Emor – Waking the dead

It is well know that a Kohen is not allowed to enter a cemetery so that he does not become impure. This is clearly brought down right in the first pasuk of this week’s Parsha; “Let no Kohen become impure by a dead person…”(21:1) There are a few exceptions to this rule though, his parents, siblings, children, and wife. Those are certainly understandable, those are people he knows, people he loves. But there is one more exception and that is a person who has no one to bury them; any random person, who is clearly so distant from the world that there is no one to bury him, for that individual the Kohen is allowed to become tamei. Even the Kohen Gadol has the obligation to bury an unattended corpse thereby defiling himself for the Avodas Beis Hamikdash, and even in the worst case scenario – Yom Kippur where the fate of the Jewish people are on the Kohen Gadol’s shoulders he is obligated to leave the holiest place on earth and defile himself to bury that body. Even if it means that he won’t be able to perform the highest Avodah of the year in the Beis Hamikdash. There is a great lesson in this. On a basic level we can glean that a fellow Jew’s needs take precedence over doing our own tasks, physical or spiritual. But it is deeper than that. Many times we encounter people, sometimes even people who are our dearest friends and we see that they are like an “unattended corpse”, people who don’t have any spiritual life in them. They are breathing, their heart is pumping, but they are not “alive”. We might look around – and unfortunately it seems like no one is there to take care of this “unattended corpse”, maybe no one cares, maybe no one notices. But in such a case it becomes our responsibility to assist them. We have to remind ourselves when we have doubts about helping others around us spiritually, physically, or emotionally that even the Kohen Gadol is required to dismiss the holiest Avodah on Yom Kippur in order to tend to an unattended corpse. We may know someone who is “lifeless”, perhaps we have to take it in our hands to do a little Techias Hameisim. As the Holy Kotzker Rebbe once said, “Sure, I have the power to revive the dead, but I’d rather revive the living.”

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