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Rabbi Kalmar's Message for Parshat Emor April 30/May 1, 2021

Rabbi’s Message – Parshas Emor – “What do we say after the tragedy in Meron”

              Today is Lag B’Omer.  Lag B’Omer is a holiday in which we celebrate the end of mourning.  But this year it has turned into the beginning of mourning.  With at least 45 killed in the tragic stampede at the ceremonies at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai at Meron, and over 60 people seriously injured, the joy we normally feel on this day of bonfires and bow and arrows, bbq’s and softball, has vanished.

I want to express my condolences to my chaver Rabbi Yechiel Morris of the Young Israel of Southfield, Michigan, whose nephew Donny Morris, a student at Sha’alvim, was recently found among the dead.  Initially, the news this morning was that he was missing, but sadly it has been confirmed that he died.

I can’t begin to imagine the profound suffering of all the families of loved ones whose relatives went to a celebration of life and Torah and now are faced with tragedy and death.  Many relatives are still waiting to know if their loved ones are alive or not.   It is a horrible situation.

I feel paralyzed and devastated. What do we do?

              The parsha this week is parshas Emor and it follows the parshios of Acharei Mos and Kedoshim.  There is an idiom that goes as follows – Acharei Mos, Kedoshim Emor – meaning, after someone dies, say holy things about them.  Pay them a proper tribute in your eulogy.             

I would like to suggest two more readings of this combination of parshios. The first is “Acharei Mos Kedoshim – Emor” “after the death of the holy ones – speak.”  After such a tragedy, we need to speak out and not be quiet.  True, after the death of Aharon’s sons, it says ‘Vayidom Aharon’, that Aharon was silent, and that was a credit to him that he did not protest the death of his sons to God and say “Why Me?”  But that is a different kind of silence which is appropriate.  But it is not appropriate for us to be silent and just act like nothing happened and everything is ok.  We need to open up our mouths and pray and lament and empathize and feel and express sadness.  To not do so would be callous and hard hearted.    The first verse of Parshas Emor says ‘Emor el Hakohanim, Bnei Aharon, AiAmarta Aleyhem, laNefesh lo Yitama bi’Amav” Speak  to the Priests, the sons of Aharon and say to them, they shall not become tamei (ritually impure) for the dead among their people.   A priest is not allowed to come into contact with the dead unless it is for a close relative.  However, in regards to speaking about the dead – that they are allowed to do.  A priest can be a maspid, one who delivers a eulogy.  The speaking about and caring about and mentioning the dead and praying for and taking care of the survivors and the relatives of a tragedy is open to all.  We are encouraged to speak of it and not to pretend that it doesn’t affect us.

Secondly, I would like to suggest another understanding of this combination. “Acharei Mos, Kedoshim Emor” “after death, speak holiness.”  Meaning, after we experience tragedy, a response should be to refine our own speech.  To make sure that this Shabbos we not only hug our loved ones a little closer, but that we also speak in a way that is holier.  We should act a little more humbly, we should say our brachos with a little more attention and focus.  We should bentsch a little slower and with a little more care.  We should daven together with a greater sense of community and love.  And we should be extra special careful not to say things we shouldn’t about one another.

I was sent an email with the following suggestions for things to do this Shabbos to commemorate the loss of those who died and to pray for their families and for those who have been seriously injured.

May we share in besuros tovos – good news in the future.  Wishing you all a peaceful and meaningful Shabbos.      Rabbi Kalmar

From HalachaForToday.com:

As Klal Yisroel has just experienced a tremendous blow with the events in Meron that took the lives of so many holy Neshamos, and left many more in need of Rachamei Shomayim, it is incumbent on us all to respond to Hashem's message appropriately.

We cannot fathom the hidden ways of Hashem, and we cannot know why He does things. We do, however, know that when we experience Midas Hadin, we must strengthen ourselves in Torah, Tefilah, Ma'asim Tovim and our interactions with one another, as a response to Hashem's message.

Some suggestions that have been given by Gedolei Yisroel, in response to tragedy include:

* Lighting Shabbos candles 5-10 minutes earlier than usual. By accepting the Kedusha of Shabbos early, it brings with it powerful Kedusha and Zechuyos for all of Am Yisroel.

* Make at least one bracha per day with extra Kavana. Understanding the meaning of the words, understanding to whom we are directing the bracha, and understanding that all happenings in the world are in Hashem's hands, without exception, is a tremendous zechus for Heavenly protection.

* Arrive to davening a few minutes early , or at least commit to not being late, as the way we approach the King of Kings elevates the Tefilos we say to Him. Clearing the mind for a moment or two before beginning to daven all but ensures that our Tefios will be holier.

* Commit to improve and refine our speech, as the Talmud (Shabbos 33a) states terrible things about those who speak Nivul Peh, inappropriate speech, including how 70 years of good decrees can be overturned R"L for speaking Nivul Peh. Conversely, committing to eradicate Nivul Peh from our lives can overturn many terrible decrees against Klal Yisroel and turn them into positive heavenly blessings!

Every individual should do some introspection, and commit to elevating themselves in a meaningful way. Making this commitment is what matters.

Wed, May 18 2022 17 Iyyar 5782