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Thursday, 6 November 2014

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Daf Yomi Yevamos 33

There is a classic tale told of the fellow who comes to the rabbi and says, “I want to become a cohen.”
The rabbi responds, “Sorry mate, you can’t just become a cohen.  It doesn’t work like that.”
After much debating and arguing, the fellow threatens to pull his shul membership unless the rabbi can help him and the poor rabbi acquiesces.   

As he’s about to perform the priestly-bestowment ceremony, the rabbi asks him, “By the way, mate, why is it so important to you to become a cohen?”
“Oh, that’s simple,” the man replies, “my great-grandfather was a cohen, my grandfather was a cohen, my father was a cohen.  I also want to be a cohen!”

The Talmud discusses the simultaneous transgression of two prohibitions.  If a stranger (non-cohen) served in the Temple on Shabbos, Rabbi Hiya says he is liable on two counts: serving in the Temple and desecrating Shabbos.  Bar Kapara says he is only liable for one.  Rabbi Hiya jumped up and said, ‘By the Temple service, I swear I heard from Rebbe that he is liable on two counts.’  Bar Kapara jumped up and said, ‘By the Temple service, I swear I heard from Rebbe that he is liable for one.’

Rabbi Hiya began to deliberate: All are prohibited to desecrate Shabbos.  There was an exception made for the priestly service in the Holy Temple – it was permitted for the priests and not for strangers.  In this act, he transgressed in terms of being a stranger and in terms of Shabbos desecration!  Bar Kapara began to deliberate:  All are prohibited to desecrate Shabbos.  There was an exception made for the service in the Holy Temple.   The only transgression here is the act of the stranger. 

The Gemara asks: How did this stranger serve in the Temple on Shabbos?  If he slaughtered, non-priestly slaughter is kosher (which would leave only one potential transgression of Shabbos).   If he accepted or carried the blood, it would only be muktzeh (handling forbidden items on Shabbos, a rabbinic prohibition, not liable for punishment).  If he burned the sacrifices, Rabbi Yossi taught that burning is only a prohibition, but not punishable!  So what exactly did he do to transgress two prohibitions simultaneously?  Rabbi Aha bar Jacob explained: We are dealing here with the slaughter of the bull of the High Priest, according to the opinion that if a stranger slaughters the bull of the High Priest, it is unacceptable.  

The Gemara asks: If so, why speak of a stranger, even a regular cohen would be unacceptable! 
The Gemara answers: We mean that it is strange for him.  In other words, in this case, even a regular cohen would be considered a stranger! 

We all have unique roles in life.  If G-d created us all with the same mission, we’d be robots.  There’s no point looking over your shoulder at the next guy saying ‘I wish I could do what he’s doing.’  You’re not him; you have a special role that only you can fulfill.  It doesn’t matter who he is or who you are, with regards to his mission on earth, you are a stranger.   And concerning your mission on earth, he is a stranger. 

Certainly you need to have role models that you look up to and strive to emulate.  But if your goal is to be just like your mentor and model, you will never get there, guaranteed.  You have a unique set of talents, a unique set of skills – in many ways you will way surpass your role model!  You have attributes that s/he doesn’t have.  While having a primary rebbe (teacher) is an integral part of our tradition, you need to look to multiple examples of success and find which aspect you can best model.

Nobody can be everything.  That cohen?  He can’t do funerals.  The High Priest?  He can’t even attend his own dad’s funeral!   Every person has an important mission and task to fulfill and no one else can accomplish the mission that you’ve been assigned in life.

It’s not easy to figure out why you’re here.  Unfortunately, your mission didn’t come with a self-destructing message.  Sometimes it takes a lifetime of searching to ascertain what the Almighty wants of you specifically.  But as long as you remember that you are special and that He has a unique task for you to accomplish, you will get there!