The Koihen Godol (High Priest) and Images of the Dead!
Long before Warner Wolf, the great sportscaster, became well known -even famous- for his saying of “let’s go to the videotape,” every rebbe the future Oisvorfer had in yeshiva from 1962-1972, would daily remind him and the other ladigayers (good-for–nothings) in the class, that one day in the future, when we were already dead and buried, we would be having a meeting with our Maker, the RBSO, who along with His team of Prosecuting Angels, would roll out the videotape and show us in vivid color how we had sinned. We would be in for heavy doses of shock, awe, horror and embarrassment. Nu, for some, having a viewing might taka be temporarily enjoyable, if you chapped, ober not for long, because shortly after the tape was to be played, we would zicher need to confess that the bihaymo being featured on the tape was us. And soon thereafter, we would be punished severely; banishment to Hell was zicher our fate and destination. Ober did we take the rebbe seriously? Not! A nechtiger tug and fugetaboutitt. Why worry today when the day of reckoning was way off in the future? If taka the RBSO was willing to wait until we were dead and buried before meting out punishment for our chazerishe behavior, why not live well today? Efsher He would forget? And taka that’s what most do. Ober, is that how the RBSO runs the world? Ver veyst? Oinesh (punishment), other than a few chamalyis (petch) the rebbe delivered with his shtekin (stick) as ‘instant punishment,’ for being wisenheimers, was way off in the future. Ober, there is one punishment that is mamish instant and it’s found in this week’s parsha of Emor. We shall explore it below.
Nu, for those who don’t know, and that would be most of you, yesterday was Pesach Shaynee (Second Pesach). What the hec is Pesach Shaynee and how was it marked and celebrated by most of you? It wasn’t! Unless you went to shul and davened with a minyan. If you did, your reward was instant: in honor of Pesach Shaynee, the daily tachnun (supplication) prayer was skipped as it always is on special days and on any other day when one can proffer a semi-logical excuse for omitting it. Otherwise, Pesach Shaynee passed by very quietly. Why? Ver Veyst? It can’t be long now before some enterprising Toirah inspired entrepreneur arranges a meeting with the handlers of some older and respected rabbis over in Bnei Berak or elsewhere -the one’s we refer to as Da’as Toirah (those with great knowledge of the Toirah)- during which he presents his new product or service and demands (after handsomely greasing the palms of the handlers) a proclamation that Pesach Shaynee can only be properly observed by first purchasing the product or service the entrepreneur has just developed. With proclamation in hand, he will next place ads in all local Jewish papers informing the public that Da’as Toirah now demands that Pesach Shaynee be observed properly only by buying his product and or service. Absent such compliance, you will be ostracized and considered a goy mamish: you and your children will be placed in Cheyrim. That day, along with a product or service to properly honor Pesach Shaynee is coming one day soon. Sooner than you think.
Ober, why taka wasn’t it marked or celebrated by most? That’s an excellent question, one worthy of further exploration. Nu, we have previously covered this topic at length, and you are avada urged to click over to archives at www.oisvorfer.com where you can find previous postings on this subject and many others. Veyter. Since you already missed it, let’s instead begin by reminding you that this coming Sunday will be marking Lag Bo’oimer meaning the 33rd day of the Oimer count.
What is the Oimer count and why do we count it? Because it’s one of 63 mitzvis found in this week’s parsha which is chock full of them, mostly about priestly obligations -you will not want to miss reading about the Koihen Godol and the virgin a bit further in this review- and a detailed listing of all the major holidays and their observances. Nu, anyone who went to yeshiva, even those who spent most of their time daydreaming about meydlich (girls), throwing spitballs at the rebbe and other classmates, or otherwise busy devising plans to avoid contact with the rebbe’s other shtekin, which at times he tried to chap, if you chap, recalls learning about the great count-up of the 50 days between the Pesach and Shovuis. This count is known as Sefiras Ho’oimer, a counting of the Oimer.
Says the heylige Toirah (Vayikro 23:15-16), azoy:
|15 And you shall count for yourselves, from the morrow of the rest day from the day you bring the omer as a wave offering seven weeks; they shall be complete.||טווּסְפַרְתֶּם לָכֶם מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת מִיּוֹם הֲבִיאֲכֶם אֶת עֹמֶר הַתְּנוּפָה שֶׁבַע שַׁבָּתוֹת תְּמִימֹת תִּהְיֶינָה:|
|16 You shall count until the day after the seventh week, [namely,] the fiftieth day, [on which] you shall bring a new meal offering to the Lord.||טזעַד מִמָּחֳרַת הַשַּׁבָּת הַשְּׁבִיעִת תִּסְפְּרוּ חֲמִשִּׁים יוֹם וְהִקְרַבְתֶּם מִנְחָה חֲדָשָׁה לַיהֹוָה:|
Bazman hazeh (in our times), absent of Temple service which was lost -according to some- because the Yiddin could not stand each other- we count the Oimer nightly by reciting a brocho and then stating out loud what day of the Oimer it is. Limoshol (by way of example), on day one, we state ‘today is day one of the Oimer.’ And so the count goes on nightly until we arrive to the great Yom Tov of Shovuis, fifty days later, which we mark by eating cheesecake, matzo pizza, and other dairy products. Sadly, what we recall most about the rules we were taught is that should we forget to count one evening and then not recall that we forgot to count until the next evening -meaning an entire days passed by and we still forgot- we are out of the count. We are done. When we finally do remember, we may of course count ober we cannot recite the brocho. We must count without a blessing. We have missed out on the mitzvah of counting the Oimer with a brocho and are left to whisper the rest of the count under our breath without a blessing. We are being instantly punished for forgetting to count. Nu, as you can imagine, this idea of being instantly cut out of the Sefira did not sit well with everyone. Why taka is it the case that one is cut off and out of the count?
How could one lead an entire sinful life, commit myriad despicable acts, yet be counted and get away with them until his video is played after his passing, and yet, for forgetting to count one evening, be instantly punished and no longer be allowed to count the Sefira with a brocho? Is chapping lesser an aveyro than forgetting to count the Oimer? What’s taka pshat?
Limoshol, if one forgot to light Chanukah candles one evening, is he then precluded from lighting the rest of Chanukah without making a brocho? Of course not! And if one forgot it’s Pesach and enjoyed a shtikel chometz, is he then precluded from making other blessings on Pesach? Is he exempt from the second seder? May he have more chometz? Also not! What about Sukkis? If he forgot to make the brocho of layshave ba’sukkah one day or night, is he precluded from making that brocho the rest of Yom Tov? And the list goes on. And the shaylo is azoy: why is the Sefira count so different?
Given that so many of you don’t -for the most part daven Maariv, say it’s not so, please- avada it’s quite easy to forget to count Sefira. Ober why should you be left out of counting? Can’t we have a makeup count? Hey isn’t that how Pesach Shaynee came about? Isn’t it the fact that a certain group of people could not partake of the korban Pesach (Pascal Offering) and were given Pesach Shaynee as a makeup? It is.
Nu, as you can only imagine, this topic was hotly debated between different rabbis. Says the Behag and the Halochois Gidoilois azoy: a person who forgot to count the Sefira one evening (and did not remember until the next evening) may not continue counting the Oimer with brocho. He is out. He has forfeited the mitzvah which according to this view, is one long extended mitzvah which stretches from Pesach until Shovuis. He is seemingly instantly punished. But wait; it gets worse. According to other rabbis who chimed in on this matter, this person’s crime is seemingly so heinous, that any brochos he has previously made during the Oimer (nights he did count) are also null and void. Yikes.
Ober there is good news: As in kimat all other matters of halocho, not all the rabbis agreed and along came the Rosh, the Ritva, Reb Hai Goan (not to be confused with his son known, the Son of a Gaon) and others who said azoy: each night’s count is indeed a separate mitzvah; a person who forgot to count may in fact resume counting with a brocho when he remembers. Shoin. And how do we paskin rule) in our times when zicher many (Oisvorfer included) forgot to count one or more evening? Nu, believe it or not, our rabbis decided on a compromise. The person is not out and not disqualified: he may in fact count the Sefira, ober he may not recite the brocho. In other words, we do not follow Reb Hai Goan and others who concur. Ober, out of respect for his and those who agree with it, and just in case he and they were correct, we may get back into the count, ober without a brocho. Why this makes sense, ver veyst? And the rationale? Should the opinion of the Behag and others in his camp be correct, the counter might be reciting a brocho livatolo, a brocho in vain. Is that so giferlich? Shoin, let’s go veyter.
This coming Sunday (following maariv on motzei shabbis), we will be counting -most of us without a brocho- the 33rd day of the Oimer. Avada we all know that on day 33 of the Oimer, all stops as we celebrate the holiday of Lag Bo’oimer, meaning the 33rd day of the Oimer. As a kid, we couldn’t wait for this day to arrive as it meant a day off from yeshiva, a day at the park playing with our bows and arrows -why, ver veyst- and in general, it was a day of joy. On this day we may take haircuts which were verboten during Sefira (back in the days when Sefira was observed), and could make and attend simchas. We are taught that Rebbe Akiva’s students, he most famous for marrying late, teaching himself Toirah beginning only at the age of 40, and for building a huge yeshiva with either twelve or twenty four thousand students who all perished during the Oimer count. And they perished why? Seemingly, according to many, because they did not respect one another though Rebbe Akiva, their revered rebbe was known to have espoused the very famous phrase of Vi’ohavta li’rayacho komoicho (you should love your chaver or neighbor as you do yourself). Nu, efsher we can kler that Rebbe Akiva was too busy teaching his students Toirah but forgot to teach them derech eretz (common courtesy), and only began getting serious about preaching the concept of loving one’s friends and neighbors as one does himself, after all his students perished and he began anew. Or, efsher we can kler that a few thousand taka died because they were showing too much love to their neighbors, if you chap. In any event, tradition tells us they stopped dying on that day. Some say they all died during the first 32 days of the Oimer and the magayfo (plague) was over on day 33. And some say, the dying was but suspended on day 33 but resumed on day 34. In any event, for reasons the Oisvorfer never fully chapped, we mark day 33 with great celebrations all over the Jewish world. Why we celebrate the passing of 12,000 or 24,000 students with huge bonfires, bbq’s and other festivities, ver veyst? Were we to lose that many people today, we would zicher be busy burying them on day 33 and making myriad shiva calls to the bereaved families. Shoin. A few more insights into the background of Rebbe Akiva, his wife, his students and his new yeshiva of five students, including the famous RASHBI whose yurtzeit is coincidentally also marked on Lag Bo’oimer, can be found on the Oisvorfer’s burgeoning site by clicking here. In any event, many reasons are given as to why Lag Bo’oimer turned into a day of celebration. The bottom line: it is!
Shoin, here we are on page five, let’s quickly look in on the parsha and examine one of its many gems. Among the topics covered in this week’s parsha, the longest in Sefer Vayikra which contains 124 pisukim and 63 mitzvois -mamish more than 10% of all the mitzvois found in the heylige Toirah mitzvois- we will learn that the koihanim (Priests) are an exalted group of people. Avada anyone who goes to shul knows that a koihen is distinguished from other Yiddin. He has exclusive rights and privileges. Only he can receive the first Aliya and only the koihen can duchin (bestow the priestly blessing). In the past, and again one day in the future, should the Moshiach make an appearance and the Beis Hamikdash be rebuilt, the koihen will again become eligible to receive teruma (tithes) and a share of the sacrifices. He is considered more holy than others though not as holy as the Koihen Godol (the High Priest), who was viewed as the holy of holies. Ober like most freebies, it came with a price and quite the hefty one. We shall explore that below.
As a condition of enjoying Koihen benefits, the RBSO placed special restrictions on their love lives and especially so on their selection of life partners. In other words, the heylige Toirah placed very specific restrictions on whom a koihen may and may not marry. There are even more restrictions on the Koihen Godol (high Priest) as we will read below. Koihen restrictions center around two areas – marriage restrictions and spiritual impurity. The restriction against spiritual impurity prohibits the koihen from contact or association with a corpse. There is one exception: He may associate and mistama does with a wife who, though very much alive, acts like a corpse, if you chap. Ober why should the heylige Toirah care who a person falls in love with and marries? Nu, the answers will efsher surprise you. Lommer lernin.
Says the heylige Toirah (Vayikro 21:7) azoy: A koihen may not marry a ge’rusha (divorcee), chalalah (woman of defective koihen status), zoinah (woman who previously violated certain sexual prohibitions), giyores (convert) or chalutzah (a Levirate widow). What and who is a ‘zoina’? Seemingly a zoina is a prostitute and refers to a Jewish woman who had forbidden sex. Seemingly, the forbidden group includes adultery, incest, or relations with a goy (non-Jew). That’s the bad news. The good news: He is not required to marry a virgin. Nu, geloibt der abishter (with thanks to the RBSO)!
Ober what to do if the Koihen mamish falls in love, cannot control his desires and marries one of the forbidden mydlich (girls)? What should the poor Koihen do if the benefits she is providing, if you chap, far outweigh any lost benefits he may have been receiving as a koihen? Limoshol, in our times, without the Beis Hamikdash standing and without people bringing daily korbonis (sacrifices) from which he would have received a portion, is the kihuna worth hanging onto given the choice between love and any special kovid (honor)? When all the koihen in our times has, are a few extra aliyas in shul, ober when the girlfriend or forbidden relationship efsher offers both an aliya and a yirida, if you chap, what to do? How do we handle the koihen who gave into his base desires and decided to buck the system? And one final question: what happens to a koihen who lives with, but does not “marry” a shiksa? Can he still “duchin” (partake in bestowing the priestly blessings)?
Nu, halachic decisors will tell us that if he does marry any on the restricted list, the children of that union, should they have any, will likewise become chalalim, they are automatically downgraded. Sons born do not have priestly status, and daughters may not marry kohanim. Shoin: A Koihen who enters into such a marriage loses the entitlements of his priestly status while in that marriage. Moreover, he is not permitted to forgo his status and marry a woman prohibited to him (Vayikro 21:6-7). That’s the bad news. Ober all is not lost and the koihen can be restored. How does a downgraded, disqualified and somewhat disgraced koihen become restored? It’s quite poshit: Should he tire of living with his forbidden wife, upon termination of the marriage, he is seemingly fully restored and may re-assume his function and duties as a full koihen in good standing. In other words: it’s only a temporary suspension. The bottom line: the koihen may not marry any of these no matter how good looking, how much joy she provides him, how much money she comes from, or any other unique talents she may possess and is willing to use, if you chap, that would drive him to want to enter into this marriage and forfeit other benefits. Ober there is some good news for him as well. Though the Oisvorfer is not equipped to paskin (give authoritative halachic rulings), from his research and from a few who have spoken to him on this subject, it does appear azoy: As living with a hot shiksa, is not a prohibition specific to Kohanim, it does not prevent him from duchining. Does anything disqualify him or does the fact that he was able to chap a hot shiksa give him total immunity? Shoin! For the koihen to be totally disqualified, he will have had to either commit murder (even unintentionally), worshipped idols (the RBSO hates that), or transgress Kohain-specific prohibitions.
And for good measure, the Koihen, once divorced, may not remarry his ex-wife, not that there’s a big calling for such unions. Ober zicher not unheard of. Grada some years back the Oisvorfer met an individual and asked how many children he had. The response was six. “I have three from my first wife and three from my second.” He then went on to add that both wife number one and wife number two were the same. He was not a koihen.
Ober what about the koihen Godol, the High Priest? Whom may he marry and not? Says the heylige Toirah (Vayikro 21:13), azoy: “He shall marry a woman in the state of virginity.” Has anyone ever heard of this state? Where is it, ver veyst? What are his restrictions, if any? Nu, due to his exalted status, his restrictions are even more severe and include the widow, a non virgin, and also include what the heylige Gemora refers to as a virgin-boigeres. What the hec is that or she? Says the Gemora azoy: a virgin boigeres is a girl a half year past her puberty which typically takes place at the age of twelve. Nu, do you see why it’s important to learn the heylige Gemora? How else, and where else, would you know about the virgin-boigeres? Nowhere! Veyter. Ober shtelt zich di shaylo (the next astonishing question is) azoy: may the Koihen Godol marry two or more women from the permitted list? In other words: may he be a bigamist? He is after all already considered big; why not bigamy? After all, based on Toirah law, we are all permitted to marry more than one woman. Avada you should know that it wasn’t until kimat one thousand years later when Rabaynu Gershom (may the RBSO bless his soul) came along and forbade men from marrying more than one woman.
Ober why can’t the Koihen Godol marry a widow? Was it her fault that her husband dropped dead? What sin did she commit to land her on the verboten list? Nu, the heylige Gemora avada chapped everything and tells us (Pesochim 112a) so gishmak, azoy: the Koihen Godol may not marry a widow so that he, her husband, should not be worried about competing (mistama in the boudoir) with the memory of his wife’s first husband. You hear this? The heylige Toirah avada chapped that people are but that -many time less- and that imaginations sometimes run away from them during tashmish (intercourse), and was worried that the wife will be thinking that this current Koihen Godol husband of hers, may not be as godol, if you chap, as her last husband. But wait, the Gemora has more to say and here it is: when a divorced man marries a divorced woman, there are four people in the bed because each one brings baggage and memories of their previous marriage (into the bedroom). Shoin, what more needs to be said? Nothing.
Says the heylige Gemora (Yoma 13a), azoy: the koihen Godol may not be married to two women while performing the avoido (service) in the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) on Yom Kippur. And the Gemora states so with a degree of certitude based on what? From a posik in the heylige Toirah (Vayikra 16:11) which implies that he can have but one wife. It implies it how? From the posik which states “He shall atone for himself and for his household.” His household taken to mean ‘one household.’ Shoin, shtlet zich noch a shaylo (another question arises): may he have two households during the year and shrink down to one, just for Yom Kippur. Admittedly, shrinkage would be hard while chapping from two wives, if you chap. As an aside, we have seen others make lifestyle changes to accommodate Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur. Limoshol, by way of example, a number of shuls require the chazan for the Yomim Noiroim (high holy days) to sport a beard. And guess what? We have also seen many sport one in the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashono and Yom Kippur. That being the case, why can’t the Koihen Godol marry two virgins and divorce one as Yom Tov approaches?
Nu, that depends on whom you ask and let’s see what a few had to say. Says the RambaM (Laws of Forbidden Relations 17:13), azoy: the koihen Godol may never be married to two women at the same time. Case closed.
Ober says the Ryvid so gishmak, azoy: it’s not so poshit (simple). Why not? Because we find in Tanach (Divrei Hayomim II 24:2-3) a myseh regarding Yehoyodo who was the Koihen Godol during the time that King Yoiosh was in power. Says the posik: “And Yoiosh did what was proper in the eyes of Hashem all the days of the koihen Yehoyodo, and he took for him two wives and begot sons and daughters.” The Koihen Godol had two wives. And listen to this. Says the Ryvid (and no wonder so many in the yeshiva world love quoting him), azoy: the entire prohibition against the Koihen Godol being married to two women at one time was to prevent a situation. Seemingly it’s always best to avoid certain situations, if you chap. What situation was he referring to? To a situation where the Koihen Godol would become contaminated as a result of having a nocturnal emission -say it’s not so please- as a result of having thoughts about being with two women. Such thoughts and zicher the emission on a day he could not shower, would avada disqualify him from performing the avoido on Yom Kippur. You hear this raboyseyee? The bottom line: it does make sense for the koihen Godol to avoid marrying two women so that he should not be placed into the position of having to divorce one of them before Yom Kippur. Ober, it appears that otherwise he (the Ryvid) has no issues with the Koihen double-dipping. The bottom line: sadly for the koihanim, today we follow the Rambam and the Koihen Godol though big, may not in fact practice bigamy. Ok, so a funny line was repeated so shoot me! Veyter.
And we close with this last thought. We know that an ordinary koihen may marry a widow ober the Koihen Gadol (big kahuna) may not marry a widow. Ober taka why not? Simply stated, that’s what the RBSO ordered; no questions asked! Ober listen to this amazing pshat. Says the Daas Zekeinim m’Baalei haToisfus, something that will blow your socks off. On Yom Kippur, the Koihen Godol mentions, while performing the service on behalf of the community, the (normally) unmentionable Holy Name of the RBSO while standing in the Kodesh HaKodoshim (Holy of Holies). He does so 10 times. But….should he, be thinking ill of a particular person during any those mentions, that person will likely die during the coming year.
And listen to this even more amazing thought from the same source. It is possible that during this spiritually charged time when the Koihen godol is davening and mentioned the RBSO’s name, his mind may wander and he might be thinking of a particular girl that he wants to marry. Ober…she is already married to someone else. Shoin, he could daven for the husband’s untimely passing and chap the almono (widow). In other words, he might be davening for the husband of the girl he wants to die so that he can marry her. Ober the RBSO knows everything including the thoughts of the koihen. The RBSO, understanding human emotions, and in order to prevent this from happening, decreed that he must marry only a virgin rather than a widow, so that such narishe (silly) and maybe even wicked thoughts will never enter his mind. Shoin, when it comes to mydlich (girls), no one is above suspicion!
A gittin Shabbis!
The Oisvorfer Ruv