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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Leviticus/Vayikra - Emor
May 2008, Contributed by Asher ben Shimon
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We know that one becomes ritually impure when either touching a human corpse or finding oneself under the same roof as a human corpse. In the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Emor, a special warning is issued to the Kohanim (priests) not to bring themselves to a state of impurity. Being that they are of a higher spiritual level, they have a special set of laws which separates them more from impurity then the ordinary person. A Kohen is not allowed to walk into a cemetery. Only for immediate relatives as specified in the torah, can a Kohen bring himself to a state of impurity.

The Talmud relates the following story.
A heretic once asked R' Abahu "How did Hashem bury Moshe? Doesn't it say that He is a Kohen?" R' Abahu answered him that after the burial Hashem purified himself with fire.

The commentaries note that the question was only how he purified himself. There was no prohibition for Hashem to touch a corpse, even as a priest, since we, the Jewish people, are considered His children and a Kohen is allowed to become impure for immediate relatives.

The Talmud doesn't tell us stories about heretics and their questions for no reason. The question can really be asked by anyone. Therefore it makes sense to ask how, as a Kohen, Hashem was able to bury Moshe without transgressing his own law.

To that we can answer that there was no problem since Moshe was his child.

The same question can be asked about the future redemption when Hashem will go into the impure lands of the nations to redeem us. In that case the answer is slightly different. The answer given there is that we are considered His unmarried sister, who is one of the close relatives named in the Torah.

The problem with that is,that we also find that Hashem is called a Kohen Gadol, a high priest. The high priest, being that he was on an even higher level of holiness, wasn't allowed ever to become impure, not even for close relatives. If by mistake he did come into contact with impurity he would of course become impure and would have to go through the regular purification process before being allowed back into the temple.

So the question returns. How was Hashem able to bury Moshe and how will he be able to save us from our impurities when the redemption comes?

"Magid devarav leyakov chukav umishpatav." Hashem gives HIS laws to his children.

Whatever Hashem tells us to do, he does himself too. The laws he gave us are the laws he keeps himself so to speak. We even find a discussion about what it says in the Tefillin of Hashem. When we say Hashem puts on Tefilin or has a mezuzah, what does that mean? Obviously He is not a physical being and neither does He make use of any physical objects such as parchment for a mezuzah or leather for Tefillin.

Everything in this physical world is a reflection of its source in the spiritual realm. As humans with very limited capacity for understanding, it is impossible to have any understanding or even fantasy of what an unlimited, infinite spiritual being is. Nevertheless, we have a mitzvah to KNOW G-d. The only way we can relate to spiritual concepts is by comparing them to physical things we know.

"From my flesh I see G-d," means: "from the different parts of my body, created in the image of G-d, I can understand several spiritual concepts."

Not only does the physical serve as an example of the spiritual, they REFLECT their source in that spiritual world.

Water, for instance comes from the attribute of chesed, kindness. The similarity between water and kindness is that just like water, by nature, goes down from high to low, so does a kind person lower himself to people in need.

This doesn't mean that water IS the G-dly attribute of Chesed or that that attribute has the exact same characteristics as human kindness. However, since the source of water is `chesed' it can help us understand certain aspects of the spiritual level of chesed.

Hashem didn't change after the world was created. When we humans build something, put our energy into something, we are affected on a physical level by its creation, or at least on an emotional level. People are formed based on their experiences. Hashem did not get affected by creating the world.

The classic example to that is the sun. The rays that come out of the sun don't make it any smaller. We see the same with a candle on a much smaller scale. After lighting a candle from an existing flame, the original flame remains unaffected.

Again; this doesn't mean that G-d is a candle. A candle can be blown out. Hashem obviously doesn't get affected by anything.

In other words, Hashem made the physical in a way that it teaches us and reflects spiritual worlds and beings and even his own unity and oneness. At the same time these things remain subjected to the rules of nature and the physical world.

When we say Hashem has Tefillin or performs other Mitzvot, it means that He does certain spiritual things that we cannot know about. Those things are reflected in this world as mezuzas written on parchment and Tefillin in leather boxes. By our putting mezuzas on doors, Hashem protects our homes. By our putting on physical Tefillin in which it says Hashem is ONE, Hashem `puts on' His Tefillin in which it says: "Who is like my people Israel, ONE nation."

A regular Kohen is not allowed to become impure because of anyone outside his immediate family. On his spiritual level impurity is not wanted. But there are times there is a possibility of impurity, in case of a relative. So even though it is harmful for his spiritual well being he doesn't stand higher than the concept of impurity.
-The physical Kohen Gadol is never allowed to become impure.
-The spiritual level of High Priest doesn't get affected by impurity. It stands higher than it.

The physical Kohen Gadol is subject to the laws of the physical world. If he gets into contact with something that causes impurity he gets affected by it.

Hashem, when called Kohen Gadol, is the source based on which the physical Kohen Gadol was created. For Hashem there is no problem to bury Moshe or to redeem us from the impure lands. He is on a level where impure forces have totally no effect.

May we soon merit this time when Hashem will take us out of all our impurities with the coming of Moshiach NOW!


Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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