May 2008, Contributed by Asher ben
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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
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
"Magid devarav leyakov chukav umishpatav." Hashem gives HIS laws to
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
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
"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
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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