By: Steve Kirschenbaum
Parshas Shemini relays the death of Nadav and Avihu. This happened on the first day of the Chanukah HaMishkan. Moshe Rabbeinu called the cousins of Nadav and Avihu and he said to them you should be the ones who carry the bodies of Nadav and Avihu outside of the Machane. Normally, he would have called their brothers Elazar and Isamar to carry their bodies out.
The Baalei Tosafos here quote a Braisa from the Toras Kohanim that says from here we learn that Kohanim can’t be Mitamei to Maisim. The Kohanim are prohibited from becoming Tamei to a dead body because we see that Elazar and Isamar, the brothers of the Niftarim, were not called to bring out the bodies of Nadav and Avihu; the cousins, who were not Kohanim, were called. So, from here we see that Kohanim are not allowed to be Mitamei to Maisim.
The Baalei Tosafos asks two questions on this. First, what does it mean that from here we learn that Kohanim are not allowed to be Mitamei to Maisim? The fact that Kohanim are not Mitamei to Maisim is a Lav in Parshas Emor 21:1 that Kohanim are not allowed to be Mitamei. It’s not learned from here. Second, Elazar and Isamar were Kohanim Hedyotim and not Kohanim Gedolim. A Kohen Hedyot isn’t only allowed to but has a Mitzvah to be Metamei for a brother (or any other immediate relative) who passes away. So, what does it mean from here we learn that a Kohen can’t be Mitamei to a Meis?
The Baalei Tosafos answer a Kohen Hedyot can be Mitamei for a brother, but a Kohen Gadol is not. From here we learn that a Kohen Hedyot on the day that he’s inaugurated, the first day that he performs the Avodah as a Kohen Hedyot, on that day he has a Din of a Kohen Gadol with all the Halachos of a Kohen Gadol and he is not Mitamei to Krovim.
So, the Toras Kohanim means to teach from here that Kohanim are not Mitamei to Maisim on the day that they begin to perform the Avoda. This is actually in the Pasuk. After Mishael and Eltzafan are told to carry out the bodies, Moshe Rabbeinu turns to the Kohanim in 10:6 and commands them not to act in a manner of Aveilos. Then in 10:7 he explains to Elazar and Isamar they aren’t allowed to be Mitamei to a Meis because you were anointed today and on the day you’re anointed you’re prohibited from being Mitamei. This is the Yesod of the Baalei Tosafos that on the day you’re anointed, the Kohen Hedyot has a Din like a Kohen Gadol and he isn’t allowed to be Mitamei to anyone just like a Kohen Gadol.
This Yesod of the Baalei Tosafos is used by the Sfas Emes in answering a Kasha regarding Chanukah. On Chanukah, we know that they weren’t allowed to use Tamei oil. Miraculously, they found a jug of oil that remained Tahor and continuously burned for eight days. The Pnei Yehoshua asks that Tumah Hutra B’tzibbur, you’re allowed to use Tamei oil for the Tzibbur. So, why did they need Tahor oil?
The Sfas Emes quotes his grandfather the Chidushei HaRim and answers that on that day they were using a new Menorah because the previous Menorah had been defiled. The Gemara says that they constructed a new Menorah. On the first day that the new Menorah was going to be used, it was a Chanukah for the new Menorah and the Beis Hamikdash, and so on a day of beginning everything has to be done in the perfect fashion; therefore, something Tamei couldn’t have been used.
Further, in Yoreh Dai’a 81, we find that a Jewish child should not nurse from a non-Jewish woman even though technically it’s Muttar because Chalav Mitzris K’chalav Yisriailis. If there’s an option, you shouldn’t use the Chalav of a non-Jewish woman. The source for this is the GRA on Shemos Rabbah who teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu did not nurse from a Goy and only nursed from his mother (Yocheved). Moshe Rabbeinu’s mother ended up nursing him, a Jewish woman. That is the source that we do not want our Jewish children nursing from anyone other than a Jewish woman.
In the Leiv Avraham, Rav Avraham Weinfeld asks on the contrary. By Moshe Rabbeinu, the language of the Medrash says the mouth that will ultimately speak with the Shechina should not nurse from a non-Jewish woman at the outset. Seemingly, any other child could then nurse from a non-Jewish woman. He answers when you start the Chinuch (or beginning) of something, it should be done with perfection. Just as when a Kohen Hedyot is akin to the Kohen Gadol at the outset, so too a baby should start his life like Moshe Rabbeinu which began in as perfect a fashion as possible. Chinuch should be done in the most ideal and thoughtful manner.