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Toronto Torah
Yeshiva University Torah MiTzion Beit Midrash Zichron Dov
Parshat Emor
20 Iyar, 5775/May 9, 2015
Vol. 6 Num. 31
This issue of Toronto Torah is sponsored by Esther and Craig Guttmann and Family
Do we believe in inclusion?
Over the last couple of weeks, we have
been inundated with images of rioting
and protest. From protesters decrying
racial profiling and inequality in
Baltimore, to Ethiopian Jewry
demanding equal and fair treatment in
Tel Aviv, the message is a call for
inclusion. This resonates with us; the
Torah continually teaches us to
remember our mistreatment in Egypt,
and be mindful of it in the way we
treat vulnerable people.
Parshat Emor, though, presents a
problem. After prohibiting kohanim
from interacting with the dead, the
Torah then prohibits any kohen with a
physical blemish from serving, and
considers the blemish cause to
invalidate the performance of priestly
duties. (Rashi to Vayikra 21:23) We
must ask: what qualifies as a blemish,
and why should a physical deformity
be a cause for exclusion?
The Torah itself lists a number of
physical deformities, ranging from
blindness to asymmetrical eyes to a
“unibrow” to a broken hand or foot.
What correlates all of these things is
that they are external. Could it be that
external appearance that is cause of
the Kohen’s disqualification? Is the
Beit haMikdash so vain as to remove
someone from holy work because of
their appearance?
From the words of Ramban (Vayikra
21:18), it seems so. He even states that
there is a progression in the verses,
from a malfunction, such as blindness,
to oddly shaped or sized limbs, to
internal blemishes such as broken
bones, and then skin imperfections.
This emphasis upon the external is
Rabbi David Ely Grundland
stated clearly in a tosefta (Bechorot 4:4),
which teaches that any blemish that is
not externally apparent is not
considered a blemish. Similarly, a
midrash in Torat Kohanim (22:22)
teaches why broken hands and feet are
the only broken bones included in the
Torah’s list: broken ribs, which are not
visible, are not to be a cause for
Why, then, does the Torah have a
problem with kohanim who have an
external disfiguration? Here are three
approaches to understanding the
disqualification of this Kohen.
The first approach is brought by many
of the Chassidic masters, including
Rabbi Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye, Rabbi
Nachman of Breslov and Rabbi Tzadok
HaKohen of Lublin. They contend that
the appearance of an external blemish
is because of an inner spiritual blemish.
Just as one must be spiritually pure to
bring a korban, the external
disfiguration is meant to drive the
kohen to repentance. Rabbi Shlomo Ben
Dov Tzvi HaKohen of Radomsk even
says (Tiferet Shlomo, Rosh HaShanah)
that the blemish comes to the kohen
who believes he is without blemish, for
how could such a kohen atone for
others when he is so full of himself?
This approach is very challenging to
accept, though, given the number of
apparently innocent children who are
born with disfiguration, and the number
of apparently wicked people who suffer
no such phenomenon.
A second approach is derived from
looking into the laws of Birkat Kohanim.
A mishnah (Megillah 4:7) explains that
priests with blemishes are excluded
from reciting the priestly benediction
because “the people will stare at them”.
Rambam expresses this same point
regarding a number of different
imperfections, a priest must not
perform his duty because of the reaction
of the congregation (Mishneh Torah,
Laws of Prayer 15:2). From this
standpoint, the reason for the kohen’s
disqualification is not within, but
because of the inclination of people to
judge others negatively based on
external appearance. The Torah is
concerned that a person will bring an
offering and, upon seeing the priest,
recoil in discomfort. Hashem is not
protecting the nation from blemished
kohanim; Hashem is protecting the
kohen and the Beit haMikdash from the
prejudices of the people. This approach
is also challenging, as it omits an
opportunity to educate the nation.
A third approach was suggested by
Rabbi Baruch Weintraub in Toronto
Torah 4:29 (Emor 5773). Perhaps the
Beit haMikdash is meant to be a
window to a world which is entirely
good. Regarding this world it is said,
“Then the eyes of the blind shall be
opened, and the ears of the deaf shall
be unstopped. Then the lame shall skip
like a hart, and the tongue of the mute
shall sing.” (Yeshayah 35:5-6)
This is a law we should ponder, for what
it might teach us. Until G-d reveals the
truth of Divine intent, let us strive to
judge each other favourably and
recognize that we are all created equally
in the Divine image.
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Book Review: The Scroll of Six Days
Megilat Sheshet HaYamim (The Scroll
of Six Days)
Dr. Chagai Ben Artzi, Hebrew only
Who is the author?
Chagai Ben Artzi (b. 1950) is a
Professor of Talmud and Jewish
thought in various Israeli universities.
He learned in Yeshivat Kerem B’Yavneh,
and later earned his Ph.D. in Jewish
thought by writing a dissertation about
the unique merging of Jewish law and
thought in the writings of Rabbi
Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook.
Dr. Ben Artzi lives in Beit El.
What is the purpose of the book?
The last generation saw wonderful
miracles, from the establishment of a
sovereign Jewish state to the liberation
of Yehuda, Shomron, and - most
important – Jerusalem. These great
events demand our attention as people
of faith. Should they be seen as shift in
the dialogue between G-d and His
chosen people, or as merely another
stage in the long exile? Did G-d reveal
His face again, after thousands of years
in which it was covered, or is it a mere
These questions have many
implications, of course, and they
express themselves manifestly in this
time of the year. Is Israel’s
Independence Day a secular, statutory
holiday, or should it be celebrated
religiously? If the latter is correct,
should it be seen as a day of physical
deliverance, or as a day of outright
From theoretical questions about the
nature of the day stem questions that
are more practical. Should Hallel be
recited? With or without a blessing?
A different type of question relates not
to the prayers of the day, but to its
actions. Each one of our holidays is
symbolized by a unique act, like eating
matzah and lighting a menorah. What
is, or should be, the symbolic act of
Independence Day?
All of these questions are multiplied
ten times when discussing Yom
Yerushalayim, which has seemingly
fallen completely out of favor with
broader Israeli society and is
celebrated only by Religious Zionists.
Dr. Ben Artzi’s book is an attempt to
approach these questions, trying to
instill meaning and content into our
commemoration of the Six Day War
and its miracles.
What is in the book?
The book contains ten chapters. The
first chapter describes the events
leading to the war, and the last is a
613 Mitzvot: #435: Swear in His Name
The Torah places great emphasis on the power of speech; our
words give life to our thoughts, and influence our own
behaviour and that of people around us. As evidenced by the
laws of prayer and blessings, testimony and harmful speech,
consecration of property and study of Torah, we perceive
speech as personally and religiously powerful. This power
may be most present when swearing an oath, proclaiming a
fact or commitment to be absolutely true.
Because of the power of an oath, the Torah legislates it
closely. As noted in Sefer haChinuch, we are warned against
invoking G-d’s Name for a false or meaningless oath (Mitzvah
30), swearing in the name of idolatry (Mitzvah 86), and
swearing falsely (Mitzvot 225, 226 and 227). In its 435 th
mitzvah, Sefer haChinuch lists another instruction: When
swearing, we should swear in the Name of G-d. This is
learned from Devarim 10:2, “You shall revere Hashem your G
-d, and Him you shall serve, and to Him you shall adhere,
and in His Name you shall swear.”
One may understand this mitzvah as a means of protecting
ourselves from inappropriately venerating anything other
than G-d. On a deeper level, one may understand it as a
means of drawing ourselves closer to G-d, as we give voice to
truth in G-d’s Name. Sefer haChinuch includes both elements
in describing this mitzvah, writing, “We never swear in the
name of any created entity. The sages, of blessed memory,
said (Sanhedrin 63a), ‘One who joins the Name of Heaven
and another entity is uprooted from the world.’… Among the
roots of this mitzvah is this: when we uphold our words in
Rabbi Baruch Weintraub
summary. The eight middle chapters
describe the eight days from Iyar 25 to
Sivan 3, each telling of a battle won.
Two chapters are given to the first day
of the war, Iyar 26: the unfathomed
success of the preliminary airstrike,
and the conquest of Gaza. Ben Artzi’s
suggestion is to read to the
appropriate chapter(s) every day
during these eight days.
Using modern Hebrew, Ben Artzi tries
to convey both facts and their
meaning; he emphasizes the unlikely
coincidences that led to the brilliant
victory, drawing the obvious
conclusion that the hand of G-d was
visible throughout the battles.
Sometimes his writing reveals a certain
political identity, which will
undoubtedly appeal to many of his
readers but may feel out of place for
The book, while certainly not a last
and final word on the formation of Yom
Yerushalayim, is nonetheless an
interesting and worthwhile exercise,
enabling us to enrich our experience of
this magnificent day.
[email protected]
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner
His great Name, faith in Him and in His supervision over us
and all of our affairs will be strengthened in our hearts. This
is clear.”
There is some debate regarding whether this is truly a
commandment. Rambam understands that it is, writing
(Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Shevuot 11:1), “One who is
obligated to swear in court should swear by G-d’s Name, as
it is written, ‘And in His Name you shall swear.’ This is a
commandment, for an oath in His great and holy Name is a
form of worship, and there is great beauty and sanctification
in swearing in His Name.” Rambam, who bases this on a
talmudic passage (Temurah 3b), includes in this the
practice of swearing to fulfill a mitzvah. (Sefer haMitzvot,
Aseh 7)
On the other hand, Ramban (Hasagot to Aseh 7) contends
that this is not a commandment; rather, it is an option for
spiritual growth. He writes, “The verse states, ‘You shall
revere Hashem your G-d’ with all forms of reverence and
fear, and you should not mention His Name for nothing.
‘And Him you shall serve’ by performing mitzvot. ‘And to
Him you shall adhere,’ adhering closely to His mitzvot and
service, and energizing your soul toward this with personal
oaths and prohibitions to fulfill His desire. In this you have
permission to swear by His Name to uphold every thing.”
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Torah and Translation
Rabbi Saadia Gaon
The Mortality and Mundanity of Man
Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner
A Polemical Poem Responding to Attacks by Chivi haBalki
by Rabbi Saadia Gaon
At the start of the ninth century, the
primary Jewish authorities outside of
Israel were the political Exilarch, and the
Gaonim who headed Babylon’s central
yeshivot. Now, contact with Islam and
anti-rabbinic Karaism, economic strain
between farmers and merchants, unrest
due to the Jewish community’s internal
taxes, and tension between Jewish
leaders in Baghdad and Jerusalem, all
challenged the structure of the Diaspora
Jewish community.
Into this world came Said al-Fayyumi,
born in Egypt in 892. He used his birth
name, Said, in his introduction to the
Agron Hebrew dictionary he wrote at the
age of 20, but later he switched to
Saadia. “Al-Fayyumi” refers to his
birthplace, Fayum, in northern Egypt.
His family claimed descent from the
biblical Yehudah, as well as Rabbi
Chanina ben Dosa, a miracle-working
sage from the period of the Mishnah.
Rabbi Saadia Gaon’s lifelong mission
was to end Jewish ignorance of Judaism,
and to lead with absolute integrity; both
pitted him against powerful opponents.
At the age of 23, Rabbi Saadia began his
battle against Karaism, with a published
polemic. In 921, at the age of 29, Rabbi
Saadia - living in Aleppo, and not yet a
Gaon - was the primary voice against a
calendar coup led by Aharon ben Meir in
Israel. Rabbi Saadia became aware that
Aharon ben Meir intended to shift Rosh
haShanah by a day. Rabbi Saadia
published numerous scrolls arguing for
Babylonian calculations. After a two-year
battle, Rabbi Saadia was victorious.
Rabbi Saadia gained the title of Gaon
when he became head of the yeshiva in
Sura, Babylon, in 928. However, in 930
he became involved in a dispute with the
exilarch, David ben Zakkai, refusing to
authorize a probate document he felt
was illict. David ben Zakkai replaced
Rabbi Saadia Gaon; only in 937 was
Rabbi Saadia Gaon officially reinstated.
He continued to serve as Gaon until his
death of illness in 942.
Aside from his dictionary, Rabbi Saadia
Gaon’s writings include Hebrew and
Arabic polemics defending Judaism from
intellectual challenges; his great Emunot
v’Deiot philosophical work; an Arabic
translation of and commentary to
Tanach; a work on the legal principles of
the Talmud; a siddur; religious poetry,
and more. Rabbi Saadia Gaon’s yahrtzeit
is this Friday, 26 Iyar.
[email protected]
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Translated by Rabbi Mordechai Torczyner
‫פלאות התמהת והקשית לשאול‬
‫למה לא יחיה האדם לעד ולא ירד שאול‬
‫מי יתן ונוצר מתחלה בעולם הבא לגאול‬
:‫ואף כי תתאיו לעמדו פה במצור ובתאול‬
You have expressed wonder, and asked
stubbornly, why a man does not live
eternally, without descending to Sheol.
Would that Man had been created
initially in Olam haBa, to be redeemed!
And instead G-d desired to place him
here, in pain and exhaustion.
‫בעשותו כל אלה יש רבים מורדים‬
‫ובהפחידו אותם בצרותיהם יש בדתו בוגדים‬
‫קל וחומר אם לא היו פוחדים‬
:‫אז היו שכם אחד כולם לא היו עובדים‬
‫צורתך המן החכמה לחיותה לעד‬
‫או להצילה מצרה וצוקה ורעד‬
‫אי זו דעת תשפוט לחלצך ממעד‬
:‫כי סרה דברת על שוכן עד‬
‫נכונו ללצים שפטים ומהלומות‬
‫ערוך למו מאתמול תפתה בחמות‬
‫אשר חשך לעת צר ליום קרב ומלחמות‬
:‫ל נקמות‬-‫גם אתה כאחד מהם בכעס א‬
[Even with] G-d having done all of this,
there are still many who rebel. [Even
though] G-d intimidates them, there are
those who rebel against His law. How
much more so if they were not afraid!
Then, as one group, none of them would
Would it be wise for your form to be kept
alive forever, or to save it from trouble
and pain and trembling? What
intelligence could judge to save you from
stumbling – when you have fomented
rebellion against the Eternal One?
Verdicts and suffering are prepared for
scorners; angry Tifteh [Gehennom] was
arranged from yesterday for them. It will
be dark at the time of trouble, the day of
battle and wars. You will be as one of
them, in the rage of the punishing G-d.
‫קדוש איך לא יצרו – אמרת – מבית ומחוץ‬
‫וכלי מלא צואה מה יועיל בהיותו רחוץ‬
‫ומשלתו בשרץ ובלבינה בטמאתו לרחוץ‬
:‫הנני אשיבך מלין ודברי נחוץ‬
How were they not formed holy, inside
and out, you asked. And what good
would it do for a vessel filled with
excrement to be washed? You compared
Man to a sheretz and a clay receptacle,
in its impurity to wash. I will offer words
of reply to you, and my message will be
‫ידע תדע כי אין טומאה בחדרי האדם‬
‫כי כל מימיו לא יקראו טמאות עד היפרדם‬
‫על כן בהיפרדם כאשר צוה יוסדם‬
:‫קדושים המה מלפנים ולחיצון בכל מאדם‬
‫רק הטמאות טומאת הרשע בהם תבך‬
‫אזלו מים מני ים ולא יטהר מאבך‬
‫ומה יועילו ללב כופר כל מיני נבך‬
:‫והוא אמר כבסי מרעה לבך‬
Know that there is no impurity in the
innards of Man; his liquids are not
deemed impure until they separate from
him. Therefore when they [do not yet]
separate as their Founder commanded,
they are holy inside and [impure only
when] outside.
Only the case of those who are impure
with the impurity of wickedness will
cause you confusion. The water can
depart from the sea and your arrogance
will not be purified. What will all
manner of waves benefit the heart of a
heretic? G-d has declared: Cleanse your
heart of evil.
This Week in Israeli History: 26 Iyar, 1967
The Six Day War Begins
Rabbi Josh Gutenberg
26 Iyar is Friday
Ever since Israel’s establishment in 1948, tensions had
been high between Israel and its neighbouring Arab states,
but they reached a breaking point in the early parts of 1967.
Syria, who controlled the Golan Heights, shelled northern
Israel on many occasions, making life miserable for Israelis
settling in the Galil. Israel launched a retaliatory strike
against Syria on April 7, 1967, which led to the mobilization
of the Syrian army to prepare for war against Israel. Syria
invoked a defense treaty with Egypt, which led Egypt to also
mobilize its troops in preparation for war against Israel.
Egypt further escalated the situation by provoking Israel
with two more actions. They expelled UN peacekeeping
forces who had been stationed in the Sinai as a buffer
between Egypt and Israel since the 1956 Sinai Campaign.
They also shut off the Straits of Tiran from all Israeli
shipping, which blocked Israel’s path to Asia on the water.
As the situation grew more precarious for Israel, and with the
anticipation that a war would begin in the near future, Israel
decided to launch a pre-emptive strike against its enemies. On
June 5, 1967 (26 Iyar, 5717) the Israeli Air Force (IAF)
launched an attack against Egypt. The IAF sent almost its
entire fleet of planes to attack the Egyptian Air Force and
destroyed over three hundred Egyptian aircrafts. This strike
marked the beginning of the Six Day War.
Though Israeli Prime Minister Levi Eshkol pleaded with
Jordan not to join Egypt and Syria in the war, the Jordanian
army attacked Israel that same day. Thus Israel began a war
against three nations, and ultimately met great military
success on all three fronts.
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Weekly Highlights: May 9 — May 15 / 20 Iyar – 26 Iyar
Special Notes
‫ שבת‬May 8-9
Shaarei Tefillah Shabbaton: Wheat and Barley
Fri. 6:45 PM
Yisroel Meir Rosenzweig
10:00 AM
R’ David Ely Grundland Saving the Sanctity of Eden
5:00 PM
R’ David Ely Grundland
7:15 PM
Yisroel Meir Rosenzweig Wheat: Van Gogh and Torah
Shaarei Tefillah
8:00 PM
Yisroel Meir Rosenzweig
Growing Emunah
Shaarei Tefillah
Before Pirkei Avot
R’ Mordechai Torczyner
Daf Yomi
Rabbi’s Classroom
After minchah
R’ Mordechai Torczyner
Gemara Avodah Zarah
West Wing Library
8:45 AM
R’ Josh Gutenberg
Contemporary Halachah:
Stem Cell Research
Third floor
8:45 AM
R’ Mordechai Torczyner
The Blindness of the Bribed
Conflict of Interest
Breakfast served
CPD credit for lawyers
Open to non-lawyers
9:15 AM
R’ Shalom Krell
Zichron Yisroel
With light breakfast
Rabbi Aaron Greenberg
Top Ten? Why Only Ten?
Rebbetzin Miriam Milevsky
Women and Torah
Midreshet Yom Rishon
For women only
Light refreshments
R’ David Ely Grundland
Gemara: Mind, Body, Soul
Shaarei Shomayim
10:00 AM
R’ Mordechai Torczyner
Shavuot in a Shemitah Year
Adath Israel
1:30 PM
R’ Mordechai Torczyner
Book of Job: G-d as Enemy
Shaarei Shomayim
Business Ethics:
R’ Mordechai Torczyner
The Book of Yehoshua:
The Land of Yehudah
49 Michael Ct.
R’ David Ely Grundland
Advanced Shemitah
Yeshivat Or Chaim
The Vineyard of Torah
Shaarei Tefillah
Shaarei Tefillah
Parshah & Perek in the Park
Prince Charles Park
In with the Old and the New
Sun. May 10
10:00 AM11:20 AM
8:30 PM
Tues. May 12
For women only
Wed. May 13
12:30 PM
R’ Mordechai Torczyner
Thu. May 14
1:30 PM
Fri. May 15
10:30 AM
Lunch served
Pursuing Someone Else’s Job 201 Bridgeland Ave. RSVP: [email protected]