Contributed by: R. Ezra Miztahi
The majority of the parasha, Emor, speaks of the Jewish holidays and Shabbat. However, the parasha begins on a very different note. We read that Moshe commands the Kohanim to retain their spiritual purity, and cannot become impure by being involved with caring for a niftar (individual who passed away). Of course, a Kohen is permitted to become "tameh" or impure, if the niftar is one of his close relatives. The rule is also suspended when the niftar is a "met missvah", a deceased person who has no close relatives to assist in his or her burial. Here too, the Kohen may willfully become impure and assist with caring for the deceased.
The first verse of the parasha: "Hashem said to Moshe, "Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and say to them". There is a famous question that is raised: why does Hashem tell Moshe to speak to the Kohanim twice? The verse states "Emor el HaKohanim" or "Speak to the Kohanim", and immediately after the verse reads "Veamarta Alehem" and "say to them", why the repetition?
Rashi explains that the Kohanim are given an added warning here, to teach us that the adults have to warn the young Kohanim children from becoming spiritually impure- "Lehazhear gedolim al Haqetanim" –the adults (gedolim) must warn the children (qetanim).
Why does the Torah choose the topic of spiritual impurity as the place to direct and warn the adults about teaching their own children?
In the case of spiritual impurity, a Kohen child can get very confused. He may see, one day, his fellow Kohanim involved with a niftar, and may assume that doing so is permitted for Kohanim in all cases. He may not realize that this specific niftar was a "met missvah"- an exception to the normal rule. For as the Rambam writes in Hilchot Deot, it is the natural way for one to be pulled and affected by the action of his friends and neighbors. All the more so if we are speaking about children.
We can apply this lesson to our situation today. If only our children were affected by the societal culture to perform a halacha incorrectly! Today, we are on a much slippier slope. Today our children are exposed to every type of immoral behavior one can practically imagine. A primetime sitcom today deals with subjects that should not really leave one's bedroom. And that is if we are talking about adults watching these shows. But children? Kal Vahomer should not even be watching!
This is the society we live in. We need to work hard to combat these influences by rededicating our qahal to a renewed view of our Talmoud Torah program at Ahaba. With the expanded facilities next year, we hope to provide a qualitative difference for our children and extended Ahaba families, giving them the added protection and guards they need to retain their Jewish identity, expanding their fervor for Torah and missvot, all while living in a culture that has lost its way. More to come.