Parashas Emor

This week’s parashah includes a review of the festival cycle. In connection with Yom Kippur, it is written (Vayikra 23:32): “It shall be for you a day of consummate rest, and you shall afflict yourselves; on the ninth day of the month in the evening, from evening to evening, you shall rest on this day of rest.” The Gemara comments (Berachos 8b): “But is it on the ninth that we fast? It is on the tenth that we fast. Rather, whoever eats and drinks on the ninth, Scripture regards him as having fasted on the ninth and the tenth.” The Maggid notes that it is odd for the Torah to present the mitzvah of eating and drinking on the ninth of Tishrei under the rubric of afflicting ourselves. No other mitzvah is presented in such an oblique way; rather, the Torah states straightforwardly what we are supposed to do or refrain from doing. So here the Torah should have written simply that we shall eat and drink on the ninth and afflict ourselves on the tenth. The Maggid sets out to explain the reason for the oblique presentation.
He brings out the idea with a parable. A rich man had a son who liked to indulge himself through eating. Every day on his way to school, while passing a marketplace where fruit and nuts were sold, he grabbed some out of the baskets, popped them into his mouth, and ran away. After this had gone on day after day for some time, the merchants assembled at the rich man’s house to complain about the boy, describing the mischief he was doing. The father was embarrassed. He reprimanded his son, but to no avail; the boy continued with his deplorable behavior.
The father pondered what he could do to get the boy to stop, and he came up with an idea. The next morning, he called to his son and said: “My dear son, I’m troubled over the fact that you walk to school alone. How could a boy so exemplary and so dear to my heart as you be left to walk to school alone? You should be escorted to school in an honorable way. Wait a bit, and I’ll get a band to come accompany you and play music as you walk to school, so that you’ll make your way there with great pomp, like the sons of noblemen. The boy was thrilled with the idea, so the father arranged for the band to come. As the boy walked to school, the band played festive music and the bandleader declared: “Here comes the splendid, outstanding boy Adam, of the illustrious Smith family – we’re escorting him to his teacher, the famed Dr. Black.” Amidst all the honor and praise with which the boy was escorted to school, he didn’t dream of grabbing from the baskets of fruit and nuts as he had done before. How could he taint his honor with such lowly behavior?
The parallel is as follows.  In regard to man, it is written (Bereishis 8:21): “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” People are naturally strongly drawn toward physical pleasures and other worldly vanities. So if the Torah had stated in explicit terms the mitzvah to eat and drink on the ninth of Tishrei, who knows what would happen? People would get caught up indulging themselves in eating and drinking, perhaps even getting drunk. Who knows if there would be a minyan in shul in the evening for Kol Nidre?
Hashem, in His great wisdom, therefore presented this mitzvah in a veiled manner, couching it in the rubric of afflicting ourselves, and telling us that it would be as if we would be fasting on both the ninth and the tenth. The mitzvah would then be accompanied with an atmosphere of great holiness similar to that of a fast, and it would indeed be as if we were fasting on the ninth as well as on the tenth. As a result, we would easily discern the proper way to eat and drink on erev Yom Kippur. We should not be eating and drinking in excess in order to indulge ourselves. Rather, we should be eating and drinking solely to fulfill Hashem’s command. By doing so, we honor the mitzvah with the glory of holiness, in a spirit of awe and humility, recognizing that as we eat and drink we are sitting before Hashem.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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