taught in this country’s educational system.


Nu, nu . . . on to Torah!


In this week’s parsha, we learn about the honor we must give the Kohanim.  The Maharam teaches that the word “vekidashto,” “and you shall sanctify him,” is used in only two places in the entire Torah.  Once regarding the kohen (Vayikkra 21:1-9), and once at the giving of the Torah (Shemos 19:23), which the Maraham writes, hints to the honor we are to give Torah scholars.


He continues and notes that regarding the Kohen, the pasuk starts with the word “vekidashto” and regarding Torah, it’s at the end of the pasuk.  That is to show that the Kohen gets the “firsts,” such as the first Aliyah to the Torah, while the Torah scholar gets his honor at the end, such as hagbah (lifting of the Sefer Torah at the end of its reading).


The Kohen receives honor because he was “born into it.”  His honor is usually more public.  However, the Talmid Chacham receives his honor in a more hidden matter, since the honor is not given completely to him, but also to the Torah that he has learned.


Rav Aryeh Brueckheimer writes, “One of the greatest tests of our generation is a lack of modesty.  Whether in attire, lifestyle, or aspirations, there is a great desire to flaunt what we have and to be recognized for what we have accomplished.  Unfortunately, these feelings have entered the world of Torah learning as well, and people often want to receive personal honor for their Torah knowledge.  We must try to rise above this test and maintain the honor of the Torah for the Torah itself, in order to merit learning Torah that is truly for the sake of Heaven.”


Michael Winner