Nowadays, we are so caught up in our worldly affairs that we hardly ever stop to think about the long-term consequences of the things we do.
Nowadays, we are so caught up in our worldly affairs that we hardly ever stop to think about the long-term consequences of the things we do. When we are about to act, whether to do a good deed or a bad one, the most we ever consider is whether or not, in the short-run, this deed will be beneficial to us. Very rarely do we think about how our descendants many generations later will be affected by our decisions today.
Towards the beginning of this week's Torah portion, Hashem commands Moses to tell the Kohanim (priests) about the laws regarding their higher status in respect to tumah (ritual impurity), forbidden marriages, and more stringent punishments for certain transgressions. The verse states, "And you should make [the Kohen (priest)] holy" (Leviticus 21:8), and our rabbis learn from here that one must place the Kohen first in all matters of sanctity, such as aliyot to the Torah, leading Birkat HaMazon, and being the first to speak at public gatherings.
The tribe of Levi was not enslaved in Egypt because they were continually involved in the study of Torah. It was in the merit of this Torah study that they were able to resist the temptation to sin with the golden calf, and thus Kohanim, who descend from the tribe of Levi, were chosen to become especially holy to Hashem and to serve in the Temple. We find that because of this one righteous act far in the past, all of their descendants are privileged with priesthood.
The story is told that the Chofetz Chaim, the saintly leader of world Jewry at the turn of the century, once mentioned to one of his students that when the Mashiach (Messiah) comes and the third Temple is built, both of them (the Chofetz Chaim and the student) will run to the Temple to serve Hashem. However, only the Chofetz Chaim, who was a Kohen, will be allowed in. This is, he explained, because after the sin of the golden calf, when Moses declared, "Whoever is for Hashem, come to me" (Exodus 32:26), my ancestors stepped forward, thereby selecting their many generations of descendants to be elevated in their service of G-d. With this illustration, the Chofetz Chaim vividly demonstrated to his student the importance of taking into consideration the far-reaching results of our decisions.
When Pinchas performed the righteous act of killing a Jewish tribal leader who was publicly involved in an immoral act with a Midianite princess, Hashem rewarded Pinchas and all of his descendants by making them Kohanim (Numbers 25:1-15). The theme of our forefathers' actions affecting us is once again evident.
However, this idea can work detrimentally as well. For example, when Hashem commanded Moses to go and lead the Children of Israel out of Egypt, Moses argued back, and many commentators state that as a result, Kohanim descend from Aaron and not from Moses.
We, today, must be wary of our actions and think carefully beforehand of not only the short-term consequences to ourselves, but also in the long-term, how our actions will affect our descendants as well.
Joshua Gottlieb, who hails from Atlanta, is a sophomore at the Ner Israel High School in Baltimore.
You are invited to read more Parshat Emor articles.
Would you recommend this article to a friend? Let us know by sending an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org