Divrei Torah

PARSHAS EMOR 5778

In the beginning of this week’s Parsha, the Torah teaches us Mitzvos that are related to Kohanim. Among those Mitzvos are that a kohein cannot attend a funeral home or burial other than for an immediate relative, no matter how near and dear the other person might be to the Kohein. 

The Torah also lists the women whom a Kohein is not permitted to marry. Those women are a divorcee, a convert, a woman who had relations with a non-Jew or forbidden relative, a woman who received Chalitza and a Chalala – the daughter of a Kohein’s prohibited marriage to one of these four women. A Kohein is permitted to marry a widow. A Kohein Gadol cannot marry a widow.

The question arises, why is marriage restricted? If one person loves another person, why can’t they get married?

Rabbi Mordechai Kaminetzky explains that the Torah introduces the Mitzvos of the Kohanim with a double expression, “say to the Kohanim .  . . and say to them.” Why the double warning? 

Sometimes our desire to perform Mitzvos transcends the will of G-d not to do them, especially when it comes to emotionally charged issues and rituals. Mourning is not permitted on Shabbos, even though it is most difficult to suppress one’s tears at that time. Imagine how difficult it is for a Kohein not to attend the funeral of a grandparent, other dear relative or close friend. Isn’t it a great Mitzva? Imagine how difficult it can be for a Kohein who falls in love with a woman, only to realize that he cannot marry her.

The power of constraint is not that simple and the temptation to transgress is compounded when the issue is emotionally charged. But, the will of G-d must be emphatically reiterated to our weaker instincts, when our seemingly rational minds can distort the Divine will.

Emotions are a part of life. However, we cannot let emotions interfere with G-d’s will. We might not understand the will of G-d, but that does not permit us to transgress His will. The law is the law. We can have emotions . . . we can display emotions . . . we can act on emotions. But, we must act within the law.