Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Seize the Opportunity and Grow from it

It says in the beginning of this week parasha  “And Hashem spoke to Moshe after the death of Aaron’s two sons, when they drew near before Hashem, and they died”.

Rashi explains based on midrash this teach us [when it specifies “after the death of Aaron’s two sons”]? Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah illustrated [the answer] with a parable of a patient, whom a physician came to visit. [The physician] said to him, “Do not eat cold foods, and do not lie down in a cold, damp place.” Then, another [physician] visited him, and advised him, “Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place, so that you will not die the way so-and-so died.” This one warned that patient more effectively than the former. Therefore, the pasuk says, “after the death of Aaron’s two sons” [i.e., Hashem effectively said to Aaron, “Do not enter the Kodesh Kedashim in a prohibited manner, so that you will not die as your sons died”]- [Midrash Torat Kohanim 16:3]

Let us visit words of Chazal which can shed light and offer us a better understanding of this pauk and Rashi’s explanation to it. Hashem performed unbelievable miracles at the parting of the Yam Suf (Red Sea) as the Mechilta describes the enormity of what took place.

The Mechilta teaches that Bnei Yisrael were so privileged at the time of The splitting of the sea to the degree that “what a maidservant saw by the sea, Yechezkel Ben Buzi [the prophet Yechezkel] did not see in all his days.” Yechezkel was shown an incredible prophetic vision, the Maaseh Merkava or the Works of the Holy Chariot but the Mechilta tells us that a simple maidservant saw even more than this when Hashem split the sea.

The Balei Mussar (Rabbis) question why, then, is the maidservant a maidservant and not a prophet just as Yechezkel was known for his great prophecy? From the words of Rabbis, we understand that her prophecy was even greater, yet she is still referred to as a lowly maidservant? Furthermore, how was it possible that a people that witnessed an event so grand could falter later on with serving the Golden Calf and directing their multiple complaints towards Moshe, seemingly losing all faith? Rav Chaim Shmulevitz zt’’l in his book Sichot Mussar in parshat ki tisa explains that seeing and experiencing an event as great as splitting  the sea alone will not change the person indefinitely. If the experience and inspiration is cultivated and used as a springboard to change oneself it will then have a lasting effect. The maidservant saw a great vision and experienced a once in a lifetime moment but the next morning she was still a maidservant because she didn’t use the experience by taking it to the next level. Yechezkel, on the other hand, acquired the lofty level of a prophet by preparing himself with holiness so that when the vision came although its vision was less of that which the maidservant saw it still took him further because of his attitude and desire to grow and elevate himself from the prophetic experience.

Rashi in this week’s parsha explains that the reason the pasuk chose specifically to include the death of Aaron’s two sons when teaching about the prohibition of not entering the Kodesh Kedashim was to reinforce the warning so that it would be taken seriously and viewed as critical. If the Kohanim were reminded and given the opportunity to contemplate what had occurred to the son’s of Aaron who attempted to enter when they weren’t commanded to surely the warning would have had a greater impact than a simple and skeletal warning. Warnings alone can at times fade away and lose their intensity but when coupled with the punishment, a strong association is then formed which strengthens the warning and causes one to contemplate the message, leaving a lasting impression.

Perhaps the mashal (example) Rashi quotes from R’ Elazar ben Azarya was chosen specifically here because of its hidden message. “Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place, so that you will not die the way so-and-so died.” Perhaps we can read deeper into his words interpreting the warning as, Do not live a cold existence where every experience or inspirational event in your life is interpreted in a cold manner ignoring its point and the warmth and meaning it is destined to deliver. Don’t follow the ways of those that dampen and seek to remove all seriousness a holy experience has to offer, typical of some in an effort to put their guilty conscience to rest.

We all have moments of inspiration and at the moment we are often convinced that our lives will be changed forever. We feel that the message is so powerful and we make commitments to change. Unfortunately, even the most powerful message fades and loses its intensity the morning after. The goal is to act immediately and take the message to heart and contemplate it so that the commitment is put into place at the moment of inspiration. Hashem sends us inspiring messages at times to give us a boost and make it easier for us to pay attention to His warning. We can either let them pass or seize the opportunity and grow from it.

Source: Torah V’nefesh

facts of life: take this serious

Our parsha opens with a general call to sanctity, then defining how a one can live with true holiness, whether in spiritual matters or in financial matters and finally in interpersonal relationships. One of the pesukim that deal with courts and judges states, בצדק‭ ‬תשפט‭ ‬עמיתך ,with righteousness shall you judge your fellow, which, at face value, is referring to the judge that he should judge every case fairly. Rashi says it also refers to all people; that when you see someone doing something that is questionable, give him the benefit of the doubt and judge him favorably.

This Mitzva says the ל‭”‬מהרי‭ ‬דיסקין ,is not only for the benefit of our friend, it also can be a great benefit to us as well. Chazal praise the character trait of one who embarrasses easily, for one who is brazen and doesn’t embarrass easily will end up sinning whereas one who does embarrass easily will not sin so quickly.

This concept can explain why people who are in a group, find it easier to do something they wouldn’t do otherwise. If one of the people in the group sins, then his friend who sees him doing it won’t be as embarrassed to do it himself. The more people that sin in that group lower the embarrassment level until the last guy, who might never have dreamed of doing this, won’t be embarrassed at all. The actions of the group have cooled off the sin making it not seem bad; they took the embarrassment factor out too. So how does one prevent himself from being able to sin easily? דן‭ ‬את‭ ‬חברך‭ ‬לכף‭ ‬זכות, judge your friend favorably, for, if you judge him favorably and find an excuse for him that he’s not sinning, then the embarrassment factor will never diminish in you. In your view, no one is sinning, then you too will not come to sin easily. Additionally, we really never know why a person is doing something or what their situation is for us to pass judgment.

There was a woman who had to travel overseas and once she got to the airport and took care of everything she had to, she saw that there was plenty of time until the plane would take off. Since she was very hungry, she went to the shop, bought a box of cookies, put them in her bag and went to the waiting area so she could eat as she waited for boarding.

She put her stuff on the table, went to take care of something for a minute, then came back, opened the package of cookies and started eating. To her astonishment, a man who was sitting on the bench opposite her also took a cookie without saying a word. She didn’t react to his brazenness and took another cookie. To her surprise, he did too; every time she took one he did too. She was seething inside but was too embarrassed to say anything. When they got to the last cookie, the man took it, broke it in half, ate one half and gave her the other. She was confounded by the audacity of this person, but just got up and walked away.

When she got on the plane, she opened her bag before putting it in the overhead compartment, and saw her box of cookies sitting right there on top. Then it dawned on her what had happened. That box of cookies that she had been eating really belonged to the man across from her; she was the one with the audacity to eat without asking; she was the guilty party, not him.

Sometimes it’s just a misplaced box of cookies or any number of things that we might not realize. Not only did we suspect unjustly, but the tables could turn completely and make us the guilty ones. We have to learn from this to think positively of others; don’t judge anyone harshly. One, because you never really know the backstory and two, so that our embarrassment to sin will not be lessened by the assumption that others are sinning. Let’s all learn to judge others the way we’d want to be judged….favorably!

By Yitzy Adlin

torah thoughts and pearls of wisdom from PIRKEI AVOT

‭”‬רבי‭ ‬אלעזר‭ ‬איש‭ ‬ברתותא‭ ‬אמר‭: ‘‬תן‭ ‬לו‭ ‬משלו‭, ‬שאתה‭ ‬ושלך‭ ‬שלו‭'”‬

“Rabbi Elazar of Bartota says, ‘Give to Him of that which is His, for you and whatever is yours are His.’ ” (3:7)

The Question is why was Rabbi Elazar of Bartota the one who made this statement?

The answer is most appropriate for him to make this statement, for according to what is related of him in the Gemara (Ta’anit 24a), he was a charitable person par excellence. Whenever the administrators of the charity fund would see him, they would hide from him because he was likely to give them whatever he had on him.

One day he was going to the market to buy a wedding outfit for his daughter. The administrators of the charity saw him coming, and they hid from him. Seeing this, he ran after them and said to them, “I adjure you to tell me, for what charity are you now collecting?” They replied, “To marry off an orphan boy to an orphan girl.” Rabbi Elazar said, “They come before my own daughter.” He then took all the money he had with him — except for one zuz — and gave it to them. He then purchased some wheat with the remaining money, tossed it into the granary, and went to the Bait Midrash to study Torah, with unwavering faith that Hashem would provide him with the funds needed to make the wedding.

When his wife came home she asked her daughter, “What did your father bring?” She replied, “Whatever he brought he tossed into the granary.” She opened the granary door and saw it filled with wheat. His daughter went to the Bait Midrash and said to her father, “Come and see what the One who loves you has done.” Rabbi Elazar, not wanting to benefit from a miracle so that it would not detract from his merits in the world to come, said to her, “This grain shall be as consecrated property to you, and you shall have no more share in it than any other poor person in Israel.” Indeed ,he donated the wheat to charity.

Parsha Summary 

First Aliyah:The service of Yom Kippur that was performed by the Kohen Gadol in the Bait Hamikdash is described. The Kohen Gadol may only enter into the Holy of Holies wearing his plain linen garments requiring that he change his garments five times and immerse in the Mikvah five times. The selection of the he-goats for the primary Teshuva process is described. This portion of the Torah makes up the “Avodah” that is the lengthy Musaf service on Yom Kippur.

second Aliya: Following the description of the remaining services for Yom Kippur, the Torah discusses the prohibition of offering a Korban outside of the Mishkan or the Bait Hamikdash. The only offerings allowed were those that were brought to the Temple. The “Bamah”, as an outside altar is called, was among the most prevalent sins for which the Jews were guilty.

third Aliya: The prohibition against eating blood is repeated. The end of Acharei Mot is devoted to a presentation of the fifteen prohibited sexual relationships. There is no doubt that G-d considers physical intimacy between a male and female as singularly important. Therefore, it is essential that there be a framework of controls for satisfying the physical.

fourth Aliya: Homosexuality and bestiality are prohibited. Verses 18: 24-29 clearly state the unique relationship that the inhabitants of Eretz Yisroel have to the land and the consequences for defiling her sanctity. The beginning of Kedoshim states that holiness is realized through keeping Shabbat, being in awe of one’s parents, and not worshipping idols. Laws of charity, honesty, and paying wages on time are stated.

fifth Aliya: Showing any deference while administering justice is forbidden as well as our responsibility to properly reprimand each other. The prohibitions against wearing shatnez – any mixture of wool and linen, cutting sideburns (payot) tattooing, premarital sex, and the use of the occult are stated.

sixth/sevent Aliya: Proper and equal treatment for the convert, honesty in business, and the prohibition against worshiping the Molech are stated. The remainder of Kedoshim states the specific punishments that Bait Din would administer for engaging in any of the fifteen sexual relationships listed at the end of Acharei Mos.

The very end of Kedoshim (20: 22-26) explains the concept of holiness as the means for being separate from the other nations. Three basic formats for Kedusha exist: Time, place, and person. Acharei Mot began by presenting the ultimate integration of the three in the person of the Kohen Gadol entering the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur. The end of Kedoshim states that Eretz Yisroel (place) the Bnai Yisroel (person) and time in general are intended to reflect the integration of G-dliness into the daily lives of individuals and nations. To the extent that we realize our mission as the kingdom of priests and a holy nation will be the degree to which we retain the right to dwell in the land of Israel.