Both parashot that are read this week adjure us repeatedly to
be "kadosh" - usually translated "holy." Rashi teaches that
"kadosh" means "separate," i.e., it is not enough to be moral;
one must take extra precautions to distance himself from
immorality. [Interestingly, the dictionary definition of "holy"
is "set apart."] Ramban goes even further and writes that
"kedushah" means "sanctifying even that which the Torah permits."
"One might have said," writes Ramban, "that since the Torah
permits kosher food, I will be a glutton [and act similarly with
regard to other halachically-permitted physical pleasures];
therefore the Torah says, 'Be kadosh'."
R' Gedaliah Schorr z"l adds in the name of R' Yehoshua of Kutna
z"l: The Torah says (Vayikra 19:1), "You shall be kadosh, for
kadosh am I, Hashem, your G-d." The midrash comments (as if
quoting G-d), "This verse might suggest that you should be kadosh
like Me; therefore, it is written, 'I, Hashem, your G-d'." (In
other words, you cannot be like Me.) What does this mean?
Hashem reigns over everything that exists, the pure and impure
alike. One might think: "Just as He has a relationship of some
kind with that which is impure or prohibited, so I will emulate
Him and involve myself with that which is impure or prohibited."
Therefore the Torah teaches, "I am kadosh - I can remain kadosh
in the midst of impurity. As for you, practice kedushah by
sanctifying that which the Torah permits" (as Ramban writes).
(Ohr Gedaliahu: Kedoshim p.57)
"You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall
reprove your fellow and do not bear a sin because of
[literally: 'on'] him." (19:17)
Ramban explains: If someone has wronged you, do not hate him in
your heart. Rather, reprove him. Ask him why he acted as he did
and let him explain himself. If you do that, you will not hold
his sin against him.
(Commentary to Vayikra 19:17)
R' Elazar Kalir z"l (died 1801 - not to be confused with the
liturgist with a similar name) writes: The hatred which results
when a person has been slighted and lets his anger fester, rather
than talking it over with the offender, is what is meant by
"sinat chinam"/"needless hatred." Chazal teach us that this type
of enmity is what destroyed the second Bet Hamikdash.
R' Kalir adds: Although the Ramban's message is valid, he
cannot mean that this is the only situation in which one must
reprove another. It is clear from the gemara that there is a
more general mitzvah to rebuke a person who has committed any
type of sin, whether a sin against man or a sin against G-d.
Chazal say that this mitzvah applies so long as one is not
absolutely certain that the sinner will reject the rebuke. Even
if it is likely that the rebuke will be rejected, but it is not
certain, the rebuke must be given. Why?
R' Kalir explains: We read in Yechezkel (33:8), "You have not
spoken to warn the rasha about his way - the rasha will die with
his sin and I will seek his blood from you. And since you have
warned the rasha about his way, to return from it, and he has not
returned, he will die with his sin, and you have saved your
soul." It is curious that regarding the person who was not
rebuked, the prophet says, "the rasha will die with his sin,"
whereas regarding the person who was rebuked and who rejected the
rebuke, the prophet says, "[H]e will die with his sin." Isn't
the latter person more deserving of the appellation "rasha" than
the former person?
The answer is that a person who has been rebuked, even if he
rejects the rebuke, may repent on his deathbed. He will die with
his sin, but he will not die a rasha. Not so the person who was
never rebuked; he will have no information that will cause him to
repent before his death.
(Chavot Yair: Drush Ohr Hachaim, p. 1)
R' Avraham Halevi Horowitz z"l (16th century; father of the
Shelah Hakadosh) writes as follows regarding the mitzvah of
We read (Mishlei 15:31), "The ear that hears life-giving
reproof will reside in the midst of the wise." King Shlomo is
informing us in this verse that a person must cause his own ears
to hear words of tochachah. One must rebuke himself, for who
will worry for a person if not himself?
(Berit Avraham 1:1)
Rabbi Yaakov said: "One who walks on the road while
reviewing a Torah lesson but interrupts his review and
exclaims, 'How beautiful is this tree! How beautiful is
this plowed field!' - Scripture considers him to have
forfeited his life."
(Chapter 3, mishnah 9)
R' Moshe Almosnino z"l (16th century) writes: When one studies
Torah, he distances himself from sin and from everything bad.
However, this is subject to one's Torah knowledge becoming a
permanent part of his being.
What is the test of whether one has integrated his Torah
knowledge into his being? In an earlier mishnah, Rabbi Chaninah
ben Chachinai taught that one who is traveling alone but is idle
from Torah study forfeits his life. When one is alone, that is
the ideal time to meditate on one's studies. If one lets his
mind be idle at such times, clearly his Torah studies are not an
integral part of his being.
In our mishnah, Rabbi Yaakov refines R' Chaninah's test. Even
if one does study while he travels, how deep is his
concentration? If one allows his meditation to be interrupted
before he has finished his studies, this is a sign that his
connection to the Torah is not very deep. Such a person is said
to forfeit his life because he has not integrated his Torah
studies into his being and they cannot save him from sin.
R' Almosnino observes further: Rabbi Yaakov's criticism is
limited to a person who _exclaims_, "How beautiful is _this_
tree." This criticism is two-fold. First, it is understandable
that even while a person is studying he may notice a beautiful
tree and be impressed by it. However, if one interrupts his
studies to _exclaim_ that the tree is beautiful, that is a sign
that his Torah studies are deficient.
Also, Rabbi Yaakov is critical of a person who is impressed by
an individual tree. To reflect abstractly on the beauty of
nature is an intellectual experience which is not inconsistent
with devoting one's mind to Torah studies. However, to focus on
the beauty of one specific tree lowers man's thoughts to a
Nevertheless, Rabbi Yaakov says only that a person who
interrupts his studies is "considered" to have forfeited his
life, unlike Rabbi Chaninah who said that one who travels alone
and is idle actually forfeits his life. Why? Because the latter
spoke of a person who finds himself in a situation which is ideal
for Torah study, and he remains idle. In contrast, the person of
whom Rabbi Yaakov speaks is not completely idle. Although
interrupting one's Torah study will surely lead eventually to bad
results, it is not presently as wasteful as being inactive.
(Pirkei Moshe p.84)
Letters from Our Sages
All agree that a Torah sage living after the era of the
Mishnah is prohibited from arguing on a halachic matter with
a "Tanna," a sage of the Mishnah (unless the later sage
finds support in the words of a different Tanna). Less
clear, however, is the origin of this rule. Several
explanations have been offered, including those of
R' Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z"l (reprinted in Sdei
Chemed: Ma'amar Rihata De'chaklai) and R' Elchonon Wasserman
z"l (in Kuntreis Divrei Soferim).
The following letter by R' Avraham Yeshayahu Karelitz (the
"Chazon Ish"; died 1953) presents his views on why no later
sage can argue with a Tanna. This letter is printed in
Igrot Chazon Ish, Vol. II, No. 24).
The truth is that the generation after the [completion of the]
Mishnah saw that their own stature was lower than that of the
masters of the Mishnah, and they knew for certain that truth lay
in the hands of the earlier generations. Since the later
generation knew that it could never penetrate to the truth of any
matter if the Tannaim [plural of "Tanna"] had not already done
so, the later generation was not permitted to argue with the
earlier ones. Rather, the later generation would merely teach
and review the words of the Tannaim who came before them. For
this reason, the authors of the Gemara nullified the opinion of
an Amora [sage of the Gemara] if his words showed that he was
unaware of a contrary teaching of a Tanna on the same subject.
Only the sage known as "Rav" - because of his unique stature -
did not have his words nullified if he argued with a Tanna.
This decision was made by the sages after the Mishnah through
the guiding hand of Providence and was Divinely inspired. The
same process occurred at the end of the era of the Gemara.
Regarding that which the author of the Kessef Mishneh [R' Yosef
Karo z"l; 1488-1575] wrote, that the sages at the beginning of a
new era accepted upon themselves not to argue with the sages of
the previous era, they did not do this out of the goodness of
their hearts. Rather, the pursuit of truth demanded this, for
how can we rely on our own judgments when we know that our
intellects are limited and the truth is not available to us?!
The Rutstein family
in memory of mother and grandmother
Pesha Batya bat Zemach a"h
The Vogel family
in memory of mother and grandmother
Bluma bat Shabtai Hakohen a"h