Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Emor
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Iyar 4 5779
"And the son of an Israelite woman & an Egyptian man went & pronounced and cursed the name of G-d…..

The closing section of our Sedra tells a rather mysterious story of a person – his name is never mentioned – who blasphemes the name of Hashem, & is subsequently executed by stoning for this act. Who is he? Why did he do what he did? What is going on here?

Rashi tries to throw some light on the incident. The man’s father was actually the Egyptian that Moshe had killed long ago, in response to the Egyptian’s attack upon a Jew who had discovered that his wife (Shlomit bat Divri) was carrying on an illicit relationship with the Egyptian (this is the only such liaison in the entire period of the servitude). Moshe killed the Egyptian by pronouncing G-d’s explicit name. The Gemara (Sanhedrin 58) learns from here that a non-Jew who strikes a Jew is subject to the death penalty, as it is tantamount to an attack on Hashem. Says the Gemara in the name of Rav Chanina: "One who hits a Jew on the chin is as if he hit the chin of the Shechina."

Remarkably, the same explicit name that Moshe used to kill the father of the blasphemer is the name that gets cursed by the blasphemer. In other words, his father was killed for an indirect attack on G-d, & his son takes it a step further & attacks G-d directly, leading to his execution.

Over the last week, we in Israel experienced a massive barrage of deadly missiles fired at us by Palestinian terrorists in an attempt to kill as many innocent civilians as possible. Our crime? We are Jews, & our enemies hate us precisely because of that. In truth, they - like Amalek - wish to attack G-d, & so - that being impossible - they strike out at Hashem’s first-born, the Jewish People. That is why they never refer to us as "Israelis," only "Jews." They understand that the terms are one & the same.

But our holy soldiers – who we honored this week by memorializing the fallen - stand between us & the terrorist murderers. They fight not only to protect the people of Israel from physical harm, but also to honor the name of G-d. For each time a Jew is hurt, the name of Hashem is defiled, while each time we strike back & punish the perpetrators, the name of G-d is sanctified.

Earlier in the sedra (22:17-24), the Torah taught the law that an offering to Hashem must be without blemish. Immediately after, the Torah states the great principle of Kiddush Hashem, one of only 4 Mitzvot that we are required to die for, rather than transgress. The connection between the two is crystal clear: When we honor G-d by defending ourselves & vanquishing our – and His – enemies – we remove the blemish of anti-Semitism and hatred of the Almighty that stands in the way of creating a more holy & G-dly world. May we have the will & strength to always persevere in this sacred struggle.
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