Parshat Emor begins with the uniqueness of the kohanim. Kohanim have special halachot about marriage, purity and cutting their hair. Why is it so necessary to have a special group dedicated to working in the Mishkan and Beit Hamikdash? Why can’t all of bnei Yisrael take part?
“Mother’s Day? Seriously?” Rivka crossed her arms, refusing to lift a pen, colored pencil, or anything else used to fill out a Mother’s Day card. No matter how her father insisted, Rivka refused to celebrate a day in which she did not believe. Although Rivka loved her mother very much and appreciated how she had been raised, Rivka had some interesting ideas about parents.
Rivka thought her parents were amazing, but they couldn’t teach her everything. Rivka wanted additional parents, one for each way her parents weren’t helpful enough. She wanted one new parent to help her with math, one to teach her to play basketball, one to give her advice about friendship, one to make omelets, and parents for a few other needs.
To most people (OK, everyone), Rivka’s idea seemed crazy. Yet, Rivka managed to get an extra parent for each of her demands. Each was a parent of Rivka’s friend, and each was happy to help. (One friend’s father just happened to be an award-winning omelet chef and an excellent basketball coach!) So whenever Rivka needed assistance or advice that her parents couldn’t provide, she visited, called, texted or emailed the right parent for the job. How did Rivka’s (real) parents feel about this? They didn’t really mind the help Rivka was getting, but could have done without Rivka talking about her “math mother” and her “friendship-advice father.”
One weekend in early May, Rivka spent Shabbat at her friend Julie’s house. Julie was a camp friend who lived an hour away, so Rivka had to take a train there and back. On Friday night, while Julie and Rivka were sitting around and talking, the topic of Mother’s Day came up. “So how are you celebrating Mother’s Day tomorrow?” asked Julie. “Did you get your mom a present?” Rivka rolled her eyes. “Mother’s Day? No way! I don’t have time to visit each of my seven mothers!”
However, that Motzei Shabbat, Rivka had an experience that changed her mind. After Shabbat, Julie and her father drove Rivka to the station to take the train home. Rivka was planning to take the 8:55 train back home. At 8:55 on the dot, the train pulled into the station and Rivka boarded. The train pulled out and everything seemed fine. However, 25 minutes into the hour-long trip, the train pulled into a station, stopped and let everyone out. “Dear passengers, apologies, but we are experiencing a malfunction. We hope to have it fixed by 11 p.m.”
Eleven at night! That was way too late! Rivka could not believe it. Here she was, alone on an mostly-empty train platform at night. Good thing she had her cell phone. Rivka called her (real) parents, hoping to get a ride, but was shocked by their response. “Rivka, sweetie, we’d love to, but we’re in the middle of a movie. Why don’t you call one of your other ‘parents’ to come get you?” Stunned, Rivka bagan to call each of her extra parents. Some were busy and others just replied, “Why don’t you ask your real parents?” After 25 minutes of trying to find a ride, Rivka called her parents again.
“Mommy, Daddy, please! I’m sorry that I thought I could have parents in addition to you!” Rivka began to cry. “Please come get me! I’m scared here!” After a few seconds of silence that seemed like forever, Rivka’s mom responded. “OK, Rivka, we will come get you, but first we need you to do something.” At first Rivka couldn’t imagine what they wanted, but then she realized. “I promise to stop going to my friends’ parents for guidance! I promise to never ask them for help again!” But this was not what her mother had in mind. “Rivka, dear, all I want you to do is turn around.”
Rivka turned around, and there stood her parents, with their arms outstretched.
Like parents to their children, kohanim are completely dedicated to the Mikdash. Not just to one part or two parts, but to every aspect. If this responsibility were divided among all the Jewish people, the Mishkan and Beit HaMikdash would not get the proper care and protection it deserves. The kohanim are the caretakers, and a true caretaker is there for everything. This is how to treat those about whom we care.
By Yair Daar