The numberical value, gematria, of the word Emor is 247, the same gematria of the word remez, part of the estoeric, pardes, and spelled zemer, a song, when written backwards. Why was a passive, remez-like and soft language used to speak to the Kohanim and why is it a zemer? In addition, why were Bnei Yisroel spoken to in the harder language of daber?
The Levites, of which the Kohaim are a branch always rose to the occasion of serving G-d to the loftiest degree. They shared an intimate closeness with the Divine. This is one reason why a directive can come down in more endearing language, in the form of an amira. Also, the Kohanim suffered a great loss with Nadav and Ahivu whereby G-d responds with a conciliatory and soft amira. The zemer is of course for the song of the Levites that we hope will soon sing once again.
Though it’s true that Bnei Yisroel were deemed a “Mamlechet Kohanim v’Goy Kadosh,” their history still placed them in a compromised position. The potential to rise to unconstrained heights is there for everyone, but at this point Bnei Yisroel was on a level of daber.
If we investigate the language of daber further, we good give further insight into the nature of the word. Rearranged, the word daber spells barad, one of the ten plagues. I was privileged to hear an idea from Rav Avrohom Genechovsky zt”l, which if applied here, can shed light on the mission and potential of every member of Bnei Yisroel.
There were two unique aspects to Barad. First, it was a combination of two contradictory elements, fire and water. These two elements made peace with each other in this specific case in order to fulfill the will of G-d. Second, the soft wheat and spelt that was unripe withstood the blows of this Makkah, implying that the mature, hard and fully formed ones were destroyed. One concept can explain both of these variances.
Rav Avrohom zt”l said that we should learn our behavior from the makeup of the world: soft and pleasant like water on the outside, passionate for the fiery Torah in our center, just as fire is at the center of the universe and rock-solid on the inside in our beliefs like the core of the earth.
Now, the coexistence between fire and water and resilience of the ripe and spelt can be explained. The fire which is at the center of the world and representative of Torah was able to combine with the flexible water, which stands at the surface of the world, because any true person of Torah, must passionately amass his Torah yet remain flexible like water in merging with everyone else. Therefore, this barad which was a combination of Torah and middot could not possibly destroy unripened flax that was soft and malleable, representative of not instilling one’s harsh views on others.
This works well with the Gemara in Kiddushin that has a phrase that says, whenever there is machloket the word derech is appropriate but when there is no machloket the word davar is appropriate. The implication is that when one claims a didactic route that it must be done their way, then automatic machloket will ensue, but if one is more neutral and amicable in their ways, like a davar, then peace can be reached.
This barad notion is relevant to every Jew: to be flexible on the outside, inebriated with the fire of Torah in the center and rock-solid in their beliefs on the inside. It’s also true that we are a mamlechet kohanim and have the ability to be reached out to in the language of “Emor.”