Parshas Acharei Mos – Kedoshim

“And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the entire congregation of Bnei Yisroel {the Children of Israel} and say to them: You shall be holy, because I, Hashem your G-d, am holy.” [19:1-2]

Reb Yisroel Ciner

This week we read the double parsha of Acharei Mos-Kedoshim. Kedoshim begins: “And Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: Speak to the entire congregation of Bnei Yisroel {the Children of Israel} and say to them: You shall be holy, because I, Hashem your G-d, am holy.” [19:1-2]

This concept is reiterated again later in the parsha: “Sanctify yourselves and you shall be holy because I am Hashem your G-d.” [20:7]

The Medrash [Rabbah 24:8] compares this to a king’s subjects who presented three crowns to their king. The king placed one crown on his head and placed the other two onto the heads of his sons. So too, in the heavenly kingdom, the angels cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy,” [Yishayahu 6:3] and thus crown Hashem with three crowns. Hashem places one on His head and the other two are placed onto the heads of Bnei Yisroel as it says: “You shall be holy,” [19:2] and “you shall be holy.” [20:7]

The Targum Yonasan explains the nature of these three ‘Holies’ that Hashem is crowned with. (This is included in the Uva L’Zion portion of the morning prayers.) Hashem is holy in the heights of the heavens above, He is holy on the earth where He displays his power and He is holy for all eternity.

The Ohr Gedalyahu elucidates each of these ‘Holies’ further and shows which two the King, Hashem, gave to His children, Bnei Yisroel.

“Hashem is holy in the heights of the heavens above.” He is totally above and beyond our comprehension. Our only inkling of Hashem is through His Middos–the way that He interacts with this world. But knowledge of Hashem Himself, what is called Atzmuso Yisborach, of that we have absolutely no idea.

“He is holy on the earth where He displays his power.” Hashem’s power here on earth is abundantly clear. The miracles of life that are all around us, the majestic beauty of nature and the individual providence that guides each individual all testify to the awesome power of Hashem. Yet, with all of these myriad differences that course their way in and around each person, Hashem Himself remains separate, removed and unchanged.

“He is holy for all eternity.” He was, is and will be. Totally beyond that parameter of time that has such a strong hold on us that we can’t even imagine existence beyond it.

Two of these crowns were given to Hashem’s children, enabling us to share His holiness.

We too have the capacity to be holy here on earth. While involving ourselves in this world we must retain our focus that our primary accomplishments take place in a world that is totally separate and removed from our daily grind and grime. We must act in an honest and uplifted manner, thereby bringing holiness and Kiddush Hashem {Sanctification of Hashem’s name} wherever we go.

By living in such a manner we can access that third crown and also attain eternity. When the Torah’s eternal light illuminates the person who lives according to its teachings, that person becomes a part of that eternity.

We here in Israel and Jews all over the world are living through an amazing time. The anti-Semitism in the world has reached levels that I believe haven’t been seen since the pre-Holocaust days. At the same time, this situation has caused an unprecedented level of achdus {unity} in Yisroel. I imagine that the heavenly goal in all that we’re experiencing is this achdus. The Temple was destroyed because of sinas chinam {baseless animosity} and it will be achdus that will ultimately bring about the redemption.

This places an incredible responsibility upon us to be holy here on earth. On one level, in order to not give grounds for any accusations against us. On another level, to help promote this achdus amongst us. And most importantly, in order to rouse Hashem’s powerful protection and deliverance.

This will enable the world to reach its ultimate state of full redemption, becoming one with that third crown, the crown of eternity.

By: Rabbi Yissocher Frand

The pasuk says, “You should keep My statutes and My laws, which if a man obeys, ‘v’chai bahem’ [he shall live through them], I am Hashem.” [Vayikra 18:5] The Gemara [Talmud] learns from this source that if a person is faced with the choice of committing a sin or being murdered [or alternatively, neglecting a mitzva or being murdered], the halacha requires the person to commit the aveira [sin] or neglect the mitzva, and not die. However, there are three exceptions: avoda zarah [idol worship], shfichas damim [murder], and giluy arayus [illicit relations].

Barring these three exceptions, the halacha says that one should eat pork, violate the Shabbos, eat bread on Pesach, and do not die. Why? Because we learn from this pasuk: these are the mitzvos that I gave you, “v’chai bahem,” and you should live by them. The Gemara interprets this to mean that “you should live by them, and not die by them.” [Sanhedren 74a]

A cursory examination of this pasuk would seem to indicate that the Torah is telling us that human life is more precious than keeping the mitzvos. Therefore, if you have a choice between observing Shabbos or staying alive, your life is more valuable than the mitzva. We would conclude that there is a general rule: life is more important than the mitzvos, with just three exceptions.

Rav Moshe Feinstein Zt”l, in his sefer [book] “Igros Moshe,” writes (in the course of answering a query on a different subject) that this common understanding of the pasuk is incorrect. That is not what the pasuk is saying. The true explanation is as basic as a Targum Onkelos. [The Targum Onkelos is a nearly-literal translation to Aramaic of the words in the Torah, with a minimum of interpolated commentary.]

The Targum Onkelos translates this pasuk as: “and you should live through them in the World to Come.” In other words, the pasuk is not telling us to stay alive and neglect the mitzvos, because life is more precious than mitzvos. The pasuk is telling us that the most precious thing in life is keeping mitzvos, because they bring us to olam haba, the World to Come.

Therefore, if I have a choice between observing the Shabbos or being murdered, the Torah says, “live!” Why? Not because life, for its own sake, is more precious than G-d’s Commandments. Rather, life is precious because you can do those Commandments! Therefore, perform work on this Shabbos so you can keep so many more Shabbasos in the future. Eat chometz on Pesach. Why? So you can go on and do more mitzvos, and be worthy of life in the world to come.

This is an entirely different perspective. Life is not valuable just for the sake of life itself, without a purpose. Life is not valuable simply in order for a person to work, do errands and go to ball games. That is not what makes life worth living! What does make life worth living? “V’chai bahem” – “l’chayei alma” [in the world to come]. Life that leads to this goal is worth living. The Torah is instructing us to violate the Shabbos and to eat chometz [leaven] on Pesach. Why? The reason is because a human life is valuable because it can do so many more mitzvos in this world. Therefore, violate the Shabbos once so that you can observe Shabbos many more times.

By: RebShlomo Katz

“Aharon shall lean his two hands upon the head of the living he-goat and confess upon it all the iniquities of Bnei Yisrael, . . . and send it with a designated man to the desert. The he-goat will bear upon itself all their iniquities to an uninhabited land, and he [the messenger] should send the he-goat to the desert.” (16:21-22)

The Mishnah (Yoma 66a) teaches that, even though it was Yom Kippur, there were way-stations where food and drink were offered to the man taking the se’ir lazazel to the desert. However, says the Gemara (Yoma 67a), the person never needed the food or drink. This illustrates the principle that “one who has bread in his basket is not like one who does not have bread in his basket,” i.e., a person who has the ability to fulfill a particular desire generally does not desire that thing as strongly as does one who does not have the ability to fulfill that desire.

Rabbeinu Nissim z”l (“Ran”; 14th century; Barcelona, Spain) writes that this is the same principle which states that a mitzvah performed by one who is obligated to perform that mitzvah merits greater reward than does the same mitzvah performed by one who is not obligated to perform that mitzvah. When one is obligated to do a certain good deed, the yetzer hara resists. One who is not obligated does not experience that resistance, just as someone “who has bread in his basket” is immune from the whiles of the yetzer hara.

Ran continues: There is another reason why a mitzvah performed by one who is obligated earns greater reward than does the same mitzvah performed by one who is not obligated. If G-d commands that a certain mitzvah be done by a certain category of people or in certain circumstances, and not others, it is because that is the only way the “secret” behind that mitzvah can be actualized. Even though a person who is not commanded may still be permitted to do that particular mitzvah, his actions do not accomplish the cosmic purpose of that mitzvah. (Derashot Ha’Ran: drush chamishi, nusach bet)


Elsewhere, Ran offers a third reason for why a mitzvah performed by one who is obligated merits greater reward than does the same mitzvah performed by one who is not obligated. If G-d needed our mitzvot, then there would be no difference between one who is commanded and one who is not, for each would have given G-d exactly the same thing. In fact, however, G-d does not need our mitzvot; rather, they were given to us in order bring us merit. That merit, however, can come about only by following G-d’s instructions, not by doing things He did not command. (Derashot Ha’Ran: drush shevi’i)

“He shall don a sacred linen tunic; linen breeches shall be on his flesh, he shall gird himself with a linen sash, and cover his head with a linen turban.” (16:4)

When the Kohen Gadol enters the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, he does not wear the usual “uniform” of the Kohen Gadol; rather, he wears all-white linen garments. The reason, say our Sages, is that the regular garments of the Kohen Gadol contain gold, which is reminiscent of the sin of the golden calf. Wearing them would violate the principle of “Ain kategor na’aseh saneigor” / “A prosecutor [i.e., gold] may not become an advocate for the defense.”

R’ Moshe Leib Shachor z”l (Yerushalayim; 1894-1964) notes that the principle of “Ain kategor na’aseh saneigor” was not derived by our Sages from any verse. Rather, it is a matter of decency; one person should not be prosecuting another person unless he is certain in the depths of his heart of the latter’s guilt. How then could a prosecutor ever switch sides?! Furthermore, even if the prosecutor now doubts his former certainty and believes the accused is innocent, the lingering vestiges of his past beliefs will limit his effectiveness as a defense counsel. That is human nature. [While these concerns do not literally apply to the Kohen Gadol’s garments, the Torah did not “design” the avodah / Temple service in a way that violates principles of decent behavior.]

How does a person become an effective spokesman for the defense of the Jewish People or in defense of individual sinners? R’ Shachor writes: One can be an effective advocate if he has previously been in the shoes of the person for whom he is advocating. If he has overcome certain bad traits, he understands the other person’s challenges and feels his pain.

Alternatively, an effective advocate is someone who appreciates the beauty and unity of Creation as a whole and therefore values each of its separate parts. He knows that nothing in the Universe lacks a purpose; therefore, he feels obligated to advocate for every person. (Koach Ha’teshuvah p.20)

From the Inside Out

By: Rabbi Label Lam

You shall not take revenge or bear a grudge against the children of your people. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. I am G-d. (Vayikra 19:18)

Why are these concepts packaged together? Why is the famous “golden rule” and all its loving implication to be found amongst such rugged company as the instinct to revenge and bear a grudge?

A Russian peasant farmer who never left the small and parochial surroundings of his town had occasion to come the big city of Moscow. He arrived at the elegant hotel with mud on his boots and overalls looking completely inappropriate. The man at the desk assigned him to a room on the top floor and treated him as any other paying customer.

With key in hand and a few possessions he started the long climb to the hotel room. On the first landing there was a full-length mirror. The man who had never seen himself before was suddenly startled and frightened by the imposing image before him. He growled and barked to scare him away only to find that the image in the mirror was willing to threaten and shout the same.

He ran to the next floor and confronted the fearsome giant again exchanging harsh looks and even almost coming to blows. On the third floor they stood nose to nose and exchanged simultaneous insults as a deepening war-like attitude was taking root in “both of the them”.

Realizing that there was no where to escape this ugly beast-like fellow who was aggressively stalking him in the hotel he ran quickly back to the lobby and the front desk to file a complaint. After having given a detailed description of the perpetrator the man at the desk understood that the he had met the enemy and it was the man in the mirror. So as to save the face of his guest and to disengage the hostility he offered simple advice.

He said, “The fellow who you confronted is here to protect people. He is really quite harmless. Trust me. If you will show him a harsh and angry countenance he will do the same. However if when you see him you just smile pleasantly and continue on your way he will nod and smile at you as well. Enjoy the rest of your stay.” That’s what he did and remarkably that’s what happened.

King Solomon, the wisest of all men, tells us in Parables’: “Like the reflection of a face in water so is the heart of one man to another.” The Torah seems to be giving us similar council in our relationships with people. To break the cycle of anger and resentment requires someone to be proactively in pursuit of friendship and in principle seeking good will.

Rabbi Segal ztl, The Manchester Rav, was an extremely loving and pious individual. One of his grandchildren showed him a picture from a family simcha (happy occasion) and looking intently he asked, “Who is this righteous looking fellow?” They chuckled softly and told him, “Zeidy-grandfather, it’s you!”

He didn’t know what he looked like in that piece of glass called a mirror. However, for decades he had actively projected his loving and noble visage and saw in the eyes of others his own beauty continuously shining back at him.

Act! Don’t react! Seems to be the creed. We are bidden to take responsibility for the quality of our relationships by acting as if they were already ideal. Then some relationships just may begin to improve from the inside out.

Quote Of The Week:

Even for Sofek chilul Hashem one must be Moser Nefesh”

Rav Yissachar Meir ZT”L, Rosh Yeshivas Hanegev in Netivotonce once went to Panama to raise money for the yeshiva while he had a BROKEN LEG!! When asked why he did not postpone the trip he answered “if I miss even one month of paying the yeshiva’s bills or the salary of the Rabanim and kollel, people might say that Rav Yissachar does not pay on time, and there may be a Chilul Hashem. Even for Sofek chilul Hashem one must be Moser Nefesh!!!”.

We should all learn from Such midos, and May his z’chusim be a merit for all of klal yisroel.

Filed Under: Torah


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