At the beginning of the Torah portion Emor, where the Torah teaches that a kohen is not permitted to defile himself, the verse states, “Speak to the Kohanim … and say to them.”1 The Talmud explains that the two expressions “speak” and “say” teach us that older individuals are not permitted to defile and give prohibited things to minors.2

The reason why older individuals are not permitted to do so is because there exists some relationship between those who are older and those who are minors, otherwise, the Torah would not command them concerning individuals with whom they have absolutely no connection.

Shared Space Between the Old and the Young

The following question arises: These minors include even those who are so young that they are not capable of rational thought at all.3 What possible connection is there then between these mature adults and these infants, for which reason the older people are forewarned regarding the infants?

In fact, a very great and intrinsic connection does exist between the two — the quintessential aspect of their Judaism, something in which all Jews are entirely equal.4

One can draw an analogy to many matters of holiness from the physical. Here, too, we find something similar regarding the essential aspect of being alive; there exists no difference between an adult and a child.

Life Force and Manifestation

The difference that exists between them only applies to the degree of manifestation of the life force within the individual, its degree of revelation, and how we see a manifest difference between an adult and a child. For this revealed degree of life-force clothes itself in a more internal fashion according to the body that it animates. This difference between degrees of revealed manifestation also applies to the amount of revealed life vested within the individual limbs and organs of the person.

However, the essential aspect of life, that which is not delineated by the body it enlivens, is the same within all individuals. Just as it is incorrect to state that one bodily organ is essentially more alive than another, so, too, one person is not intrinsically more alive than the next.5

And just as this is so concerning physical life in general, it is also the case regarding the life of the G‑dly soul of each and every Jew, the soul responsible for the Jew’s Jewishness: The differences that exist between one Jew and the other are merely differences that apply to their revealed senses and powers; the essential aspect of Judaism, however, is the same in all.

Illumination Through Devotion

According to the above, we will also understand why the exhortation regarding the responsibility of the adults for the children is stated in the following fashion: “To warn — lihazhir — the adults about the minors.” Logically, it would have made more sense for our Sages to state, “It is forbidden for the adults…”:

When adults are not separate entities unto themselves, but rather devote themselves to the young ones as well, providing them withl all their physical and spiritual needs, this will, in turn, provide an additional measure of growth and elevation within the adults.

As long as the adults are removed from others and are comfortable in their previously attained position, then, even though the Torah recognizes them as adults and persons who have achieved a marked degree of maturity, nevertheless, their maturity is quite limited — it only extends to the degree of the development of their revealed powers and potential.

However, when they leave their comfortable mode of existence and devote themselves to minors, those who are on a lesser level than themselves, they are then blessed with the revelation of their essence — that degree which is the same in all Jews, adults and minors, and which is altogether loftier than their revealed soul powers.

This is why the term “lihazhir” is used, for the Hebrew word means not only to warn but also to shine and illuminate.6 By devoting themselves to the young ones, the adults are infused with an infinitely greater measure of Divine illumination.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. VII, pp. 147-152