Parshas Emor
Leviticus 21:1 - 24:23

"Remember, the Torah is perfect. Jews are not!" ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Gary Lee Belk and Mr. Donald Wayne Belk, may they rest in peace.

A dear friend has often repeated the following words to the students in his classes, "Remember, the Torah is perfect. Jews are not!" While this is true, why is it necessary to say, "Remember, the Torah is perfect. Jews are not!"? Why is it necessary to repeat "Remember, the Torah is perfect. Jews are not!"?

So often we look so holy with our long black coats, our black hats, our black kippas, our short hair, our payos, our long dresses, our sheitels, our outward actions, our Shabbos attendance, our davening and many other outward appearances. Yet, my dear friend who I agree with said, "Remember, the Torah is perfect. Jews are not!"

So what does this mean for Jews living in golas?

Our Bais HaMikdash which is holy is gone...
Our HOLY of HOLY place is gone...
Our Aron Kodesh is gone...
Our Holy Misbayach is gone...
Our Holy Menorah is gone...
Our Holy Oil is gone...
Our Holy Fragrances are gone...
Our Holy Utensils are gone...

Our Kohen Godal who was holy, who served in the Bais HaMikdash is gone...
Our Kohenim who are holy and served in the Bais HaMikdash cannot serve there because it is gone...
Our Levium who are holy and sung and played musical instruments in the Bais HaMikdash cannot because it is gone...

Our holy sacrifices of lambs and goats and doves and pigeons and meal / flour cannot be offered because the Bais HaMikdash and its courtyard are gone...

The Kohan Godal's holy garments, where are they...?
The Kohanim's holy garments, where are they...?

With so many very important parts of our HOLY EXISTENCE missing or hidden, an outsider could easily understand why a Rav would say, "Remember, the Torah is perfect. Jews are not!" So much of our holiness seems to be so far removed, YET WE JEWS STILL HAVE OUR HOLY TORAH, our guide to holiness... We can study!
AND WE JEWS STILL HAVE OUR HOLY TIFILLAH, our prayers and songs of praise... We can lift our voices in thanks and praise to Hashem, Blessed be His Name!
AND WE JEWS CAN STILL SANCTIFY THE CREATOR'S HOLY NAME through our blessings... We can offer a hundred plus blessings to G-d everyday as Holy Sacrifices of Praise, Blessed is His Name.
AND WE JEWS STILL HAVE OUR HOLY SHABBOS, the day of remembrance of Hashem's Creation when He ceased from all work...

and there is more that we can do....

So while it is very understandable to non Jews that we could have an excuse to be less than responsible, to be less than holy, WE HAVE NO EXCUSE! While a community Rav may rightfully say "Remember, the Torah is perfect. Jews are not!" WE STILL HAVE NO EXCUSE!

Dear reader, holy reader, Hashem holds us as Jews accountable for every act of holiness that we can perform, that is available to us to perform. There is so much that we can do! There is so much room for improvement even with so many holy places, items and people unavailable to us! This is what parshas Emor is about. It is about listening and learning. It is about fulfilling Hashem's commands. It is about gently persuading those in front of us do what they are required to do in the Torah. It is about expecting more, NOT LESS! It is about improving, not slipping! The Reform should push... The Conservative should push... The Traditionalists should push... Those of Yisroel should push... Those of the Levium should push... Those of the Kohanim should push...

The Torah states, "You {Kal Yisroel} shall make him {the Kohen} holy.." Rashi says, "even against his will." The point here is that righteousness is expected from us. Righteousness is expected from those more learned and those that are less learned or even assimilated. It is our responsibility to push... yes, even the Rav.... Everyone can improve! Each of us can do better. We are connected! We must assist in a compassionate manner. We must WORK ON our own weak links and at the same time assist our neighbors with their weaker links. We are Kal Yisroel, Am Yisroel!!

The Story Of A Jew Who Would Not Admit His Errors
My mind reflects back to a Jew that I highly respected and dearly loved until I went to work with him. He is a man of learning, a man of position, and he is a man responsible for pushing people away from Yiddishkeit as well as drawing them closer. He is known for his open, indiscreet temper and razor sharp rebukes. He is a leader who has apologized saying, "IF I offended" or "IF I did wrong I am sorry." He considers this an apology. To the Torah it is an empty, shallow lack of ownership for one's failures. Dear reader, you may think this is harsh. NOT SO! It is not harsh because the man has NOT taken ownership for his misdeeds and as a result has not changed. And people are afraid of him.

You cannot do shuvah without identifying and owning your errors. This individual sidesteps them with "IF". If I have offended. If I was harsh. If I spoke out of turn. If I should have been discreet. If I should have acted differently!... On the other hand, if this individual were serious, if he took his misdeeds to heart, then he would have after awhile shown at least some meager improvement. Those who are all too familiar with his inappropriate behavior make excuses for him! G-d forbid, they have a crook in their necks from looking the other way. It is when considering this type of immoral action, this type of known and willful sin that one must be reminded the Torah is perfect. Jews are not! It is also in regard to this type of situation that Rashi said, "[B]eat him and punish him until he does {what is proper}."

It's very obious that gentle persuasion does not work with individuals who are tyrranical and given to outbursts, verbally abusive open displays of intimidation and other forms of such inappropriate behavior patterns. Remember Saul, Dovid HaMelech's father-in-law... He was such a man. We do not read of Dovid HaMelech retaliating. We do not read of the religious leaders or political leaders retaliating either, even though King Saul's inappropriate behavior was very clear.

What separates the Kohen Godal and HaMelech Yisroel {the King of Israel} from this individual is that they were anointed. This individual was not. They had heavenly immunity, so to speak, even though such behavior is unacceptable. This individual is not on the level of a Moshe Rabbeinu, a Kohen Godal or HaMelech Yisroel and therefore must be dealt with as deemed appropriate. This type of individual will not succumb to any orders of the Bais Din. And this is why and this is the type of situation in which Rashi approves of force.

We need to take the words "Remember, the Torah is perfect. Jews are not!" as a challenge and NOT as an opening for an excuse... In concluding, there is another story I want to tell about the other side. The side of goodness. Not every Jew is like the one described in our discussion. Here is applause for eighteen very kind young people. May Hashem Bless them!

The Story Of Eighteen Boys Who Grasped Holiness:
"Achieving G-d's Perfection"
In Brooklyn, New York, Chush is a school that caters to learning-disabled children. Some children remain in Chush for their entire school career, while others can be main-streamed into conventional schools.

At a Chush fund-raising dinner, the father of a Chush child delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.

After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he cried out, "Where is the perfection in my son Shaya? Everything G-d does is done with perfection. But my child cannot understand things as other children do. My child cannot remember facts and figures as other children do. Where is
God's perfection?"

The audience was shocked by the question, pained by the father's anguish and stilled by the piercing query. "I believe," the father answered, "that when G-d brings a child like this into the world, the perfection that He seeks is in the way people react to this child."

He then told the following story about his son Shaya:

One afternoon Shaya and his father walked past a park where some boys Shaya knew were playing baseball. Shaya asked, "Do you think they will let me play?" Shaya's father knew that his son was not at all athletic and that most boys would not want him on their team. But Shaya's father
understood that if his son was chosen to play it would give him a comfortable sense of belonging.

Shaya's father approached one of the boys in the field and asked if Shaya could play. The boy looked around for guidance from his teammates.

Getting none, he took matters into his own hands and said, "We are losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him up to bat in the ninth inning."

Shaya's father was ecstatic as Shaya smiled broadly. Shaya was told to put on a glove and go out to play short center field.

In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shaya's team scored again and now with two outs and the bases loaded with the potential winning run on base, Shaya was scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this juncture and give away their chance to win the game?

Surprisingly, Shaya was given the bat. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible because Shaya didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it. However, as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shaya should at least be able to make contact. The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and missed. One of Shaya's teammates came up to Shaya and together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly toward Shaya.

As the pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shaya would have been out and that would have ended the game. Instead, the
pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc to right field, far beyond reach of the first baseman.

Everyone started yelling, "Shaya, run to first. Run to first!" Never in his life had Shaya run to first. He scampered down the baseline wide eyed and startled. By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag out Shaya, who was still running. But the right fielder understood what the pitcher's intentions were, so he
threw the ball high and far over the third baseman's head.

Everyone yelled, "Run to second, run to second." Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached second base, the opposing short stop ran to him, turned him in the direction of third base and shouted, "Run to third." As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran behind him screaming, "Shaya, run home!" Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just hit a "grand slam" and won the game for his team.

That day," said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, "those 18 boys reached their level of G-d's perfection."

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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