Based on a Naaleh.com shiur on Chassidut by Rabbi Herschel Reichman
Parshat Emor begins with a command to the kohanim not to become defiled with tumat meit. “Emor el hakohanim bnei Aharon v’amarta aleheim….” The midrash asks why the verse repeats the expression, “emor” and “v’amarta?” It answers by explaining a difference in the way Hashem interacts with angels and with people. When Hashem speaks to the angels in the upper worlds, he only needs to speak once. However, when He addresses people, who possess evil inclinations, He needs to repeat Himself twice.
The Avnei Nezer explains that when a person hears Hashem once he is obviously hearing a truth that is important for him to know. He knows intellectually that this is Hashem’s will, and he can accept it. However, integrating this concept from his mind into his heart and body is more complex. An angel’s actions are completely controlled by his intellect. In contrast, man encounters tremendous resistance in converting his awareness of proper behavior into real action. He needs to work through a process to move from knowledge to emotion to action. Therefore, Hashem had to exhort the kohanim twice in order to shift the command from their mind to their heart and body.
Why can we know what is right and wrong in the moral sphere, but still have such a difficult time translating it to reality? The Shem MiShmuel traces this back to the first sin of Adam. Before the sin, Adam knew clearly what was correct and had no problem transferring it to action. When he sinned, evil entered his heart and body and created barriers that were not subservient to the dictates of his mind. They blocked his view of right and wrong and influenced the way he behaved. This remains one of the greatest challenges for man today. The Shem Mishmuel advises that the power of Torah study can clear the channel between our minds and our hearts and body. Indeed, Chazal say, “Barati yetzer hara, barati Torah tavlin.” Hashem says, I created the evil inclination, but I created the Torah as its antidote.
The curse of death is another result of the sin of Adam. The body and mind that were disconnected during life become completely severed from each other in death. This is the idea of tumat meit. The body that refused to submit itself to the soul in life is now separated and becomes impure. Anyone who comes in contact with a corpse is sullied spiritually. Death manifests the calamity of sin and the breakdown of man.
The Shem MiShmuel notes that Aharon Hakohen epitomized harmony between people, and in turn shleimut between mind and body. He helped people find internal peace so they could open the channel between their spiritual-intellectual side and their physical side. This is the antithesis of death and that is why Aharon and the kohanim were forbidden to come in contact with tumat meit.
The Zohar says Shabbat is the secret of unity. On Shabbat, a Jew can reconnect to the state of Adam before the sin. In Lecha Dodi we sing, “Kumi tze’i mitoch hahafeicha – Arise, go out from amidst the turmoil”. The six days of the week represent human frailty, inconsistency, and our lack of connection between what we know and do. On Shabbat, we leave this confused existence and reconnect to wholesome harmony. We can put Shabbat in our minds throughout the week too, opening the door to inner peace and shleimut.
The Shem MiShmuel notes that emuna peshuta is another way to achieve internal harmony. The yetzer hara creates complicating factors to prevent us from acting correctly. The greatness of the Jewish nation at Mt. Sinai was that they said “Naaseh v’nishma,” a simple acceptance of G-d’s will. They had simple faith and thereby merited to receive the Torah.
Let us work on strengthening our Torah study, Shabbat observance, and emuna peshuta and may this help bring Mashiach who will lead the world to ultimate perfection.