Archive for The Wife’s Influence

Parshat Emor


First Portion: * I have many close friends who are kohanim. These friends, as well as the rest, must observe laws of holiness beyond those which apply to the rest of our beloved nation. They have higher standards  because they, at one point, performed G-d’s holy work in the temple. Although many of those tasks are not applicable today, the kohanim still abide by the stringent laws of their ancestors. Astonishingly, I find even the most secular kohanim observe many of these stringent laws. They all know they can’t go to a cemetery or be in the same room with someone who is deceased. Although a Kohen must defile himself for his nearest relative that have unfortunately perished, which is one of seven – wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother or un-married sister, he is also obligated to defile himself for a met-mitzvah (a corpse found in a deserted spot where there is no one else within calling distance who can perform the burial. He must then bury the dead body).


* The Torah forbids a Kohen from marrying any of the following women. Chalala – the daughter of a Kohen, born of a union which was forbidden to him. For example, a girl born from a marriage between a Kohen and a prostitute or a divorcee. Zonah – a woman who had forbidden relations (for example, a non-Jew), and geyoret – a convert. He may only marry a girl who is Jewish by birth. Lastly, he may not marry a gerusha – a divorced woman.
Why did the Torah impose these limitations upon a Kohen in his choice of a wife? A man’s thoughts are influenced by his wife and to a great part directed toward her. The purity of a Kohen ranks above the rest; therefore, the Torah wants him to marry a type of woman whose background and past are without a blemish to ensure that he is not disturbed with thoughts of her background, and therefore able to perform his holy task.
* A Kohen still commands respect among his Jewish brethren. He is the first to be called to the Torah; according to Sephardic tradition, he blesses the people daily at the shacharit services. Ashkenazi origin – Jews bless the people three times a year. A Kohen is also given honor to lead the grace after meal. A new father takes his newborn son to the Kohen after 30 days to be redeemed (pidyon haben).

Second Portion: * A Kohen with a physical defect did not perform the service. He was not even permitted to enter the haichal (holy section of the temple). A physical defect includes both a birth defect, for example, blindness (even in one eye) and a temporary one, for example, injury. The Kohen resumes his Avoda – task – only when he is healed. Our sages list 140 blemishes which disqualify a Kohen from performing his duty.


Third Portion: * An animal must fulfill several requirements to be suitable as a sacrifice. It must be physically perfect. Also, an animal is acceptable only from the eighth day after birth and on. Why may it not be offered earlier? A newborn creature is small and not yet well-developed for the first seven days. It is still difficult to discern whether or not it has some minor defects. After the eighth day, it is sufficiently developed whether or not it is blemished.


Fourth Portion: * In this section, we find the wording of the special holiday Kiddush; the Kiddush starts elleh moadai. The Torah discusses two festive times – moadai Hashem. G-d gave the Bet-din (the Jewish court) the authority to proclaim when holidays should be, through determining when the new moon begins. If one thinks of the magnitude of authority that G-d has given the bet din, which is the ability to proclaim the holidays, they would come to the conclusion that it’s mind-boggling. It seems like there is a tremendous degree of confidence G-d has upon our Jewish courts. So the festivities are man-appointed. The other festivity which is discussed, is from G-d – “Shabbat” – which has more stringent laws attached to it and the punishment for discretion is more severe. However, we might assume that Yom-Tov (holidays) can be taken lightly since its sanctity was put into effect by man. The Torah juxtaposed the two to teach us they are equally forbidden. In fact, to show how important holidays are, if one notices, if a holiday falls on a Shabbat, we do not recite the usual Shabbat prayer. Even though there is a law “always recite the more frequent prayer”, we say a festive prayer instead with a Shabbat reference.
* The holiday of Pesach and the counting of the Omer are discussed.


Fifth Portion: * In this section, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are discussed.


Sixth Portion: * Here, the Torah speaks about the holiday of Sukkot and the four species that one assembles together (lulav, etrog, hadas, and arravot) and makes a blessing.


Seventh Portion: * There was a man who was a trouble maker, whose mother was Jewish and father was Egyptian. He ridiculed Moshe about the lechem hapanim – the special bread in the temple that miraculously stayed fresh and warm after a week, saying “Na, it’s probably stale. Is it proper to serve such bread in the Kings palace?” One day, he decided to pitch his tent in his mother’s territorial tribe, Dan. However, because of his father’s non-Jewish status, the Jewish court rejected the advances by him to claim territorial rights in Dan. Inheritance goes after the father, not the mother. Out of anger, he cursed G-d. The incident was an unprecedented first. G-d instructed Moshe that this individual’s punishment should be death.

Our Ideal Woman is Dangerous




Pinchas was a hero!! He practically saved the day. Although 24,000 people died, which is pretty devastating, our sages, however, say it could have been a lot worse. There is a lingering question that Rav Henoch Leibowitz z’l asks. After all is said and done and all damage has been tallied, how can the Jews have faltered? How could they have been seduced by the Moabites and Midyanit girls? What’s so special about them? You see,  when the Israelites were in Egypt for 210 years, there was only one incident where a Jewish woman acted somewhat immodest. In 210 years, only one incident? That’s not bad!! Don’t you think? The sages say that Egypt was the dirtiest, slimiest, most impure place that ever existed. In fact, Maimonides writes in his books, “Every day that I’m living in Egypt, I transgress the Torah law of one is not allowed to live here.” One would figure if there is any place in the whole wide world the Jews would falter in the avenue of immorality, it would be Egypt. And yet it was Bilam and Balak, not Pharaoh, that did in the Jews.


The sages say the Jews had their guard down as they walked past the Moabite stores. The old ladies were sitting outside trying to peddle their merchandise inviting the Israelites into the tent to try it on. However, as they innocently walked in, they discovered lo and behold their daughters. Hey, what happened to Aunt Phrecha? This was a carefully designed plan. Now, what happened next in the tent was the main part of their scheme and the reason why the Jewish men came back a second time. A little while before the old lady outside gave the customer one price, inside the tent, the young woman gave him a much lower price. The two women started arguing but at the end of this staged argument, the young woman prevailed and gave the Jewish customer the better price. This act was intended to warm up the heart of the Jewish man.  A gesture of a nurturing caring woman who is willing to give up her family for the cute Jewish guy.


Regardless of his strong Jewish identity, the next day he was back for more. The warmth that was displayed by the young woman was irresistible. Who would not be attracted to that? This was the beginning of the disaster. Rav Chaim Volozhin says the ideal woman is not a “yes lady.” It says that Adam found a wife “ezer k’negdo” – a wife beside him. Rav Chaim says ezer k’negdo also means “against him.” She should voice her opinion if she feels the husband is wrong, which is 90% of the time according to the women’s poll (HA, HA! The women are shaking their heads in approval).  She should voice her opinion against the husband. In this way, the husband will get an objective opinion and then decide strategies of life. However, we tend to differ with this portrayal of the optimal choice. Hey, Rav Chaim, that’s not what we want; we want a Stepford wife. This is our dream, our desire; however, it’s not what we need.


Bilam and Balak played on the male desire. They didn’t just bring to the table flesh, a pretty face; they brought a situation, a Hollywood script that’s attractive. The smiley wife beautifully made up with an apron. This was the irresistible attraction generously engineered by very intelligent sinister people and it worked.


A CARING WIFE – A man sneaks into field level 50 yard line section from the upper-deck at a championship football game. Boy, he has chutzpah; he quickly sits next to this little old lady in the front row. “Can I sit here ma’am?” he said . “Oh sure, go right ahead,” she replied. Ten minutes later, she commented how great these seats are, that her late husband and her had these season tickets for the past forty years and went to every single game. A little while later, the man, out of curiosity, asks the old lady, “These are such good seats and such an important game, how come you couldn’t get a friend or a relative to come with you?” “They couldn’t make it, they all attended my husband’s funeral.”

Parshat Korach

First Portion
* Korach was a prominent, distinguished, known to be highly intelligent, and very wealthy (he was one the wealthiest men that ever lived) member of the Leviat tribe who felt slighted by Moshe, the leader of the Jewish nation, for being passed over for a more prominent job in the temple and his tribe. Levi’s son, Kahat, had four sons; Amram, the father of Moshe and Aharon, was the oldest. Next was Yitzhar, who was the father of Korach; then Chevron, and Uziel. Korach was hurt that the son of Uziel the youngest, Elitzafan was picked over him to be the Nassi of the Tribe. They say a woman can destroy a man or she can build him and raise him to spiritual heights. Korach’s wife put salt on the wound and said, “How can you let him do this to you!”; referring to Moshe. She fueled the fire. He would not have dared to oppose Moshe, had it not been for his wife, who inflated her husband’s ego and repeatedly assured him that he was on par with Moshe and Aharon. “You can be a better leader than they; you’re letting him make a fool out of you,” she said. This bad advice caused the downfall of Korach. The Ramban’s view is that the cause of the rebellion was the spies severe punishment which brought death to the generation of the desert. It was this which brought to the surface all the accumulated bitterness of the dissatisfied.Second Portion
* The Sages teach us that neighbors have a tremendous influence on us. Thus is the case with Dassan and Aviram, whose tribe Reuben was situated next to Korach’s residence. He inflamed them against Moshe and the authorities by stating that their tribe too was skipped over from a prominent task in the temple inauguration. “He did not let your Nassi offer his sacrifice first but chose the Nassi of Yehuda, Nachshon ben Aminadav instead. Do you know why? Because his brother married Nachshon’s sister.” Also, he infused uneasiness in their hearts by stating “Why didn’t the tribe of Reuben get the Kehuna. Dassan and Aviram were very vocal in the rebellion against Moshe and Aharon.
* These personal accusations against Moshe prompted him to be defensive. A distressed Moshe countered to G-d, “I didn’t take one donkey of theirs nor have I wronged even one of them.” These accusations against authoritative figures, where they benefit personally without the consent of the congregation from the high community positions, has been an ongoing, and in most cases, unfair. It happened to yours truly early once when I was a volunteer co-gabai and head of my shul’s youth movement. My father warned me never take any community positions. He would frequently mention how my great grandfather was wrongly accused of stealing money from the community shul account which he was in charge of. Apparently, it’s an irresistible automatic reaction of people and a frequent pattern. If one does take money for his time of service, IT’S IMPORTANT THAT THEY SHOULD MAKE IT CLEAR!!!

Third Portion
* Korach, Dassan, Aviram, their families, and all their belongings all perished – as a result of their punishment – a very spectacular and unusual death. The ground opened up and swallowed them up alive, while the two hundred and fifty of his assembly were consumed by fire by G-d.

Fourth Portion
* After the incident of Korach, G-d got angry at the Israelites for accusing Moshe and Aharon of having killed two hundred and fifty men. He brought upon a deadly plaque. The Korach rebellion became a very costly incident. In order to stop the plaque, Moshe quickly ordered Aharon to bring a sacred pan for offering ketores. “Bring burning coals from the exterior altar and heap ketoret upon them. Then, let the smoke of the ketoret ascend to heaven and the plaque will stop.” Apparently, Moshe learned many secrets from the heavens when he went to get the Torah. This particular one he learned from the angel of death. If Moshe were to burn ketoret while standing before the angel of death, he would be prevented from performing his work of destruction.

Fifth Portion
* The incident of the Korach rebellion left a bad taste in everybody’s mouth. It was the first time Jews rebelled against their leaders. Until that point many times, unfortunately, it was the faith in G-d that was in question. Here, Korach succeeded in putting doubt in the leadership. In order to reassure the people that its leaders are legitimate, in particular Aharon, G-d instructed to take twelve rods. On each rod, inscribe the Nassi of the tribe, on the rod of Levi, inscribe Aharon’s name, then place the rods overnight in the Ohel Moed. The staff of the tribe chosen for G-d’s service will blossom. Well guess who won, Aharon. He was the undisputed high priest.

Sixth Portion
* One of the reasons we have salt on our tables when we make the bracha of  hamotzie lechem, (in fact, it’s a custom for it to remain there throughout the meal), is because salt never spoils. It is a symbol of indestructibility. Thus, G-d tells the Kohanim, His covenant with them is eternal as if it had been sealed with salt. It has many functions.  It preserves food; it can burn. It was always found on the Altar. Therefore, it’s found on our altar, our table at home.
* One of the gifts of the kahuna is Pidyon Haben. Every firstborn is holy to G-d. A Jewish father must redeem his firstborn son by giving five shekalim to the Kohen. The commandment applies today. As soon as a newborn reaches thirty days, when he’s considered viable, this ceremony is performed. If it is not done at the thirty days, it can be performed at a later time. This is one of the ways we acknowledge G-d. At the most joyous time in a man’s life when he becomes a father, we acknowledge that whatever we possess, in reality, belongs to G-d. A person’s first acquisition is usually the most precious in his eyes. Therefore, we give the first to G-d to demonstrate He is the true owner of all that we have.

Seventh Portion
*The concept of tithes is introduced.