Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 6 No. 27

Parshas Acharei Mos-Kedoshim

Of Angels, Animals and Man
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)


"Desire is pleasant for the soul, and departing from evil, the abomination of fools" (Mishlei 13:19).

Shlomoh ha'Melech warns us here not to be drawn after our desires, but to control them. Because someone who is able to keep his desires under control is on the level of an angel; whereas someone who allows his desires to control him is on the level of an animal. For so we find on the sixth day of creation, before G-d created Odom, that all of the creations up to then were either spiritual or physical - spiritual, such as the heavenly bodies, which were totally removed from physicality; or physical, such as the trees, the plants and all the living things, which were totally removed from spirituality.

Each of these functioned in the way G-d created it, the one by means of the intellect, the other by means of instinct. Neither of them could change this course, because that was the role they were created to play.


Therefore, G-d went on to create a third species, a combination of the two - one who would possess the intellect of the heavenly bodies, and the natural instinctive tendencies of the earthly ones - and He called him 'Odom' - man. Odom was the embodiment of the previous two species, yet he was quite different, because they act by rote, whereas he acts by choice. For he has the choice to follow whichever of the two he pleases. Should he choose to follow his intellect, to rid himself of his desires, he transcends the part of him that is animal and he attains the level of an angel. But should he choose to follow his desires, he divests himself of the part of him that is angel, and sinks to the level of an animal.

Indeed, before Odom sinned, he was like an angel of G-d, consisting completely of intellect, without a blemish. In that state, he was fit to live forever, like one of G-d's celestial servants, which is why he was placed in the Garden of Eden, the choice of all the places in the world.

Once he sinned however, and was drawn after his desires, he became a physical being; he had to be driven out of the Garden of Eden, and was ordered to eat the same food as animals - the grass of the field (although this aspect of the decree was later rescinded), instead of the wonderful fruits of Gan Eden. That is why common-sense dictates that one breaks one's desires and suppresses them, to the point that breaking them becomes something pleasant.


That is what Shlomoh meant when he wrote "a broken desire ('niheyoh' means broken) is pleasant for the (intelligent) soul", and that is also what the Torah means when it writes in vo'Eiro "Behold the Hand of Hashem will break your cattle" (Sh'mos 9:3). So a wise person understands that he must rid himself of his desires, which are called 'evil' (see Bereishis 5:21 and 6:5).


It is well-known that someone who goes after his desires transgresses the entire Torah. Going after one's desires comprises four categories: 1) re. what one thinks; 2) re. what one speaks; 3) re. what one eats; and 4) re. one's actions (with one's body). Shlomoh has already taught us that a sin in thought is like a sin in deed. For when the heart rejoices with a mitzvah or with a sin, it is discernable on the body, because the heart is the root of the body, and the sins of the root are revealed on the body. A sin in speech refers to loshon ho'ra, gossip, unclean speech, which are all considered abominable and forbidden by Torah law. G-d takes note and punishes.

A sin in food incorporates both the eating of forbidden foods and eating excessively, which the Torah forbids too. That is why Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehillim (40:9) "And Your Torah is in my stomach", meaning that he only ate what the Torah prescribed, not forbidden food and not more than necessary, even of what the Torah permits, just as Shlomoh wrote in Mishlei (13:28) "A righteous man eats only to be satisfied".


A sin with one's body refers to immoral behaviour, not only as regards what the Torah forbids, but even to indulge excessively in what the Torah permits.


Shlomoh ha'Melech taught us that a person who pursues his desires has no friends (Mishlei 8:1), because, due to his evil characteristics, everyone shuns him.

And so the Torah commands us to control our desires, certainly to desist from those things that are already forbidden to us, but even from the things that are not - for so Chazal have said in Yevomos (20a) "Sanctify yourself in what is permitted to you". Anyone who abstains from his desires is called holy, as we find by a Nazir, who only abstained from wine, yet he is called holy (Ba'midbor 6:5). Yisroel too, when they received the Torah at Har Sinai, were referred to as holy (Sh'mos 19:6) - and it is in order to abstain from our desires that the Torah commands us to be holy.

Parshah Pearls

Acharei Mos

Aharon Could Enter Any Time

"And Hashem said to Moshe, 'Speak to Aharon your brother, that he should not come at any time to the Kodesh ... With this Aharon shall come ... with a bull for a sin-offering and a ram for a burnt-offering' " (16:2-3).

According to one opinion in the Gemoro (Yumo 72b), the ram that is mentioned here is the same ram that is mentioned in Pinchos as part of the Mussaf-offering.

But is it not strange, asks the Gro, that the Torah should single out the ram from all of the ten animals that comprise the Mussaf, and insert it here?


We can understand this, he replies, with the Medrash Rabah, which explains that the Torah here is permitting Aharon (and Aharon exclusively) to enter the Kodesh Kodshim whenever he liked - provided that when he did, he brought these specified sacrifices. With this, we can answer, not only the above questions, but a number of other problems that arise from this parshah. Firstly, it becomes clear as to why the Torah mentions specifically Aharon time and time again, until the end of the parshah (possuk 29-34), where it writes "And it should be for you an everlasting statute" and goes on to speak about the Kohen (Godol) - and not Aharon - going in to the Kodesh Kodshim only once a year - because, as we just explained, this restriction applies to the Kohanim Gedolim who succeeded Aharon, but not to Aharon.

And now we understand why the Torah singles out the ram of all the Mussaf Korbonos: it is because this parshah is initially speaking to Aharon, permitting him to enter the Kodesh Kodshim at any time of the year, when the Korban Mussaf was not brought in its entirety. Nevertheless, among the sacrifies that he had to bring upon entering, was the ram which, on Yom Kippur, he would have brought as part of the Mussaf. And only then, does the Torah go on to write explicitly about Yom Kipur.


Another difficulty that is automatically resolved is the problem with the Chazal which explains that possuk 23, (which instructs Aharon to take off his four white garments and leave them there) is out of place, and belongs after possuk 24 (see Rashi). Now, why should the Torah insert a possuk in the wrong place, one possuk before it is due?

According to the above Medrash however, Chazal are referring to the avodoh on Yom Kipur, in order to uphold the tradition that the Kohen Godol required five tevilos and ten times washing his hands and feet - to that end, posuk 23 belongs after posuk 24. But this parshah also incroporates those occasions when Aharon would enter the Kodesh Kodshim during the year. When he did, he would indeed require only three tevilos and six washings of hands and feet, and as far as that avodoh is concerned, possuk 24 is not relevant, and possuk 23 is therefore in its right place.


So Could Moshe

The Ramban quotes the Toras Kohanim, which infers from the words "and Aharon shall not enter at any time" ... that Moshe may.

If this Medrah and the Medrash discussed in the previous paragraph conform with each other, that will mean that Aharon could enter at any time with the Korbonos, and Moshe, even without them.

It is more likely however, that the two Medroshim argue over how to interpret the inference from "Aharon": the one explains that it comes to preclude Moshe, who may enter the Kodesh Kodshim at any time (without the Korbonos, since they are confined to Yom Kipur); the other, to preclude Aharon from the din of other Kohanim Gedolim, who are only permitted to enter on Yom Kipur. As for Moshe, he will have the same Din as any other Jew, who is forbidden to enter the Kodesh Kodshim at any time.


Parshas Kedoshim

"And Don't Steal"

Many incredible stories are told of the Chofetz Chayim's integrity, describing a sensitivity towards other people's money and rights that was so profound that it let him to scrupulously observe the mitzvah of not stealing in ways that most other people would not even dream were forbidden. The Ma'asei la'Melech tells the following stories about the Chofetz Chayim:


Not At the Other Man's Expense

When one of his salesmen wrote to the Chofetz Chayim that in a certain town, he had sold a hundred rubles worth of his seforim, the Chofetz Chayim (instead of displaying pleasure at the successful sale of his seforim), complained that a hundred rubles was far more than one would have expected in such a small town, and who knows what dishonest means the salesman had used to cajole the people into buying his seforim.


Honesty v. Bitul Torah

When the Mishnah Berurah was first being printed, the Chofetz Chayim spent many months in Warsaw, to check the Sefer for errors, firstly because a Halochoh-Sefer of this nature needs to be a hundred per cent accurate, but even more so, to ensure that the people who bought the sefer should not receive a flawed object, something which, in the Chofetz Chayim's eyes, bordered on theft.

A man who prized every second, making sure that not one was wasted, was willing to spend months checking his sefer, in order to avoid what he considered to be a touch of theft.


Not Before Yom-tov

One of the Chofetz Chayim's salesmen once left for a small town just before Yom-tov, intending to sell his seforim there.

The moment the Chofetz Chayim got to know about it however, he recalled him, on the grounds that it was unfair to expect people to buy seforim just before Yom-tov, when they have so many other expenses.


A Worker's Wages

The Chofetz Chayim, who under normal circumstances, was most certainly particular to bring in Shabbos early, was once seen running through the streets close to candle-lighting time.

People could not believe their eyes, until they discovered the reason why: it appeared that one of the workers at the printing-press that was currently printing the Chofetz Chayim's seforim, had had to leave work early, without having received his wages. The Chofetz Chayim, to avoid transgressing the sin of withholding a worker's wages overnight, was running to the worker's house, just before the arrival of Shabbos, to pay him his wages on time.


Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.

(The Mitzvos Asei)

75. To build a parapet around one's roof and to remove any obstacle from one's house - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (22:8) "And you shall make a parapet for your roof, and you shall not cause bloodshed in your house ...".

Whoever leaves his roof unprotected has negated this mitzvah - and the same applies to anything that is life-threatening, such as an open well or pit. These require a partition of ten tefochim (40 inches) in front of them, sufficiently strong to withstand the weight of a person leaning on them.

It is forbidden to rear a vicious dog in one's home.

The Sefer Charedim writes that someone who checks his house for such pit-falls each day, is considered as if he had fulfilled the mitzvah.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike.


76. To remember what Amolek did to us - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (25:17) "Remember what Amolek did to you".

This comprises remembering verbally, Amolek's evil deeds and the way he attacked us, in order to arouse his hatred in our hearts.

This Mitzvah applies everywhere, at all times, to men and women alike. (The Chofetz Chayim appears to hold that min ha'Torah, it is an individual mitzvah and applies constantly. Others consider it to be a communal mitzvah that applies only once annually.)


77. To destroy all descendants of Amolek - as the Torah writes in Ki Seitzei (25:19) "Blot out the memory of Amolek".

Nowadays, we no longer recognise the Amolekim, so we will have to await the arrival of Eliyohu ha'Novi. He will identify them for us, and then we will be able to exterminate them. May G-d grant us the merit to see the coming of Eliyohu ha'Novi and Moshi'ach tzidkeinu, speedily in our days Omein!


The Rambam, at the beginning of Hilchos Melochim, writes 'When Yisroel entered the land (Eretz Yisrael), they were commanded three mitzvos: to appoint a king ... to destroy the seed of Amolek ... and to build the Beis ha'Mikdosh - specifically in that order. ' 'Appointing a king precedes the destruction of Amolek', he writes, 'as it is written "G-d sent me to anoint you as king (Shmuel said to Shaul); now go and smite Amolek" '. It is clear from the Rambam that the mitzvah of destroying Amolek is not an individual one, but one that requires a king and an army. In that case, why does the Chofetz Chayim lists this mitzvah among the mitzvos that apply today. (We hope to elaborate on this in Parshas Ki Seitzei.) Equally puzzling is the fact that the Chofetz Chayim himself has pointed out that we do not know who Amolek is - a situation that has existed ever since Sancheiriv, King of Ashur, mixed up the nations (as the Minchas Chinuch writes) before the destruction of the first Beis ha'Mikdosh, some two and a half thousand years ago. Again the question arises, why does he include this mitzvah together with those mitzvos that apply nowadays?


This completes the seventy-seven Mitzvos Asei that apply nowadays.


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