Divrei Torah

PARSHAS EMOR 5779

In the beginning of this week’s Parsha, we read about influencing children and others involved in our lives. The Torah states, “Say to the Kohanim the children of Aharon, and you will say to them” – all the laws pertaining to the Kohanim. The phrase “and say to them” is redundant. It was just said in the first part of the verse.

Rashi notices this difficulty and explains, “to warn the adults to teach the children.” Moshe should tell the Mitzvos to the Kohanim and they should instruct and show their children how to perform these Mitzvos.

Our Rabbis teach us that hearing something is not the equivalent of seeing that same thing. The Kohanim should teach by example. Their children should see the method of performing the service and the spirit with which to perform the service. This will make an impression upon the lives of their children. They will see that the service in the Bais Hamikdash is an important component in the life of a Kohain.

But, this does not just apply to Kohanim. This is a rule for all families. If we want our children, friends and acquaintances to value and respect a certain aspect of life, we must also show respect towards that particular aspect of life. We must show others what we consider important. 

I had a Rebbi who once said in class that davening at home once in a while, rather than in shul, is not so bad. Then, your children see that davening is a daily and important part of life. They see that Tallis and Tefillin are important parts of life. If people make a point of saying Brachos before eating and bentching afterwards, their kids will most likely do the same.

One of our children could not sit in shul for too long without becoming disruptive. So, I asked my teacher, Rabbi Reuven Levinson for some advice. He told me two things. One – don’t bring him to shul too early. Two- if he needs a break for a few minutes, that is fine – however, not during the Rabbi’s speech. He must remain in the shul sitting next to you during the rabbi’s speech because even if he does not understand one word, he will understand the idea that what the rabbi says is important 

We have opportunities to pass on positive attitudes to others. Not by dictating, rather, by example. So much could be accomplished. On the other hand, if we show negative attitudes, we can be assured that those also get passed along.

The very last discussion in the Gemara deals with penalties that the Rabbis enacted against the family of Bilga. In the Bais Hamikdash, the Kohanim were divided into 24 groups or families. Each group would conduct the service in the Bais Hamikdash for two weeks of the year. The weeks of Sukkos and Pesach were divided among all of the Kohanim. Also, in the Bais Hamikdash, each family of Kohanim had their own storage area and shechita area. Bilga was one of the families of Kohanim. The Rabbis punished them that they did not have their own storage or shechita areas. The reason for this was that at the time of the Greek occupation of the Land of Israel, life was difficult for the Jews. A young woman named Miriam bas Bilga – who was from the Bilga family of Kohanim – became a follower of the Greeks and married a Greek officer.

When the Greeks ransacked the Bais Hamikdash, she entered the Temple area, kicked the Altar and said, “Wolf, wolf – until when will you devour the money of the Jewish people and not protect them in an urgent situation.” In other words, we spend a lot of money on the Bais Hamikdash and it does nothing for us. Because she acted and talked in such a manner, the Rabbis punished her family.

The Gemara asks, “Why do you punish the entire family just because one woman acted disgracefully?” G-d forbid, it happens in so many families.

There is case after case in Jewish history where the children did not turn out like the parents wanted and even rebelled against the Jewish people. Moshe Rabbeinu’s own grandson was a priest for idolatry.  Yet, that did not affect our opinion of Moshe Rabbeinu.

So, it happens that kids don’t turn out. Many times, it is not the fault of the parents. The Talmud tells us that the greatest king of Jewish people after King David was his descendant King Hezkiyahu. King Hezkiyahu was married to the daughter of the Prophet Isaiah. Yet, they had a son Menashe who was the evillest of the Judean kings!  So, how could the Rabbis punish the entire family of Bilga because of one wayward child 

The Gemara responds that a child speaks in the market what he hears at home. If Miriam bas Bilga could make such derogatory remarks about the Bais Hamikdash at such a young age, it must be because that is what she heard at home. If that is the attitude in the house, it will be reflected in the conduct of the child. The entire family of Bilga was guilty of this attitude towards the Bais Hamikdash.

We all know that there are people who like to comment about everything under the sun. It could be shul, school or another Jewish organization. Certainly, everybody is entitled to their own opinion. But, how do we express it? We can easily shape opinions, especially among those with whom we are close. We should train our youth with the proper spirit. The examples we set by the way we live, serve as the greatest education for our children, families and friends.