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Parshas Emor 5775
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May 8, 2015
Volume 11 Issue 22
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Dvar Torah


Sacrifice Defined 
By Rabbi Yosef Prupas    


In light of current events, this Dvar Torah is very timely.

Orthodox Jews are often asked strange questions about the Jewish faith from those less knowledgeable in Judaism. Often these questions come from a basic misconception about religion. For many, being intensely religious means self-sacrifice. They may believe that the more they give up the more devout they are. The result is confusion of the basic tenets of other religions with Judaism and hence the strange questions. Most world religions follow Webster's definition of sacrifice, meaning "an act of offering to a deity something precious; especially: the killing of a victim on an altar." This leads some to infer that Judaism follows this approach as well. From this week's parsha we learn otherwise.


The Torah this week introduces various laws pertaining to animal sacrifices. Among them is the prohibition to slaughter an animal and its offspring on the same day and the obligation to wait until the calf is at least eight days old before one can use it as a sacrifice. What possible lesson is the Torah trying to convey with these commandments?


The Meshech Chochma explains that Hashem is revealing to us that the sacrifice process isn't based on the quantity of suffering. It is not true that the more one gives up and the more one suffers for sake of a god, the more that individual has demonstrated his devotion to that deity/religion. An extreme example of this is human sacrifice.


Although there is a need to sacrifice animals to G-d (for reasons that are beyond the scope of this Dvar Torah), it needs to be done in the most humane way possible. To grab a young calf from its mother immediately after birth is an act of cruelty. In the same vein, killing a mother and its baby on the same day gives the impression, as explained by the Ramban, that one is willing to annihilate an entire species. This is why Hashem required that sacrifices be taken only from animals usually found in abundance.


The Meshech Chochma goes on to say that similar lessons are found throughout Torah. We are commanded to sanctify the Kohein, give joy to the Levi, and benefit the Yisroel with one's wealth. We are warned not to sell a Jew, and if he is sold - to treat him with respect. We are obligated to sustain a ger toshav (permanent non-Jewish resident who according to some opinions has accepted upon himself the Noahide laws) and not to embarrass the Canaanite slave. We are not allowed to inflict pain upon an animal, and if we need to eat it, to slaughter it in the most humane way possible, etc. In sum, the Torah teaches us to show compassion, benevolence, and kindness, which are attributes of Hashem, and to follow in His ways.


The above lessons are so essential, for history is replete with examples of shocking rituals, depredation, and self infliction, in the name of religion. To counteract such notions the Torah concludes the aforementioned laws with the words, "You shall not defile My holy Name, and you shall sanctify Me..." The Torah is telling us that we are obligated to demonstrate compassion and sensitivity, and only by doing so can we sanctify the name of Hashem. It would be a disgrace for Hashem if we followed the "sacred" practices of other religions. May we take these lessons to heart, and let them impact our behavior, and as a result have a positive effect on our unaffiliated and newly affiliated fellow Jews.





Dvar Halacha
The Laws of the Sefiras Ha'Omer  part 3  


  By  Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi



One should preferably stand while reciting the brachah and counting (Shulchan Aruch 489:1, Mishneh Berurah 489:6, Aruch Hashulchan 489:4). Therefore, one should be careful not to be lean on anything while counting (Koveitz Halachos 6:1). If one did not stand, he has nevertheless fulfilled his mitzvah (Mishneh Berurah 489:6, Aruch Hashulchan 489:4). Someone who finds it difficult to stand [e.g. an older person] may l'chatchila count while sitting down (Koveitz Halachos 6:1).


One should not interrupt in between the reciting of the brachah and the counting. This includes even a silent interruption of more than toch k'day dee'bor (a few seconds) or saying something that is not "sefira-related" (Mishneh Berurah 489:29).


One may count in any language, as long as he understands what he is saying. If one counted using a language that he does not understand, he has not fulfilled his obligation, even if he counted in Hebrew (Mishneh Berurah 489:5). Harav Shmuel Kamenetsky, shlit"a, understands that when counting in Hebrew he is not yotzei only in a situation that he had no idea what he was saying. However, if he was aware that he was counting even though he did not understand the exact translation of the words, he has fulfilled his obligation (Koveitz Halachos 6:5). Additionally, one may not fulfill his obligation of counting with either thinking or writing (Koveitz Halachos 6:3-4).


As mentioned, when the Torah refers to the mitzvah of counting sefira, there is a mention of both days and weeks. Therefore, the mitzvah requires counting both the days and the weeks of the Omer (Gemara Menachos 66a, Shulchan Aruch 489:1 & Mishneh Berurah 489:7). The first 7 days, one only mentions the day. Starting from the 8th day we mention both the day and the week.


If after from the 7th day, one accidently only mentioned the day and not the week [e.g. on the 40th day one counted "today is the 40th day of the Omer" and did not say "today is the 40th day, which is 5 weeks and 5 days of the Omer"] there is a machlokes whether he has fulfilled his obligation. Therefore, one should recount that night without a brachah [and continue counting with a brachah the next night]. If after the 7th day, one accidently just counted the weeks [e.g. he said "today is 5th week and 5 days of the Omer], he has not fulfilled his obligation, and should recount that night with a brachah, for it is considered as if he never counted (Mishneh Berurah 489:7).


If one counted using roshei tay'vos (an acronym) [e.g. instead of saying "today is the 39th day etc.", he said "today is lamed tes yom etc." there is a machlokes whether he has fulfilled his obligation or not. Therefore, he should recount that night without a brachah, and continue counting with a brachah the following night (Be'ur Halachah 489:1 s.v. moneh v'holaich).




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