“Say…and You Shall Say” – Adults Must Care For The Young

It is written, “Say to the priests, the sons of Aaron, and you shall say to them” (Leviticus 21:1).

The Sages have pondered over the reason for this repetition (“Say…and you shall say”), stating that it directs adults to care for the young (Yebamot 114a). This means that Moses was commanded to warn adults concerning the observance of Torah and mitzvot so that they in turn would warn the young. With regards to this, the Sages have also said that the repetition highlights the difference that exists between angels and men, the angels receiving their orders straight from G-d’s mouth and not needing to hear an injunction more than once, for they have no evil inclination to prevent them from accomplishing the Creator’s will (Shabbat 89a). However when G-d gives a commandment to people, He repeats it to them so that they duly note it, for the inclinations hidden in the heart of an ordinary individual are opposed to it (see Sukkah 52b), and they hide in order to confuse it (Berachot 61a). This leads people to block their ears so as not to hear G-d’s message, and thus to them He gives His commandments twice, so that they listen to and carry out His will.

From the first explanation given for the repetition (that it directs adults to care for the young), we learn a number of important principles:

Faith and confidence in G-d should be instilled not only in adults, but also in little children, otherwise the Torah will be forgotten. It is not without reason that children constitute the vital part of a generation, and also that their Torah is of superior quality. As the Sages put it, “He who studies Torah as a child, to what can he be compared? To ink written on fresh paper” (Perkei Avoth 4:20). Thus children can be taught without impediment.

Along the same line of thought, when an adult fortifies children by teaching them Torah, he simultaneously fortifies his own faith, a process evoked by the verse: “Each man would help his fellow, and to his brother he would say, ‘Be strong!’ ” (Isaiah 41:6). In fact small children teach us innocent faith, for they believe everything they are told. They especially love stories of the righteous, those through whom G-d performed miracles for the Jewish people, and in this way they grow and come closer to G-d.

Another thing we learn is that when an adult teaches youngsters, to do so he must review his own studies, thereby fulfilling (with respect to himself) the command, “Say…and you shall say.” This goes without mentioning the fact that he thus becomes accustomed to being small in his own eyes, which prevents him from having negative ideas such as, “Why do I have to constantly review my studies? I’m an adult, and I already know Torah!” In fact a person must constantly review his studies, even a hundred times (Sanhedrin 99a), without paying attention to his ego.

Finally, when an adult learns with youngsters, they ask all sorts of questions that require answering, thus enabling the adult to deepen his understanding. As one Sage put it, “From my students I learned the most of all” (Makot 10a).

To explain this repetition, I also believe that we may say that the initials of the expression emor…ve’amarta (“say…and you shall say”), aleph and vav, have the numerical value of seven, which evokes the seventh day of the week, Shabbat. This is the day when we can especially elevate ourselves in holiness and purity, drawing upon ourselves the light of the seven days of Creation, but only on condition that we carry out emor, meaning Torah study. This is because Shabbat will be entirely for Torah (Tanna D’vei Eliyahu Rabba 1), a day that we devote to Torah instead of spending it simply eating, drinking, and sleeping. Actually, the word shabbat is composed of the same letters as the word “to sit,” which evokes the concept of sitting in the tent of Torah study, for that is the goal of Creation, as it is written: “If not for My covenant, I would not have appointed days and nights, the decrees of heaven and earth” (Jeremiah 33:25). The Sages have interpreted this verse to mean that without the Torah, neither heaven nor earth would exist (Nedarim 32a).

Let us attempt to explain this point. Concerning Shabbat it is written, “And G-d blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, for in it He rested from all His work which G-d created to make” (Genesis 2:3), which means that Hashem had just finished the work of Creation, and as far as He was concerned everything was perfect and there was nothing to add to it. Yet man’s duties began from that point on, and he must carry them out, thus prolonging the work of Creation without end or limit. How can a person accomplish this task? Solely by the diligent study of Torah during Shabbat, which strengthens him to the point that the holiness of Shabbat is instilled in him during the remaining days of the week, in the spirit of what the Sages have said: “The six days receive their blessing from Shabbat” (Zohar II:63b).

Nevertheless, during Shabbat a person must pay special attention to not studying alone, but instead to profit from the holiness and nature of this day to instill the Torah and fear of Heaven into his children and entire family. In this way he will fulfill “say…and you shall say” on Shabbat for adults and the young: For himself, his children, his family, and his students.

We may even add that “say…and you shall say” is a reminder to the Jewish people that children are guarantors for adults with regards to the Torah. At the giving of the Torah, G-d asked the Children of Israel for a guarantee that they would observe it, and in the end they gave their children as such, which G-d accepted (Shir Hashirim Rabba 1:24). Therefore if they fail to observe the Torah, it would be their children that would be punished, as it is written: “Who visits the sin of fathers upon children” (Exodus 20:5), children being their father’s guarantors. This is why the Torah underlines “say…and you shall say”: Say to the adults that they should watch over the children, for if the adults study Torah, punishment will not come upon the children – they who should remain like Aaron’s sons, of whom it is written: “For a [dead] person, none shall defile himself” (Leviticus 21:1). This means that they should not let themselves be defiled or contaminated by negative outside influences that may distance them from Judaism. On the contrary, they should elevate themselves in Torah, holiness, and purity.


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