Yeshivat Reishit


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Practicing What We Preach

By: Jeremy Frankel ('08-'10)

Hashem told Moshe to “speak to the Kohanim” and “say to them” to
avoid contact with the dead. Needless to say, this seems pretty
redundant. What is the purpose of this additional phrase?

The Gemara in Yevamos infers that it comes “lehazhir hagedolim al
haketanim,” to caution the adults regarding the children. There is a
special obligation on adult Kohanim to train the young Kohanim to
maintain the purity of their persons. So this verse means that Moshe
should speak to the adults, who would then say to the minors. The
problem with this is that it doesn’t really make sense—there is no
hint in the verse that the Kohanim need to repeat what they hear. It
seems that it should just be taken at face value—that “say to them”
refers to the Kohanim.

The Beis Av suggests that the Torah is indeed talking only to the
adults, once for themselves and the second time for the children’s
benefit. We all know the way to inspire in children a true Yiras
Shamayim, so that they love to do mitzvos—to teach by example. Only
then will Yiras Shamayim become real to them. They will get caught up
in it at home, and become accustomed to living in the presence of the

Here is an example of true Yiras Shamayim: When the Steipler Gaon was
a young man, he once went to meet with a young lady who was a
prospective match. While they were sitting and talking, he suddenly
dozed off. The lady stayed until he finally woke up. “You must excuse
me,” he said, “I must explain. I had to travel twelve hours by train
to get here. I knew that I could not learn much on the train, so I
stayed up and learned all last night, expecting to catch a few hours
of sleep on the train. But when I saw the upholstered seats on the
train, they looked like they might be shaatnez, and I couldn’t take
the chance. So I remained standing the whole journey and got no sleep.
So you must forgive me for falling asleep in your company. Please
don’t take offense.” Incidentally, the young lady married him. If that
isn’t Yiras Shamayim, I don’t know what is.

Now we can understand the seemingly redundant phrasing of the Torah.
First, Hashem told Moshe to “speak to the Kohanim” and inform them of
the mitzvah. Then He told Moshe to “say it to them” again, to impress
on them that it would not be enough just to obey. A higher level of
performance was required of them, an inspirational performance that
would carry on to the next generation.

This lesson applies to not just the Kohanim, but our lives as well.
This is why making a Kiddush Hashem is so important. We could talk the
talk all we want, but if we don’t actually practice what we preach, we
seem like frauds. This is the lesson we should all apply to our lives,
and make sure to be the best people we can be.