The Living Torah is a weekly publication distributed in and around North West London. Written by members of Hasmonean High School's Sixth Form programme - we aim to bring you divrei torah for your Shabbat table each and everyweek.

This weeks PDF Version

Tuesday, 4 May 2010


ויאמר ה׳ אל משה אמר אל הכהנים בני אהרון ואמרת אלהם“
“And G-d said to Moshe: Say to the Kohanim, the Sons of Aharon, and say to them”

R’ S.R Hirsch in his commentary on Parashat Emor points out that there seems to be a discrepancy between the formula used to address Moshe regarding the Kohanim (אמור אל הכהנים...ואמרת אלהם) and the formula used to address Moshe regarding the rest of Bnei Yisrael דבר אל בני ישראל...ואמרת אליהם

דבר aims at giving the short curt idea, the general order of the law, whereas ואמרת gives the complete explanation of the details, giving the understanding of the spirit of the law, appealing to the mind and heart. דבר and אמר differ as ‘speaking’ and ‘informing’. Speaking is the expression of thoughts in words without any consideration of its being accepted by the listener. But informing is always ‘telling somebody’. One can speak to oneself but not inform. Quite the same with דבר and אמר. Whereas דבר is the concise expression of the thought, אמר is addressing the same to the mind and feeling of another person, the complete explanation and development of the thought. We can begin to see the difference between the Aseret Hadibrot and the Aseret Mamarot (of Creation). The words of creation is an Amirah. It immediately realizes itself in the object to which it is addressed. The word of the Torah is a דבר, in the first place it is just said and then it awaits being accepted and carried out.

What is the purpose of this whole Pasuk moving in the ‘Amirah’ and why is there a seeming redundancy with the words: ‘say to them and tell them’?

Rashi on this Pasuk based on a Braitta in Yevamot tells us that the double expression is cautioning the Kohanim regarding minors.

R’ Moshe Feinstein views this as a lesson in educational philosophy and approach. One cannot inculcate children or students with fidelity to Torah and its values by merely telling them what their obligations are.

Parents and educators must demonstrate that the Torah way of life is precious, desirable and beautiful. When a child recognizes that the Torah is the key to serenity and a happy and fulfilled life, he will want to follow the Torah. One must speak to his children ‘twice’; once to teach them the Mitzvot and a second time to ignite within them a burning desire to live a Torah life.

But then why is the Pasuk all in ‘Amirah’? This a beautiful Pshat on the standard formula of דבר אל בני ישראל...ואמרת אליהם, where the דבר is the instruction and the אמר the ignition of a desire, the development of the thought. But what is specific by the Kohanim that Lashon Amirah is used throughout?

I think that here we are being taught a lesson about what it means to be a ‘Chosen Nation’.

R’ Zalman Sorotzkin explains why the charge to be particularly careful about children was given to the Kohanim. While parents can usually control their home environment in which a child is raised, peer pressure and society can have a detrimental effect on a child. It is the parent’s duty to address those influences in an appropriate many. Kohanim are subject to privileges – but they have unique proscriptions as well. Thus, the child of a Kohen was, at times, forced to act differently from his friends. It was his parent’s duty to see to it that he maintained his unique status. So too with the rest of Bnei Yisrael; just as the Kohanim need to behave differently to the rest of the nation, so do Jews need to behave differently to the other nations. Primarily this means that as Hashem’s chosen nation we need to maintain a pristine standard of behaviour, both in our actions and our attitudes. And our parents must guide and encourage their child to hold his own in the face of the different standards his friends or the others around him maintain. This steadfastness can be only be brought about if the desire exists. An emphasis is placed upon אמר because a desire for Torah and her way of life is paramount.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, many Rabbis and Poskim say that today's Kohanim have been lost and mixes-up due to our long galut (exile). see