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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashios Achrei/Kedoshim(69)

This week's sedras are chock full of important mitzvos; too many to innumerate. The Torah organizes them by interweaving the mitzvos between Man and G-d with those between Man and Man; this teaches us that the Torah sees these two categories as of equal importance and as complementary to each other.

Leviticus 18:5

And you shall observe my My decrees and My laws, which a man shall do and he shall live by them; I am Hashem.


he shall live by them: Rashi: in the World to Come, for if you say [it means] in this world [he will live] - will he not die eventually?


This verse is the basis for another, more familiar, teaching which is found in the Talmud. That is: Shmuel said: "and you shall live by them, and not die by them (Yoma 65b)". This is the halachic basis for the laws of Pikuach Nefesh, breaking a mitzvah in order to save a life - like allowing a seriously ill person to eat on the fast of Yom Kippur or violating the Sabbath in order to save a life.


One wonders why Rashi did not choose this more basic teaching for his comment. I think the reason is that Rashi's comment comes from Toras Kohanim, the midrash on Vayikra. And it is Rashi's custom, in his Torah commentary, to use one main source as the source of his comments for each of the five books of the Torah. Toras Kohanim, which Rashi's uses as his main source for Vayikra, thus he chose this quote instead of the more familiar and meaningful source in the Talmud. The answer may be as simple as that!


Let us look at the Ramban's comment on the previous verse which he connects to our verse. It is very enlightening.

18:4: And My laws you shall do: Ramban: And according to the p'shat: "My laws" means the laws which are recorded in Parashas Mishpatim (in Book of Exodus) and throughout the Torah. And that is why it says "which a man shall do and live by them". Because such laws are given for man's life in civilization [to foster] peace among men, that they should not harm one another and not kill him…. (The Ramban continues by quoting the same source as Rashi did, "to live in the World to Come")

Ramban: And be aware that a man's life with mitzvos is in accordance with his preparation for them. (Ramban now describes four types of mitzvah doers.)

1) For a person who does mitzvos not for their own sake but to receive reward, he will live in this world many days in wealth and honor …

2) And those who do mitzvos in order to gain the World to Come, they serve out of fear, will be privileged as they intentded, to be saved from the punishments of the evil ones (in Gehenom) and their souls will be in a good state (in Gan Eden).

3) And those who do mitzvos out of love and at the same time are involved in working in this world, as it says in Parashas Bechukosi (Leviticus 26:5) "and your threshing will last until the vintage and the vintage until the sowing", they will be privileged to a good life in this world, as is custom of the world and to the life in the World to Come; their merit is complete there.

4) Then there are those who forsake all worldly matters and care nothing about themselves as if they had no body, while all their thoughts are only for their Creator, like Elijah and Henoch. They live forever in body and soul.


The Ramban's statement that category #3 is the highest level the vast majority of Jews can reach, is probably startling to most Torah students today. But this was clearly the way our Forefathers lived and the way most Talmudic teachers and Rishonim, did as well. We would do wisely to imitate them.

Shabbat Shalom
Avigdor Bonchek

What's Bothering Rashi?" is a production of "The Institute for the Study of Rashi."

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