Parshios Acharei Mos & Kedoshim
Volume 26, No. 27
Sponsored by the Rutstein family in memory of father Mendy Rutstein
(Menachem Mendel Shmuel ben Nachman Halevi a”h) and grandmother Bessie
Rutstein (Pesha Batya bat R’ Zemach a”h)
The Midrash Rabbah notes that the opening of Parashat Kedoshim, the second
parashah we read this week, restates the Aseret Ha’dibrot / Ten
Commandments, albeit in a different order. There it says, “I am Hashem, your
Elokim,” and here (repeatedly), “I am Hashem, your Elokim.” There, “You
shall not have other gods,” and here (19:4), “Molten gods you shall not make
for yourselves.” There, “You shall not take the Name of Hashem in vain,”
and here (19:12), “You shall not swear falsely by My Name.” There, “Keep
the day of Shabbat,” and here (19:3), “My Sabbaths you shall observe.”
There, “Honor your father and your mother,” and here (19:3), “Your father
and mother you shall revere.” [The midrash continues, showing parallels
between our parashah and the second half of the Aseret Ha’dibrot.]
R’ David Zvi Hoffman z”l (1843-1921; Rector of the Hildesheimer Rabbinical
Seminary in Berlin) writes: The first five of the Aseret Ha’dibrot are
listed in Parashat Kedoshim with the last two (honoring parents and Shabbat)
appearing first because, to reach the highest level of kedushah / holiness
[the subject of Parashat Kedoshim], one must start on the bottom rung.
Honoring parents has been equated with honoring Hashem, and in order to
reach the stage where one obeys Hashem unconditionally, one must start with
honoring one’s parents. One who would never commit an unseemly act in front
of his best friend doesn’t hesitate to do that thing when Hashem is
watching. However, by honoring and fearing parents, one can develop the awe
of Hashem. One should reflect that, just as one’s parents watch over his
every step, so Hashem is watching his every deed. (Peirush Al Sefer Vayikra)
“Aharon shall place lots upon the two he-goats--one lot ‘for Hashem’ and one
lot ‘for Azazel’.” (16:8)
The mitzvah to kill a sa’ir / goat outside of the Bet Hamikdash on Yom
Kippur in parallel with the sa’ir that is offered as a chatat / sin offering
in the Bet Hamikdash undoubtedly is one of the most difficult commandments
to understand. R’ Shlomo Wolbe z”l (1914-2005; a leading teacher of mussar)
offers the following explanation, based on the Torah commentary of R’
Menachem Recanti z”l (Italy; circa 1250-1310):
When a person sins, he intermingles different forces that Hashem created for
different purposes. In particular, he takes abilities that he was given for
purposes of kedushah / holiness, and he uses them for tumah / impurity.
Atonement for a sin involves reversing that process, i.e., making a clear
break between kedushah and tumah. This is what is highlighted by taking two
identical goats and offering one as a korban while throwing the second off
of a cliff. (Shiurei Chumash [unpublished manuscript])
R’ Recanti (see above) adds to his explanation cited above: This is alluded
to by the meeting between Yaakov and Esav, at which Esav said (33:15), “Let
me assign to you some of the people who are with me.” Esav wanted his
people to mingle with Yaakov’s family, but, the verse continues, Yaakov
rebuffed him. The next verse relates, “So Esav started back that day on his
way toward Se’ir.” At this point, Yaakov made a clean break from Esav.
[Note the similarity between sa’ir / goat and Esav’s land, Se’ir.] (Peirush
[Ed. note: Perhaps this explains why we say in the Pesach Haggadah, “He
(Hashem) gave Esav the mountain of Se’ir, and Yaakov and his sons descended
to Egypt.” Why mention Esav in the Haggadah? Because the Haggadah tells
the story of how Yaakov’s family was enslaved in Egypt and then freed, all
in preparation for receiving the Torah and attaining a special holy status.
Esav’s departure for Se’ir and the resulting separation from Yaakov was a
step in that process, as explained above.]
“You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the
members of your people . . .” (19:18)
The Gemara (Yoma:23a) explains: If one says to another, “Lend me your
sickle,” and he replies, “No!” and the next day the second one says to the
first one, “Lend me your hatchet,” and he retorts, “I am not going to lend
it to you, just as you refused to lend me your sickle”--that is revenge.
What is “bearing a grudge”? If one says to another, “Lend me your hatchet,”
and he replies “No!” and on the next day, the second one says to the first
one, “Lend me your sickle,” and he replies, “Here it is; I am not like you,
who would not lend to me”--this is called “bearing a grudge” because he
retains enmity in his heart although he does not actually take revenge.
[Until here from the Gemara]
Rabbeinu Yaakov ben Asher z”l (the Ba’al Ha’Turim; circa 1269-1343) asks:
Why does the Torah address itself to the second person, and not to the first
one, who was too stingy to lend out his belongings? He answers: There is no
mitzvah to lend one’s belongings if one is not so inclined. The second
person, however, is not stingy; he suffers from hatred, and that the Torah
Others explain, Rabbeinu Yaakov continues, that the punishment of the stingy
person is so severe that the Torah does not see the need to warn him about
it explicitly. Specifically, the Gemara (Yoma 11b) says that the punishment
for stinginess is tzara’at. (Peirush Ha’Tur Ha’aroch)
Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa says, “Anyone whoseחטאו יראת / fear of his sin
precedes his wisdom, his wisdom will endure.” (Chapter 3)
R’ Yehuda Loewe z”l (the Maharal of Prague; died 1609) writes: Don’t ask why
the mishnah says, “Fear of his sin,” rather than, “יראתו מן החטא” / “his
fear of sin.” This is not a question, for every person is ready to sin, as
it is written (Kohelet 7:20), “There is no man on earth so wholly righteous
that he always does good and never sins.” Therefore it says, “Fear of his
sin”--i.e., the sin that he is “prepared” for. (Derech Chaim)
R’ Shlomo Wolbe z”l (see facing page) explains this in light of the
commentary of R’ Eliyahu z”l (1720-1797; the Vilna Gaon) to the verse
(Mishlei 14:2), “One who walks in his uprightness fears Hashem . . .” The
Vilna Gaon writes:
Every person must go on the path that is suitable for him. Different people
have different middot / traits. Thus, one person must guard against a sin
that he is susceptible to, while another person is not susceptible that sin.
In turn, the second person is susceptible to a particular sin to which the
first person is not susceptible. Thus the verse says, “One who walks in his
uprightness . . .”--i.e., the particular path of uprightness that is
suitable for him. Sometimes, one person’s path will seem wrong to the
masses; that’s because they don’t know what a specific individual needs.
One who nevertheless “walks in his uprightness” is one who “fears Hashem.”
[Until here from the Vilna Gaon].
R’ Wolbe adds: This is what the Maharal means as well: Every person is
“prepared” by his nature for certain sins, and it is those sins in
particular that a person must fear. This means, R’ Wolbe continues, that
the foundation of character improvement is to know oneself; there is no
one-size-fits-all approach to improving one’s middot. It also means that
adopting specific practices (above and beyond what halachah requires) just
because one sees others doing so is pointless, since one person may need
those particular stringencies while another does not. (Alei Shur I p.133)
R’ Itamar Schwartz shlita (Yerushalayim; author of the popular work, B’lvavi
Mishkan Evneh) writes similarly: In any field in which a person engages, he
makes a point to understand the capabilities and limitations of the tools
and implements he is given to work with. If a person was given a nefesh /
soul with which to accomplish a mission in this world, does it not make
sense to get to know that soul? For some reason, he writes, we spend
billions of dollars to explore outer space but make relatively little effort
to explore inside ourselves. A person must know that any effort he makes to
work on himself before he knows himself is destined to fail. (Da Et
Letters from our Sages
The letter below was written by R’ Moshe Shick z”l (“Maharam Schick”;
1807-1879), considered one of the leading Hungarian rabbis and roshei
yeshiva of his time. It was sent to his son-in-law-to-be, and is published
in Igrot Maharam Schick, no.17.
Life and peace and all good things to the young man, the chatan, destined to
be my son-in-law, distinguished in Torah and fear [of Heaven], the diligent
one, Yaakov Halevi, may his light shine.
I received your first and second letters. From your first letter, I see
that a son was born in your family. Mazal tov to you and to your father’s
house. . .
In your second letter, I saw things for which it is appropriate to rebuke
you. You wrote there that you were thinking about divrei Torah as you were
falling asleep. It is not appropriate for a person to publicly announce the
good things that he does. In the work Binah L’ittim [II:32], the author
explains the verse (Mishlei 14:23), “In all toil there will be gain, but
talk of the lips only brings loss,” to refer to speaking about the good that
one does; except where his intention is so that others may learn from him.
This is written in Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 565:6 [where it says that a
person who observes an optional fast day and publicizes it is punished].
How can a thinking person take pride in his writings and his deeds when he
knows his own shortcomings? Further, it is not a wise thing to do, for
others may not believe [a person who describes his own good deeds] and will
assume he is seeking glory. Also, when one person sends divrei Torah to
another person, surely he sends him the best that he has to offer, for a
merchant does not show his worst merchandise first. Therefore, how could
you write that you were sending me what popped into your head as you were
drifting off to sleep, thoughts that you did not critically analyze or toil
over? If only everything that a person did analyze and toil over would be
true and good! . . .
These are the words of one who writes and signs with love. May Hashem be
with you. From your father-in-law-to-be, who seeks your welfare.
The editors hope these brief 'snippets' will engender further study
and discussion of Torah topics ('lehagdil Torah u'leha'adirah'), and
your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and
may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
Hamaayan needs your support! Please consider sponsoring Hamaayan in honor of a happy occasion or in memory of a loved one. The low cost of sponsorship is $36. Donations to HaMaayan are tax-deductible.
The Good Tents
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5761
Only A True Magician Succeeds
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5771
Another Productive Day!
Rabbi Label Lam - 5775
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig - 5772
If It Can Happen To Bilaam, It Can Happen to Any of Us
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5765
Three Differences Between Bilaam and Rabbi Yosi ben Kisma
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771
Was G-d Bilaam's Agent?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5761
Shlomo Katz - 5771
A Generation Repents
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5761
Listen To The Mocking Bird
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5756
A Candidate for Blessings
Rabbi Label Lam - 5768
Why Didn't Moshe Enter Canaan?
Shlomo Katz - 5759
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5772
Balak: Can You See It?
Shlomo Katz - 5764
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759
From Amidst The Ashes
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5764