1. "And Hashem said to Moses, Speak to the priests the sons of Aaron, and say to them, There shall none be defiled for the dead among his people" (Vayikra 21:1). Rabbi Yosi said, What is the reason that this corresponds with that which is said before, "A man also or woman that is a medium or a wizard, shall surely be put to death" (Vayikra 20:27), so that THE VERSE, "Speak to the priests" is adjacent to it? HE REPLIES: Once admonishing Yisrael to sanctify themselves in every manner, it also admonished the priests to sanctify themselves and the Levites as well. How do we know it admonished the priests? From the words, "Speak to the priests." And as for the Levites, it says, "Thus speak to the Levites, and say to them" (Bemidbar 18:26). Thus they will all be righteous, holy and pure.
2. "Speak to the priests the sons of Aaron:" HE ASKS, What is the reason it is written here, "the sons of Aaron?" Do I not know they are the sons of Aaron? AND HE ANSWERS, THIS TEACHES US they are "the sons of Aaron" rather than 'the sons of Levi,' because Aaron is the first of all the priests. For it is him that the Holy One, blessed be He, had chosen above everyone, so as to make peace in the world, and because Aaron's practices have brought him up to this. For Aaron strove throughout his life to increase peace in the world. Since these were his ways, the Holy One, blessed be He, raised him TO PRIESTHOOD, to introduce peace among the celestial retinue, FOR THROUGH HIS WORSHIP HE BRINGS ABOUT THE UNION OF THE HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE AND HIS SHECHINAH, WHICH BRINGS PEACE THROUGHOUT THE WORLDS. Hence, "Speak to the priests the sons of Aaron."
3. "Speak to the priests the sons of Aaron, and say to them." Rabbi Yehuda opened with the verse, "O how great is Your goodness, which You have laid up for those who fear You..." (Tehilim 31:20). "O how great is Your goodness:" how superior and precious is that lofty light that is called good, as it is written, "And Elohim saw the light, that it was good" (Beresheet 1:4). This is the treasured light with which the Holy One, blessed be He, does good in the world. He does not withhold it any day, and the world is maintained and supported by it. "Which You have laid up for those who fear You:" for we have learned that the Holy One, blessed be He, made a lofty light when He created the world, and treasured it for the righteous for the future to come. This is the meaning of, "which You have laid up for those who fear You, which You have performed for those who trust in You."
4. "Performed for those who trust in You" (Ibid.): for when the world was created, this light was shining from the beginning of the world to its end. When the Holy One, blessed be He, saw the wicked that will live in the world, He concealed that light. This is the meaning of, "And from the wicked their light is withheld" (Iyov 38:15). THE HOLY ONE, BLESSED BE HE, will shine it upon the righteous in the World to Come, so, "which You have laid up for those who fear You, WHICH YOU HAVE PERFORMED FOR THOSE WHO TRUST IN YOU." "PERFORMED" ALLUDES TO THE ACTION OF CONCEALMENT. It is also written, "But to you who fear My name the sun of righteousness shall arise with healing in its wings" (Malachi 3:20).
5. Come and see, when a man is about to go to that world, and is on his sickbed, three messengers come to him. He sees there what one cannot see while in this world. That day is Judgment day, when the King asks for His deposit BACK, NAMELY THE SOUL. Happy is the man who returns the deposit to the King as it was given him, THAT IS, UNDAMAGED. If that deposit was soiled with bodily filth, what shall he say to the owner of the deposit?
6. He lifts up his eyes and sees the Angel of Death standing before him with his sword drawn in his hand, the destroying angel in charge of breaking that man. Nothing is harder for the soul than its separation from the body. The man does not die until he sees the Shechinah. Through much yearning for the Shechinah the soul leaves THE BODY to welcome the Shechinah. After THE SOUL has left THE BODY, what soul CAN cleave to the Shechinah and be received within Her? These matters have been explained.
7. After the soul has left the body, and it remains spiritless, it is forbidden to leave it unburied, as it is written, "his body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day" (Devarim 21:23). For a corpse remaining unburied for 24 hours, a day and a night, causes the parts of the Chariot, WHICH IS ALLUDED TO BY THAT MAN, to weaken, and detains the actions of the Holy One, blessed be He, from being carried out. For the Holy One, blessed be He, may have decreed upon him another incarnation at once, on the very day he died, in order to help him. But as long as the body is not buried, the soul does not come before the Holy One, blessed be He, nor can it be in another body in another incarnation, for a soul is not given another body until the first one is buried. This resembles a man whose wife died. He is not qualified to marry another wife before he buries the first one. Hence the Torah said, "His body shall not remain all night upon the tree."
8. Another explanation: when the soul has left the body and wishes to go to that world, it may not enter it until it is given another body of light. Then it can enter. You may derive this from Elijah, who had two bodies, one in which he was seen by people below, and another in which he was seen above among the celestial holy angels. As long as the body is not buried, the soul suffers and the spirit of defilement is there to dwell upon that body and defile it.
9. Since the spirit of defilement is in readiness TO DEFILE THE BODY, one must not keep the body for a night, because the spirit of defilement is present at night and spreads, NAMELY ROAMS, throughout the land to find a soulless body to defile it. THEREFORE AT NIGHT it is defiled even more. Therefore it warned the priests, saying, "There shall none be defiled for the dead among his people" (Vayikra 21:1). Since they are holy, the spirit of defilement will not dwell upon them and they shall not be defiled - FOR THE SPIRIT OF DEFILEMENT CAN DWELL ON A SPIRITLESS BODY.
10. "Speak to the priests." Rabbi Yitzchak said, "Speak to the priests" in a whisper. Just as all the services of the priests are done silently, so are all their words whispered. "Speak...and say" MEANS once and again to remind them of their sanctity so that they shall not be defiled, for whoever serves in a holy place must be holy in every respect. "There shall none be defiled for the dead," as we explained that a spiritless corpse is unholy and the spirit of defilement dwells upon it. For the spirits of defilement long for the bodies of Yisrael, once the spirit of holiness was emptied from them, and they come to join a vessel of holiness, NAMELY A BODY. The priests, who are doubly holy must not be defiled whatsoever, as it is written, "because the crown of his Elohim is upon his head" (Bemidbar 6:7), and "the anointing oil of his Elohim is upon him" (Vayikra 21:12).