Click Here to Sponsor Daily Halacha
"Delivered to Over 6000 Registered Recipients Each Day"

Download print

Parashat Vayikra- The Danger of a Scholar Who Lacks Manners

** This week's Parasha has been dedicated L’iluy Nishmat Natan Ben Shoshana Levy by his children **

In the opening verse of Parashat Vayikra, G-d calls to Moshe and invites him into the newly-constructed Mishkan to hear His commands. The Midrash finds it very significant that Moshe waited to be called before entering the Mishkan. It was Moshe who heard the commands about the building of the Mishkan, and who then painstakingly relayed these instructions to the people and oversaw the entire project. And, of course, he was the nation’s leader and prophet who regularly spoke with G-d. And yet, in his unparalleled humility, he did not allow himself the right to enter the Mishkan without being first summoned by G-d. We might draw a comparison to a Rabbi who knocks before entering the synagogue which he leads, out of courtesy and respect for the people inside.

Commenting on the respect and courtesy Moshe displayed by waiting to be invited into the Mishkan, the Midrash makes the following astonishing remark: "Any Torah scholar who lacks wisdom – an animal carcass is better than him." If a Torah scholar does not have basic sensibility, and acts discourteously, then he is considered worse than an "animal carcass."

Why did our Sages choose such an unusual image – a carcass – to decry scholars who lack basic manners and decency?

One answer given is that whereas a carcass emits a foul odor, which keeps people away from it, a rude, discourteous Torah scholar attracts a following through his scholarship and piety. People are impressed by his knowledge and by his passionate commitment to learning and Misva performance, and so they flock to him and respect him. And this is precisely what makes a Torah scholar so dangerous – that people see him as a role model for them to emulate. Rather than distance themselves from him as they would from an odorous animal carcass, people respect him and learn from his example of bad manners, thinking that this is what the Torah wants, Heaven forbid.

Nowadays, all Halachically observant Jews are considered "Torah scholars" in this regard. When gentiles or non-observant Jews see an Orthodox Jewish man with a Kippa, or an Orthodox Jewish woman with a hair-covering and modest attire, they view them as representatives of Orthodox Judaism no less than they would prominent Rabbis. If any Orthodox Jewish man or woman acts without "wisdom," without basic courtesy and good manners, then he or she unwittingly conveys the dangerous message that this is what Orthodox Judaism stands for. Our involvement in Torah learning and Misva observance does not ever excuse discourteous behavior. To the contrary, it requires us to aspire to especially high standards of manners and courtesy, as we are all ambassadors of Torah Judaism and represent to the world what the Torah teaches and the kind of behavior it demands.

Related Parasha
Parashat Vayikra- The Triple Sin of Dishonesty - 2023 Year
Shabbat Zachor: Celebrating the Belief in Providence - 2022 Year
Pesah: Reexperiencing Spiritual Redemption - 2021 Year
Parashat VaYikra- Hard Work is Good - 2020 Year
Purim: Correcting the Mistake of the Jews of Shushan - 2019 Year
Parashat Vayikra: The Joy of Misvot - 2017 Year
The Special Joy of Purim - 2016 Year
Parashat Vayikra: Remembering Adam’s Sin - 2015 Year
Parashat Vayikra: The Small Alef - 2014 Year
Parashat Vayikra: “An Animal Carcass is Better Than Him” - 2013 Year
Shabbat Morning Class - Parasha Vayikra / Rosh Hodesh Nissan - 2012 Year
Parashat Vayikra: Making Sacrifices for Our Children - 2012 Year
Shabbat Morning Class - Parasha Vayikra - 2011 Year
Parashat Vayikra- Positive Peer Pressure - 2011 Year
Shabbat Morning Class - Parasha Vayikra - 2011 Year
Parashat Naso- Emuna First
Shavuot- Celebrating the Eternal Torah
Shavuot- The Challenge – and Rewards – of Torah Commitment
Parashat Behar- Experiencing the Sweetness and Delight of Torah
Parashat Emor- Keter Shem Tob 'The Crown of Good Reputation'
Parashat Ahare Mot- Planting Our Spiritual Trees
Parashat Shemini- Respect and Reverence in the Synagogue
Pesah: Redemption Then and Now
Pesah- Its A Mirage
Parashat Vayikra- The Triple Sin of Dishonesty
Parashat Pekudeh- Counting the Things That Matter
Parashat Ki Tisa- The Sanctity of Every Jew
Purim and the Sale of Yosef
Parashat Terumah- The Torah’s “Footsteps”
Parashat Mishpatim: Our Religious Resume
Page of 67
1001 Parashot found