Illuminations #159, Iyar 5778, Parshat Emor

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Illuminations #159, Iyar 5778, Parshat Emor

Torah Gems

“They shall be holy to their God, and they shall not desecrate their God’s Name.” (21:6)

It would be assumed that once a person has already become holy, it goes without saying that he will not desecrate Hashem’s Name. Why isn’t the passuk in the reverse order? Not only should we not profane the Name of Hashem, but we should reach a higher level and become holy to Him.

Rav Moshe Sternbuch writes that this teaches us that there is no middle path. At any given time, every Jew is either sanctifying or desecrating Hashem’s Name. If he is not sanctifying it, then that means he is desecrating it. As the Vilna Gaon said, throughout a Jewish person’s life, his neshamah is either on an ascent or a descent. On Rosh Hashana, Hashem examines the form of a person’s neshamah. It changes daily based on his actions. If Hashem sees that it has not changed for the better, that means that a decline has set in.

Although the Rambam writes that in the context of character traits, the medium path should be followed, avodas Hashem calls for a lack of compromise.

Parsha Pearls

The same traits that impact our relationship bein adam lachaveiro also impact our relationship bein adam lamakom. Chazal tell us, “One who is ungrateful to his friend will ultimately be ungrateful to Hashem.” Traits that are present in interpersonal relationships are automatically active in a person’s interaction with Hashem as well. This concept is also true with regard to a person’s positive character traits. The Gemara says (Succah 49b), “It is certain that a person who does acts of kindness, is one who fears Hashem.” What do acts of kindness have to do with a person’s fear of Hashem? The answer is that they both sprout from the same root. This can be understood through an analogy. The heart can be compared to a closed room that has doors and windows. When a person is in a closed room, he does not see anything. However, if he opens a window, he sees both people and the sky. Similarly, a person who practices kindness is a person who opens the window of his heart to see others. When the window is open, he is no longer focused solely on himself, so he sees the sky (Hashem) as well. The words “yirah” and “re’iah” share the same root because when a person sees Hashem, he comes to fear Him.

Glimpses of Greatness

Rav Sternbuch recalls meeting an elderly Yemenite Rav and Mekubal when he was living in Rosh HaAyin more than forty years ago. The Rav, crying and full of emotion, told Rav Sternbuch that in Yemen, whenever there were individual or public evil decrees or misfortunes, the first thing they would do was pronounce “Yehei Shemei Rabba” with concentration, and they would witness miracles. The Rav could not understand why we in Eretz Yisrael do not so the same thing.

Halacha Weekly

Q. Why Is it important to name a child after a tzaddik? II-11-274

A. We learn: ‘Names of evil-doers we do not use in naming [children]’ (Yoma 38b). Rashi explains this: ‘A person should not call his son after the name of an evil-doer.’ Sefer Hasidim (244, R. Yehudah ben Shmuel of Regensburg Z”L) writes, ‘A name can cause good or evil.’  There are people who one calls by their name [the name of a righteous person] who will be successful in achieving greatness. Also there are people that all those who are called in their name  will live and have children and generations follow after him. However, the same principle applies (that damage can be caused) using the names of evil persons.

What if a person is called by the name of an evil person? When exactly are we concerned about all of this? Zecher David (1-82, R. Mazal Tov Modinah Z”L) writes that one who is named after an evil person even though we do not [want to] name children using that name, if he is a Ben Torah and involves himself with Torah always, he should not be concerned about the influence of the name because the merit of Torah protects him. And [the name of the evil person] will not damage him at all.

Sheiltot Ramah (42,  R. Moshe Isserles, Z”L) explains, that which [we learn] that it  is forbidden to name [a child] after an evil person is specifically when we do not find that name used at all except in the case of that evil person. But if the name is used by many other individuals, there is no prohibition. See also Sdei Chemed (Kuntras Kellalim -Marecheh Zayin  7, R, Chaim Chezkiah Medini Z”L), and Zecher David ( 1-82) explains if the name of an evil person is joined with many other individuals [ who are upright], there is no prohibition calling him by that name.


In honor of Rav & Mrs. Shmuel Khoshkerman

Jeff & Renée Levene