Title: Warn The Adults
Major Focus: Education
Minor Focus: Responsibility
Abstract: The phrase "speak to the priests...and say to them," suggests a double emphasis, so that both priests and parents know what their responsibility is toward children.
Format: Rabbinic Argument
"God said to Moses: Speak (emor) to the
priests, the sons of Aaron, and say to them (ve'amarta):
None shall defile himself for any deceased person among his family, except for
the relatives that are closest to him: his mother, his father, his son, his
daughter, and his brother..."
Why the repetition, "Speak to the priests...and say to
- Ramban: God was speaking to
Aaron and the people of his generation as parents. God was warning Aaron that
his children, the future priests of the nation, must be taught and guarded from
defilement, even if they are young.
God was reminding them that
they are priests. Under no circumstances are they to defile themselves. They
are not to have anything to do with the deceased, even during times they are
not officiating in the Sanctuary.
- How do you think the concept of repetition in speaking to
someone clued Ramban into the idea that God was speaking to Aaron and his
entire generation as parents?
- Why couldn't an off duty priest do normal things like other
people? Can you think of any other profession where "off duty" still isn't
- Rashi: The repetition was to
warn the adults about the children. It was a warning to tell the adults they
are not to assist in the defilement of their children, but God does not hold
them guilty if the children get into trouble on their own.
- What kinds of things might parents be likely to expose their
children to that would upset God?
- Why shouldn't parents be responsible for their children's
misconduct? How is this rule applied in contemporary
- Yebamoth 114a: A person must
not tell a child to do something they know is wrong. If a child is visiting
their grandparents, and eats non-kosher food, it is not necessary to take the
food from the child. The child did not know any better. The grandparents should
- Why do you think the Rabbis ruled it was not necessary to
take non-kosher food away from a child, so long as you didn't give it to
- What do you think parents and grandparents can or should do
now if their children keep kosher and they do not?
- Chasam Sofer: I agree. It is
a warning to the adults with regard to their children. Since the next section
of the Torah deals with the death of family members, the adults are being
warned not merely to concern themselves with a fine, respectable funeral, but
also to think about their children.
If young children are left
orphaned, the surviving adults in the family must give their attention to them.
They must make certain they are cared for properly.
- Is it wrong to have a fine and respectable funeral? What
priorities is the commentator worried about?
- There are specific warnings in the Torah about the care of
orphans. Why is the commentator using this piece to emphasize it
- Ibn Ezra: God was speaking
to the priests, the sons of Aaron. They were the spiritual parents of all
Israel. The responsibility of teaching Torah and admonishing the people fell
upon them. The repetition was to tell the priests just how important is their
responsibility, and specifically to tell them what their personal
responsibilities were going to be from now on.
- How has Ibn Ezra shifted the argument from biologic parents
to spiritual parents? Why did he do that?
- Who are your spiritual parents? Who can society look to for
- Jonah Ibn Ganach: There is
essentially no difference between the words emor and
ve'amarta. The double usage is not uncommon in the Bible.
Together, they emphasize the importance of the subject being
- What aspect of Torah commentary and Hebrew language would
you guess this commentator is most interested in?
- Has he added to our understanding or trivialized the
- Vayikra Rabba: The
repetition was to emphasize the truth, purity, and permanence of God's words.
It is the way of the world that a mortal king comes to his people and promises
them all sorts of wonderful things. Then, he dies in his sleep the very next
day. Where then are his words and great promises? It is not so with
- What new direction has the midrash taken us in this
discussion? Why is it important to look at other pathways of reasoning and
- What does the story about the death of a king
- Psalm 19,10: The fear of God
is pure and lasts forever. As Rabbi Levi has said, Aaron was afraid to approach
the altar, especially after the death of his sons, so God spoke to him this
way. God had to tell him, and his children, the future priests, how to deal
with death and yet remain pure and in fear of God.
- What does "the fear of God" mean to you? Are you concerned
that God will strike you or a loved one down, as happened to Aaron's two
- Why did the priests have to stay away from death houses and
- Hirsch: The words
emor and ve'amarta are not the same.
One refers to speaking and one to informing. Speaking is the expression of
thoughts in words, words that may be falling on deaf or apathetic ears.
Informing is to tell someone in such a way that one knows they are getting the
message. Emor implies that the thoughts are being
addressed to the mind and feelings of another person, concise, and pregnant
with meaning. They are being absorbed.
- What is the nature of Rabbi Hirsch's disagreement with Jonah
- Have you ever been frustrated by speaking to a person you
suspect is not listening, caring, or concentrating on what you are saying? When
that happens, do you shift tone so you know they are being
- Tanhuma: The concept is
repeated to emphasize that it is the priests God is instructing. At the end of
the last parasha, the Torah warned that it meant death to
consult any kind of psychic medium, oracle, or spiritualist. People might ask,
"If we can't use them, the dark powers, who can we turn to when we need
spiritual guidance?" God makes it clear who they can turn to. The people must
learn to turn to the legitimate priests of Israel. It is the priests' duty to
know the Torah and provide guidance for the people.
- Chasam Sofer connected this verse to the
next section on funerals, but Tanhuma is connecting it to
the previous section on fortune-telling and magic. Why are
they both working so hard to make intra-Torah connections?
- Why was God so strict about the issue of turning to "dark
powers"? What is the real issue?