21, 1 - 24, 22
- Summary of the parasha: mitzvot and themes
- The deeper meaning of the text
- The role of the Omer
- Method of study
- Rashi's interpretation
- Rabbenu Bahya's interpretation
- First example
- Second example: importance of grammar in the
- The Shla's interpretation
- The role of the creator and our role
This commentary has three parts, according to readers'ability
and determination to study.
Imagine that we will do this commentary together,
reflect together, refer to the sources and references
together and analyze them together.
We shall discover that the laws given to the Cohanim
also concern us deeply and that it is only through
study that we can discover the way to holiness.
Listen to the parasha chanted (ORT
link) teamim Ashkenazim
Listen to the parasha chanted (Alliance
link) teamim Sepharadim
Listen to the haftara chanted (ORT)
Refer to the section on the Jewish family
Refer to the sections on marriage and the family
Summary of the parasha: mitzvot and themes
Parasha Emor describes mitzvot nos. 263 to 325.
The mitzvot create the highest level of holiness for the
Cohen Gadol (the High Priest) in the various situations
when he might come into contact with imperfection (impurity,
infirmity, failure in inter-personal or marital relations,
and especially in respect of contact with the dead).
This concept of holiness is then applied to offerings, sacrifices
and festivals: Pessah, Omer, Shavuot, Rosh Hashana, Kippur,
The deeper meaning of the text
The parasha should not be read as though it were a mathematical
or legal text.
It was written in order to transmit to us a way of life
and a divine plan. The deeper meaning of the text can only
be discovered through our own self-examination.
1. The Cohen Gadol represents man's wish and determination
to achieve spiritual renewal.
2. His holiness teaches us how we should live, like him,
in order to become closer to Hashem. Like him, we should
do our utmost to remain close to the holy presence, at every
level of existence, in our thoughts, personal relations
3. This parasha is particularly interesting for it shows
us that even though we may have grasped the main meaning
of the text, the Torah demands in-depth analysis in order
for us to understand its deeper meaning.
4. It is obvious that we cannot carry our such an analysis
on our own, for by studying alone we lack the sense of discernment
necessary to avoid errors, fatigue, misinterpretations and
blockages. This particular commentary needs to be studied
in twos, in a group or with a teacher. Individual study
is the preparation stage for communal study. Jewish tradition
invented the hevruta (exchange) long ago but it is only
valid if students prepare for it and if they are guided
by those who have knowledge of Torah study.
It is impossible to "surf" the Torah.
The role of the Omer
The general theme of the parasha is put in a specific context
in the verses describing the offering of the Omer (Vayikra
23, 9 - 22): "And Hashem spoke unto Moshe saying: Speak
unto the children of Israel and say unto them: when ye are
come into the land which I give unto you and shall reap
the harvest thereof, then ye shall bring the omer (sheaf)
of the first-fruits of your harvest to the priest. And he
shall wave the sheaf before Hashem
.and ye shall count
unto you from the morrow after the day of rest (Pessah)
weeks shall there be complete
fifty days and ye shall
present a new meal-offering unto Hashem." It is important
to read the whole of this section which ends with the words
..the gleaning of thy harvest, thou shalt leave
them for the poor, and for the stranger. I am Hashem your
Method of Study
As is our practice, we shall base this commentary on the
works of three masters: Rashi, Rabbenu Bahya and the Shla
hakaddosh. Without them, we could not understand the text.
Guided by them, we can begin our analysis of the text.
We find three duties:
to bring to the Temple, in addition to the offerings and
sacrifices, the sheaf of the barley harvest,
to wave them in different directions, as a symbol that God's
goodness comes from all directions;
to count the days and weeks from Pessah to Shavuot.
We continue our study of Rashi's method of interpretation.
Rashi always indicates the meaning of a text through precise
details: thus he defines the omer: assirit haefa; hakh
aya shema, a volume of measure which is the 10th of the
efa (he does not state the source for this, which is Shemot
16, 36; the efa represents 25 liters, making the omer 2
liters and a half).
He then stresses certain points, which indicate the main
theme: the duty to be holy. These are:
" "in all your dwellings" (bekhol moshevoteikhem),
verse 23, 14;
" the fact that the weeks must be "complete"
(temimot tiyena), verse 23, 15;
" "they shall be holy" (koddesh yiyu), verse
23, 20 and he stresses that the offering made by the community
has a greater level of holiness than that of an individual
(shalme-tzibur shehen kadshe kadashim);
" "thou shalt leave" (taazov otam) for the
poor and for the stranger, verse 23, 22.
Now that we are more acquainted with Rashi's method, we
know we have to focus on these specific details and study
them in order to the deep meanings in the text. Readers
should try to discover the meaning of each word quoted above,
before reading the rest of the parasha.
Rashi draws our attention to
each word: "hanah ligneheim vehem yilketu, veein lekha
lesayea leahad mehem, stop before them and they will reap,
and you do not need to help any of them." Those who
study the phrases quoted above, will discover the rules
of conduct for achieving the state of holiness described
in this parasha.
Rabbenu Bahya's interpretation
We are already well-acquainted with Rabbenu Bahya's method:
it consists in examining first what King Shlomo (King Solomon)
says in Proverbs (Mishle), then analyzing the precise meaning
of the text in the same way as Rashi does, and finally adding
other more elevated meanings (symbolic, hidden, the sod).
Thus Rabbenu Bahya stresses, as I do, the importance of
beginning with a detailed, precise interpretation before
moving onto higher levels of interpretation: when verse
23, 15 states usefartem lakhem ("and ye shall count
unto you."), this represents a commandment that concerns
every member of the community, just as in verse 23, 40,
when it states "and ye shall take you....branches of
palm trees." (ulekahtem lakhem): this is an obligation
incumbent on "each member" of the children of
Israel, so that he will count and be counted, judge, examine
and remember, as is written in Tractate Menahot 65b.
This concerns each and everyone (lekhol ehad veehad). The
commentaries of the Sages stress the importance of this
The essence of the mitzva, writes Rabbenu Bahya, is to begin
counting immediately and never cease bringing offerings
to Hashem: the most important mitzva is to bring an offering
from within oneself: this counts more than a sacrifice.
The sacrifice is only there to enable the offering: hine
hamenahot ikar hamitzva: lo ikar hakorbanot.
Second example: the importance
of grammar in the Torah
Rabbenu Bahya also teaches us that in order to appreciate
the beauty of Rashi's detailed commentaries one must know
the grammar of the Torah. Let us follow his method.
In verse 23, 16, if we had not taken note of the atnah,
(punctuation sign marking the middle of a sentence, like
a comma), we would have, mistakenly, read the text as: "even
unto the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty
days." But by taking note of the atnah (it appears
between "fifty" and "days" thus breaking
the expression), one reads the text as: "even unto
the morrow after the seventh week shall ye number fifty
(atnah, break) days and ye shall present a new meal-offering
unto Hashem." Rashi writes that "unto" in
"unto the morrow after the seventh week" means
not included (ve load bikhal vehen arbaim vetisha yom),
thus making the period 49 days and not 50.
Rashi's detailed analysis teaches us that we need to be
thorough and consistent in our self-examination, leaving
no holds barred. But is it possible to go this far, to attain
shlemut, the state of perfection found in the number 50
or can we only attain 49? Whatever the case, we must try
and these weeks will then be complete.
Rabbenu Bahya brings to our attention another sign: between
"shall ye number (tisperu)" and "fifty (hamishim),"
there is a small sign (taam) in the form of an inverted
comma, which represents a break in the meaning and indicates
that the two phrases should be understood to mean, as Rashi
writes, "thou shalt offer it on the fiftieth day."
This small punctuation mark (called tipeha, tarha, or dehi),
which is important when chanting the text, is usually placed
before the end of a verse (before the sof pasouk), or before
the middle of the verse (preceding the etnahta or atnah).
It is a very important indication of a break in the text
and gives rise to multiple interpretations, as in the first
word of the Torah (bereshit), which inspired the whole of
the Tikkunei Zohar.
We can now move from the grammatical level found in the
taam (taste, sense) to other levels of meaning, for the
taam always connects different levels of "meaning,"
from the most precise to the most spiritual as felt by the
neshama. We now see that we must try to reach the 49th degree
of purification, but that there is a break between the 49th
and the 50th degree, for the 50th represents a state of
total union which cannot be achieved in this temporal world,
as Moshe himself learnt.
The Shla's interpretation
The above now enables us to move onto the Shla's commentary
on the Omer, which is found in his Massekhet Pessahim.
When we say "hayom" (today) in the blessing for
the Omer (for example, "today the 14th day of the Omer
we are carrying out the mitzva of "counting" for
we are taking into account the present and adding it to
the past; and we must count the days and the weeks for verse
23, 15 states: "and ye shall count unto you from the
morrow after the day of rest, from the day that ye brought
the sheaf (omer) of the waving, seven weeks shall there
be complete," as is written in Tractate Hagiga 18a.
(Refer to the Shulhan Arukh, Orah Hayim 489a.) What is the
meaning of this: let's try and find the meaning ourselves
before looking at the answers.
The Tossafot tell us that days are for keddusha and weeks
for completeness (yome la kodesh, atzeret shevui la tashlume).
Since the Temple has not yet been rebuilt, we then say yehi
ratzon she yibane beit hamikdash (may the Temple be rebuilt,
cf. Tossafot in Megila 20b, dibbur hamathil "kol").
The meaning behind this is that we ourselves are destined
to be sanctuaries. Thus, according to the Shla, the counting
concerns every individual (body, guf), but taking the first-fruits
of the harvest and offering them concerns the Temple, the
ultimate symbol of the community's completeness.
At this point, the Shla praises his community in Prague,
which recited this blessing together.
He notes that the combination of days and weeks is connected
to the creation. The initial process of creation did indeed
take place in a sequence of day after day, till a week was
completed: six times one, plus the day of rest. The same
metric rhythm is found in Rabbi Nehuneiya ben Hakana's prayer,
which we recite every day during the counting of the Omer
and which has 49 words.
In the same vein, the renewal of creation (which we pray
for in every kiddush) comes about through the exodus from
Egypt: the expression yetziat mitzrayim occurs 50 times
in the Torah, for it represents Hashem's benevolence which
flows through the 50 gates of purity and holiness and 50
The role of the creator and
our role in this process
The process of liberation, which was due solely to the benevolence
of the Creator, was not was not completely achieved at Pessah: it is up to man now to do his part. When he "counts"
he is examining himself and then moves from one level to
The work of purification: from
oneself, to one's family, to Israel
The Shla bases himself on the Zohar, and notes that we can
refer to the Zohar when its teachings are teachings but
not when it delves into esoteric interpretations which are
incomprehensible to those with limited knowledge. The Zohar
II 182b provides us with the answer to the apparent enigma
of the Torah.
In Vayikra 16, 6, 11, 17, it is written that "Aharon
will present the bullock of the sin-offering, which is for
himself, and make atonement for himself, and for his house
(vehikriv Aharon et par hahatat asher lo vekhiper beado
This tells us that he had first to purify himself, and then
for his house and family. All processes of purification
should follow this concentric line, beginning internally
and working outwards: thus one begins with oneself, then
with one's family, then with Israel. The process of purification
does not begin with grand theories of politics or religion.
This is why the Modia site accords great importance to the
psychological and existential aspects of inter-personal
and marital relations, in order enhance the presence of
The same process exists in the
relationship between the Creator and Israel, knesset Yisrael
- the community of Israel, the "House of Israel."
From within this world, we must try to attain the holy days
of the world above. The process progresses at a pace of
1/7: six steps before attaining the landing, six days before
attaining shabbat. The same goes for what we have to do
in this world: we must fill our days with holiness, with
the keddusha on On-High so that, from day to day, slowly
and modestly, our weeks will become complete and close to
According to the second passage
of the Zohar, which deals with these questions (III 95a),
Hashem demands this process of reparation from knesset Yisrael,
the house of Israel. Let us read the relevant verse from
the Song of Songs (Shir Hashirim 5, 2): "I sleep but
my heart waketh: it is the voice of my beloved that knocketh,
saying: open to me my sister, my love, my dove, my undefiled: for my head is filled with dew.."
It is knesset Yisrael that is speaking and saying that it
is in a state of alert during the dispersion from Egypt
and during the trials of slavery ; and her beloved is hakadosh
barukh hu, who remembers His covenant. He says "open
to me, even as small an opening as a needle's eye, and,
then, I will open wide for you the gates of On-High ; only
you can open these gates and if you do not do so, I will
remain closed and hidden. Open to me, so that we can unite
forever." This is what David wrote in Psalm 118: "open
to me the gates of righteousness
.its is the gate of
Hashem, pithu li shaare tzedek
ze hashar le Hashem."
The Shla says that it is sufficient to say this. He who
truly wishes to attain this state of union in his life,
which God revealed to His people Israel, will find the way.
Lessons to be drawn:
a process of political or ideological liberation is not
true liberation needs to be accomplished every day, in concrete
it must be sought after systematically and methodically,
only man can open the gates of benediction ; so he should
not be surprised or complain if the this does not happen: if it does not happen, it means he did not use the key
he was given.
the omer represents the strategy to be followed in this
process of liberation.
The Shla concludes that man must pursue - every day - this
work of reparation for the days of the omer are also the
days of judgment (din).
The Sages therefore defined the order of prayer and mitzvot
in this process of purification, for every day and every
For example, in Tomer Devora, Rabbi Moshe Cordovero teaches
us how to improve each of our traits, each nidda, so that
each person will draw closer to His creator who made him
in His image. Then the gates will open and
We can only attain this knowledge through careful and serious
study, according to the methods of the Sages.
In contrast, inchoate philosophies or approaches to the
Torah are dangerous. As is study without the help of the
Sages or those who have studied the tradition. The harm
caused by ignorant interpretations is well-known: thus
there is a huge difference between "blessed is he who
comes in the name of God" and "is blessed in the
name of God, he who comes," which is the correct reading,
if one follows, as we have seen above, the detailed punctuation
in the Torah. There is nothing more dangerous than to be
ignorant and play around with the word of God himself. History
has shown that this always results in wars and persecution.
The Torah is a Torah of life only if it is studied with
rabbis or Torah scholars.
2nd Level of Study
Emor, speak, and dabber, say
This study of the language of the parasha
illustrates the importance of the Torah
for the education of our children
The key is found in Rashi
With his usual brevity, Rashi poses an important question.
The first verse of a parasha always contains a word which
forms the title of the parasha. In this case, the word is
Emor, "speak," and it will re-appear in three
different forms. This tells us that it is a particularly
important word and we should study it.
All the more so since the third book of the Torah relates
to speech (Vayikra, he called).
Translated literally the first verse of the parasha reads
"`and he said Hashem unto Moshe, speak unto the cohanim
sons of Aharon ; and you will say unto them to man he will
not defile himself among his people." First there is
the past tense, then an imperative and a future tense:
this is unusual for the same word in one sentence.
Rashi writes: emor, vemarta, lehazhir gedolim al ketanim: "he said, you will speak so that the big ones will
warn the little ones." Clearly this brief commentary
needs to be decoded in order to be fully understood.
Rashi forces us to look up the writings of the Sages in
order to find the sources to which he refers: this is his
way of teaching, for the Torah only reveals itself this
way. Let us follow the arrow.
Analysis of his commentary
emor, veamarta, lehazhir gedolim al ketanim
emor, veamarta, he asks us to note and examine the repetition;
lehazhir, then he indicates that the repetition represents
a warning sign (we need to ask ourselves why the word amar
is used as a warning);
gedolim al ketanim, finally he speaks of the big and the
small (who are these?).
Method: Rashi often develops a commentary on a text in commentaries
on other verses, and we need to find these in order to understand
what he is saying..
This is why in Torah study, it is important to study with
those who have greater knowledge than ours, and more books
at their disposal and in their heads and hearts.
Rashi also often bases himself on the Middrash Rabba and
the Middrash Tanhuma. It may seem strange that he draws
the literal meaning of a text, the peshat, from the colorful
and imaginative middrashim. Indeed, he tells us that the
exact meaning of the peshat is always drawn from a particular
In this case, we discover that his source is Middrash Tanhuma:
The Middrash notes the repetition of the word "speak"
in emor, veamarta and that it is directed to the Cohanim
(emor el hacohanim veamarta alehem, hare amira shene peamim).
It interprets the meaning in this way: like a king says
to his cook "since you come and go in my presence and
see my face, you must not become impure by having contact
with the dead." This teaches us that the Cohen serves
the Creator who is the source of all life and that he transmits
life to the people through the sacrifices which enable the
people to eat ; the repetition would seem to represent the
coming and going, which means that it ensures communication
in both directions in order to transmit the gift of life.
The Middrash then cites a repetition of the same word in
Psalm 12, 7 (imarot Hashem amarot tehorot
words of Hashem are pure words, thus hakadosh barukh hu
admonishes Yisrael to be holy and pure." Let us reflect
on the meaning of this interpretation. Everyone can find
meaning in it: I see a connection between the repetition
and purity ; Hashem manifests Himself in purity. Thus the
people of Israel, who are the people of Hashem, must live
in the holiness of Hashem and keep His purity in words and
actions. The prototype of such a man is the Cohen. And just
as Hashem the great informs the small, so the Cohen must
inform the people. The repetition thus has many meanings.
The Middrash Rabba quotes the same verse again, giving another
interpretation which focuses directly on "purity": the words of other kings and other servants are not pure
because they engage in flattery and the pursuit of self-interest,
whereas the Cohen is totally pure and never utters one word
which could be tainted by impurity. Thus Bereshit 7, 2 says:
min habehema ahser lo tehora hi, "and of the beasts
that are not clean
" thus avoiding the negative
Code of behavior, derekh eretz
We draw from this an important
law of conduct:
we must constantly watch over our speech, actions and thoughts
in order to ensure they are negative, impure. Jews, like
the Cohanim, must try to live in a state of holiness.
This is especially so in a world which displays so easily
things that are not pure or beautiful (examples will quickly
come to mind).
The problem, however, is not solely in our external behavior: it is also in the way we perceive and feel things. Hashem
does not ask us to suppress what is not beautiful in the
world, but rather he asks us to direct our gaze in another
direction: there are indeed animals that are impure but
the reasons why they are impure is beyond our comprehension.
In contrast, impure words and thoughts are within our control
(slander, lashon hara, evil thoughts, ayin hara, etc.).
Rashi's source for the big and small
We find it in Tractate Yevamot, at the bottom of age 114a
which comments on Vayikra 17, 12 (parasha Aharare Mot):
"kol nefesh mikem lo tokhal dam, no soul of you shall
eat blood, lehazhir hagedolim al haketanim." We see
that Rashi abridged this by omitting the definite article.
Rashi writes that the small ones are the sons of Aharon,
and they are being warned not to become impure.
This illustrates another Rashi
trait: he often elaborates on his commentaries in different
places, or in his commentaries on the Torah or on the Talmud.
The Sages thus conclude that the two words veamarta lahem
(and say unto them) are apparently superfluous: they are
addressed to the children of Aharon, who are not obligated
by the mitzva which their father is beholden to carry out,
but who must not be tainted by impurity.
Educating conduct: dare to
Rashi's commentary has two dimensions:
linguistic: there is a sense of "transmission"
in the repetition, as is often found in the Torah: Hashem
said to Moshe "speak unto.."
educational: Rashi demonstrates that the Torah devotes
much attention to the education of children by their parents
and that it requires them to assume their responsibilities
in this respect. An example: Rashi comments on these words
from Shemot 20, 10 (parasha Yithro) "lo taase khol
melakha ata uvinekha uvitekha, thou shalt not do any work,
thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter" thus: "Are
we talking about little ones or big ones: but the latter
we already included in the prohibition; thus, this is in
order to warn the big ones about the actions of the little
ones, as we have learnt in the Mishna, if a little one tries
to put out a flame, one must not let him because we are
directly responsible for ensuring that he rest." How
many parents do not supervise their children and allow them
to get overtired, angry or exhausted or do not teach them
control of their words, and then they are surprised when
their children grow up to be tyrannical, demanding and incapable
of listening to others - traits which they will later reproduce
in their marriages, causing psychic and sometimes physical
suffering to their spouses. The teachings of the Torah warn
us against such behavior.
Code of behavior: be tolerant
Rashi bases himself on the mishna which is cited in the
Mekhilta on this verse. It states that we do not apply the
same law to strangers.
The Mekhilta refers to a passage in Tractate Shabbat (page
121a): a fire erupted in Bet-Shean and Roman soldiers came
to put it out ; the Jewish landlord did not allow them to
put it out because it was Shabbat, rain fell and put out
the fire and that night the landlord sent compensation to
the soldiers'barracks. But the rabbis told him that he
had made a mistake in halting their intervention for non-Jews
are not obliged to keep Shabbat. Rashi states that the problem
regarding strangers is different to that of a child who
is the responsibility of his parents and who may try to
put out the fire because he loves his father and wishes
to spare him suffering. This shows us too that a child is
capable of analytical thought, even if his conclusion may
be mistaken. The educational responsibility of adults is
We thus discover:
that the Torah accords great importance to words and speech;
that the Torah treats every act in the context of human
behavior and the latter in the context of inter-personal
Rashi's love for children, whose intelligence he respects
but who also need to be educated with a firm hand.
He depicts the young Joseph (Bereshit 41, 43) as "father
in wisdom and tender in age" (av behokhma verakh bashanim).
Students should read the whole of Rashi's long commentary
on Vayikra 19, 3: they will discover his great knowledge
of and skill in analyzing family relationships, always in
relation to Hashem and the Torah.
He describes families where all is bad (Vayikdra 20, 5).
He describes, with gladness or sorrow, the characters of
the Torah, and always stresses the meaning of each letter
and the names of the characters (Vayikra 24, 11): an Israelite
and the son of a mixed marriage quarrel and the latter blasphemes
Hashem. The name of this man's mother was Shelomit, the
daughter of Dibri
Well before psychological theories
on the transmission of family traits, Rashi wrote: "she
was called Shelomit because she was a gossip: shalom to
him, shalom to her, shalom to everyone. She gossiped with
everyone. She was the daughter of Dibri (davar, word) because
she spoke non-stop with everyone and this demeaned her."
Rashi shows us how the Torah teaches us lessons that are
applicable to our daily lives and he shows us how Torah
study gives us the analytical tools we need in order to
behave in an optimal way and avoid pitfalls. Much can be
written about the educational qualities of Rashi's method
and we shall have the occasion to return to them many times.
Emor et daber, gentleness and
Those who have some knowledge of the Torah will remember
that it makes a great distinction in the use of these two
words: emor and daber.
Regarding the episode where Miriam and Aharon speak be Moshe,
against Moshe, Rashi shows:
1) that the root amar is always used in the context of prayer,
leshon tahanunim: (ein amira bekhol makom ella leson tahanunim,
Bamidbar 12, 1).
2) that, in contrast, the root daber is always used in the
context of hardness, leshon kashe: (ein dibbur bekhol makom
ella leshon kashe, Bamidbar 12, 1).
(kol makom she neemar "divrei" eino ella divre
tokhakot, Kohelet 1, 1).
Thus, after the exodus from Egypt (Shemot 19, 3), Moshe
is commanded in these terms: "ko tomar leveit Yaakov,
thus shalt thou say to the house of Jacob." The verb
used here is amar. Rashi writes: "ellu hanashim, tomar
lahem beleshon rakha," these are women, you will speak
to them in a soft language.
This softness however does not preclude strictness, in the
same way as Rashi described in the relations between parents
and children: he ends his commentary on this section of
Shemot with these words: "Moshe descended towards the
people and said to them
: vayomer alehem atraa zo,
and he told this warning."
The Book of Vayikra began with
Hashem's call to Moshe to speak to the children of Israel.
The words are spoken softly, but in order to be truly effective
they must be strict, and contain a warning.
The Book of Vayikra appears to focus on sacrifices ; but
as the root of the word korban indicates (draw near), this
book deals with what we must do in order to draw near to
It teaches us that the quality of the relationship is in
our hands (these are the precise words of the commentators),
as is our level of purity and keddusha.
After having studied Rashi's
detailed analysis, we can now move on to the Rambam's commentary
on the first verse of this parasha.
We will be surprised to discover that the Rambam points
to numerous examples where the verb amar has a similar meaning
to daber, and vice versa. We already noted this intermediate
meaning in the notion of warning. The Radak makes the same
There is, in fact, no contradiction here: Rashi is the
basis of Torah study, but Torah study also wishes us to
see the complexities of life and different interpretations
that change the perspective of things. This is an endless
process and the commentary of. Rabbenu Bahya, who was a
disciple of the Rambam but also integrated Rashi's commentaries,
Rabbenu Bahya begins his commentary on this parasha with
Proverbs 24, 26:
"Sefatayim yishak meshiv devarim nehokhim, every man
shall kiss his lips that giveth a right answer."
Each word in this verse can be analyzed as in the preceding
Rabbenu Bahya stresses that the word for lips in Hebrew
is linked to riverbank which demarcates limits.
He reminds us that, irrespective of the failures in life,
the apex of this process is that death comes as a kiss (mitat
neshika), for even in the last moment of life, the words
of the Torah are present. Moshe, Aharon and Miriam benefit
too from this death, despite the temporary conflict between
The Jewish tradition of learning, in which knowledge is
transmitted from master to student, is called the "oral
tradition," al pi, which literally means "on the
mouth." And just before reciting the amida prayer,
one says "my lips thou shalt open."