Speak, speak and speak again! The opening of this sedra has the root emor three times, making its name most appropriate. “Hashem said to Moshe, Now declare this to the priests, the sons of Aharon. Say to them: He may not render himself impure for any person among his people” (Vayikra 21:1)
It is interesting to note the verb emor is used rather than the more usual daber. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains the difference between emor and daber is the difference between speaking and telling: We can speak, whether or not people are listening, but telling implies communication. A person alone can speak, but cannot tell or relate.
One who is medaber (speaks) gives precise expression to an idea, whereas one who is omer (tells) conveys an idea to the mind of another, fully explaining and developing it.
Hashem tells Moshe to tell the Kohanim their holiness comes from being sons of Aharon. Their priesthood is a task assigned, for which they are born and raised, so it will define who they are. Therefore, just as the Kohanim are to view themselves as sons of Aharon, they should raise their children as future Kohanim, preparing them for future duties.
In a sense, the entire Jewish nation are Kohanim – our national mission is to be a ‘kingdom of priests and a holy nation’. Just as Kohanim are meant to be aware of their status and lead by example to the rest of the Jewish nation, so too we as klal yisrael ought to be aware of our special status vis a vis the rest of the world and live our lives accordingly.
ω Rabbi Jonny Roodyn is education director at the Jewish Futures Trust. He tweets via @RJRoodyn