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Chumash Tanya-Chapter-19

(5751) Explanation of Rashi (Beg of Parsha Lev. 21:1): "Speak to the Kohanim: “Speak to the Kohanim …
and say to them,” lit. “Say…and you shall say.” This double expression comes to admonish the adult
Kohanim to be responsible for the minors [that they must not contaminate them".

The reason that Rashi does not state: "That Beit Din (courts of law) should warn the Kohanim (like the explanation of Rashi ibid. 24).

Debate in the principle: "Kohanim are zealous in their service" (Zerizim). Explanation according to mussar and Avodah.


1. in the beginning of our Parsha on the verse (Lev. 21:1):

Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say to them etc.” (אמור אל הכהנים בני אהרן ואמרת אליהם)

Rashi cites the heading of the verse:

Speak to the Kohanim”: (אמור אל הכהנים)

And states:

“Heb. אֱמֹר וְאָמַרְתָּ “Speak (to the Kohanim …) and say (to them),” lit. Say…and you shall say.” (This double expression comes) to admonish the adult (Kohanim to be responsible) for the minors (that they must not contaminate them“) (להזהיר גדולים על הקטנים).

It has been explained many times that even the heading (s.v) of a comment in Rashi is precise (as we find in the commentators of Rashi who quite often comment on this).

According to this, one must explain this comment. Rashi’s intent, in this comment, is seemingly, just to explain the repetition of:

Speak (to the Kohanim) and say to them” (אֱמֹר וְאָמַרְתָּ),

as he cites in the body of his comment:

“Speak (to the Kohanim) and say to them:”

If so, why does Rashi cite in the heading, from the verse also the words,

to the Kohanim

Seemingly, he should have cited in the heading just the words “Speak and say to them”, and then begin his comment,

“To admonish etc.”

(One cannot say that Rashi’s intent, with this, is just to mark the beginning of the Parsha (Note: by stating the exact first words of the verse).

For it has already been explained in another place that since we find in many Parshiot, that Rashi does not cite their beginning,

it is understood that in those places where he, indeed, does cite the beginning of the Parsha, that Rashi’s intent in citing the beginning words of the Parsha is not to mark the beginning of the Parsha, but rather that these words are connected to the subject of the comment).

2. One could say, that with this, Rashi is alluding to the reason why he does not bring another comment regarding the repetition of the words,

Speak and say to them:”

For seemingly, this is more fitting, according to the simple meaning of the verse, than the explanation of,

“To admonish the adults to be responsible for the minors”.

Further on in the Parsha, it states,

“Moshe told (this to) Aharon and his sons, and to all of the children of Israel”.

Rashi, comments there.

“(to) Aharon and his sons, and to all the children of Israel: So that the courts of law should warn Kohanim (who have defects, to separate themselves from the Holy Service).”

In other words, the reason that Moshe spoke “to all of the children of Israel” regarding the laws of the priesthood is in order that,

“Courts of law (comprising non- Kohen judges) should warn Kohanim”.

For Beit Din (comprising non- Kohen judges) must warn Kohanim on the Mitzvot of the priesthood.

According to this, one must examine how Rashi knows that ,“say to them” comes to include a new law,

“To admonish the adult (Kohanim) to be responsible for the minors” etc.

(To note: According to the plain wording of Rashi, it appears that this is an innovation of law solely with regard to the tuma’ah of a Kohen, and not in all the Mitzvot of the Torah),

One could explain that this second “Say” is a statement to Beit Din, namely that “Beit Din should warn Kohanim”.

(This is like the explanation of the Or HaChaim here, that,

“With regard to the Kohanim G-d said, ‘speak to the Kohanim’, and

With regard to the warning to others, that they not defile themselves He said, ‘and say to them’.

Or HaChaim then cites what is stated at the conclusion of the aspects,

“Moshe told (this to) . . all of the children of Israel”.

and states: “This proves our explanation, for the warning comes here, also to Yisroel, that they not defile the Kohanim”)

The puzzlement is even greater:

In the flow of the verses here, we find many commands to Beit Din regarding the Kohanim:

  • After the exhortation of tuma’ah it states,

“They shall be holy to their G-d etc.”

And Rashi explains:

They shall be holy: (Since Scripture does not state “They are holy,” but rather “They shall be holy,” it means that if Kohanim wish to defile themselves over the dead and thereby desecrate their holiness)-against their will, Beit Din must (prevent them from doing so, and thereby) sanctify them in this respect”.

  • Also afterward (regarding women who are prohibited to Kohanim) it states:

“You shall sanctify him”

And Rashi explains:

“Against his will- (meaning), that if he refuses to divorce (such a woman, lash him and chastise him until he divorces (her)”.

(and it is plain here that the intent here is to Beit Din)

Thus, in this Parsha, there are included commands to Beit Din.

Accordingly, the puzzlement is great:

How does Rashi know, according to the simple meaning of the verse, that the intent of the second saying (“and say to them”)


“to admonish the adult (Kohanim) to be responsible for the minors”

and not that “Beit Din should warn Kohanim” ?

Therefore, Rashi cites the words

“(Speak) to the Kohanim”,

For with this, he negates the aforementioned explanation that here it was a command to “Beit Din (comprising non- Kohen judges) to warn Kohanim”.

For this is expressly stated in the verse,

“Speak to the Kohanim

if so, even the second “say”, (“and say to them”) comes in continuation to this, in other words – to the Kohanim.

Therefore, Rashi explains, “to admonish the adult (Kohanim) to be responsible for the minors”.

For according to Rashi’s explanation, in the simple meaning of the verse, this command does not, at all, include a warning from Beit Din (comprising non- Kohen judges) to protect the minors from defilement. Rather, the obligation of (all) the Kohanim to be responsible for the minor Kohanim.

3. However, this matter is still not sufficiently resolved:

For although, according to the wording of the verse, it proves that the intent of

“and say to them:”

is not that Beit Din should warn Kohanim,

Nevertheless, the verse requires understanding. Why was Moshe not expressly commanded that Beit Din should warn Kohanim?


It is well and good, if we explain that,

“and say to them:”

means that “Beit Din should warn Kohanim”. For then it is understood why it states at the conclusion of the aspect,

“Moshe told . . to all of the children of Israel”,

meaning that Moshe admonished Beit Din (comprising non- Kohen judges) over the Kohanim. For this was expressly commanded, at the very onset, from G-d.

And although this was stated after the section regarding the laws of a Kohen who has a blemish (that he should not perform the Avodah etc.), and on this there was a separate statement – one could say that, that the reason it states in the beginning of the Parsha,

“and say to them:” (that Beit Din should warn Kohanim)

also refers to the following section regarding the laws of a Kohen who has a blemish

(and therefore, in the second statement (regarding a Kohen who has a blemish)

Scripture is concise and delineates just “speak to Aharon”).

And in the conclusion of these sections, it is told how Moshe Rabbeinu fulfilled the command – “Moshe told (this to) Aharon and his sons, and to all of the children of Israel”. Namely, that he exhorted Beit Din on the Kohanim (in all that was previously stated).

 However, according to Rashi’s explanation, that

“Speak and say to them”


“to admonish the adult (Kohanim) to be responsible for the minors”,

one must say that, that which Moshe exhorted courts of law (comprising non- Kohen judges) on the Kohanim (even in the laws of blemishes) was done of his own volition (מדעת עצמו).

(And although we find many places in Scripture where it does not mention, G-d’s command to Moshe, but rather only Moshe’s speaking to Yisroel. For according to the simple meaning of the verse, there is no need for Scripture to explicitly state this. For it is self-understood that the reason Moshe said this to Yisroel, was because he was command so by G-d, Nevertheless, it is somewhat problematic, seemingly, to explain so, in our case

 (where Scripture delineates just Moshe‘s speaking to Beit Din and not G-d’s command to him for this)

Since only through the addition of a few words alone, in G-d’s command to Moshe (“Speak . . and to all the children of Israel”) was it possible to include even this particular. Therefore, it appears from this that in our case, Moshe did this on his own understanding).

4. One could explain the reason for the matter according to the principle that

“Kohanim are vigilant”. (כהנים זריזין הן)

Therefore, there is no need for Beit Din to warn them.

Therefore, Rashi explains that the need for the additional admonishment (“saying”) is just for the sake of the minor Kohanim, that do not keep themselves from tuma’ah.

(Rashi’s statement on,

“They shall be holy”- “the court must against their will, sanctify them in this respect”

(and also on, “You shall sanctify him” –“if he refuses to divorce her, lash him etc.)

is not the essence of the aspect of the “Beit Din warning the Kohanim” . For “to admonish etc.” (להזהיר) is a general law (דין כללי), namely that Beit Din must endeavor that the Kohanim know and are careful in this.

(Similar to “to admonish the adults to be responsible for the minors” where the explanation is that it is an obligation on the adults to worry that the minors do not defile themselves).

Whereas “Beit Din must sanctify them in this respect, against their will” is a specific law, that if a Kohen wishes to defile himself, Beit Din forces him against his will and separates him from the tuma’ah. And also if he marries a woman forbidden to him, that he is punished and chastised.)

However, according to this, one must examine it, from the other perspective:

Since there is no need for this, why did Moshe exhort the courts of law (comprising non-Kohen judges) on the Kohanim?

This can be explained by prefacing a general explanation in the principle that “Kohanim are vigilant”. For it can be explained in two manners:

  1. This is from the perspective of the Avodah of the Kohanim. For since they are involved in Holy Service (עבודת הקודש) (on that they are within the Temple confines) this effects within them the aspect of alacrity (זריזות).
  2. This is due to the essence of the Priesthood (עצם ענין הכהונה). For this is indeed, the nature and makeup of the soul of a Kohen, in the aspects of the priesthood

(Like Rashi’s words (in Tractate Shabbat) that “They were all Torah Scholars and scrupulous and mindful (not to stoke the hearth)”, and in another place “They are well-versed in all . . as it states regarding them, ‘They shall teach Your law to Yaakov’”).

The difference between them is – with regard to aspects that are not related to the service of the Kohanim, whether, even in them, we say that Kohanim are vigilant.

(For although in the laws that are equal for all Yisroel, we do not find a distinction between Kohanim and other Yisroel

(for example – we do not find in the decrees of the Sages that they made decrees solely for Yisroel and not to Kohanim – since they are vigilant)

This is because the aspect of, “Kohanim are vigilant” are just stated with regard to the aspects that are relevant to their priesthood. However, there is still a place to examine this with regard to the aspects that are not related to the Avodah of the priesthood – whether, even in these matters, we say Kohanim are vigilant)

For example, in our case: Separating from tuma’ah (and the prohibition of marriage).

This carefulness must be in all places (even in the diaspora) and in all times (even when the Beit HaMikdash is not standing). This is not an alacrity that comes from the Avodah of the priesthood, but rather his is one of the aspects of the priesthood.

One could say that this is the difference between G-d’s command and Moshe Rabbeinu’s speaking to Yisroel:

From the perspective of the characteristic make up (תכונות נפשם) of the Kohanim, it was proper that they be vigilant in everything that is related to the aspect of the priesthood. Therefore, from the perspective of G-d’s command, there is no need exhort the courts on the Kohanim .

However, since we are commanded to “make a fence around the Torah” (ועשו סיג לתורה), Therefore, Moshe Rabbeinu added, of his own understanding, a “fence”. Namely, that although, when the Kohanim are occupied with the Avodah of the priesthood, we say that Kohanim are vigilant. For the fear of the Holy Service is upon them. Nevertheless, when they are not occupied with their Avodah, it is possible that there is a weakening in their alacrity. Therefore, there is a need to exhort them on this.

5. One could explain this according to Mussar and Avodah (ע"ד המוסר והעבודה):

The aspect of the Kohanim, in the words of Rambam is:

“To set himself aside and stand before G-d to serve Him and minister to Him . . removing from his neck the yoke of the many reckonings . . he is sanctified as holy of holies. G-d will be His portion and heritage forever and for all eternity etc.”

From this, it is understood that one who stands in the level of the priesthood, according to his essence, always feels, in all places and times, that he is standing “before G-d”. Therefore, there is no need to exhort him. It is just that, for a Kohen who is not on this level, there is a need to exhort him in the aspects of his priesthood, when he is not occupied in the service of the Temple.

One could add and explanation according to Pnimiyut:

It is explanation in Tanya that,

“The light of the blessed Ein Sof is garbed in the faculty of Chochmah/Wisdom in the soul of a Jew (חכמה שבנפש האדם), whoever he may be”

At this level, even though the aspect of (the faculty of Chochmah in the divine soul, being in) a state of exile (Galut), is not applicable. Namely, that the animalistic soul (Nefesh HaBahamit) of the realm of Klippah should rule over it etc. Nevertheless, it is possible for it (Chochmah) to have the aspect of “dormancy/sleep” (שינה), as Tanya states,

”It is at the level of dormancy in the case of the wicked, and it does not exercise its influence within them”

However, a person’s soul possesses a deeper level, where even the aspect of “sleep” is not applicable. For this is the Essence of the soul.

This is as is explained (in the books of Kabbalah) that,

“There is an extremely small spark that is the level of G-dliness etc. and this spark is enclothed in the power of the single spark of the created being etc. which is called Yechidah) (מתלבש בכח ניצוץ אחד נברא כו' הנק' יחידה)

On this is states: “I am asleep yet my heart is awake”. This is the essence and Pnimiyut of the heart that is constantly awake within each and every one of Yisroel, and where even “sleep” is not applicable.

These are the two aspects, with each and every one of Yisroel:

Due to the spark of the Creator, that is enclothed in the person’s Yechidah, there is no need for any exhorting, for it is constantly complete in all places and times. As in the words of the verse, “which dwells with them amidst their defilements”. For even in the diaspora and in the time of Galut, there is no need to exhort the Kohanim on separating from defilement.

It is only from the perspective of the level of Chochmah of the Nefesh (חכמה שבנפש/Wisdom of the soul) – at which level, the aspect of “sleep” is applicable, as aforementioned – that there a need for Beit Din to warn the Kohanim.

6. Nevertheless, even this level is just merely “dormancy” and not Galut, G-d forbid. Therefore, the awakening of Chochmah of the soul is not connected with a deed, in a manner of complete innovation (the nullification of the evil etc.). Rather this is merely an aspect of awakening from sleep.

According to this, one can explain the precise wording of the Rebbe Rayatz in one of his Sichot:

“Now is the time that one is living on the top of the mountain. In truth, one indeed sees that Moshiach is already near. He is ‘behind the wall’ (הינטער'ן וואַנט) and whoever has a good sense of hearing and a sense of sight, hears his voice and sees . . Before the light of day, he overcomes the sleep .. One must strengthen oneself not to sleep away the time . . then one will also be a receptacle to receive the light of the day. Every Yid is obligated to know and more, that when he meets a Yid, he must say to him: “Hear brother! Do not sleep away before the light of the day”. So far are his holy words.

From this, it is understood, that there is no need to renew within oneself the desire to overcome and to take action to exhort the morning light of Geulah. One just needs to awaken oneself from his sleep, and then automatically, each one of Yisroel will certainly do his part to bring the Geulah, immediately, now, mamosh.

MSichas Shabbat Parshat Emor, 5725


https://torah4blind.org/hebrew/rashi-eng-07c-emor-21-1.pdf   Volume 37, Pages 61 – 66   
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