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Friday, May 20

The Weekly Shtikle - Emor

At the beginning of this week's parsha, (21:2) we are told that a kohein, although he is not permitted to become temei meis, he is allowed to do so for his mother or father and other immediate family. The midrash on this pasuk states that after the pasuk has told me that he may become tamei for his mother, I might have thought only for his mother may he become tamei for she is definitely his mother. But his father is technically uncertain, for we can never be 100% sure that this is in fact his father, but we consider him his father only by a chazakah, an assumption of sorts. Therefore, we might have thought it does not apply to his father. So the pasuk states "ul'aviv," indicating that this exception applies to his father as well.

In T`shuvos haRashb"a (27), R"Y asks the Rashb"a what kind of assumption would that have been? Either way he can become tamei for his father. If this man is in fact his father, then he may become tamei because he is his father. But if this man is not his father, then who says he is a kohein?! Surely, he may become tamei for him.

Rashb"a answered him that surely as far as permission to become tamei for one's father, we would not have had any doubt that this kohein may become tamei for his father. However, from the words at the end of the next pasuk, "lah yitama," we learn that not only is the kohein permitted to become tamei for these relatives but he is required to. The intention of the midrash is that with regards to the requirement to become tamei, since there is a doubt as to whether this man is this kohein's father, one might have thought that it does not apply to him.

Rashb"a offers another answer. The sanctity of the kohein which prohibits him from becoming tamei is, as the pasuk states, "ki es lechem elokecha hu makriv," a direct consequence of the fact that he serves God's bread (in the form of korbanos.) Chasam Sofer in his t`shuvos (Yoreh Dei'ah 338) explains that since we allow this kohein to bring korbanos, whether it is rightfully done or not, he is elevated to the kedushah of a kohein and may not become tamei. Therefore, a suspicion as to the paternity of his father, while it may create doubt as to his permission to become tamei for him, will not affect his general prohibition to become tamei. Klei Chemdah disagress with Chasam Sofer on one point. He argues that the deciding factor is not whether he brings korbanos but rather whether he may eat them. For if it were dependent on bringing korbanos, then it would not apply to "ba'al mum," a kohein with a blemish that prevents him from being able to perofrm the service. But we know that even a ba'al mum may not become tamei. So either way, the end result is that a kohein involved in korbanos is subject to the prohibitions of tum'ah, no matter what our doubts are regarding his father.

Have a good Shabbos and a wonderful Pesach Sheini!

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Ner Tamid

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Friday, May 13

The Weekly Shtikle - Kedoshim .. and Tefillin

    At the end of this week's parsha, we are instructed (20:25), "vehivdaltem bein habeheimah hatehorah latemei'ah uvein ha'of hatamei latahor." We are told to distinguish between the animals and birds that are tamei and tahor. However, there is an obvious discrepancy in the pasuk. For animals we are told to distinguish between tahor and tamei, while for birds we are told to distinguish between tamei and tahor. The order of tahor and tamei is switched.


    Chizkuni offers an interesting approach to this problem. When you have a mixture of a majority and a minority, the act of distinguishing generally entails picking the minority out from within the majority. He writes that it is known that within the group of animals there are far fewer tahor animals than tamei. Therefore, the havdalah is the tahor from the tamei. However, in the bird family, there are a greater number of tahor birds than tamei birds. Therefore, the Torah tells us to distinguish the tamei ones.


    Perhaps there is another explanation for this discrepancy. The Torah, in telling us what animals we may eat, gave us signs of a tahor animal. Therefore, when we are distinguishing, we are picking out the tahor animals by means of the signs the Torah gave us. That is why "tahor" is first. With the birds, however, the Torah merely told us which birds are tamei. Therefore, the distinguishing process involves picking out the tamei birds. That is why "tamei" is first.


On the day after Pesach, our son Efrayim began putting on tefillin in anticipation of his Bar Mitzvah coming up in July. I thought I would write up the speech I gave at the ensuing breakfast to share with you. A quick thought on tefillin and significance of the day:

During the past year, I was able to traverse the halachos of tefillin as part of the Dirshu Mishnah Berurah program. I noticed a unique nuance. On the one hand, there is a very public, outward aspect of the mitzvah of tefillin. The pasuk (Devarim 28:10) states וראו כל עמי הארץ כי שם ה' נקרא עליך ויראו ממך, the nations of the world will see that the name of HaShem is called upon you and they will fear you. This is traditionally interpreted by the gemara as a reference to the tefillin shel rosh. However, for the shel yad, there is a derasha והיה לך לאות ולא לאחרים לאות, it should be a sign for you, and not for others, teaching us that the shel yad is kept close to our heart and concealed. 

When you delve deeper into the halachos, there is so much regarding tefillin that is hidden. The integral component, the klaf, is sealed inside the boxes. Even when you open the batim, and inspect the klaf, there is so much that could be wrong with the parshios that one could never know just by looking at it. Every word needs to be written in order. If a sofer were to erase and rewrite a letter in the middle, even a computer would not be able to detect it. Letters also must be written directly and cannot be carved out of blocks of ink. Because of all these undetectable nuances which would completely invalidate the tefillin, Mishnah Berurah repeats many times that you need to make sure when purchasing tefillin that the sofer is a yerei Shamayim and is someone you can fully trust.

In essence, the maturation process of a Bar Mitzvah is very similar. There are some obvious outward, visible changes. As Bar Mitzvah boys grow up their face and voice change, they get bigger and taller and begin to dress differently. But indeed the most significant changes that we as parents are always hoping for are inside, away from plain site. Our wish is that our dear Efrayim develop his yiddishe leiv, an inner understanding of right and wrong – how to act with people and how to serve the Ribbono Shel Olam. 

This is the first big step in Efrayim's Bar Mitzvah transition – it will forever change the way he davens every morning and it is our hope and our tefillah that it inspires in him as well, the mental and spiritual maturity that comes along with physical maturity.

Have a good Shabbos.

Eliezer Bulka

Shtikle Blog Weekly Roundup:
Dikdukian: Sukas David
Dikdukian: A Revealing Note

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