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Parshas Vayeilech / Yom Kippur - Vol. 11, Issue 52
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Parshas Vayeilech begins by relating that Moshe went and spoke to the entire Jewish nation. However, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh points out that the Torah conspicuously omits the location to which Moshe traveled. In his sefer Divrei Shaul, Rav Yosef Shaul Nathanson explains this anomaly based on a fundamental difference between angels and human beings. The Vilna Gaon (Berachos 64a) notes that the prophet Zechariah (3:7) describes angels as omdim - standing, while referring to humans as holchim - goers. The Gaon explains that although angels are virtually flawless and on an extremely high spiritual level, this greatness actually limits them, as they remain static and unchanging throughout their entire existence. Humans, on the other hand, certainly make mistakes, but they also possess the unique ability of evolving and improving. Applying this concept to Parshas Vayeilech, Rav Nathanson suggests that the Torah intentionally omits Moshe's destination because its emphasis is on teaching us that spiritual growth was such an innate part of Moshe that even on his final day, he was still "going."
Along these lines, the Haftorah for Parshas Vayechi contains Dovid's final conversation with his son Shlomo prior to his death. It begins by relating (Melochim 1 2:1-2) that Dovid commanded Shlomo, saying, anochi holeich b'derech kol ha'aretz - I am going the way of all the earth, meaning that he would soon die. Dovid then proceeded to warn Shlomo to be careful to observe all of the Torah's laws. However, the K'sav Sofer (Parshas Tetzaveh) quotes his father, the Chasam Sofer, who notes that the text seems to indicate that anochi holeich b'derech kol ha'aretz was part of Dovid's commands, which is difficult to understand. In what sense was informing Shlomo that his life was coming to an end considered a command?
The Chasam Sofer explains that Dovid was informing Shlomo that he would soon die and no longer be able to perform mitzvos. Seemingly, he would be transformed from a הולך into an עומד. However, the Gemora (Bava Basra 116a) teaches that somebody who leaves a righteous son who continues in his pious ways after his death is still considered spiritually alive, as the mitzvos that his son performs are partially attributed to the model and education that he provided, and therefore the father is able to continue accruing merits and growing spiritually even after his death. Accordingly, Dovid's words anochi holeich b'derech kol ha'aretz can be understood as a command to Shlomo to ensure that he remains a holeich even after his death by continuing to follow in his righteous ways.
Rav Yitzchok Hutner (Igros U'Kesavim 242) beautifully uses this concept to elucidate the Gemora's teaching (Eiruvin 70b) that children are considered extensions of their parents. The specific expression used by the Gemora is b'ra kara d'avuha - a son is the foot of his father. Why did Chazal specifically compare a child to a parent's foot as opposed to any other part of the body? Rav Hutner explains that when a child performs mitzvos after his parent's death, he transforms his dead parent from a stagnant omeid into a vibrant holeich, and because the child enables his parent to continue to walk posthumously, it is appropriate to describe him as his father's feet.
The Gemora (Rosh Hashana 16b) teaches that three books are opened on Rosh Hashana: one for the completely righteous, one for the totally wicked, and one for those in the middle. Those who are found to be entirely righteous are immediately written and sealed for life. Those who are totally evil are immediately written and sealed for death. The judgment of those in the middle is suspended until Yom Kippur, at which point they are written for life if they are found meritorious and for death if they are not.
The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah 3:3) emends the last section of the Gemora and writes that if a person repents his actions before Yom Kippur he will be sealed for life, and if he doesn't do so, he will be sealed for death. Why does the Rambam specifically require a person to do the mitzvah of teshuvah to lean the scales in his favor as opposed to performing any other mitzvah which could similarly accrue a sufficient merit to tip the scales?
The Navi Yeshaya (55:6) exhorts us to seek out Hashem when He may be found and to call out to Him when He is near to us. The Gemora in Yevamos (49b) understands this as referring to the 10-day period from Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur. In light of this, Rav Yitzchok Blazer explains that although the observance of a mitzvah generates an additional merit, the failure to take advantage of this unique opportunity to draw close to Hashem is so great that it outweighs any mitzvah we could possibly do. As the Rambam writes, this leaves us no choice but to properly repent our ways, and in that merit we will be inscribed for a year of blessing, health and happiness.
One of the central components of Yom Kippur is the special Avodah (Divine service) which was performed by the Kohen Gadol in order to effect atonement for the entire Jewish nation, as detailed in Parshas Acharei Mos (Vayikra 16:2-34). The Rambam rules (Hilchos Avodas Yom HaKippurim 1:2) that any task which is part of the Yom Kippur Avodah could only be performed by the Kohen Gadol, but other work in the Temple that was not intrinsically related to Yom Kippur, such as removing the ashes and setting up the wood on the Altar, could be done by any Kohen (Ibid., 4:1).
However, the Ohr Someach (Ibid.., 4:1) points out that the Rambam also rules (Ibid., 1:2) that when Yom Kippur falls out on Shabbos, only the Kohen Gadol was permitted to offer the Korban Mussaf (Additional Offering) of Shabbos, which seems to contradict this principle. Since the Korban Mussaf of Shabbos is not inherently related to Yom Kippur and is only being brought because Yom Kippur happened to fall out on Shabbos, seemingly any Kohen should be able to be offer it.
In his sefer Pachad Yitzchok on Yom Kippur, Rav Yitzchok Hutner explains that there are two different ways to view Yom Kippur. The first approach to Yom Kippur is that it is a day on which we are required to afflict ourselves (Vayikra 16:31), and therefore we do not eat, drink, wash our bodies, or wear leather shoes. The people who adopt this perspective view Yom Kippur as a day of pain and discomfort and spend much of the day calculating how much time of affliction remains, and if the shofar at the end of Ne'ilah is blown even one minute later than required, the additional fasting will cause them to suffer immensely.
Although this view is quite widespread and is not technically incorrect, it does not explain how Yom Kippur has any connection to Shabbos, which is completely unrelated to the concept of affliction and pain. The second approach to Yom Kippur is to view it as a day of resting from tending to our physical needs. Normally, our bodies need to be nourished and washed, but on Yom Kippur, we strive to become more spiritual, and by ignoring our mundane physical needs, we are able to reach the level of angels for one day of the year. From this perspective, Yom Kippur is a day of elevation, not a day of pain.
The section of Mishneh Torah in which the Rambam discusses the laws of Yom Kippur is not called "Hilchos Yom HaKippurim," but rather "Hilchos Shevisas Asor" - the laws of resting on the 10th day (of Tishrei). Although we also refrain from doing work on Yom Kippur, our primary rest is from tending to our bodily needs. If we view Yom Kippur as a day on which we strive to elevate ourselves to become spiritual beings like angels, we won't mind if Ne'ilah runs overtime and the shofar is sounded a minute later than necessary, because it gives us the opportunity to resemble angels for an extra minute.
This latter perspective on Yom Kippur can help us appreciate why the Korban Mussaf of Shabbos is considered an extension of Yom Kippur, as both are days on which we elevate ourselves through rest. The Torah (Vayikra 16:31) describes Yom Kippur as Shabbos Shabbason - the Sabbath of Sabbaths - as they are linked through the overlapping concept of resting and refraining from the physical world. The Ohr Someach adds that this connection can help us understand why a sick person who is required to eat on Yom Kippur for the sake of his health does not make Kiddush (Mishnah Berurah 618:29). Even though Yom Kippur is a Yom Tov, the sanctity of the day comes not from eating, but specifically from not eating, and therefore it would be inappropriate to "sanctify" the day by reciting Kiddush on it.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Rambam writes (Hilchos Chagigah 3:1) that the purpose of gathering the people together to hear the public reading of the book of Devorim (31:11) is to strengthen their religious commitment and fear of Hashem. With such important objectives, why is this mitzvah performed only once every seven years and not annually? (Even Yisroel)
2) Moshe commanded (31:12) all of the people - men, women, children, and converts - to gather together to hear the reading of the book of Devorim by the king during the festival of Sukkos every seven years. How was it possible that all laws were properly followed, yet eight years passed from one reading until the next? (Minchas Chinuch 612)
3) How could Hashem tell Moshe (31:16) that he would lie with his forefathers when Moshe was buried on Har Nevo and the Avos were buried in Me'aras HaMachpeilah in Chevron? (Targum Yonason ben Uziel, Rashi Bereishis 47:30, Ayeles HaShachar, Shaarei Aharon)
4) The Shulchan Aruch rules (O. C. 603:1) that during the ten-day period from Rosh Hashana until Yom Kippur, a person should accept upon himself additional stringencies that he does not keep during the year. Does doing so take on the status of a vow which must be annulled if he wishes to revert to his original practice? (Beis Yosef, Aruch HaShulchan, and Elef HaMagen O.C. 603)
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