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  • Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier

He was great. The Rebbe told him so.

Parshas Emor


At his Friday night meal (Parshas Emor 5722/1962), the Beis Yisroel of Ger shared this thought: A kohen may not defile himself by encountering a dead person, unless the deceased is a close relative, such as his wife. The Torah specifies an exception: “[But] a husband shall not defile himself for [a wife who causes] his desecration.” Kohanim are not allowed to marry certain women, e.g. a divorcee, or a giyores. If a kohen married a woman prohibited to him, and she passed away, he may not defile himself for her. Consider this, the Beis Yisroel thundered: We’re dealing with a kohen who knowingly desecrated his kehunah by marrying this woman! And he didn’t hide his actions—he married and lived amongst other Jews! Moreover, he was warned by beis din that he must divorce this woman, and he refused! Wouldn’t you expect the Torah to say that since this kohen already defiled himself by living with her, let him further defile himself after her death? And yet the Torah insists that, notwithstanding this terrible sin, he still remains a kohen and must preserve that sanctity.

In this instance, the Targum interprets the word “baal,” husband, as “great one.” For although he did something disgraceful, he remains a kohen, and he remains great.[1] In the winter of 5721/1961, Reb Berel Baumgarton traveled periodically to State College Pennsylvania on shlichus, together with a few other Lubavitcher yungeleit. During one of these trips, they met a young man who was engaged to be married. Alas, he was a kohen and she was a giyores. The Lubavitcher yungeliet tried to dissuade him, but to no avail. The kohen joined a group on a trip to Crown Heights and merited a yechidus (private audience) with the Rebbe. During the yechidus, the Rebbe pointed to the seforim in his office and said, “I am proficient in all of these seforim and yet, I can never attain the status of a kohen like you.” This touched the kohen profoundly which led him to break the engagement.[2] We can never justify a kohen’s decision to marry a divorcee. However, no matter how low the kohen has fallen, even to become the husband to a forbidden wife; the Torah still refers to him as a baal, a great man. The best way to influence him to change his ways is not by emphasizing how low his sin has dragged him but rather by reminding him of how high his potential is. We may fall to a low place in our life, but this doesn’t define us as being a low-life. We each possess an intrinsic greatness. May we merit to recognize and highlight it within ourselves, our family and our fellow Yidden. Gut Shabbos, Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier [1] Taam HaTzvi vol. 3. [2] As heard from Mrs. Cyrel Lipskier תחי', daughter of Reb Berel Baumgarton ע"ה.

SPONSORED BY The Flint family l’zecher nishmas Reb Avraham Michoel ben Yaakov Shimon Halevi a"h

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