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Polishing The World Until It Shines
Sichos in English

Shabbos Parshas Emor; 17th Day of Iyar, 5750


1. This week’s Torah portion begins: “Tell the priests, the children of Aharon, and relate to them...” Our Sages, noting the apparent redundancy of the commands, “tell” and “relate,” explain that the verse is intended “to charge the adults with [the education of] the children.”

This, however, provokes a question: Since the education of children is of fundamental importance to the future of our people, as our Sages declared, “If there are no kids, there will be no goats,” why is the education of our children not mentioned immediately after the giving of the Torah? Why is its mention postponed until the middle of the Book of VaYikra and, even then, it is not mentioned in the context of a matter of general relevance, but rather in regard to the laws of the priesthood?

These questions can be resolved within an explanation of the connection between the content of this Torah portion and the time of year when it is read. Parshas Emor is always read in the month of Iyar, which is distinguished by its connection to the mitzva of counting the omer. Every day of this month is associated with this mitzva. [The association of this mitzva with parshas Emor is further emphasized by the fact that the mitzva of counting the omer is related in detail in this Torah reading.]

The counting of the omer is associated with education, as emphasized by the fact that it commemorates the preparation (chinuch, education) of the Jewish people to receive the Torah. The exodus from Egypt can be considered as the “birth” of the Jewish people and the seven weeks that followed can be considered a period of preparation as the Jews waited anxiously, counting the days until they received the Torah. Each year, this sequence is repeated, “advancing higher in holiness,” revealing deeper dimensions of the Torah, until ultimately, “a new Torah will emerge from Me,” in the Messianic age.

Chinuch, education, is not only relevant in the initial stages of one’s service. On the contrary, as a person grows and advances from level to level he must “educate” himself to prepare to reach the higher rung. This concept is alluded to in the counting of the omer, which: a) begins after Pesach, i.e., after the Jewish people have taken a “leap” forward in the service of G-d, and b) counts the days with cardinal numbers rather than ordinal ones, i.e., rather than say, “Today is the second day...,” “Today is the third day...,” and the like. We say, “Today is two days to the omer,” “Today is three days...,” indicating that each day includes within it the service of all the previous days and then, contributes a further dimension of growth itself.

The counting of the omer is also related to the concept of Jewish unity. The “seven perfect weeks” of the omer allude to achieving perfection among the categories of the Jewish people, signified by the seven branches of the menora, which reflect our seven emotional qualities. During this period, all these seven categories must be perfected until they “shine” (i.e., s’fira, which means counting, also means shining.)

This concept is also related to the month of Iyar, whose Hebrew spelling serves as an acronym for the names Avrohom, Yitzchok, Yaakov, and Rochel, the four figures who have endowed their spiritual heritage to the totality of the Jewish people.

This high level is also reflected in the expression our Sages use to communicate the obligation to educate our children, “l’hazhir gedolim al ha’katanim.” “L’hazhir” also means to shine, i.e., these efforts will add shining light to the entire Jewish people, both the parents and the children, and reveal their essential positive qualities.

This is also related to the name of the parsha, Parshas Emor, which can also be interpreted to mean “grant praise and distinction,” as in the verse, “You have granted praise and distinction to G-d today.”

…Based on the above, we can understood the initial question: Why was the obligation to educate our children not mentioned directly after the giving of the Torah. As explained above, in their statement, our Sages used the word “l’hazhir,” which means to shine, rather than another term meaning to educate. This implies that the goal is also to make the children who receive the education shine. Therefore, this does not apply in the initial stages of their education, but only after they have begun elevating themselves and are seeking to reach a level of completion.

In other words, the obligation to give children the basics of education is self-understood and does not require a commandment from the Torah. The command that the Torah does find necessary to relate — the obligation to educate one’s children until they shine — cannot be communicated at the outset and is mentioned only after one has begun one’s service.

There is a deeper lesson that can be derived from the words “emor” and “v’amarta” (meaning “tell” and “and you shall relate,” respectively). Significantly, though they are separated in the verse, Rashi mentions them directly after each other to imply that they are a single concept, i.e., the efforts of the adults to educate the children is not separate from their own service, but rather, an extension of it. It is not that in addition to their own service, they also educate their children; but rather the adults and the children are united in a single service. Similarly, the adults service is complete to the point that it extends beyond himself and has an influence on others, as well.

Furthermore, just as the adults exert a positive influence on the children, this activity has an effect upon themselves as well, causing them to “shine.” This comes about because the unity of the adults and the children draws down a light that completely transcends the differences between adults and children.

The above is reflected in the Jewish people’s efforts in “educating” the world (i.e., the world can be considered as a child when compared to the Jewish people, who are like adults). The Jewish people must “polish” the world until it shines. This, in turn, will draw down a higher light for the Jewish people themselves.

There is also a mystic dimension to this concept. The word “emor” (tell) is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “fire, water, and wind,” three of the four fundamental elements of existence. The word “amarta” (relate) contains these three letters with the addition of the letter Taf, which reflects the S’fira of Malchus, which is associated with the element of earth. Emor, however, does not allude to the element of earth because earth is included in the other three elements, fire, air, and water. This can been seen from the fact that when water is boiled, a residue of earth remains.

These concepts are reflected in our behavior, “fire, water, and wind,” refer to our potential for wisdom, understanding, and emotion. Exercise of these potentials alone is not sufficient; it is also necessary to add, “earth,” malchus, which refers to communicating to others. This expression, however, is not an independent entity, but rather an extension of one’s inner qualities. Through this expression a greater and more encompassing light is generated…

2. The above concepts are enhanced by a teaching of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the fourth chapter of Pirkei Avos._ That teaching states:

Rabbi Shimon states: There are three crowns: The crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship. The crown of a good name surpasses them all.

This raises an obvious question. Why doesn’t the Mishna mention four crowns, including “the crown of a good name”?

The concept can be explained as follows: Torah, priesthood, and royalty refer to internal qualities within an individual’s personality. The “crown of a good name” refers to one’s activities with others. Rabbi Shimon explains that “crown of a good name” is not a separate entity, but rather an extension of the other three crowns. Our work with others has to be viewed, not as a different service, but as a continuation of one’s personal efforts of refinement.

This is alluded to by the terminology used by the Mishna. The Hebrew expression translated as “surpasses them all” literally means “ascends upon them,” i.e., when one has carried out the services of Torah, priesthood, and kingship, then sharing one’s qualities with others brings about a new crown that is higher than the other ones.

This is also connected to Rabbi Shimon’s emphasis on the oneness of the Jewish people, as reflected in his explanation of the verse: “How good and how sweet it is for brothers to sit together.” This verse also relates to the unity between the Jewish people and G-d for “brothers sitting together” can refer to G-d and the Jewish people.

The above sheds light on a statement of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai:

Come and see how dear Israel is before the Holy One, blessed be He, wherever they were exiled, the Divine presence was exiled with them.... When they will be redeemed, the Divine presence will accompany them.

The intent of this statement is that the unity between G-d and the Jewish people is not for the sake of an external purpose, but rather a natural, innate bond. Accordingly, wherever Israel is found, the Divine presence accompanies them.

In this context, it is worthy to contrast the manner in which this statement is quoted in the Talmud and in the text, Ein Yaakov. There are two primary differences: a) Ein Yaakov lists several different exiles which the Jewish people were forced to undergo, while the Talmud’s text is far more concise. b) Ein Yaakov spells the name Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai with an Alef, while the Talmud omits that letter.

The differences can be explained based on the differences between the nature of the two texts. Ein Yaakov was intended for people on a low level of knowledge, while the Talmud can be studied only by those on a more advanced level. Therefore, to emphasize the oneness of G-d with the Jewish people on all levels, the Ein Yaakov mentions all the places to which they were exiled.

It also includes a Alef because the Alef is the key to Redemption. The only differences in the Hebrew words for exile (gola) and redemption (geula) is an Alef. The Alef stands for Alufo shel Olam, G-d, “the L-rd of the world.” It is the revelation of G-dliness that transforms the exile into redemption.

The lessons from Parshas Emor mentioned above should motivate us to invest more energy in the unity of the Jewish people and in education, teaching young children, and also teaching adults, spreading forth the wellsprings of Chassidus, the legacy of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, outward. Similarly, efforts must be made to educate gentiles and train them in the performance of their seven mitzvos.



Just as adults exert a positive influence on children, this activity has an effect upon themselves as well, causing them to “shine.”





It is the revelation of G-dliness that transforms the exile into redemption.




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