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17 Issue #24
Parashos Acharei Mos Kedoshim פרשות אחרי מות־קדשים
10 Iyar 5773
The Sweet Smell of Unity
This week’s parasha starts with Vayidaber Hashem el Moshe acharei mos shnei b’nei Aharon. This begs the question: what do the deaths of Nadav and Avihu have to do with the avoda of Yom Kippur? To answer this question, we must analyze why they died in the first place. R’ Bachya states that they died for two reasons, because they came too close to Har Sinai at Matan Torah, and because they brought fire without ketores. Rashi says that Aharon was reminded of his children’s deaths because Hashem was acting like a doctor who cites an example of a patient who died because he was not careful to follow the very same instructions he intends to give the current patient. Rabainu Bachya continues saying that Aharon was told to come with the ketores specifically with the pretext of the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, because they came missing the spices, which was the cause of their death according to Rabainu Bachya. We see that the ketores is a very important aspect of the avoda. Why is the ketores so important? The Gemara (Yoma 60), says that the ketores atones for lashon hara. The Midrash tells us that there is a parallel Bais Hamikdash in Shamayim, and that every mitzva and avaira also has a match in Shamayim. The Chafetz Chaim notes that lashon hara pollutes the Kodesh Hakodashim itself, thereby obstructing kapparah that the korbanos offered in the Kodesh on Yom Kippur would provide. Therefore, the ketores must be clean out the Kodesh Hakodashim before Aharon is able to bring kapparah through the other karbanos in the Kodesh. This still leaves us with the question, though: what is the connection between ketores and lashon hara? We can begin to answer this question by looking at some of the ingredients of the ketores. The chelbona, one of the spices in the ketores, smelled foul. Rashi explains that this was to show us that we must not disregard or degrade the sinners of B’nei Yisroel. We see that the ketores repre-
sents the collaboration of all Jews for the purpose of serving Hashem. When people serve Hashem together they are able to create a raiach nichoach. Lashon hara drives people away from each other, and we atone for it with the ketores which represents unity. We can still wonder why lashon hara is so severe that it pierces to the Kodesh Hakodashim. Chazal tell us that there are three terrible sins, idol worship, bloodshed, and immorality, but lashon hara is worse than all of them. Again we see the severity of this all too common sin. Why is this sin so dangerous? Because lashon hara is different from any other sin. By most of the avairos that a person can do, there is some way of fixing it, and it does not necessarily cause fights and divide klal Yisrael. However, lashon hara has the power to spread like wildfire. It can never be undone, and, for that reason, it is virtually impossible to do teshuva for it. Even if you regret saying it, there will still be others who changed their view of the victim forever. Thus, it has the ability to make real divisions within our nation. The Rambam in hilchos teshuva tells us that Hashem is more forgiving with communities then he is with individuals who separate themselves from the community. If say lashon hara then we are preventing Hashem from giving us a kappara on Yom Kippur, for we are not acting as a tzibur. Therefore it is very important to start off Yom Kippur by clearing away this sin, before we can even think about any sort of mechila. However, Rav Zilberstien asks how Hashem could have mentioned the sin of Nadav and Avihu to Aharon, because one may not say lashon hara about the dead. We said so much about the seriousness of lashon hara, but, in the context of showing Aharon how to atone for it, Hashem seems to violate it himself?! He answers that one is permitted slander the dead for constructive purposes. This is, perhaps, the theme of the ketores, that we don’t hide the flaws, rather we build off them and create a raich nichoach with both our merits and also with our flaws, and we certainly do not tell lashon hara about those of others. We should all be more careful about the avoiding lashon hara, and we should be zoche to grow and use our flaws to become better people and better Ovdai Hashem.
ו V’Ahavta L’Reacha Kamocha
Vol. 17 Issue #24 ש מק ק ו others as he would want for himself. The Alter of Slobodka explained that this commandment instructs us to love others unconditionally, just as we do ourselves.
Parashas Kedoshim deals extensively with interpersonal matters. In fact, this is the focus of the majority of the Parasha. One central passuk in this segment of the Parasha is 19:18:
” לא תקם ולא תטר את בני עמך ואהבת לרעך כמוך “ .‘אני ה
“You shall neither take revenge from nor bear a grudge against the members of your people; you shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord.” This is the source of the essential commandment to love and care for other Jews. The Gemara (Shabbos 31a) relates a well-known story in which a non-Jew came to both Shammai and Hillel asking for them to convert him to Judaism. He first came to Shammai and told him that if Shammai could teach him all of the Torah while this man stood on one foot, he would convert. Shammai quickly dismissed the man, refusing to convert him. The man then came to Hillel and proposed the same thing; if Hillel could relate the entire Torah to him while he stood on one foot he would convert to Judaism. Hillel, unlike Shammai, did not dismiss the man. As the man stood on one foot, Hillel told him:
Rabbi Shimon Schwab explains this passuk based on the Gemara (Sotah 14a) that states that one must make an effort to emulate God. This, says Rabbi Schwab, is not to be applied to all things attributed to God. We should not emulate traits such as anger and revenge, and we are not expected to attempt miraculous feats that human beings are not capable of, such as resurrection. Rather, the attributes that one must follow are those which pertain to fulfilling the commandment of loving other people. The passuk can now be understood as follows: “you shall love your neighbor as yourself”; which is accomplished through “I am the Lord.” In other words, the way to fulfill the commandment is to do such things as does God in regards to His actions toward people, of which some examples include visiting the sick and comforting mourners. Rabbi Schwab goes on to give new meaning to the statement of Hillel in the aforementioned story. The fact that one should not act toward others as he would not want to be treated is not necessarily a religious imposition as much as a basic human moral imposition. Any person, regardless of religion, understands this principle. What separates the Jew from standard human beings in this context is the fact that one who acts in this way based purely on his morals will not, necessarily, conform to the requirements of this principle under all circumstances. The Jew, though, realizes that even when acting as such will not benefit him, he still is regimented to act in an appropriate way toward others. This, says Rabbi Schwab, is why Hillel told the man that this is the single, most crucial point in the Torah, because the way that a Jew keeps to this commandment is based only on “Ani Hashem”- “I am the Lord.” This message is one that is, unfortunately, often ignored. In today’s day, manners and basic decency between people has been degraded to an incredibly inappropriate level. Today’s youth, most specifically, often show complete disregard toward the feelings of others. In the program recently run by Yeshiva University to mark the twentieth anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, many of the speakers put heavy emphasis on the way that the Rav valued working to enhance oneself as a human being as well as becoming a better Jew. Many stories were told about the Rav’s deep care and compassion for every person who came seeking his help. This is an important message that is fading over time. May we take
זהו כל התורה כולו,” דעלך סני לחברך לא תעביד “. זיל גמור,ואידך פירושא היא
“What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor; that is the whole Torah while the rest is the commentary thereof: go and learn it.” This is a clear indication of the supreme importance of every individual taking extreme care to be mindful of others. This is also evident in the words of Rabbi Akiva, as cited by Rashi (19:18), saying that this is a “klal gadol baTorah”- a fundamental principle of the Torah. This too shines light on the importance of acting toward others in an appropriate way. This commandment, says the Rambam, is not necessarily to be taken as the words would be translated literally, as it is simply impossible for any person to love another to the same degree as he loves himself. In fact, says the Rambam, we know that if one has an opportunity to save the life of another, but would need to die doing so, he may not die to save the other person. What this commandment means, says the Rambam, is that each individual should wish the same degree of success and prosperity on
Page 3 ש מק ק ו ו these messages to heart and realize the importance of the “For the soul of the flesh is in the blood, and I have therefore given it to you [to be placed] upon the altar, to atone way we treat others. for your souls, for it is the blood that atones for the soul.” Beheimot, Blood, and Borders Since the blood of a beheima has the special quality Yitzi Lindenbaum of being a medium for atonement, it is inappropriate for it to be used for chulin. This is the message of all the blood in If one were asked to summarize the first half of sidrat AchaAcharei Mot – blood is a special mechanism for atonement. rei Mot in one word, there is no question that “blood” What better way to show that feature of blood than to make would be a high-ranking candidate. The first issue discussed it central in the Yom Kippur avoda? in the sidra is the avoda of Yom Kippur, which focuses heavily on a number of sprinklings and various other placements With this in mind, points out Rav Bazak, this mitzof blood on the parochet and mizbechot. The second issue ap- vah fits here perfectly, both textually and chronologically: pears in a commonly overlooked parasha sandwiched be- textually, because we are in the middle of a discussion tween the famous parshiyot of avodat Yom Hakipurrim and the about the ability of blood to help atone, and chronologicalarayot: the prohibition of slaughtering or burning beheimot ly, because the building of the mishkan and the mizbeach outside the Mishkan. The Torah states about one who vio- allowed this mechanism of atonement-through-blood to lates this prohibition, “it shall be considered blood for him; function, giving reason to disallow any profane use of the he has spilt blood.” The Torah then goes on to warn us mul- blood. tiple times not to eat blood, and to perform kisuy hadam on We now see why this issur is sensible. Why, the blood of chayot and birds. Why this obsession with though, according to the Ramban, does this issur expire blood? What is the Torah trying to teach us about the nawhen B’nei Yisrael are no longer in the midbar? ture of the blood of animals? To answer this question we must turn to Devarim Before we continue, we must first clarify the aforePerek Yud Bet and the Ramban there. The pesukim stress mentioned prohibition against doing any avoda involving beheimot outside the Mishkan. Rashi understands this prohi- that “Hashem will widen your borders” and “The place Habition to apply exclusively to kodshei mizbeach, essentially shem chooses [i.e. Yerushalayim] will be far”, and we will meaning that no personal mizbechot were allowed in the mid- therefore be allowed to eat beheimot of chulin slaughtered bar. However, we will be operating with the understanding anywhere. The Ramban explains that it would be simply of the Ramban, namely that B’nei Yisrael in the midbar were impossible for everyone to come to Yerushalayim every not allowed to eat beheimot of chulin at all – if they wanted time they wanted to eat meat.
Vol. 17 Issue #24
to eat the meat of a cow, sheep, or goat, they had to bring a korban shelamim. Importantly, this issur expired once B’nei Yisrael entered Eretz Kena’an. The Ramban, however, encounters a problem in the pesukim: how is the slaughtering and eating of animals in general, the permission for which had been granted to mankind since the days of Noach, apt to be compared to the “spilling of blood”? What is the Torah expressing when it calls one who violates this prohibition a murderer? Rav Amnon Bazak, a Ram at Yeshivat Har Etzion, suggests that this “spilling of blood” is not referring to murder at all. The explanation is provided by the Torah a few pesukim later when it is giving the reason for the prohibition against eating blood:
There are two problems with this simple answer; firstly, for one to need to bring a korban shelamim every time he wanted meat could not have been particularly convenient in the midbar either. Some two to three million people were sharing one mizbeach. It is certainly not as though the mizbeach was readily available for anyone whenever they wanted to use it. Secondly, it is simply not true that the prohibitions of the Torah never present inconveniences. If all the mitzvot were subject to the same test of convenience as this one seems to be, Shabbat, just for example, would be a lot different, if it would exist at all. Therefore, the fact that one would incur inconvenience each time he wanted to eat meat would not make the rule change. Perhaps we can find a deeper meaning to the pesukim in Devarim Perek Yud Bet. If we can adjust from the miracle-wrought society of the midbar to that of our own land – where not only are we growing our own food and being tempted by the attitude that “My power and the strength of my hand have produced this wealth for
ַמזְ בֵּ ח ִּ ַה-לכֶם עַ ל ָּ תיו ִּ ת ַ ְ וַ אֲ נִּי נ,הוא ִּ דם ָּ ַשר ב ָּ ָּכִּ י נֶפֶ ׁש הַ ב , בַ נֶפֶ ׁש ְיכַפֵּ ר (י''ז,דם הּוא ָּ ַה- כִּ י,ֹׁתי כֶם ֵּ נַפְ ׁש- לְ כַפֵּ ר עַ ל .)יא
קו ו me” (Devarim 8:17), but we are also “far from the place that Hashem has chosen”, making it all the more difficult to connect to Him – and still maintain the outlook of “Hashem will widen your borders” – it is Hashem that is still providing all our needs – then we have a new situation. No longer do we need to fully devote the blood of our animals exclusively to atonement, for we have proven ourselves able to appreciate Hashem’s control over nature without a prohibition to reinforce that understanding.
Vol. 17 Issue #24 ש מק calm while his heart was being torn apart. The greatness of Aharon was that he didn’t let his emotions out so as not to take away from the joy of the nation on that historic day.
This is supported by the Ramban’s comment back in Acharei Mot: the pasuk which forbids slaughtering beheimot outside of the Mishkan goes out of its way to include one who slaughters mi’chutz la’machaneh, outside of B’nei Yisrael’s camp entirely, in the prohibition. The Ramban explains that we might have thought that one who is mi’chutz la’machaneh has the status of “far”, like in Eretz Kenaan, and can therefore slaughter beheimot without a formal mizbeach. But the pasuk teaches us that this is not so because we need the added element of “Hashem widening our borders” – the understanding that it is Hashem doing the widening, not us. This message is one we must take to heart especially as we celebrate the miracles of Yom Ha’atzmaut and Yom Yerushalayim. When we see great things happening in the Holy Land, we must remember that it is not “Out power and the strength of our hand”, but “Hashem widening our borders.” We must recognize that though today, unfortunately, we are not zocheh to open miracles, the hand of God is still ever-present among us. Nature and Beyond
We learn from this event and from Aharon’s super human act how we must accept the decrees of Hashem. Both in terms of the most difficult halachot as well as in terms of the most challenging life situations, we humbly bow before the decisions that come from above. However, that doesn’t mean it is meant to be easy. Hashem understands that we may feel pain or confusion even though we accept His wishes and believe they are for the best, even if we cannot see how. Aharon is our model. He accepted Hashem’s command, he was silent and showed no outer expression of mourning, but inside he was crying. Inside he was struggling. Later that same day, Moshe discovers that the Rosh Chodesh korban was burned and not eaten as expected. Once again he confronts Aharon and his sons, demanding to know why they didn’t eat the korban as he had commanded them to do. He is furious, thinking that someone has even further ruined the celebration of the Mishkan’s first permanent day in operation. However, Aharon responds “I am an onen. My sons’ bodies have not even been buried, and you expect me to joyously eat the holy meat of the korban?” He explains to Moshe that even if Hashem commanded them to eat the special korbanot of the inauguration, they cannot eat the regular Rosh Chodesh korban. Eating the meat of sacrifices requires joy and celebration, and at that moment Aharon could not rejoice. Moshe accepts Aharon’s response; Aharon is right. From this part of the story we learn that Hashem and His Torah take into consideration our perspective and our human limitations. Hashem doesn’t command the onen to push aside the sadness in his heart and somehow fill it with an unnatural happiness; He understands that an onen is not able to rejoice, and thus he cannot eat korbanot. Even if the Torah sometimes makes difficult demands, it does so knowing and understanding who we are. Moreover, in cases when it really is too difficult, when we really cannot do it, the Torah has exceptions. Sometimes the halacha changes in extreme situations. Hashem will not punish someone for that which is impossible, whether it’s impossible for any person or impossible for a specific person. On the one hand sometimes we have to accept the most challenging decrees from Hashem, in life and in halacha. However, we do so knowing that Hashem understands us, He knows our limitations, and He allows us to struggle. Hashem knows that sometimes it is not easy.
After the deaths of Nadav and Avihu, the great tragedy that marred the celebration of the inauguration of the Mishkan, Moshe approaches Aharon with an incredibly difficult command. He tells him that he can’t mourn the deaths of his beloved two sons in any way, so as to not diminish the rejoicing of the nation. The Torah simply describes Aharon’s reaction as “and he was silent.” It sounds completely cold. Aharon doesn’t move. He is stoic. But is this really what happened? Could a father witness two sons snatched from him in their youth and not feel pain? Could a father really accept it as if nothing happened? The Rashbam explains that Aharon was indeed overcome with sadness and despair. He wanted to cry, to tear his garments, to express his mourning in every way possible. However, in deference to the command of Hashem, he mustered the incredible moral strength to hold all that inside, to put on a show of
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