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

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Vol. 8   No. 27

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Meir ben Benzion Sand z"l - Yohrzeit 14th Iyar,
and Rashkah Zvi Levin z"l - Yohrziet 29th Iyar
by Zvi and Tamara Sand

Parshas Acharei-Mos Kedoshim

The Prohibition of Drinking Blood

The Ramban, quoting the Rambam, attributes the prohibition of drinking blood to the practice of the Babylonians, who would drink large quantities of blood, in order to make contact with the demons, whose staple diet was blood. And they did this in spite of the fact that drinking blood is generally considered to be an objectionable practice.

The purpose of this contact was to gain knowledge of the future, of which the demons have an insight. And because this practice is, in a way, a denial of G-d's Omnipotence, it is considered a form of idolatry. And that explains why the Torah uses the expression "And I will turn My Face to the soul that eats blood", the very same expression that it uses in connection with someone who gives his child to Molech (which is also considered a form of idolatry).

The Seforno too, connects the prohibition of drinking blood to the power of the demons. In fact, he uses the connection to explain why the mitzvah of 'Kisuy ha'Dam' (covering the blood of a Shechted animal) is confined to wild animals (such as the kosher species of deer) and birds, but not to domesticated animals. It is, he says, because domesticated animals are generally found in the fields close to the town, an area not so well-frequented by the demons, who tend to shun the company of humans, and who therefore avoid populated areas. Consequently, the likelihood of people Shechting their cattle for blood-orgies with demons is minimal, and the Torah did not find it necessary to prescribe Kisuy ha'Dam on their blood. It is in the case of wild animal and birds, which one needs to hunt in the forests and the big wide-open spaces, where demons abound, he says, that the Torah issues its prohibition.


The Ramban agrees with the Rambam in principle, but, based on the posuk's constant repetition of the comparison of the blood to the soul, he rejects it as being the Torah's principle reason for the prohibition. The Torah clearly indicates that the prohibition lies in the fact that the soul is the blood, the blood is the soul and the two are synonymous. This is what the Ramban writes on the subject.

G-d created all of His creations for the benefit of man, since man is the only one of the creations that recognizes and acknowledges Him. In spite of this, initially, He only permitted him to eat plants from the world of 'Tzomei'ach' (plant-life), but not from that of 'Chai' (animal life), as the Torah specifically states at his creation. It was only after the Flood, when all the animals were saved from extinction on the merit of No'ach and by his efforts, and after he had brought a sacrifice from them to G-d, that he was permitted to slaughter them and eat them.

Even then, G-d confined this concession to the animals' bodies, which He had in any event, created for man's benefit. Their souls (i.e. their blood), remained forbidden for him to use for his personal benefit, since it is not befitting for one soul to eat another. The blood was reserved to use as an atonement for his sins (a soul for a soul). We are referring of course, to the Nefesh (the soul of life that man shares with animals), not to the Neshomoh (which places him on a par with the angels).


It is well known, the Ramban continues, that what a person eats becomes integrated in his system and effects him at every level of his being. Consequently, were man to eat the blood of animals, they would become an integral part of him, and would impregnate him with the coarse unrefined nature of an animal. The reason that this does not occur when he eats the meat of the animal, he explains, is because, following the process of chewing that is necessary for the digestion, it enters the body in a changed format, enabling it to integrate with the body without effecting it. (One might also suggest that by virtue of the fact that the meat is purely physical, it has little impact on the one who eats it. As opposed to the blood, which in its capacity as the soul, has spiritual content, causing it to have a more powerful reaction on the body that absorbs it).


The Ramban goes one step further. He refers to a posuk in Koheles that draws a distinction between the spirit of a man ('which ultimately goes to Heaven'), and that of an animal ('which descends into the ground'). And that, he maintains, is another good reason for the Torah's prohibition to drink blood, because it is not proper to unite a transient soul with one that is eternal.

It is sufficient, he concludes, that the blood goes on the Mizbei'ach to atone for man's sins (in keeping with Hashem's quality of compassion, to accept an inferior soul in place of the sinner's superior one. Or perhaps the soul of the sinner, by virtue of his having denigrated himself to the level of an animal is considered on a par with that of an animal). But the Torah did not go as far as to permit the blood to be eaten. And this is clearly spelt out by the Torah itself (17:11/12).


In fairness to the Rambam however, it should be pointed out that the Torah (17:5-7) clearly connects the prohibition of drinking blood with the attraction to the demons that prevailed at that time. Indeed, the Seforno there, who follows in the footsteps of the Rambam, as we have already seen, clarifies his explanation in great detail.


Parshah Pearls
Acharei Mos

Two Times Seven

"And Hashem spoke to Moshe ... And Hashem said to Moshe" ((16:1-2).

The Ba'al ha'Turim, commenting on this repetition, explains that the Torah is alluding to the seven days separation from Tum'ah that the Kohen Godol had to undergo prior to his entry into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kipur. The repetition, he explains, hints at the only other occasion when this was required of him - namely, before preparing the Poroh Adumoh.


410 "With this ("be'Zos") shall Aharon enter the Kodesh Kodshim, with a bull ... ".

The numerical value of "be'Zos" is four hundred and ten, an obvious allusion to the number of years that the first Beis Hamikdosh stood, during which time the Kohen Gadol would perform this service each year, until its destruction.


Az'ozel, Az'ozel, Az'ozel

The word "Az'ozel" (the rock from which the goat was pushed to its death on Yom Kipur) appears three times in the parshah, comments the Ba'al ha'Turim, corresponding to the three levels of sin for which it atoned. These are based on the Posuk in Ki Siso "nosei ovon vo'fesha ve'chato'ah" ('He 'carries' iniquity [sins performed for pleasure], rebellious sins and sins performed in error').


Sweet Sixteen

Aharon sprinkled the blood of the bull and of the goat sixteen times towards the lid of the Oron ha'Kodesh, sixteen times towards the Poroches and sixteen times he placed it on the Golden Mizbei'ach. This corresponds, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, to the sixteen covenants that Hashem made with Yisroel, first at Sinai, then in the Ohel Mo'ed and finally in the Plains of Mo'av.



And the Ba'al ha'Turim comments further that the Kohen Godol's five tevilos (in the Mikvah) on Yom Kipur, as he changed from the eight garments to the four and from the four to the eight, corresponded to the five avodos (from outside the Kodesh Kodoshim to inside and vice-versa). This in turn corresponds to the five Tefilos that we daven on Yom Kipur (Ma'ariv, Shachris, Musaf, Minchah and Ne'ilah, and all of these come to atone for the Soul (which has five names - Nefesh, Ru'ach, Neshomoh, Chayah and Yechidah).

In addition, they all correspond to the five times the term "Melech ha'Kavod" appear in the Kapitel "le'Dovid Mizmor" in Tehilim.


Parshah Pearls

The Number 'Ten'

"Speak to the assembly ("Adas" = Eidah shel) of B'nei Yisroel and tell them to be holy" (19:2). "The Ba'al ha'Turim observes that the Torah juxtaposes "Adas B'nei Yisroel" to "be holy". It is to teach us, he says that, based on the known fact that an Eidah (assembly) consists of not less than ten people, 'a dovor she'bi'kedushah' (such as Kadish, Kedushah and Leining) requires at least ten people.


The Mitzvah of Pei'oh

"u've'Kutzrechem es k'tzir artzechem, lo sechaleh pe'as sodcho"" (19:9).

Although the Torah ascribes no fixed measure for the amount of Pei'oh one should leave in the corner of one's field, the Rabbonon fixed it at a minimum of one sixtieth. And this is hinted twice in this parshah (bearing in mind that there is nothing which is not contained in the Torah). Firstly, the word "u've'Kutzrechem", can be read "u've'Kotzir chem", whose numerical value is sixty. Secondly, the numerical value of "pe'as sodcho" is the equivalent of 'ha'Pei'oh hu echod mi'shishim' ('Pei'oh is one sixtieth') - Ba'al ha'Turim.


The word "Kotzir" appears four times in this parshah in one form or another, the Ba'al ha'Turim adds, to stress that the mitzvah of Pei'ah is determined specifically to grain that is harvested in the regular manner. It precludes grain that has been picked by robbers, detached by ants, blown down by the wind or (partially) eaten by an animal.


It Cuts Both Ways

"Leave it for the poor and for the convert ... Do not steal" (19:10-11).

The juxtaposition of these two pesukim is a warning to the rich man that a failure to leave Pei'oh constitutes theft. But it is also a warning to the poor man not to steal from the rich landowner, the Ba'al ha'Turim explains. Because Chazal have taught that two grains that fell to the ground during harvesting constitute Pei'oh, but not three. This being the case, should the poor man collect three grains that he finds lying together (or even if he picks up only two of them), that is considered stealing.


That's Not the Way to Do it!

"Do not retain the wages of a hired worker with you overnight ... Do mot curse ... " (19:13-14).

The juxtaposition of these two phrases, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, teaches us that when you have a claim against someone, the right thing to do is not to curse him (or to speak about him to others) but to take him to Beis-din to claim the money that he owes you.


Loshon ho'Ra and Troubleshooters

"Do not be a gossip-monger among your people (be'amecho). Do not stand by the blood of your friend" (19:16).

The word "be'amecho" contains an extra 'yud', to teach us that a gossip-monger is considered as if he had transgressed all of the Ten Commandments.

Nevertheless, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, the Yerushalmi learns from the juxtaposition of these two mitzvos that, as terrible as Loshon ho'Ra is, one is permitted to speak it about troubleshooters. As we find by Noson ha'Novi, who instructed Bas-Sheva to complain to her husband Dovid ha'Melech about Adoniyohu, who had usurped the throne as the King lay on his deathbed. Whereas Dovid had promised that their son Shlomoh would succeed him. And he even added "and I will come and complement your words". What they were telling Dovid was pure Loshon ho'Ra, but it was about a troubleshooter.


Adapted from the Seifer ha'Mitzvos ha'Kotzer of the Chofetz Chayim.
(The Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh)

156. ... not to go astray after the thoughts of one's heart and the sight of one's eye's - as the Torah writes in Sh'lach Lecho (15:39) " ... and do not go astray after your hearts and after your eyes". This means that we should restrain ourselves from heretical thoughts that clash with any of the fundamental precepts of our religion or from thoughts that inevitably lead to immoral behaviour. As Chazal explain in B'rochos (12b) "Acharei levavchem" refers to heresy, and "acharei eineichem", to immorality.

And this la'av incorporates not concentrating on the pursuit of other worldly pleasures and desires of this world (as an end in themselves). Indeed, one needs to take extreme care to guard oneself from wrong thoughts, since these are 'a peg on which everything hangs'. One therefore needs to sanctify and purify one's thoughts with all one's strength.

When indulging in some pleasure or other, one should specifically have in mind that one is doing so strictly in order to have the strength to stand in the King's Palace. That is to say, that his body should be strong when serving Hashem.

Someone who allows heretical or immoral thoughts to cross his mind, or who thinks about pursuing the physical pleasures of this world, is guilty of a profound sin, one which drives him away from the World to Come. Because this sin defiles all of his 248 limbs and 365 sinews, both the physical and the spiritual, so one should take great care to avoid it.

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


157. ... not to destroy anything holy, nor to erase any of Hashem's Holy Names - as the Torah writes in Re'ei (12:4) "Do not do this to Hashem your G-d". This refers to any one of the seven Holy Names which may not be erased. Someone who erases even just one letter from any one of them is subject to malkos. Someone who erases a suffix from one of the Names, such as the 'chaf' from 'Elokecho', or the 'chaf mem' from 'Elokeichem' receives makas mardus (malkos mi'de'Rabbonon). If one finds one of Hashem's Names written on a vessel, one must cut out that section and place it (or the entire vessel) in 'sheimos'.

Someone who erases a Name of Hashem from a metal vessel by melting it, receives malkos.

Someone who erases Holy writings and their explanations that were written by a believing Jew receives makas mardus, whereas if they were written by an apikorus (a non-believer), they must be burned together with any holy Names they may contain.

It is forbidden to demolish or to destroy anything that is Holy.

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


159. ... not to stray from the rulings of the Beis-Din ha'Godol - as the Torah writes in Shoftim (17:11) "And do not stray right or left from the word that they tell you". This includes the whole of Shas.

Anyone who believes in Moshe Rabeinu and in his Holy Torah is obligated to accept the interpretations of the Beis-Din ha-Godol. This incorporates what they received traditionally (the oral Torah), what they derived from any of the principles through which Torah is expounded (such as the thirteen principle of Rebbi Yishmoel) and things that they decreed to safeguard the Torah.

The Seifer ha'Chinuch writes that we are obligated to obey the instructions of the early sages, as well as our Torah leaders and judges of our own generation.

This mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times, to men and women alike. Anyone who transgresses, by breaching the fence regarding any issue that our Rabbis, based on their interpretation of Torah, taught us, has contravened this la'av.


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