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Parshas Emor - It's All About Others....               14 Iyar 5783

05/04/2023 10:25:04 PM

May4

In this week’s Parsha Emor the Torah states in Vayikra 23:15,16 "וספרתם לכם ממחרת השבת מיום הביאכם את עומר  התנופה שבע שבתות תמימות תהיינה"   “You shall then count seven complete weeks after the day following the [Passover] holiday when you brought the omer as a wave offering”. "עד ממחרת השבת השביעית תספרו חמשים יום והקרבתם מנחה חדשה לה'"   “Until the day after the seventh week , when there will be [a total of] fifty days. On that fiftieth day you may present new grain as a meal offering to God”.

The Torah instructs us to count each day from the second day of Pesach for 49 days until the Holiday of Shavuos. Today is the 29th day of the Omer count, which means the holiday of Shavuos will take place in three weeks. The Sefiras Ha’Omer, the counting of the Omer,  is observed as a period of semi-mourning. There are a few reasons given for this, most prominent one being those 24,000 students of the famous Rebbe Akiva of the Mishna, died during this time period.

The Talmud reveals to us that these great students all passed away due to the same ailment: they did not honor each other in a rightful manner. Commentators explain that this was a subtle fault of theirs; because all of them were on such an elevated spiritual level, their shortcomings were brought under extra scrutiny.

Rabbi Dovid Saks, Director of the Jewish Heritage Connection in Scranton, PA, conveys an important lesson with regard to the death of Rabbi Akiva’s students: “Because of this tragic shortcoming and the subsequent loss, each of us is expected to work on remedying their failure by conducting ourselves in a respectful manner towards others especially during this time period.”

To further emphasize the importance of this lesson, Rabbi Saks brought out some beautiful examples of sensitivity:

When Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman (1720-1797), later known as the great Vilna Gaon, was  six years old, he ran out to play with a friend on a see-saw but quickly ran back to his father, explaining that playing on the see-saw caused his friend to be lowered in order for him to be raised up. “This goes against all that I have learned!” he exclaimed!”  Through such sensitivity to others and beautiful Middos (character traits), Eliyahu grew to become a great tzaddik as well as a brilliant scholar.

Rabbi Saks then describes a seemingly minor event in the life of Rabbi Yaacov Kaminetzky, Z”L, frequently referred to as ‘Chakima D’Yehudai’, the wise man of the Jews.  He was a life-long friend of Rabbi Aharon Kotler, founder of the Lakewood Yeshiva, and was among the first to promote English-language sefarim. Rabbi Saks relates a time when Rabbi Kaminetzky was one of two passengers in a car when the driver was entering an intersection and Rabbi Kaminetzky noticed a city bus with its left blinker indicating the need to merge into traffic.  Rabbi Kaminetzky instructed his driver to let the bus merge ahead of them. Reb Yaacov explained that even though they were pressed for time and had the right-of-way, they were only two passengers in their car while the bus was filled with many people. Even though it’s likely that no one on the bus took notice of the car allowing the bus to go first, this was an example of character refinement being a personal exercise.  Our behavior is not dependent upon others recognizing what we do for them.

And lastly, Rabbi Saks writes of a young mother in the 1940’s trying to decide what type of school she should consider for her two young boys.  She was unhappy when watching the disrespectful manner in which the local public-school children behaved.  Passing Yeshiva Rabbeinu Yaacov Yosef (RJJ), she was impressed with the polite and respectful way the students behaved at dismissal and so decided to enroll her sons.  The boys of the yeshiva had no idea a woman they had never met would be so impressed with their respectful behavior.  This woman’s sons ultimately became great rabbis and teachers, raising families of their one with hundreds of descendants continuing to demonstrate sensitivity to others and beautiful Middos.

Today, Friday May 5th is Pesach Sheini.  During the first year after the exodus, as Pesach approached, anyone ritually impure was not permitted to participate in the Pascal lamb. Those prohibited from this participation complained to Moshe.  Moshe then turned to God, asking for guidance. God did not tell Moshe, “Too bad.  They’re not able to participate.” Rather, God told Moshe to establish an alternate date, providing the opportunity for those who were not able to participate on Pesach to be given another chance one month after Passover on the 14th of Iyar.  Again, Rabbi Saks asks us to consider what significance there is regarding the 14th of Iyar to Passover.  The Talmud explains that the matzah which the Jews hurriedly baked on their way out of Egypt lasted until the 14th of Iyar, connecting directly back to the exodus. Immediately following this event, on the 16th of Iyar, the Jews asked Moshe for food, and God responded by providing manna from heaven, providing ample food for all the Jews during their travels.

I would like to suggest that the lesson of great Middos comes from Moshe - and ultimately from Hashem. When asked to participate in some fashion, Moshe could have turned to them exclaiming, “it’s too bad, you missed out”. Instead, Moshe patiently told the people to wait until he retrieved an answer from Hashem telling him what to do. The Almighty, in His benevolence, allowed the people a second chance because they showed a desire to participate.

In conclusion, everything returns to exhibiting sensitivity and good Middos which we need to show each other, especially in their time of need. During the remaining weeks until we receive the Torah anew on Shavuos, we each need to remind ourselves how Middos, good character, is a prelude to receiving and fulfilling the Torah.

Ah Gutten Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

 

Tue, June 25 2024 19 Sivan 5784