Parshas Emor

אך אל הפרכת לא יבא  כא:כג

Rashi explains that these words – which forbid a kohen who is a baal mum (has a disqualifying physical blemish) from approaching the paroches – are referring to an approach that includes avodah (service). So, according to Rashi, there is no prohibition on a kohen baal mum from entering the area of the Heichal if he is not going to do any avodah.

The Rambam, though, in mitzvas lo saaseh number 69, says that the words "ach el ha'paroches lo yavo" indicate a prohibition on a kohen baal mum from entering the area that lies between the ulam and the mizbeiach; and, in mitzvah lo saaseh number 70, the Rambam discusses the prohibition on a kohen baal mum from performing avodah.

The Ramban argues with the Rambam, based on a Gemara in Maseches Sukkah (44a) that explicitly says that the kohanim baalei mum would participate in the hakafos on Sukkos to fulfill the mitzvah of aravah, despite the fact that this entailed entering the area between the ulam and the mizbeiach. Obviously, then, insists the Ramban, there cannot be any issur d'Oraysa forbidding a kohen baal mum from entering that area.

The Megillas Esther (a commentary on the Rambam's Sefer Ha'Mitzvos) answers this question by invoking the well-known priniciple, asei docheh lo saasei, the fulfillment of a positive commandment displaces a negative commandment (when there is no possibility of resolving the two). The positive mitzvah of aravah supersedes the negative commandment of kohanim baalei mum not entering the area between the ulam and the mizbeiach.

The question on this, though, is that there is nothing about the mitzvah of aravah that specifically mandates the involvement of kohanim who are baalei mum; so why is this considered an irresolvable conflict between a positive commandment and negative commandment? Why can't the mitzvah be fulfilled through the involvement of kohanim who don't have any mumin, and the kohanim baalei mum will keep to their prohibition from entering that area?!

Based on this, others suggest that, even according to the Rambam, the prohibition on a kohen baal mum from entering the area between the ulam and the mizbeiach is only if it is a biah reikanis, an entry with no purpose. But if the kohen baal mum enters that area for a specific reason, no prohibition exists that would prohibit him from so doing.

(From the notes of Reb Daniel Fast)


מועדי ה׳ אשר תקראו אתם מקראי קדש   כג:ב

The Gemara in Maseches Rosh Ha’Shana (16b) says that there is an obligation to purify oneself for Yomtov. In parshas Shmini (11:8), there is a pasuk that prohibits touching an animal carcass that would render one impure. “One might have thought,” says the Gemara in Rosh Ha’Shana, “that there is a prohibition on ever becoming impure. But that cannot be. Why? Because in the beginning of parshas Emor, only Kohanim are exhorted that they may not become impure through contact with a dead person. So, if,” concludes the Gemara, “when it comes to the impurity imparted by a dead person, it is only kohanim that are included in the prohibition, then certainly there cannot be a prohibition on regular Jews from becoming impure through contact with an animal carcass which is a much lighter form of impurity.” So, what is that pasuk of not becoming impure through contact with an animal carcass talking about? In advent of the Yamim Tovim. Chayav adam l’taher atzmo b’regel. Every Jew has an obligation to purify himself for Yomtov. That is what the Gemara says there in Maseches Rosh Ha’Shana.

Now, there are Rishonim – and the Bach paskens in accordance with this opinion (Orach Chaim 603:1) – who maintain that this obligation applies not only in the time of the Beis Ha’Mikdash, but even nowadays (to the extent possible nowadays). The Rambam, though, clearly does not hold this way, for when he cites this obligation for one to purify himself for Yomtov, he explains that it is specifically for the purpose of being able to go to the Beis Ha’Mikdash and eat from the meat of the korbanos that one will bring during the Chag (Hilchos Tumas Ochlin 16:10).

In Maseches Shabbos of the Talmud Yerushalmi (1:3), Rabi Chiya tells Rav, “If you can, make sure that all of the food that you eat throughout the year is pure. And if you can’t manage that, then do so for seven days out of the year.”

What are these seven days during which it’s important to eat chullin b’taharah?

The Tur (Orach Chaim 603), quotes the Raaviyah who says that he has a tradition that the seven days the Yerushalmi is referring to are the seven days between Rosh Ha’Shana and Yom Kippur. Of course, elaborates the Tur, the matter of being extra careful is applicable throughout the entire Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, including Rosh Ha’Shana and Yom Kippur. But it wasn’t necessary to mention Yom Kippur since one fasts and does not eat, and it also was not necessary to mention Rosh Ha’Shana – even though we do eat on Rosh Ha’Shana – since the exaltedness of the day would anyway make it patently obvious that one need to be extra careful and therefore be stringent about chullin b’taharah. What therefore remained necessary to mention explicitly are the seven days between Rosh Ha’Shana and Yom Kippur. Based on this, concludes the Tur, the minhag of Bnei Ashkenaz is that, even one who eats pas palter (bread baked by a Gentile baker) throughout the year, refrains from doing so during the days of Aseres Yemei Teshuvah.

The Meshech Chochmah, though, explains the Yerushalmi differently. He says that the “seven days” are a reference to the Yamim Tovim of the year. The first and last day of Pesach, the first and last day of Sukkos, the one day of Shavuos, and the two days of Rosh Ha’Shana (excluding the makom ha’vaad). Since, explains the Meshech Chochmah, there is an obligation to purify oneself for Yomtov, it is also important to be careful that even what one eats be pure (Emor 23:43).

(From the notes of Reb Daniel Fast)


ונקדשתי בתוך בני ישראל    כב:לב

The Gemara (Brachos 21b and Megillah 23b) says that from this pasuk we derive the halacha that any davar sheh’b’kedushah (e.g. kaddish, barchu, etc.) requires the presence of a minyan (quorum of ten). Since, explains the Gemara, it says the word toch in this context as well as in the context of the meraglim – ten of whom (since Yehoshua and Kalev are not included) are referred to as an eidah – we see that you need at least ten.

So, we see that it is from the meraglim that we derive the halacha that all matters of kedusha require a minyan. Based on this, Rav Moshe Feinstein paskened that a rasha can be counted for a minyan (at least for things like kaddish and barchu, but possibly not for teffilah b’tzibur; see Igros Moshe Orach Chaim 1:23). After all, he explains, the meraglim publicly expressed denial of Hashem, so they were as terrible reshaim as could possibly be; and, nevertheless, the source of requiring a minyan is learned out from them.

Others, though, argue on this assertion of Rav Moshe. For example, the Lev Avraham asserts that the meraglim were not reshaim, but that they were in fact tzaddikim.

Rabbeinu Bachayei, on this pasuk, quotes the opinion of Rabbeinu Yaakov that the text of the Gemara as we have it must be mistaken, because you cannot learn out from the meraglim the halacha of needing a minyan for a davar sheh’b’kedushah. Rather, the correct version of the text is that the Gemara is learning out from a different pasuk in which the word toch appears. Namely, the pasuk that says “lishbor b’soch ha’baim (Mikeitz 42:5)” which is talking about the ten brothers of Yosef, who were, of course, tzaddikim.

(From the notes of Reb Daniel Fast).



“If a person manages to stay calm in the face of an extremely upsetting occurrence, either a) the person is a Malach, b) Hashem’s presence is so strong a reality for him that it is simply not possible for him to get angry, or c) the person has practiced in his mind how to react in such situations to the extent that he has succeeded in making a calm response his natural reaction.”



“Rav Twersky once emphasized that the primary purpose of chazarah is to strengthen one’s recall of what one has learned. ‘Don’t learn it up again!’ he emphasized. ‘Rather,’ he explained, ‘just go over the dapei Gemara quickly many times.’ I was a young bachur at the time, and I just wanted to be a good boy, doing the right thing. What he said made me nervous because ‘learning it up again’ was exactly how I was used to going about chazarah. ‘But, Rebbi,’ I said to him after the shiur, ‘that’s what I do!’ He was quiet for a moment, and then he looked at me and said, ‘Well, one cannot argue with success!” (A talmid)

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