Parashat Emor – The power of each action
Profane words should never be used by an individual, especially if it’s about Hashem or any other religious entity. The ending of this weeks Parasha brings down a story with someone from the tribe of Dan who was cursing out Hashem in the camps, for all to see. Due to not knowing what they should do against one who does such a thing, they temporarily detained him while they seeked an answer for what to do with such an individual. Hashem told Moshe that the punishment of stoning is fitting for such a person, and the last passuk shows the camp doing just that.
There are many questions that I have on such a simple story. Looking through the words carefully, analyzing the entire story and referencing other events are not only ways to answer said questions, but those answers could be used to give us life lessons:
- Why did it need to introduce the law of stoning one who blasphemed in the context of a story?
וַיֵּצֵא֙ בֶּן־אִשָּׁ֣ה יִשְׂרְאֵלִ֔ית וְהוּא֙ בֶּן־אִ֣ישׁ מִצְרִ֔י בְּת֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיִּנָּצוּ֙ בַּֽמַּחֲנֶ֔ה בֶּ֚ן הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִ֔ית וְאִ֖ישׁ הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִֽ
There came out among the Israelites one whose mother was Israelite and whose father was Egyptian. And a fight broke out in the camp between that half-Israelite and a certain Israelite.Leviticus 24, Parashat Emor [7th Aliya], Verse 10
2. Did it have to mention his lineage and ancestory?
וַ֠יִּקֹּב בֶּן־הָֽאִשָּׁ֨ה הַיִּשְׂרְאֵלִ֤ית אֶת־הַשֵּׁם֙ וַיְקַלֵּ֔ל וַיָּבִ֥יאוּ אֹת֖וֹ אֶל־מֹשֶׁ֑ה וְשֵׁ֥ם אִמּ֛וֹ שְׁלֹמִ֥ית בַּת־דִּבְרִ֖י לְמַטֵּה־דָֽן׃
The son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name in blasphemy, and he was brought to Moses—now his mother’s name was Shelomith daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan—Leviticus 24, Parashat Emor [7th Aliya], Verse 11
3. Why did they not know that the man needed to die? Couldn’t they have made a Kal Vachomer that since one who curses their parents is worthy of death, certainly one who curses the leader of the world should get at least that?
וַיַּנִּיחֻ֖הוּ בַּמִּשְׁמָ֑ר לִפְרֹ֥שׁ לָהֶ֖ם עַל־פִּ֥י יְהוָֽה׃
and he was placed in custody, until the decision of the LORD should be made clear to them.Leviticus 24, Parashat Emor [7th Aliya], Verse 12
(As for not asking the question of “why death”, well, we’re just simple mortals made up of flesh and blood. People like us would never be able to understand the full logic behind Hashem’s decision)
הוֹצֵ֣א אֶת־הַֽמְקַלֵּ֗ל אֶל־מִחוּץ֙ לַֽמַּחֲנֶ֔ה וְסָמְכ֧וּ כָֽל־הַשֹּׁמְעִ֛ים אֶת־יְדֵיהֶ֖ם עַל־רֹאשׁ֑וֹ וְרָגְמ֥וּ אֹת֖וֹ כָּל־הָעֵדָֽה׃
Take the blasphemer outside the camp; and let all who were within hearing lay their hands upon his head, and let the whole community stone him.Leviticus 24, Parashat Emor [7th Aliya], Verse 14
We can answer the first two (the third question will be answered along the way) by looking at another story featuring those same attributes. After the counting of Bnei Yisrael in Parashat Pinchas (Book of Numbers), the Parasha continues bringing down a story regarding the daughters of Zelophehad, who came from Menasheh son of Yosef. Zelophehad was one who died on his own account, not participating in any rebellion against God (whether it was as part of the 10 spies who said Lashon Hara against the land of Israel or Korach who seeked to overturn Moshe). He had no sons, giving birth to only daughters. His righteous daughters, though, wanted to ensure a share in the land of Israel. Hashem responded to the situation by making a permanent rule in regards to how inheritance works, by having the daughters inherit the father’s share should he have no sons.
והיתה לבני ישראל לחוקת משפט. שיהיה זה המשפט לדורות ולא לבאי ארץ לבד
והיתה לבני ישראל לחוקת משפט, “This shall be for the Children of Israel as a decree of justice.” This will be a law from now on not only for the people that were about to enter the Holy Land.Tur HaAroch on Numbers 27:11
The story of Zelophehad’s daughters seek to show just how dedicated they were to the land. As proof, notice their lineage includes Yosef, when it could have simply ended at Menasheh and everyone would have infered that the Menasheh the passuk is talking about is the son of Yosef. However, the explicit mention of Yosef comes to show us where they inherited the love for the land from. The mention of their lineage was meant to bring respect to Yosef, by showing us that they indeed inherit that same love for the land. Unfortunately, the same respect could not be found when the lineage of the blasphemer was mentioned.
למשפחת מנשה בן יוסף. לָמָּה נֶאֱמַר? וַהֲלֹא כְבָר נֶאֱמַר בן מנשה, אֶלָּא לוֹמַר לְךָ, יוֹסֵף חִבֵּב אֶת הָאָרֶץ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר “וְהַעֲלִתֶם אֶת עַצְמֹתַי” וְגוֹ’ (בראשית נ’) וּבְנוֹתָיו חִבְּבוּ אֶת הָאָרֶץ, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר תְּנָה לָּנוּ אֲחֻזָּה, וּלְלַמֶּדְךָ שֶׁהָיוּ כֻלָּם צַדִּיקִים, שֶׁכָּל מִי שֶׁמַּעֲשָׂיו וּמַעֲשֵׂה אֲבוֹתָיו סְתוּמִים וּפֵרֵט לְךָ הַכָּתוּב בְּאֶחָד מֵהֶם לְיַחֲסוֹ לְשֶׁבַח, הֲרֵי זֶה צַדִּיק בֶּן צַדִּיק, וְאִם יִחֲסוֹ לִגְנַאי, כְּגוֹן “בָּא יִשְׁמָעֵאל בֶּן נְתַנְיָה בֶּן אֱלִישָׁמָע” (מלכים ב כ”ה), בְיָדוּעַ שֶׁכָּל הַנִּזְכָּרִים עִמּוֹ רְשָׁעִים הָיוּ (ספרי):
למשפחת מנשה בן יוסף OF THE FAMILIES OF MANASSEH THE SON OF JOSEPH — Why is this stated? Has it not already been said בן מנשה, and consequently we know that they belonged to the family of Manasseh the son of Joseph?! But it is to suggest the following idea to you: Just as Joseph held the Promised Land dear, as it is said, (Genesis 50:25) “And ye shall bring my bones up (to Palestine) from hence”, so, too, his daughters held the Land dear, as it is said, (v. 4) “Give us an inheritance”; and further to teach you that they were righteous all of them (everyone here mentioned in the pedigree), for in every case where a person’s doings and his ancestors’ doings are nowhere plainly described and Scripture somewhere enters into the details of the pedigree in respect to one of them, tracing his genealogy back to someone worthy of praise, it is evident that the person in question is himself a righteous man and a son of a righteous father. But if it gives his genealogy in connection with something deserving of reprobation, — as, for example, (2 Kings 25:25) “Ishmael the son of Nethanian the son of Elishama came … and smote Gedaliah”, then it is quite certain that all who are mentioned in connection with him were wicked people (Sifrei Bamidbar 133:1)Rashi on Numbers 27:1
So why did it specify the lineage of the blasphemer? Why did it have to bring down the story in the first place? The fact that it’d be embarassing isn’t just a simple corrolation but rather the causation of the story being brought down in the first place!
When one does something shameful, it doesn’t just bring shame on that individual but rather their entire surroundings. Society tends to be quite judgemental, and may equate certain actions to completely unrelated factors. For example, a misbehaving child would sometimes get told “is this what you do at home? do your parents let you get away with it?”, implying that it’s the parents fault the child is acting like this.
As Jews, when we walk around with a Kippah or Tzizit, we represent Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Doing anything wrong and shameful also looks bad on Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s part. As Jews, two of our 613 commandments are to distance ourselves from Chillul Hashem and instead, make a Kiddush Hashem.
The Jews at the time failed to realize the power we, as Jews, have. That’s why he was temporarily detained while they seeked an answer of what to do with such a person. As an example of their thought process, imagine one with a bad reputation publicly mocks a king. Other than the punishment inflicted for disrespecting a king, no one would pay attention to the specific words used, due to it validating his entire existance. If one with a noble status were to mock the king, however, their specific words would be taken into account when serving the punishment.
Hashem teaches us, though, that we needed to destroy the thorns in the vineyard early on prior to their infection on the grapes that hold. There is no one that is not obligated to distance themselves from Chillul Hashem, to the point where even an average Jew must choose death over causing a disrespectance to Hashem’s name. If they still go ahead and do the sin, not even Yom Kippur can help him.
(To clarify, the only sins that need to chose death over doing the sin is immorality, murdering someone else and idol worship. If one is faced with a situation where they would die if they don’t do an averah, unless it’s one of the three sins above, they must do the averah due to the mitzvah of “Vechai Bahen” found in Parashat Acharei Mot.)
אֲבָל מִי שֶׁיֵּשׁ חִילּוּל הַשֵּׁם בְּיָדוֹ אֵין לוֹ כֹּחַ בִּתְשׁוּבָה לִתְלוֹת וְלֹא בְּיוֹם הַכִּפּוּרִים לְכַפֵּר וְלֹא בְּיִסּוּרִין לְמָרֵק אֶלָּא כּוּלָּן תּוֹלִין וּמִיתָה מְמָרֶקֶת שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר וְנִגְלָה בְאׇזְנָי ה׳ צְבָאוֹת אִם יְכוּפַּר הֶעָוֹן הַזֶּה לָכֶם עַד תְּמוּתוּן
But in the case of one who has caused desecration of God’s name, his repentance has no power to suspend punishment, nor does Yom Kippur have power to atone for his sin, nor does suffering alone have power to absolve him. Rather, all these suspend punishment, and death absolves him, as it is stated: “And the Lord of Hosts revealed Himself to my ears: This iniquity shall not be atoned for until you die” (Isaiah 22:14).Yoma 86a
To what extent is Chillul Hashem? Not even these three sins, but Messilat Yesharim teaches us that Chillul Hashem means doing anything beneath your level. Amongst the normal society norms (the three mentioned above), there’s also the level that each person individually reaches. For example, a community leader disrespecting the rules either he is abided to (by Hakadosh Baruch Hu) or his own community’s rules is a Chillul Hashem. People look to leaders to set the example, and the example needs to be set right.
והענין, שכל אדם לפי מדריגתו ולפי מה שהוא נחשב בעיני הדור, צריך שיתבונן לבלתי עשות דבר בלתי הגון לאיש כמותו, כי כפי רבות חשיבותו וחכמתו כן ראוי שירבה זהירותו בדברי העבודה ודקדוקו בה, ואם איננו עושה כן, הרי שם שמים מתחלל בו חס וחלילה, כי כבוד התורה הוא, שמי שמרבה הלימוד בה ירבה כמו כן ביושר ובתיקון המדות, וכל מה שיחסר מזה למי שמרבה בלימוד, גורם ביזיון ללימוד עצמו, וזה חס וחלילה חילול לשמו יתברך, שנתן לנו את תורתו הקדושה וצונו לעסוק בה להשיג על ידה שלימותנו.
The explanation of the matter is that every person according to his level and according to what he is considered in the eyes of his generation, must be mindful to not do something which is not befitting of someone like him. The greater his importance and wisdom, the greater he needs to increase watchfulness and meticulousness in the divine service. If he fails to do so, behold, the Name of Heaven will be profaned through him, G-d forbid. For it is an honor to the Torah, that one who increases study in it, should also increase uprightness and refinement of character traits. Any lacking in this among those who increase study in the Torah brings disgrace to the study itself. This is, G-d forbid, a profanation of G-d’s Name, blessed be He, who gave us His holy Torah and commanded us to toil in it order to achieve our perfection through it.Messilat Yesharim 11:104
Hashem shechinah rests on us all, as stated multiple times including this very Parasha. The blessing Moshe gave to the builders of the then-just-built Mishkan was that it should be their will that Hashem’s shechinah rests on the work of their hands (we have an entire dvar torah on this). Seems like it even extended to be in a mitzvah form, though, because this weeks Parasha quotes Hashem commands us to have his sanctity be among the sons of Israel.
וְלֹ֤א תְחַלְּלוּ֙ אֶת־שֵׁ֣ם קָדְשִׁ֔י וְנִ֨קְדַּשְׁתִּ֔י בְּת֖וֹךְ בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל אֲנִ֥י יְהוָ֖ה מְקַדִּשְׁכֶֽם׃
You shall not profane My holy name, that I may be sanctified in the midst of the Israelite people—I the LORD who sanctify you,Leviticus 22, Parashat Emor, Verse 32
Whether it’s between Jews and Non-Jews or Religious vs Secular, set the example for how we’re supposed to be. Don’t shove others away by your embarassing attitude, and instead represent Hashem in the best way possible. That way, we’re performing the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem. That way, we’re representing Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and making people realize the truth. By letting people realize what it’s like to be a responsible orthodox Jew, maybe it’ll bring people back. By that, we should have the merit to bring Mashiach in our days.