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 Parshas Acharei Mos - Vol. 4, Issue 29
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Vayomer Hashem el Moshe dabeir el Aharon achicha v’al yavo b’chol eis el haKodesh (16:2)

            Rav Yonason Eibeshutz was once collecting tzedakah for a poverty-stricken family. He approached one of the wealthy men in his town for a donation. The man attempted to excuse himself by quoting the Gemora in Kesuvos (50a), which discusses the verse in Tehillim (106:3) Ashrei shomrei mishpat oseh tzedaka b’chol eis – Praised are those who guard justice and do acts of righteousness at every moment. The Gemora questions how it is possible to do tzedakah every second, and answers that the verse is referring to a person who sustains his own young children.

The man claimed that he had no need to contribute to the Rav’s cause, as through his children, he was already considered by the Gemora as somebody who gives tzeddakah “B’chol eis” at every moment. To this argument, the quick Rav Yonason sharply responded by quoting our verse and explaining, “V’al yavo b’chol eis el HaKodesh” – A person who only gives tzedakah based on the Gemora’s interpretation of the words “B’chol eis” won’t be permitted to enter into Holy places!


Ki bayom hazeh y’chaper aleichem l’taheir eschem (16:30)

            The Mishnah in Keilim (17:14) discusses the Creation of the universe and whether the items created on each day are susceptible to becoming impure. The 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 7th days of Creation are considered “pure,” in that everything which was formed on those days cannot become impure. The Shailos U’Teshuvos Mayim Chaim points out that because Yom Kippur is such a Holy and pure day, it may fall on any of these four days, but not on the other “impure” days.

            The Yid HaKadosh of Peshischa adds that Purim is precisely the opposite. It may only fall on the 1st, 3rd, or 6th days of the week, which are the days that connote impurity. This is because the Medrash (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:1) explains that Purim represents the concept of elevating the impure and making it pure. In order to do so, it specifically falls on the “impure” days.

            However, Purim can also fall on the 4th and 5th days of the week, which are “pure” days on which Yom Kippur may fall. This is because the aforementioned Mishnah lists two items that were created on these two days which are considered Biblically pure but which may become impure Rabbinically. Therefore, both holidays may occur on these two days. Yom Kippur is a Biblical holiday, and from a Torah perspective these two days are completely “pure.” Purim is Rabbinical in origin, and from a Rabbinical standpoint these days are indeed susceptible to impurity!

            Rav Menachem Ziemba suggests that the intent of this explanation is to address the difficulty in understanding the practical relevance of the Mishnah, which generally refrains from relating mere historical facts. The Gemora (Pesachim 58b) relates that even when the Sanhedrin sanctified the new moon based on the testimony of witnesses, they refrained from allowing Yom Kippur to fall on Friday or Sunday, which would cause the performance of creative labor to be forbidden for two consecutive days. In light of the above, we may now suggest that they were also careful to arrange the calendar so that Yom Kippur would only fall on the aforementioned “pure” days!


Ki bayom hazeh y’chaper aleichem l’taheir eschem (16:30)

            The Gemora in Kesuvos (103b) relates that when Rebbi Yehuda HaNasi passed away, a piece of paper fell from Heaven. On the paper was written that all who were present at the time of his death would merit a share in the World to Come. Although Rebbi’s level of holiness and spirituality was tremendous, why don’t we find similar episodes in conjunction with the deaths of other righteous individuals?

            Rav Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor answers that the Gemora in Yoma (85b) records a dispute between Rebbi and the other Sages with respect to the atonement effected by Yom Kippur. The Sages maintain that Yom Kippur is only effective together with confession and repentance for one’s misdeeds, but Rebbi maintains that the Holiness of the day intrinsically causes atonement and forgiveness for all. It is also known that the death of the righteous is compared to Yom Kippur in its ability to effect atonement (Gur Aryeh Bamidbar 20:1). Although the law is decided in accordance with the majority of the Sages, in deference to the honor of Rebbi his death was treated in accordance with his opinion, and all who were present received forgiveness, even if they didn’t repent!


V’haysa zos lachem l’chukas olam l’chaper al B’nei Yisroel mikol chatosam achas ba’shana (16:34)

            Before the beginning of the Neilah prayers on Yom Kippur in 1959, Rav Eliyahu Lopian rose to address those gathered to pray in his yeshiva in Kfar Chassidim in Israel. With tremendous emotion and a steady flow of tears, he commented that some righteous people are able with their deaths to atone for their entire families, others for their entire cities, and there are a few unique individuals in the world with the capacity to effect atonement for the entire generation through their deaths (Gur Aryeh Bamidbar 20:1).

            With this introduction, Rav Lopian cryptically continued, “We may understand why our verse mentions that Yom Kippur shall occur once annually, something which should be obvious and isn’t explicitly written in reference to any of the other Yomim Tovim. If the generation is lax and immoral, Hashem will have no choice but to take the righteous, whose death atones like Yom Kippur, throughout the year in order to bring them forgiveness. The Torah therefore emphasizes that the decree is that there should be only one Yom Kippur each year, and we pray for no more.”

Those in attendance had difficulty understanding Rav Lopian’s intentions until they heard at the end of Yom Kippur that just after Kol Nidrei on the evening before, the great Brisker Rav had passed away. His son Rav Berel Soloveitchik related that a few days earlier, the Brisker Rav had cryptically commented, “This year there will be two consecutive days of Yom Kippur, one beginning just as the other ends,” the intent of which was tragically clarified a few days later!


V’seret l’nefesh lo sitnenu biv’sarchem (19:28)

The Torah prohibits various extreme forms of mourning the death of loved ones. As the laws of nature require every living thing to eventually die, why is human nature to mourn the death of a loved one, sad as it may be, with such intensity when we mentally recognize that it is inevitable?

The Ramban, in his work Toras HaAdam on the laws and customs of death and mourning, offers a fascinating explanation for this phenomenon. When Hashem originally created the first man, Adam, He intended him to be immortal and created him with a nature reflecting this reality. When Adam sinned by eating from the forbidden fruit, he brought death to mankind and to the entire world.

Nevertheless, this new development, although it would completely change the nature of our life on earth until the Messianic era, had no effect on man’s internal makeup, which was designed to reflect the reality that man was intended to live forever. Although our minds recognize that people ultimately must die and we see and hear about death on a daily basis, our emotional makeup remains as it was originally designed. We expect our loved ones to live forever as they were originally intended to do, and we are plunged into intense mourning when confronted with the reality that this is no longer the case.


Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1)     How is it possible that a healthy person ate on Yom Kippur a quantity of edible food larger than the size of a large date in a normal manner and in less than two minutes, and yet he is exempt from punishment for eating on Yom Kippur (16:29)? (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 612:6)

2)     The Torah concludes the portion dealing with the Yom Kippur service by stating (16:30) that on this day Hashem will forgive the Jewish people “mikol chatosam” – from all of their sins. However, the term “cheit” is used to connote a sin which is done accidentally (Yoma 36b), which seems to imply that one is unable to receive forgiveness on Yom Kippur for sins committed intentionally. Is this indeed the case, and if not, why does the Torah use such seemingly misleading wording? (Ibn Ezra, Kovetz Maamorim Biurei Aggados 8:2, Derech Sicha)

3)     A person who sees another Jew acting inappropriately is required to rebuke him (19:17). The Gemora in Bava Metzia (31a) rules that a person is required to rebuke as many as 100 times until it is accepted. How can this be reconciled with the teaching of the Gemora in Yevamos (65b) that just as there is a mitzvah to say something which will be listened to, similarly there is a mitzvah to refrain from saying something which will be ignored (i.e. the first 99 rebukes)? (M’rafsin Igri)

4)     The Torah commands a person (19:32) to rise in the presence of a sage to show him respect. The Gemora in Shavuos (30b) teaches that one is also required to show respect to the wife of a Torah scholar. In what way is the obligation to show respect to the scholar’s wife more stringent than the respect shown to the scholar himself? (Minchas Chinuch 257:8)

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