By Rabbi Dr. Meir Tamari
“ Rabbi Berachia said in the name of Rabbi Levi, here we read 2
sayings, ‘Speak to the priests, the sons of Aharon, and say unto them”
(Vayikrah 21:1). However, with regard to the celestial beings, who do not
have a yetzer harah we read, (Daniel 4: 14) ‘This matter is by decree of
the angels and this demand by the saying of the holy ones’; that is only
one saying” (Vayikrah Rabbah, 26:5).
The Avnei Nezer, the father of the Shem Mi Shmuel and the first Admor of
Sochochow, explained that one saying is to announce the will of G-d while
the second saying is to ensure that that will is enshrine d in their
hearts so that they will obey His will. For the angels it is sufficient
only to know His will as they do not have free will but that knowledge is
not sufficient for humans who need to be told a second tine in order that
they can translate His will into their actions.
Menachem Mendel of Kotsk said that the body should be so purified and
refined by G-d’s words till they have no desire even for the evil that is
the soul of the evil ones. Reb Feivle of Granzia tells of how he once
spoke to the Kotsker about money. The Rebbe answered him with disgust
saying, “For that I have a great hatred”. These words had such an effect
on the chassid that some months later when he received some money he could
not even bear to look at it.
Now we know that the Greek philosopher, Aristotle, devoted his whole mind
to writing books to implanting ethics and the pursuit of goodness in the
minds of people so that they should not pursue materialism and greed.
However, he himself died because of his desires and lusts. This occurs
because the mind and the body are 2 separate entities and while the mind
and the intellect understand and recognize the necessity of ethics and
philosophies of moral living to refine our natural desires and lusts, the
body does not. It is only through Torah study and observing Hashem’s
Mitzvot that the body can separate itself from its nature and obtain a
purified and refined nature. Although it is obvious to us that the
righteous ones do actually acquire this new nature that leads them not to
desire the material, we could know this by our minds and logic.
“ And the Lord created Man upright” (Kohelet, 7:29), and the Ramban
explains that a person should not desire unseemly things; rather one
should be as the sun and moon that do not change their tasks, so we should
remain as we were created. It is only through the sin of Adam that evil
became mixed into his nature and they stirred his materialism to bring him
to do evil and undesirable acts. Now everything that the Torah commanded
us should restore our natures to what they were, except that the evil
forces introduced by the sin of Adam Harishon prevents that. Torah study
and mitzvoth weaken these forces until the nature of Hashem’s creation of
Man is reestablished. This is something that Aristotle could not achieve
with his mere human wisdom and cleverness. Only Israel, who busy
themselves with Torah and mitzvoth can bring the body also to be holy and
so to change its nature.
Now we can understand the teaching of the Midrash that human beings need
two sayings, one to teach their minds what G-d’s will is and the other in
order that that will should become engraved on their hearts and thereby
change the nature of their bodies.
However, it still remains unclear why these 2 sayings concern ‘tumat met’
that no man desires and applies only to Cohanim; rather they should relate
to things desired equally and constantly by all men.
In view of what the Ramban said above, we can understand that prior to the
sin of Adam Harishon, the body was subject to his mind and intelligence,
so that they were a unity. Then the body was unable to desire those things
and actions that the mind knew were undesirable and wrong. The sin
however, attracted evil that led the body and its matter to separate them-
selves from the mind. This change in Man that made it possible for him to
desire unworthy things, also made death, that is a separation between body
and nefesh, possible, both of them contrary to his original created state.
Now the impurity caused by ‘tumat’ met, induces in a person through
contact, desires and thoughts alien to the dictates of the mind, since the
body is no longer subservient to the mind.
The reason that Cohanim were commanded not to defile themselves with
contact with the dead lies in Aharon’s attribute. He loved peace and
pursued it, reconciling a person with their fellow and a husband with his
wife. Husband and wife are akin to form and matter while the Zohar calls
body and nefesh husband and wife. Just as his merit was to bring peace
between a person and his neighbor so he brought peace between the 2 parts
of Man, mind and body. His speech and his words drew Israel close to their
Father in Heaven until the material body followed the mind, and body and
nefesh were united, so they were able to change their nature to goodness
and desirable deeds. Perhaps more importantly, the speech of Aharon made
such a deep impression of the hearts of his listeners that they were moved
to change their material natures to the pursuit of good. This unity
within people is the opposite of the effect of ‘tumat met’, so the Cohanim
were forbidden to so defile them-selves.
That is why the 2 sayings were written only in connection with ‘tumat
met’, even though the unity of hearing G-d’s will and it being an integral
part of us, actually apply to all the mitzvoth. The 2 sayings and the
specific merit of Aharon have the same purpose. That is to root in our
hearts a drive to change our natures to goodness, the opposite of ‘tumat
met’ that separates. So it will be in the End of Days when the spirit of
tumah will disappear from the earth as well as death. Then the world will
revert to what it was before the sin of Adam Harishon and the natures of
all Israel, in unison, will turn only to good.
Shem Mi Shmuel, 5671
Text Copyright © 2004 by Rabbi Meir Tamari and Torah.org.
r. Tamari is a renowned economist, Jewish scholar, and founder of the Center For Business Ethics (www.besr.org) in Jerusalem.