Teaching By Example
"...Say to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and tell them: Each of you
shall not contaminate himself to a (dead) person among his people" (21:1)
The parsha begins with Hashem commanding Moshe to instruct the Kohanim as to
their particular responsibilities in maintaining higher standards of holy
behavior and purity. There appears to be a redundancy in these instructions,
for Moshe is told twice "say to the Kohanim" - "emor" and "ve'amarta". The
Ramban maintains that this double expression is similar to those occasions
when the Torah records "daber el Bnei Yisroel ve'amarta" - "speak to Bnei
Yisroel and say". According to the Ramban, the Torah uses a double
expression in order to stress the importance of the commandment, or if it
involves an activity which runs counter to an accepted norm. Rashi,
however, cites the Talmud, which derives from this redundancy that the
Kohanim are being instructed twice, once in regards to themselves and once
in regards to their children: "Lehazir gedolim al haketanim" - "to caution
adults regarding their children".2 What is implicit within the words "emor
ve'amarta" which specifically alludes to the instruction of children, while
no such conclusions are drawn from the words "daber ve'amarta"?
The difference between "amira" and "dibur" is as follows: "amira" is the
relaying of information without any imposition by the person conveying it,
while "dibur" imposes the will of the speaker upon the listener. A parent
pressuring his child to behave in a manner different than his peers will
invariably fail, unless the parent is able to convey the message that such
behavior is in the child's best interest. The only way that this can be
successfully accomplished is if the parent himself willingly performs that
which he is requesting of his child. The problem with "Do what I say, not
what I do" is that if the child perceives that the parent is reluctant to
willingly perform that which he requires of the child, the child will feel
that such behavior is not in his best interest.
"Lehazir gedolim al haketanim" does not mean that adults should caution
their children, rather that the adults themselves are being cautioned to
perform the commandments without any sense of imposition. By so doing, the
children will perceive that following their parents' example is in their
best interest. The Torah specifically uses the expression "emor ve'amarta"
and not "daber ve'amarta", for "daber" implies imposition. Especially when
requiring of the Kohanim to behave in a more restrictive manner than their
peers, it is essential that the message they convey to their children is
"This is in our best interest, and not an imposition."
1.21:1 2.Ibid, Yevamos 114a
"The Kohain who is exalted above his brethren..." (21:10)
The Torah describes the Kohain Gadol, the High Priest as "exalted above his
brethren". The Talmud teaches that he should be superior in strength,
beauty, intellect, and wealth. The Midrash elaborates further, citing
scriptural sources for each of these attributes required of the Kohain
Gadol. The Midrash proves that the Kohain Gadol should have superior
strength from Aharon Hakohain, who was required to raise each of the
twenty-two thousand Levi'im above his head during the course of one day.
This was part of their consecration process, as it is recorded in Parshas
Beha'alosecha: "Veheinif Aharon es Halevi'im" - "And Aharon shall wave the
Levites."3 However, the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva, Harav Chaim Shmulevitz, cites
the Chizkuni, who says that such a feat could only be performed through
Divine intervention. If so, asks Rav Chaim, how can the Midrash cite this
occurrence as a source for Aharon's prodigious strength, if it was due to a
The Midrash adds that the requirement of superior strength is a prerequisite
for the king as well. The Midrash cites a dialogue between Dovid and Shaul
as the source. In the Book of Shmuel we find that when Goliath challenged
Bnei Yisroel to send their greatest warrior to fight against him, Dovid
volunteered. When Shaul asked him why he thought he would be able to
vanquish Goliath, Dovid answered that when he was a shepherd, his flocks
were threatened by both a lion and a bear, yet he was able to slay them
both. Shaul then commented that killing animals is not necessarily
indicative of being able to claim victory against a seasoned warrior such as
Goliath. Dovid's response was that Hashem helped him to kill the wild
animals, and He will help him to kill Goliath as well.5 Why was Dovid's
first response to say that he was able to slay a lion and a bear, instead of
initially saying that Hashem, who helped him destroy the wild animals will
help him destroy Goliath?
The Talmud Yerushalmi teaches that when a person is elevated to a new
appointment he is granted forgiveness. The position itself imbues within him
talents and abilities which he did not previously possess. Because of this
transformation, he is considered to be like a new person, and therefore, he
is granted forgiveness.
The Midrash is teaching us that the Divine intervention which imbues a
person with new abilities, is only an amplification and enhancement of his
preexisting potential. Hashem assists a person if he is in a position for
which he has a propensity. This explains what King Dovid was conveying to
Shaul. Since he was able to kill the lion and the bear, he knew that he had
the G-d-given ability to be a warrior. He also knew that when he would be
placed in a circumstance which required greater abilities, Hashem would
enhance his abilities in order to insure that Dovid would be victorious.
This notion is supported by the conclusion of the Midrash. The Midrash
records that although Shaul was the tallest man amongst Bnei Yisroel, when
he took off his armor and placed it upon Dovid, it fit perfectly. The Divine
assistance that came with Dovid's new appointment enhanced his physical
stature to fit the armor.
The position of Kohain Gadol required great strength, as is indicated by the
consecration of the Levi'im. Although this feat could only be accomplished
through Divine assistance, Aharon was chosen because he possessed the
natural abilities that could be enhanced through miraculous intervention.
Therefore, the Midrash cites the consecration of the Levi'im as the source
for the requirement that the Kohain Gadol possess superior strength.
2.Vayikra Rabbah 26:9
5.Shmuel Alef 17:32;38
6.Bikkurim 3:3 See Gur Arye Beraishis 36:37.