Parashat Emor: “the Kohen in Us All” - Vital Transformation

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Parashat Emor: “the Kohen in Us All”

Weekly Pearl of Wisdom for Your Shabbat Table

Parashat Emor: “the Kohen in Us All”

This week we read Parashat Emor; the Parasha detailing the intricate service of the Kohanim, the priests, and the holy holidays. We are also in the fourth week of counting the Omer; our 7-week-long journey of building our vessel to receive the light of the Torah on Shavuot.

What is the mission of the Kohanim?

Our parashah begins with “״אמר אל הכהנים, “speak to the Kohanim”. God expands on the laws special to the Kohanim, the holy people of our nation who executed the service in the Beit Hamikdash. The Kohanim are those who are devoted to being special, staying holy, and serving the Jewish people. Kabbalah teaches us that Kohanim are connected to the right column of the three-column system; the side that brings chesed-lovingkindness energy to the world.

We learn that they are specifically to be “righteous, holy, and pure”. What does each description mean? How are they different? Righteous people are those who find the good in all the negativity in their lives. Holy people are those who are so elevated, they do not even see the difference between good and bad. To them, it is all good and from God. Pure people are those who stay focused on spirituality through meditation and the intention that everything in their lives will be good. The Kohanim are those called to embody all three of these high levels.

Why was Aaron the father of all Kohenim?

The main job of Kohanim is to bless the world. The blessing was their role in the Beit Hamikdash service and they continue to bless us with ברכת כהנים, the priestly blessings we receive in communal prayer today. Aaron was chosen as the father of this role because he lived a life devoted to peace. We are told he loved peace and would chase peace for all. If a couple was fighting, Aaron would strategically approach the wife and say “Your husband told me he loves you so much and wants peace with you but isn’t sure how to start”. Then he would approach the man and say “Your wife tells me she loves you deeply but isn’t sure where to begin to fix the tension”. In this way, both parties felt love and would run into each other’s arms to create peace. Aaron made peace simple and made love the priority among all. The Torah teaches us that he even brought peace between the angels in heaven! He affected the whole universe as a real Kohan, a real man of peace.

How can we be like Aaron?

Parashat Emor is talking to the Kohanim, but the real essence of this is that we are all like Kohanim. A Kohen is someone who worships peace and the Creator. How is this accomplished? Aaron, we learn, “loved peace, chased peace, loved people, and brought them closer to the Torah”. Here we learn something remarkable! We learn that peace is accomplished by bringing others close to God. When we bring people closer to Torah, we bring peace to them and the world. Bringing our fellow man closer to the Creator is the ultimate expression of our love for them. When we connect to God, we are spreading peace to the world. Aaron, in his immense love, sought to bring people closer to one another and God thus spreading peace to the nation.

How do we get there?

Kabbalah so outrightly, urges us to “Stop being small!”. To love others and bring them closer to themselves and to God, we must, essentially, stop acting like a baby. We grow up and out of our self-focus when we start caring for others.

We learn a story of love from the Chozeh of Lublin, a holy and prophetical Rabbi. The Chozeh told one of his students that he could not stay with him for Rosh Hashana. Every student understands the vital importance of being with their Rabbi on this holiday. The student sinks into sadness and feels rejected. On his way home, fellow students stop him and noticing his sadness, invite him to learn with them. The student joins their learning and their dancing until he is joyful again. His fellows are so happy from his pure happiness that they shower him with blessings for a long and happy life. When he shares his reason for initial sadness, the Rabbi’s rejection for Rosh Hashana, the students propose that perhaps the Rabbi was testing him and he should try to stay with them for the holiday. Although nervous, the student agrees and returns to the Chozeh with the students. The moment the Rabbi sees his rejected student walk back in, he smiles greatly and exclaims how happy he is to see him. Upon seeing the student’s confusion, the Rabbi explains that he rejected him because he saw the angel of death around him and he wanted the student to spend his final days with his family. But because of his fellow students’ loving blessings to him for a long life, God spared his life and now he will live! The students had unconditional love for their fellow and truly sought to bring him closer to his Rabbi and God. The students’ pure love overrode the angel of death! Here we see the power of leaving the selfish side that seeks to keep us childish and the power of caring for others.

When Kohanim are serving us, they bring us balance. In fact, they center and benefit everyone in the world. It is in the interest of greater world peace to have Kohanim serving as intended in the Beit Hamikdash.

Just as the Kohanim bring us balance and connection to the Creator, so too do our holidays. Each holiday allows us to tap into different ways of connection to God. The holiday of Passover is the time God took us out of slavery from Egypt. We were freed from Egyptian slavery through developing awe. On the night of Passover, God gives us a gift of free-to-access awe. This allows us to abandon limiting mindsets and recognize Godliness and spirituality. This awe is a gift, one we did not earn. Therefore, we are granted a 7-week opportunity to count and build our vessel to receive the light of awe that will be rewarded at the end of the Omer on the holiday of Shavuot. We understand awe is critical to our relationship with God.

Aaron was blessed to be the Kohen because he had awe of God and all. Before entering the Beit Hamikdash, Aaron would feel a sense of immense awe about his service and connection to God. Then he would walk in and perform the holy service. By way of analogy, awe for a toy store is needed to have a deep appreciation of the store. When a child walks into a toy store, he is in awe of its glory and worships the place. When a spoiled child walks into the toy store, he grabs what he desires and leaves. This lack of awe prevents him from truly appreciating the magic of a toy shop. When we approach the Creator of all life and all He created with awe, then we truly can serve Him.

May we all tap into our inner Kohen to utilize the counting of the Omer to develop our awe and connect more deeply than we thought possible.

Shabbat Shalom!

-Rabbi Eliyahu Jian

Eliyahu Jian May 22, 2024

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