Illuminations #117, Iyar 5777, Parshat Emor

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Illuminations #117, Iyar 5777, Parshat Emor


Torah Gems

The Torah ( Vayikra 23:22) instructs us to leave some produce from the harvest of our fields for the poor members of our community. Rashi points out that this passage is placed in the middle of the portion regarding the festivals. This juxtaposition teaches us that if one gives these gifts to the poor, it is considered as if he had built the Temple and brought his festival offerings.

However, the Temple service for the festivals pertains to the mitzvos between man and Hashem, whereas leaving gifts over for the poor pertains to the mitzvos between man and his fellow. How is giving gifts to the poor equivalent to building the Temple and bringing offerings?

The root of all mitzvos is sensitivity. In the mitzvos between man and his fellow, it is care and compassion that inspire us to help our fellow man. In the mitzvos between man and Hashem, it is the desire to be pleasing to Hashem that awakens our divine service. Moreover, when one bestows kindness upon the creations of Hashem, he expresses his love for Hashem and serves him. This is so because Hashem – the Creator of all life – wants nothing more than His children to coexist in love harmony, and peace.

After one has worked by the sweat of his brow to till his soil and labored from dawn to dusk to raise a crop from the earth, it is not easy to give part of his produce to people he may not even know. Thus, when one empathizes with and gives gifts from his harvest to the poor, he has overcome his nature.

Hashem values the effort he made to look beyond his own needs and relinquish his desires. Sensitizing and softening one’s heart to others is the essence of divine service. Therefore, the Temple service is a service of love, dedication, and joy.

When one develops those precious virtues and gives to the poor, he has awakened the “image of Hashem” within himself. There is no greater divine service than filling one’s heart with compassion for others – indeed, it is tantamount to building the Temple and bringing offerings.

(Based on Rashis commentary)

Parsha Pearls

It says in Vayikra 24:18, “And he who smites a beast mortally shall pay for it.” This verse states that a person is held financially responsible for damage he causes, but does not explicitly state that it is forbidden to damage. Rabenu Yonah (Pirkei Avos 1:1) writes that all acts of damaging are included in the prohibition against stealing. The Yad Rama states that damaging others is a violation of the commandment to love our fellow man. Rabbi Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky writes that we learn it is forbidden to damage from the commandment to return lost objects: if we are obligated to return lost objects to their owner, then surely we must not damage something that belongs to another person.

(Kehilos Yaakov, Bava Kama 1)

Glimpses of Greatness

Rabbi Eliyahu Dushnitzer once waited with two friends for a bus. The line for the bus was very long, and due to the tumult, Rabbi Dushnitzer didn’t receive a ticket after having paid his fare. When he realized that the driver had forgotten to give him a ticket, he said to his traveling companions, “I would like to go back to the driver to ask for my ticket, but he might not believe that I already paid. In that case, my request might cause a chillul Hashem. On the other hand, if I do not ask him for the ticket, he might keep the carfare for himself. In that case, he would be guilty of stealing and I would be at fault. Therefore, I have decided to pay another fare. I will declare the money I already paid hefker (without ownership), so the driver will be permitted to keep it.” After saying this, Rav Eliyahu went over to the driver and paid him a second time.