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Emor: Learning from the Stars

אמור אל הכהנים בני אהרן ואמרת אליהם לנפש לא יטמא בעמיו.

Speak to the Kohanim, the sons of Aharon, and tell them that they shall not defile themselves to a [deceased] person from among their people.” (Vayikra 21:1)

Rashi points out: “Warn the older ones to instruct the younger ones.”

Our sages tell us that every blade of grass has a special angel in heaven that oversees its growth. In a different place in the Gemara, our sages write that every blade of grass has a star in the heavens that gives it the strength and ability to grow.

There is a verse in Daniel (12:3): “And the wise ones will shine like the light of the heavens and those who bring merit upon the public will shine like stars.” Our sages explain (Bava Basra 8b): “These are the teachers of young children.” Why are teachers compared to stars? When we look up at the stars, they seem small and insignificant. Their twinkling glow gets lost in the blackness of the night. But if a person would get close to the stars, he would realize how big and bright they really are. Likewise, teachers of young children are seldom appreciated. The greatness of what they do is hardly ever understood, but in the Heavens they are looked upon as brilliant stars and their work for Klal Yisroel is greatly valued.

Teachers play a crucial role in the continuance of Klal Yisroel. Not only young children must have capable and dedicated teachers, but people of every age must have their own role models to emulate. A person who wants to become great in avodas Hashem should try to emulate a certain tzaddik of the past. Every tzaddik had his own unique way of serving Hashem, and we can learn so much from all of them. By learning about the tzaddikim of previous generations, either through studying their wirings or reading their biographies, we can understand their ways and strive to emulate them.

Just like every blade of grass has an angel or a star in the heavens that enables it to grow, every person should have a “star” – a teacher, whose ways he can emulate in order to grow.

Rashi says: “The older ones should instruct the younger ones.” This can mean that the great tzaddikim who are already in the World of Truth are still guiding and teaching the “younger ones,” those who are still in this world and are striving to grow in avodas Hashem. We should never think of ourselves as too small to become truly great. Many great tzaddikim were born with difficult personalities and bad midos, but they worked on themselves to achieve greatness. The holy Baal Shem Tov said about the tzaddik Rebbe Itzik’l of Drohobitch, that he was born with a low-standard neshama but he worked on himself until he achieved the level of the great sage Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai!

By emulating our tzaddikim who are already in Gan Eden, they will earn even greater merit and achieve ever greater heights in shamayim. This will empower them to elevate those who attach themselves to their ways and follow their teachings.

“Speak to the Kohanim the sons of Aharon… they shall not defile themselves.” Although the verse is addressed to the Kohanim, we can all learn from these words. Why shall we be careful not to defile ourselves? Because we are “from among your people,” we come from the same nation as the great tzaddikim who shine like stars in the heavens. Just remember what Rashi says, that the great ones, these tzaddikim, will guide you and instruct you and empower you to grow. They will be your stars who will shine into your life forever. Make sure to learn as much as you can about the great leaders of our people in order to be able to emulate them, and they will fill your life with eternal light by helping you grow.

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