Emor- A Time For Sanctification

This week’s d’var torah is dedicated in the zechut of a refu’ah shlaima for חנה טובה בת אסתר שושנה, a one-year-old girl who is currently fighting childhood cancer. In the zechut of our tefilot and limud torah, Hashem will iy”h grant her a refuah shlaima very soon.

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Based on an idea in Eretz Yisrael in the Parsha by Rav Moshe Lichtman

In this week’s פרשה, after learning about the high standards of spirituality that כהנים must keep, we seem to touch an opposite theme:

וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם, מִצְו‍ֹתַי, וַעֲשִׂיתֶם, אֹתָם, אֲנִי, ה’. וְלֹא תְחַלְּלוּ, אֶת-שֵׁם קָדְשִׁי, וְנִקְדַּשְׁתִּי, בְּתוֹךְ בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אֲנִי ה’, מְקַדִּשְׁכֶם. הַמּוֹצִיא אֶתְכֶם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם, לִהְיוֹת לָכֶם לֵאלֹקִים אֲנִי, ה’.

And you shall guard My mitzvot and do them, I am G-d. And you shall not desecrate my name, but I shall be sanctified among Israel, I am G-d who shall sanctify you. That brought you out of Egypt to be your G-d, I am G-d. (ויקרא כ”ב: ל”א-ל”ג)

We see here two distinct מצות; not to profane G-d’s name (חילול השם), and to sanctify it (קידוש השם). Chazal teach that out of all of the עבירות that a Jew can transgress,חילול השם is so bad that it cannot be atoned through יום כיפור or through personal suffering- it can only be מכפר through its polar opposite- קידוש השם. In other words, the bad that desecrating G-d’s name in the world can do is so bad that the only way to fix it is through an equal sanctification of His name. With this in mind, we will explore a prophecy in יחזקאל, part of the הפטרה for פרשת פרה, to learn about a very serious חילול השם going on right now, as prophesied millennia ago:

בֶּן-אָדָם, בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל יֹשְׁבִים עַל-אַדְמָתָם, וַיְטַמְּאוּ אוֹתָהּ,… וָאָפִיץ אֹתָם בַּגּוֹיִם, וַיִּזָּרוּ בָּאֲרָצוֹת… וַיָּבוֹא, אֶל-הַגּוֹיִם אֲשֶׁר-בָּאוּ שָׁם, וַיְחַלְּלוּ, אֶת-שֵׁם קָדְשִׁי–בֶּאֱמֹר לָהֶם עַם-ה’ אֵלֶּה, וּמֵאַרְצוֹ יָצָאוּ… וְקִדַּשְׁתִּי אֶת-שְׁמִי הַגָּדוֹל, הַמְחֻלָּל בַּגּוֹיִם, אֲשֶׁר חִלַּלְתֶּם, בְּתוֹכָם… וְלָקַחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מִן-הַגּוֹיִם, וְקִבַּצְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מִכָּל-הָאֲרָצוֹת; וְהֵבֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם, אֶל-אַדְמַתְכֶם.

Ben-Adam (Ezekiel), the Israelites will sit on their land and they will defile it… And I will scatter them among the nations and they will be dispersed throughout the countries… And the gentiles will come and they will desecrate My name, saying ‘these people of G-d are not in His land’ … And I will sanctify My great name, which had been desecrated among the nations… And I will take you back from the nations, and I will gather you from all of the lands, and I will return you to your land. (יחזקאל ל”ו)

It was prophesied to Yechezkel that בני ישראל would be scattered because of their sins, and would be forced to leave their land and go to foreign lands, where their mere presence would be a חילול השם as the nations as they wonder what G-d would abandon us. But, the prophecy concludes on a positive note- despite this continued desecration to His name, G-d will save us from the foreign lands, and will return us to our land, thus sanctifying His name- thus undoing the חילול that we created by being outside of Eretz Yisrael. Rashi expounds on this idea further, explaining that the חילול השם that בני ישראל will do by being outside of the Promised Land is that when the גוים see us, they will wonder why G-d took us out of Eretz Yisrael, and why He stands by us we suffer in the Exile. When we return to the land, G-d will undo the חילול השם by showing the nations that there was a master plan- that He didn’t, חס ושלום, sit on the side on the side and watch us suffer; He was waiting for us to do תשובה from our sins which sent us into the גלות so that we could merit the גאולה.

Ever since יעקב אבינו originally left ארץ כנען in biblical times and we began to be a עם בארץ לא להם, we have naturally never fit into our surroundings in the foreign lands. Realizing this, the gentiles- whether the Egyptians, Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, Muslims, Germans, or Christians- question why we are among them. Because of their belief systems, they cannot see that our גלות is מפני חטאתנו גלינו מארצנו, but rather they see it as a sign of G-d’s weakness (חס ושלום) or even worse, that our G-d is not true. Every minute that we are in the גלות is a desecration of G-d’s name, and as we keep on waiting, it seems less and less likely that we will ever merit a גאולה. But, as the end of the prophecy shows us, once we return to our land, we will have undone this חילול השם with a קידוש השם- by showing the nations that G-d is All Powerful and He never abandoned us, and that we have earned our way back to the land fair and square.

I believe that this time is now upon us. For millennia, the Jewish people have been strangers in a foreign land, waiting patiently (and not-so-patiently) for a chance to return. During that time, we have managed to attract the wrath of almost all of the nations in existence, and through this we may have caused much חילול השם. But, G-d has given us an opportunity to undo this, with the return of the Jewish settlement to Israel. For the first time in over 2000 years, we have the option to return to our roots- to leave the foreign lands where our ancestors were tormented to a place where they only dreamed of being able to live. The נבואה in יחזקאל פרק ל”ו says that when G-d returns us to our land, it will be so obvious to the nations that we will be forced to accept that it is יד השם and this קידוש השם will undo the חילול השם of our גלות. Since the establishment of Israel in 1948, we have only seen יד השם in the Holy Land. The Independence War, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, the Lebanon Wars, and all of the military operations that have been conducted by the Jewish state, could not and should not have succeeded. Why did they succeed? I believe that based on יחזקאל’s נבואה, it is clear that these miracles occurred to be a קידוש השם to the nations- to remind them that despite the hard times that the Jewish People have had in the Exile, G-d is still watching us and has not abandoned us. This קידוש השם, a תיקון for the חילול השם that we’ve caused during our time in Exile, serves as reminder to the אומות העולם who’s running the world- our G-d.

It is possible that this קידוש השם also serves another purpose- to awaken the Jewish People so that we can realize that it’s time to come home. For millennia, we’ve caused חילול השם by being a nation without a home, seemingly abandoned by our G-d. Now that we have the opportunity to stop the חילול השם and return to the land promised to our forefathers, does it make any sense to prolong the exile. In יחזקאל פרק ל”ו, the order of the prophesied גאולה is that first G-d will sanctify His name so that the nations will know who is G-d, and then, G-d will gather in the exiles, and, finally, He will purify us and He will dwell with us. If we interpret this order as a timeline, we can see that G-d has already sanctified His name (through the miracles continually surrounding Israel) and has set us aside as a holy nation. Before we can merit being purified and having G-d dwell among us in the Holy Land, we must first heed his call, through these נסים ונפלאות, and return there. Only through this tremendous זכות can we merit the final stage of the גאולה, the coming of the משיח, very speedily in our days. Shabbat Shalom.