“Say to the Priests, the sons of Aaron and you shall say to them, they shall not become impure for a soul in their nation”. Rashi explains: “Say”,” and you shall say” – This comes to warn the big (adults) about the small (children)”. In other words, not only is it forbidden for adult Kohanim (Priests) (who are obligated to fulfill the commandments) to become ritually impure, themselves, but it is also forbidden to cause a child Kohen to become ritually impure, as well.
This is a foundational educational principle: We must take responsibility to positively influence all those who are ‘smaller’ than us – not just our own children, but all those who we can teach and inspire. To “warn,” from the Hebrew root zohar , as per Rashi’s commentary above, also means “to illuminate”. We must illuminate the world for others – not just for ourselves. Moreover, when a person is occupied with illuminating the world for others, his own light intensifies. “This comes to warn the adults about the children” would then mean, “to illuminate the adults by the very fact that they are occupied with the children.”
This is instructive on a personal level, as well. Sometimes we are ‘big’ and sometimes we are ‘small’. ‘Big’ is a state of expanded consciousness, when a person fulfills G-d’s will with joy and broad-heartedness. “Small” is a state of contracted consciousness, when a person falls from his previous level, and feels distant and submerged in dreary small-mindedness. What can we do when we fall?
As we see from our verse, there is the service of “warning the big for the small”. When you are in a state of expanded consciousness, prepare the ground for the contracted consciousness that will inevitably follow. Prepare now for the future fall, and ensure that it will not be a total fall into sin, God forbid – but rather, a relative fall from an illuminated state. For example, on Shabbat, prepare yourself for the relative fall of the days of the week.
How do we make this preparation? When you are in an expanded state, don’t for one moment think that you are great. Remember that everything that you have – physical, material, intellectual, emotional and spiritual assets, are from God. Thank God for your positive situation. When you take a fall, you will be able to strengthen yourself from the memory of your expanded state and ultimately return and grow even more.
If, however, while in your expanded state, you make the mistake of thinking that it was due to your own talents, if the greatness went to your head…then you have really fallen to the depths. “Warning the big for the small” warns us to make sure that our moments of greatness do not hurl us into the depths of smallness.