It begins with the laws of tumah for Kohanim, moves over to laws of sacrifices, laws of holidays and ends with the story of one who cursed Hashem. A key to the underlying unity of the parsha can be found in the commentary of the Ketav Sofer on the verse, “And when you offer a thanksgiving sacrifice to G-d, offer it l’rtzonchem,” with your good will (Vayikra, 22, 29).
A thanksgiving sacrifice brought by a person saved from a dangerous condition commemorates a minor miracle. The Ketav Sofer points out that although it would appear that the individual is thrilled with the result and automatically brings the korban with a tremendous feeling of gratitude, in reality the entire situation is against his will. He would have rather not been in danger and not need to be saved in the first place! Therefore, the Torah specifies, bring the sacrifice with all your good will, “l’rtzonchem.” Bring it out of a feeling that all that G-d does, even the illness, the imprisonment, the pain and suffering is all for the best – that G-d loves those He tests.
I believe this perspective serves as the glue that connects the pieces of Parshat Emor together. At the end of the parsha when the individual cursed, he did it out of anger with G-d that he did not receive a portion of the land with the tribe of Dan. He may have had a very noble motive in desiring to be a full member of Bnei Yisrael and share in their destiny. However, to curse G-d for that inability is the opposite of “l’rzonchem”- of accepting G-d’s will that he serve G-d from outside the camp of Israel, rather than inside.
This theme also runs through the beginning of the parsha, where we find commandments of how a Kohen is to relate to four different situations, which, if they occurred to us or someone we loved, we would surely cause us to complain to G-d. 1) The commandments regarding death and suffering, 2) the Kohen’s being blemished which renders him unable to take part in the avoda in the Beis HaMikdash, 3) the Kohen becoming tamei, also excluding him from his unique tasks, and 4) a sacrifice possessing a blemish, which prevents its owner from bringing it as a korban. Perhaps the message is that all these siuations should be accepted “l’rtzonchem.”
In Pirkei Avot it states, “Don’t say when I have time, I will learn – perhaps you will never have time.” The Slonimer Rebbe explains, perhaps G-d wants us specifically to learn Torah in a framework of not having time. That is also our challenge – to learn Torah properly under difficult circumstances and feel it is “l’rtzonchem.”
About the Author: Rabbi Dovid Miller serves as a Rosh Yeshiva at YU-affiliated Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary and Rosh Kollel of the Caroline and Joseph S. Gruss Institute in Jerusalem.
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