A Tidbit of Torah – Parshat Emor 5784

A Tidbit of Torah – Parshat Emor 5784

As soon as the sun sets, he shall be clean; and afterward he may eat of the sacred donations, for they are his food.      Vayikra/Leviticus 22:7

Rabbi Avrohom Bornsztain of Sochov1 begins his comment on our verse by noting that the Mishnah in Berachot sets the time for the recitation of Sh’ma in the evening as “the time when the Kohanim may eat their supper”. In attempting to explain this singularly unhelpful time referent for non-Kohanim, Rabbi Bornsztain presents the Talmud’s conclusion that this means “after the day has ended”.

Rabbi Bornsztain further complicates the question by noting that the timeframe given is the same as in our verse for the return to a state of ritual purity on the part of a kohen. Our teacher wonders why the kohen must wait until “after the day has ended” when he will have already performed the required ritual immersion to return himself to a state of ritual purity.

Rabbi Bornsztain answers his own question by citing his father who taught that with the setting of the sun, and thus the end of the day, a new day begins which is not connected to the previous one and free of any of its problems. The rituals and acts of purification done by the kohen cannot achieve a complete transformation of the kohen’s status, only time can effectuate that ultimate change.

I was struck by Rabbi Bornsztain’s idea that all the various purgatives performed by the kohen are insufficient; only with the passage of time can the healing become complete. The kohen cannot rush through the process of returning to normal. This is true for every one of us if we are healing from a physical injury or infirmity; going through all the necessary rehabilitative stages until we reach that moment when “the day has ended” and we realize we are hale and healthy again. It is equally true if we are healing from an emotional hurt or loss. The stages of grieving, and the rituals that support us through them, shepherd us along until we that moment when “the day has ended” and we feel whole again.

Ultimately, this is where we find ourselves as a community as we grapple with the trauma experienced on October 7 and the continuing reality of Israeli hostages being held in Gaza, the ongoing war against Hamas and the challenges inherent of battle in a dense civilian enclave, and the frightening rise of antisemitism globally and on college campuses where expressions of hatred and intimidation have often gone unchecked.

as we engage in the necessary steps that will bring us closer to
A restoration of a longed-for sense of security for us and the greater society will be a long and arduous journey demanding great effort and great patience until we collectively reach the moment when “the day has ended”; when we are once again whole and perhaps even a better version of our collective self; better for the lessons learned along the way.

Shabbat Shalom –

Rabbi David M. Eligberg

1 Rabbi Avrohom Bornsztain (14 October 1838 – 7 February 1910), was a leading posek, authority in Jewish law, in late-nineteenth-century Europe whose opinions were widely sought. Rabbi Bornsztain was the founder of the Sochatchover Hasidic dynasty. After the posthumous publication of his responsa on Torah Bornsztain came to be known as the Avnei Nezer, the title of his work.