(Haftara: Yechezkel 44:15-31)
(Pirkay Avot: Chapter 2)
- [21:1-2] “…he should not make himself impure for the dead…except for a relative who is close to him…” The Kohen can go to the funeral of a close relative. Since the Kohen does not go to a married sister’s funeral, it seems that the factor here is emotional closeness. We know, however, that a good friend can be emotionally closer to us than a close relative. Were family relationships different in earlier times? Is this law for the sake of the Kohen or for the sake of the honour of the dead relative?
2. [21:11] “He (the Kohen Gadol) will not approach any dead body—for his father and mother he shall not become impure”. However, if the Kohen Gadol finds a dead body that has been abandoned he must become impure and bury the body. What does this law tell us about the Torah’s attitude to death and life and people.
3. [Pirkay Avot 2:4 or 5] Hillel said,”…don’t say something that cannot be understood, hoping that in the end it will be understood”. Does this statement leave no room for poetry? Why are the books of Kohelet and Shir Hashirim included in the Scriptures? How should we understand this statement of Hillel’s?
4. [Pirkay Avot 2:4 or 5] Hillel said, “Don’t judge your fellow-man until you arrive at his situation”. Rav Ovadiah from Bartinoro (Italy-15th century) says, “If you see someone in a difficult situation, and he does not act properly, don’t judge him until you come to that same situation and you DO act properly.” But how can we ever judge another? Do we ever know another person’s life history and what internal and external pressures that person is dealing with?
5. [Pirkay Avot 2:8 or 9] “If you learned a lot of Torah, don’t take credit for yourself, because that’s what you were created for.” Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin understands this to mean that you were created to learn according to your abilities. But your real duty is to go beyond your natural abilities, and make an effort to learn beyond what comes easily and naturally. Is R. Chaim saying something new to us or is he just explaining more fully the original statement?
The great dreams are the foundation of the world…the prophets dream…the poets dream while awake…the great thinkers dream of the perfected world…we all dream….The crudeness of conventional life, which is wholly immersed in materialism, removes the light of the dream from the world…Then the vision of the dream will return and it will become a clear revelation.
–R. A. Y. H. Kuk, 1865-1935, Lithuania and Israel.
This study page is dedicated to the memory of Sarah Bella bat Yitzchak Kummer, Chaim Yosef Yechiel ben Eliyahu Kummer and Eliyahu and Margaret Kummer