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

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Vol. 11   No. 28

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

Parshas Acharei Mos-Kedoshim

The Death of Nadav and Avihu
(Adapted from the Rosh on the Chumash)

A Heavy Price to Pay

"And G-d spoke to Moshe, after the death of the sons of Aharon" (16:1).

The two sons of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, died, Rebbi Eliezer explained, because they issued a ruling in the presence of their Rebbe (Moshe). They ruled that it is a Mitzvah to bring human fire on the Mizbei'ach, even though a Heavenly fire is destined to descend and burn the Korbanos anyway.

It once happened, the same B'raysa relates, that a Talmid of Rebbi Eliezer made the same mistake as Nadav and Avihu. There too, Rebbi Eliezer told his wife that this Talmid would not survive the year. No, he told his Talmidim, he was not a Navi, but he knew from his Rebbes that anybody who issues rulings in the presence of his Rebbe, is sentenced to death (by the Heavenly Court). And that is precisely what happened. The Talmid died before the year was out.

And what is called in the presence of one's Rebbe?

A distance of three Parsah (twelve Mil), another B'raysa explains, the size of the Camp of Yisrael in the desert - three Parsah by three Parsah.


Their Only Sin

" ... when they came close to before G-d and they died" (ibid.).

Come and see, says Rebbi Elazar ha'Muda'i, how hard to bear was the death of Nadav and Avihu before G-d (Kevayachol)! Wherever the Torah mentions their death, it also mentions the cause of their death.

The reason for this, the Medrash explains, is in order that no-one should for one moment think that they were guilty of some other unknown sin, for which G-d was now punishing them.

And why does it write "before G-d"?

It is, says Rebbi Yochanan, to teach us just how it pains Hashem when the sons of Tzadikim die in the lifetime of their fathers.

In fact, the Medrash points out, Nadav and Avihu were already deserving of the death-penalty at Har Sinai (for gazing at the Shechinah after having eaten and drunk - see Rashi Mishpatim 24:11). And it goes on to give a parable of a king who was in the process of marrying off his daughter, when he discovered that the Shushbin (the best man) was guilty of having committed adultery. Not wanting to spoil his daughter's Simchah, he decided to wait for the opportune moment (his own Simchah, which was due shortly), before sentencing the Shushbin to death. So too here. In order not to disturb the Torah's Simchah, G-d decided to postpone Nadav and Avihu's death sentence until the day that the Mishkan was set-up (when He would celebrate His own personal Simchah [Kevayachol]). Better, He maintained, to disturb His Simchah than that of the Torah. (But why, you may well ask, did the punishment have to take place at another Simchah? Why not any time? The answer is that G-d's way is to punish Midah ke'Neged Midah. Their sin stemmed from a high level of Simchah, so they were killed under similar circumstances).

And this is what Moshe was referring to when he said in Shemini (10:3) "That is what G-d meant when He said 'I will be sanctified with those who are close to Me' " (with Nadav and Avihu, who had already been sentenced to death for the sin that they perpetrated at Har Sinai).



The Medrash cites Rebbi Aba bar Avina, who asked why the Torah juxtaposes Miriam's death to the Parshah of the Parah Adumah (Chukas 20:1). And he answers that it is to teach us that Miriam's death atoned no less than the ashes of the Parah Adumah. By the same token, explains Rebbi Yudan, the Torah places the death of Aharon beside the breaking of the Luchos, to teach us that the death of Aharon was as heartbreaking in the eyes of G-d as the breaking of the Luchos.

And similarly, says Rebbi Chiya bar Aba, even though Nadav and Avihu died in Nisan, the Torah mentions their death in the Parshah of Yom Kipur, to teach us that just as Yom Kipur atones, so too, does the death of Tzadikim.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Rosh on the Chumash)

Parshas Acharei Mos


"One lot for Hashem and one lot for Az'azel" (16:8).

Az'azel, the Rosh explains, is a hard rock. Alternatively, the word is the acronym of 'az azal' (which means 'it goes to the rock').

When you are thirty-three, says the I'bn Ezra, you will understand it. What he means, the Rosh explains, is that Az'azel is connected with the thirty-third Pasuk after this one (17:7) "And they shall no longer bring their sacrifices to the demons ("la'Se'irim", which can also mean goats) that they worship."

The term 'no longer' implies that until now they did indeed sacrifice to the demons (but from now on that practice must stop). And this refers to the Sa'ir la'Az'azel on Yom Kipur, which resembles sacrificing to the demons.

Quoting the Ramban, the Rosh elaborates. Chas ve'Shalom, he says, that the Avodah on Yom Kipur should have any such connotations. And he compares it to a servant who receives a portion from his master, not from the sheli'ach, who hands it to him.

In fact, on Yom Kipur, Sama'el (the Angel of Eisav) who receives a portion from his Divine Master on that day, begins to sing Yisrael's praises. 'Ribono shel Olam', he says, 'There is a nation in the land who are like angels, who dress and who are draped in white, who stand bare-foot in self-affliction (through fasting), big and small alike, all without sin. They are Your children! Who is like Your people Yisrael'?

'You are speaking in defense of My people!', G-d responds, I swear that you will take a portion and share in My feast. For they will give you a goat ... '

Nothing that is done with this goat has the slightest semblance to the Avodah of a Korban. It is neither Shechted, nor burnt, the blood is neither received nor sprinkled in the way that other Korbanos are, Chalilah. Consequently, there is nothing whatsoever about the Sa'ir la'Az'azel for the Miynim (the heretics) to latch on to. This explains why on Yom Kipur, Sama'el is incapable of prosecuting Yisrael, as the Pasuk writes in Zecharyah "G-d will scold you; G-d will scold you, Satan". And it explains why the word 'ha'Satan' has the numerical value of 364, a hint that one day each year his hands are tied, and he cannot accuse Yisrael - thanks to the portion that he receives through them from Hashem's Table.


Parshas Kedoshim
(Adapted from the Rosh on the Chumash, quoting the Medrash Tanchuma)

The Road to Sanctity

"Speak to the whole community of Yisrael" (19:1).

This teaches us, Rashi explains, that 'Kedoshim' was said when the whole of Yisrael was assembled, because most major parts of Torah are connected with it.

The Rosh explains that the Asares ha'Dibros (which form the basis of the Torah) are all hinted here:

"Onochi Hashem Elokecho" - "Ani Hashem Elokechem" (19:2).

"Lo Yih'yeh lecho Elohim Acherim al Ponai" - "Al tifnu el ho'elilim" (19:4).

"Lo Siso" - "ve'Lo sishav'u vi'Sh'mi la'shaker" (19:12).

"Shomor es Yom ha'Shabbos le'kadsho" - ve'es Shabsosai tishmoru" (19:3).

"Kabeid es ovicho ve'es imecho" - "Ish oviv ve'imo tishmoru" (19:3).

"Lo tirtzach" - "Lo sa'amod al dam re'echo" (19:16).

"Lo tin'af" - "Mos yumas ha'no'ef ve'ha'no'efes" (20:10).

"Lo tignov" - "Lo tignovu" (10:11).

"Lo sa'aneh ve're'acho" - "Lo seilech rochil be'amecho" (19:16).

"Lo tachmod" - "Lo sa'ashok es re'acha".

The road to Kedushah is spelt out here in no uncertain terms.


G-d's Multi-faceted Holiness

" ... because I your G-d, am Holy" (19:1).

The miynim (heretics) asked Rebbi Simla'i how, in view of the Pasuk in Yehoshua (24:19) "ki Elokim Kedoshim Hu" (which is written in the plural), it was possible to declare G-d as One.

'You idiots', he replied, 'had the Pasuk written "ki Elokim Kedoshim Heim", your question would have been laudable. But now that it writes (not 'heim', but) "Hu", what the Pasuk means is that the One G-d is hallowed with all kinds of sanctity - He is Holy, and His speech is Holy, His paths are holy, and His ways are Holy, His revealed Arm is holy and His praise is Holy (for all of these the Medrash cites a Pasuk).

In short, Hashem is One, but His sanctity is multi-faceted.


Planting Trees

"And when you come to the land, you will plant all fruit-trees" (19:23).

A story is told of Hadrian, who was once leading his troops out to war, when he came across an old man planting fig-trees. In answer to the emperor's question as to why he was going to the trouble of planting trees from which he was unlikely to benefit, he replied that if he would be fortunate enough, then he himself would eat from the fruit. And if not, then his children would eat from it.

Note, that in the Gemara in Ta'anis (23a), the old man there, in reply to Choni ha'Me'agel's question, replied, that just as he had found fruit-trees when he came into the world, he wanted to make sure that his descendents would find fruit-trees when they entered it.

Three years later, when Hadrian returned, the old man was still there. What did the old man do? He filled a basket with the finest figs, and presented them to the emperor, reminding him of their previous conversation. He pointed out that he had indeed merited to taste of the fruit himself, and that this basketful of figs was from one of the very trees that he had planted at the time.

The delighted Hadrian ordered his servants to empty the basket and return it to the old man filled with gold coins. When the old man returned home with the basketful of gold coins, and related the incident to his wife and children, his neighbor's wife happened to be in the room.

Losing no time, the greedy woman called her husband and, after telling him what had happened to their lucky neighbor, she instructed him to fill a large basket with all kinds of fruit and take it as a gift to the emperor, and tell him that he had heard how fond he was of fruit. She was convinced that he too, would receive a basketful of gold coins in return, and eagerly awaited his return. The man followed his wife's instructions to the letter, but he wasn't quite so lucky. The angry Hadrian ordered his officer to take the basket of fruit and beat his face in with it. They stripped him, and proceeded to beat him mercilessly, until his face became swollen and his body broken from the beating.

Unlike his neighbor, he arrived home sobbing, his eyes and face swollen and his body broken, without the basketful of gold coins that his wife was dreaming of.

In any event, we can learn from this story that one should not refrain from planting fruit-trees, even when one is old, just as one found fruit-trees already planted upon one's own arrival. Indeed, we should take our cue from Hashem, about whom it is written in Bereishis (2:8) "And Hashem planted a tree in Eden ... ".


We can also learn from the story (besides the folly of blindly obeying one's wife (something which we already know from Adam and Chavah), the lesson giving and taking. Just as it is possible to give even as one takes, so too, is it possible to take, even as one gives, as we see from the story. And what's more, we see the difference between the reactions of the recipient to whom the donor genuinely wishes to give, and the one from whom his aim is to take.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 184:
Kohanim may Not Enter the Mikdash Whenever They Please, How Much More So Zarim

Kohanim are prohibited from entering the Mikdash at any time, only in the course of the Avodah, as the Torah writes in Acharei-Mos (16:2) "and he shall not come at any time... ".

This is a warning forbidding the Kohen Gadol from entering the Kodesh Kodoshim, even on Yom Kipur, as well as the ordinary Kohanim from entering the Heichal all year round, unless it is to perform the Avodah. In other words, the Torah comes to forbid any Kohen from entering even a location which is permitted to him, other than to perform the Avodah.

From the current Pesukim however, the Sifra learns that it is only for entering the area in front of the lid (of the Aron) - the Kodesh Kodoshim - that one receives Miysah bi'yedei Shamayom (the death-penalty at the Hand of G-d). Entering any other section of the Beis-Hamikdash is subject to a La'av, but not to Miysah.

A reason for the Mitzvah is in order to drive home the greatness of the Place and its awesomeness, so that the fear of the Mikdash becomes engraved in the Kohanims' hearts.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah ... as recorded in the Mishnah and the Tosefta of Keilim ... that the Kohen Gadol may only enter the Kodesh Kodoshim on Yom Kipur, four times and no more. Should he enter a fifth time, he is Chayav Miysah bi'yedei Shamayim. And that even a Kohen Hedyot (an ordinary Kohen) may enter the Heichal each day, only if it is in order to perform the Avodah. Any Kohen, even the Kohen Gadol, who enters for any other purpose (even if it is to bow down to Hashem), receives Malkos, as we explained earlier.

This is the opinion of the Rambam. According to the Ramban however, entering into the Heichal for any other purpose than to perform the Avodah, or with long hair or with torn clothes, is only Asur mi'de'Rabbanan (for which he receives Makas Mardus), and not min ha'Torah. And what's more, it would seem that, according to the Ramban, should a Kohen enter in order to prostrate himself before G-d, he does not even receive Makas Mardus. And the prohibition pertains only to someone who enters the Mikdash empty-handed (without intending to perform any of the Avodos).

This Mitzvah applies at the time of the Beis-Hamikdash to Kohanim only. Nevertheless, even today, Chazal have said that, based on the Pasuk in Bechukosai "and I will lay waste your Mikdash" (implying that even when they are in a state of destruction, they are still holy), entry into the holy places is prohibited, in which case, the Mitzvah belongs to the category of Mitzvos that applies even today.


Mitzvah 186:
Not to Shecht Kodshim Outside the Azarah

It is forbidden to Shecht Kodshim outside the Azarah ('Kodshim ba'Chutz'), as the Torah writes in Acharei-Mos (17:3/4) "A man ... who Shechts an ox, a lamb or a goat ... and does not bring it to the Ohel Mo'ed, is guilty of spilling blood, and is Chayav Kareis". From this Pasuk we learn the punishment, not the warning. However, we have a principle that there is no punishment without a warning. Chazal therefore learn the warning with a Hekesh (comparison) to someone who sacrifices outside the Azarah, where the Torah explicitly writes in Re'ei (12:13) "Beware not to sacrifice your Olos wherever you please".

A reason for the Mitzvah is because G-d designated a location for Yisrael to bring their Korbanos, and to direct their hearts towards Him. By virtue of this designation, coupled with the fact that one elevates the place and reveres it in one's heart, a person is influenced for the good, his heart is softened, and it leads him to a complete acceptance of the Kingdom of Heaven. Therefore G-d precluded Korbanos from being sacrificed anywhere else but there, in order that the atonement for our sins should be complete.

It is an important principle that everything that G-d commands us is only for our own good, as the author has written before, because G-d wishes, in His infinite goodness, to do good to His creations.

Therefore He declared that anyone who brings a Korban outside that place, it is as if he has shed blood. For the Torah only permitted the killing of animals as an atonement, to eat, as a cure, or to fulfill any other of man's many needs. But to kill an animal for no reason at all, is considered destructive, and falls under the category of shedding blood. And even though, given man's superiority over animals, it cannot be compared to murder, it is nevertheless referred to as shedding blood, since that is literally what one does when one Shechts an animal to no advantage.

That is why, when someone Shechts Kodshim outside the Azarah, in a location where he has not been commanded to, and where, not only does he gain nothing from the Shechitah, but to the contrary, he has caused damage by transgressing the Mitzvah of His Creator, the Torah punishes him with Kareis.

The Dinim of the Mitzvah ... as Chazal have said in Zevachim (106a) that if one Shechts an animal outside the Azarah, one is Chayav, even if he subsequently sacrifices it inside, because Shechting it outside and bringing it outside are two independent La'avin (the latter even appears in Re'ei [Mitzvah 439], and not in our Parshah), and that one is only Chayav for Shechting outside, a Korban that is fit to be brought inside, but not one that is Pasul ... together with all the other Halachos, are explained in the thirteenth Perek of Zevachim, and in the Rambam, in the 19th chapter of Ma'aseh ha'Korbanos. This Mitzvah applies everywhere and at all times. Consequently, someone who purposely Shechts an animal nowadays as Kodshim, is Chayav Kareis, even if he does not go on to sacrifice it, as we explained. Whereas, if he does so by mistake, he remains obligated to bring a Chatas when the Beis-Hamikdash will be built.

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