1. This week’s Torah portion begins: “Tell the priests, the children of Aharon, and relate to them...” Our Sages, noting the apparent redundancy of the commands, “tell” and “relate,” explain that the verse is intended, “to charge the adults with [the education of] the children.”

This provokes a question: Since the education1 of children is of fundamental importance to the future of our people as our Sages declared, “If there are no kids, there will be no goats,” why is the education of our children not mentioned immediately after the giving of the Torah? Why is its mention postponed until the middle of the Book of Vayikra and, even then, it is not mentioned in the context of a matter of general relevance, but rather in regard to the laws of the priesthood?

These questions can be resolved within an explanation of the connection between the content of this Torah portion and the time of year when it is read. Parshas Emor is always read in the month of Iyar which is distinguished by its connection to the mitzvah of counting the Omer. Every day of this month is associated with this mitzvah. [The association of this mitzvah with parshas Emor is further emphasized by the fact that the mitzvah of counting the Omer is related in detail in this Torah reading.]

The counting of the Omer is associated with education as emphasized by the fact that it commemorates the preparation (“education”) of the Jewish people to receive the Torah. The exodus from Egypt can be considered as the “birth” of the people and the seven weeks that followed a period of preparation as the Jews waited anxiously, counting the days until they received the Torah. Each year, this sequence is repeated, “advancing higher in holiness,” revealing deeper dimensions of the Torah, until ultimately, “a new Torah will emerge from Me,” in the Messianic age.

Chinuch, education, is not only relevant in the initial stages of one’s service. On the contrary, as a person grows and advances from level to level he must “educate” himself to prepare to reach the higher rung. This concept is alluded to in the counting of the Omer which: a) begins after Pesach, i.e., after the Jews have taken a leap forward in the service of G‑d; b) counts the days with cardinal numbers rather than ordinal ones, i.e., rather than say, “Today is the second day...,” “Today is the third day...” and the like. We say, “Today is two days to the Omer,” “Today is three days...,” indicating that each day includes within it the service of all the previous days and then, contributes a further dimension of growth itself.

The counting of the Omer is also related to the concept of Jewish unity. The “seven perfect weeks” of the Omer alludes to achieving perfection among the categories of the Jewish people alluded to by the seven branches of the Menorah which reflect our seven emotional qualities. During this period, all these seven categories must be perfected until they “shine.” (Sefirah which means “counting” also means “shining.”)

This concept is also related to the month of Iyar (אייר) whose Hebrew spelling serves as an acronym for the names Avraham, Yitzchok, Yaakov, and Rachel (אברהם, יצחק, יעקב, רחל), the four figures who have endowed their spiritual heritage to the totality of the Jewish people.2

This high level is also is also reflected in the expression our Sages use to communicate the obligation to educate our children, l’hazhir gedolim al hakatanim. L’Hazhir also means “to shine,” i.e., these efforts will add shining light to the entire Jewish people, both the parents and the children and reveal their essential positive qualities.

This is also related to the name of the parshah, Emor which can also be interpreted to mean “grant praise and distinction” as in the verse: “You have granted praise and distinction to G‑d today.”3

An added dimension to the above is contributed this year by the fact that Shabbos Emor falls on the day preceding Lag BaOmer. The 49 days of the counting of the Omer are associated with the refinement of our seven emotional characteristics. Each of these seven characteristics is included with the others and thus, each day of the Omer is connected with a specific quality. In this context, Lag BaOmer is connected with the quality, Hod she’b’hod.

In his Siddur, the Alter Rebbe explains that Hod she’b’hod concludes the counting of the fundamental emotions; the remaining qualities are external and do not relate to the essence of the emotions. Thus, counting Hod she’b’hod4 completes the primary aspects of the service of counting the Omer.

Thus, Lag BaOmer is connected with the holiday of Shavuos, the culmination of the counting of the Omer and the day which commemorates the giving of the Torah. That connection can be explained as follows: Lag BaOmer is the yahrzeit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai who revealed the teachings of Pnimiyus HaTorah. Furthermore, he brought about the nullification of the factors which separate between the reveal aspects of Torah (Torah law) and these teachings.

The revelation of the teachings of Pnimiyus HaTorah was the goal of the giving of the Torah as evident from the fact that, at the giving of the Torah, the entire Jewish people witnessed the revelation of G‑d’s chariot, Maaseh Merchavah. This subject is explained and clarified so that it can be understood and internalized5 in the teachings of Pnimiyus HaTorah.

In this context, the present day, the 32nd day of the Omer, is also significant. 32 is the numerical equivalent of the Hebrew word, ck, meaning “heart.” This word also shares a connection to the Torah which begins with the letter Beis and ends with the letter Lamed. Similarly, its date, the 17th of Iyar is significant. 17 is numerical equivalent to the Hebrew, טוב, meaning “good.”6

Based on the above, we can understood the initial question: Why was the obligation to educate our children not mentioned directly after the giving of the Torah. As explained above, in their statement, our Sages used the word l’hazhir which means “to shine,” rather than another term meaning to educate. This implies that the goal is also to make the children who receive the education shine. Therefore, this does not apply in the initial stages of their education, but only after they have begun elevating themselves and are seeking to reach a level of completion.

To put it in other terms: The obligation to give children the basics of education is self-understood and does not require a commandment from the Torah.7 The command the Torah feels that it is necessary to relate — the obligation to educate one’s children until they shine — cannot be communicated at the outset and is mentioned only after one has begun one’s service.

There is a deeper lesson that can be derived from the words Emor and v’emartah (meaning “tell” and “and you shall relate”). Significantly, though they are separated in the verse, Rashi mentions them directly after each other to imply that they are a single concept, i.e., the efforts of the adults to educate the children is not separate from their own service, but rather, an extension of it. It is not that in addition to their own service, they also educate their children; but rather the adults and the children are united in a single service. Similarly, each one of the adults service is complete to the point that it extends beyond himself and has an influence on others as well.

Furthermore, just as the adults exert a positive influence on the children, this activity has an effect upon them causing them to “shine.” This comes about because the unity of the adults and the children draws down a light that transcends totally the differences between adults and children.

The above is reflected in the Jews’ efforts in “educating” the world (i.e., the world can be considered as a “child” when compared to the Jews who are like “adults”). The Jews must “polish” the world until it shines. This, in turn, will draw down a higher light for the Jews themselves.

There is also a mystic dimension to this concept. The word אמר, “tell,” is an acronym for the Hebrew words meaning, “fire, water, and wind,” three of the four fundamental elements of existence. The word, ואמרת contains these three letters, but also contains the letter tuf which reflects the Sefirah of Malchus which is associated with the element of earth. Emor, however, does not allude to the element of earth because earth is included in the other three elements, fire, air, and water. This can been seen from the fact that when water is boiled, a residue of earth remains.

These concepts are reflected in our behavior, “fire, water, and wind,” refer to our potentials for wisdom, understanding, and emotion. Exercise of these potentials alone is not sufficient and it is also necessary to add, “earth,” malchus, which refers to expression to others. This expression, however, is not an independent entity, but rather an extension of one’s inner qualities. Through this expression a greater and more encompassing light is generated.

There is a unique connection of the above to Lag BaOmer. Lag BaOmer, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s yahrzeit, is associated with the unity of the Jewish people. Thus, Rabbi Shimon is well-known for his interpretation of the verse, “How good and how sweet is it for brothers to sit together.”8 One of the most complete expressions of this unity is the establishment of oneness between adults and children, two opposites. For this reason, Lag BaOmer is celebrated by activities with Jewish children.

2. The above concepts are enhanced by a teaching of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai in the fourth chapter of Pirkei Avos.9 That teaching states:

Rabbi Shimon states: There are three crowns: The crown of Torah, the crown of priesthood, and the crown of kingship. The crown of a good name surpasses them all.

This raises an obvious question. Why doesn’t the Mishnah mention four crowns, including “the crown of a good name”?

The concept can be explained as follows: Torah, priesthood, and royalty refer to internal qualities within an individual’s personality. The “crown of a good name” refers to one’s activities with others. Rabbi Shimon explains that “crown of a good name” is not a separate entity, but rather an extension of the other three crowns. Our work with others has to be viewed, not as a different service, but as a continuation of one’s personal efforts of refinement.

This is alluded to by the terminology used by the Mishnah. The Hebrew expression translated as “surpasses them all” literally means “ascends upon them,” i.e., when one has carried out the services of Torah, priesthood, and kingship, then sharing one’s qualities with others brings about a new crown which is higher than the other ones.

This is also connected to Rabbi Shimon’s stress on the oneness of the Jewish people as reflected in his explanation of the verse: “How good and how sweet it is for brothers to sit together.” This verse also relates to the unity between the Jews and G‑d for “brothers sitting together” can refer to G‑d and the Jews.10

The above sheds light on a statement of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai:

Come and see how dear Israel is before the Holy One, blessed be He, wherever they were exiled, the Divine Presence was exiled with them.... When they will be redeemed, the Divine Presence will accompany them.

The intent of this statement is that the unity between G‑d and the Jewish people is not for the sake of an external purpose, but rather a natural, innate bond. Accordingly, wherever Israel is found, the Divine Presence accompanies them.

In this context, it is worthy to contrast the manner in which this statement is quoted in the Talmud and in the text, Ein Yaakov. There are two primary differences: a) Ein Yaakov lists several different exiles which the Jewish people were forced to undergo, while the Talmud’s text is far more concise. b) Ein Yaakov spells the name Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai with an alef, while the Talmud omits that letter.

The differences can be explained based on the differences between the nature of the two texts. Ein Yaakov was intended for people on a low level of knowledge, while the Talmud can be studied only by those on a more advanced level. Therefore, to emphasize the oneness of G‑d with the Jewish people on all levels, the Ein Yaakov mentions all the places to which they were exiled.

It also includes a alef because the alef is the key to redemption. The only differences in the Hebrew words for “exile” (golah —גולה) and “redemption” (geulah —גאולה) is an alef. The alef stands for Alufo shel Olam, G‑d, “the L‑rd of the world.” It is the revelation of G‑dliness which transforms the exile into redemption.

The lessons from parshas Emor mentioned above should motivate us to invest more energy in the unity of the Jewish people and in education, teaching young children, and also teaching adults, spreading forth the wellsprings of Chassidus, the legacy of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, outward. Similarly, efforts must be made to edu­cate gentiles and train them in the performance of their seven mitzvos.

In particular, the day of Lag BaOmer should be used to organize gatherings and parades to stress these objectives. May these parades inspire us to continue to “proceed from strength to strength.” And may we merit that in this “year of miracles,” and in preparation to the year 5751 whose Hebrew letters (תשנ"א) serve as an acronym for the phrase meaning, “May this be a year when ‘I will show you wonders’ ” (תהא שנת אראנו נפלאות), the fulfillment of the prophecies “I have found David, My servant, I have anointed him with holy oil,” which will bring about “Blessed be the L‑rd forever and ever.”