Vol. 14 No. 28
This issue is sponsored
Mordecai Meir Chaim ben Yaakov
by family Lixenberg
Parshas Acharei-Mos Kedoshim
Just Like Kushim
The Navi Amos begins the Haftarah by comparing Yisrael to the Kushim. Bearing in mind the lack of any resemblance, either physical or spiritual, between us and the Kutim, the comparison is at first difficult to comprehend.
The Malbim however, attributes it to the difficulty both nations have in assimilating with other nations, albeit for different reasons. Both are radically different than their host nation, the one, because of the physical features that mark them, the other, because of the spiritual heritage that divides them.
The Navi's words are (not just 'Are you not like Kushim' … but)"Are you not like Kushim to Me", says Hashem? What He means by that is that our inability to mix with the other nations is not necessarily a natural phenomenon, for what is to stop us from divesting that heritage and joining our host nation? No, it is because we belong to Hashem, that He will not allow us to assimilate. For no sooner do we attempt to do so, than our host nation turns against us and begins to persecute us (as our history has shown time and time again). He acquired us at Har Sinai, and made an eternal pact with us which not only will He not abrogate, but neither will He allow us to.
The Ahavas Yehonasan explains that the contempt which the nations of the world hold us (whenever we try to abrogate the pact between ourselves and Hashem) is in fact, an act of Divine chesed. Indeed, that is the tool that Hashem uses to keep us apart and prevents us from assimilation. And he compares it to a princess who is captured by primitive tribesmen, and who blackens herself and makes herself look ugly and unattractive to prevent her captors from defiling her. Only in our case, if we do not employ measures to cause the nations to lose interest in us, then Hashem does it for us.
On one Erev Shabbos, when the Besht was leaving the bath-house in Constantinople, he noticed two Arabs approaching him, and he overheard one of them suggesting to the other to make a detour, to avoid touching him, for fear that 'that Jewish leper might contaminate them'.
Following that incident, the Besht cited the Pasuk in Balak (23:9) "Behold they are a nation who dwells alone, and they are not reckoned among the nations", which he explained to mean that the reason that Yisrael are a nation that is destined to dwell alone is because (irrespective of their numerous achievements) they are considered insignificant by the nations among whom they dwell. Were it not for that, they would have long assimilated.
Ploughing and Harvesting
Describing some of the aspects of life in the days of Mashi'ach, the Navi explains how the ploughman will meet the reaper. Commenting on this Pasuk, Rashi cites the Pasuk in Bechukosai "And the threshing of the corn will last until the vintage, whilst the vintage will last until the sowing". In other words, there will be such an abundance of produce, that the seasons of plowing, reaping and picking the grapes will overlap one another.
The Maggid mi'Dubno has a somewhat different interpretation.
He gives a moshol to a townsman who had never left town and who knew nothing about how crops grow. Now if this man were to pay a visit to a cornfield and see the farmer planting his seeds in the ground, he would in all likelihood consider the latter completely out of his mind. Why else would he take perfectly good seeds and throw them into the ground to rot and turn mouldy?
If some months later, he happened to visit the area again and witness the same farmer cutting the wheat from the now fully-grown wheat and stockpile food for the whole year, he would understand. He would understand retroactively that the ploughing and the planting were vital to the production of the grain and were anything but an act of stupidity.
Imagine if he had not made that second journey. He would have decided once and for all that the farmer and his ilk were all crazies!
When we look at the world in which we live, many things happen which are beyond our comprehension. We see Resha'im succeed and Tzadikim suffer, and we do not understand. Let us say it goes against the grain (pun intended), and appears unreasonable. But that is only because, like the townsman, we only see the beginning of the process (or perhaps it is the middle). We must be patient and wait for the end result, because then and only then, will we understand that what we see at this point in time, is vital to the 'harvest' that will ultimately take place. Then we will understand retroactively, why each stage had to take place exactly the way it did.
In the days of Mashi'ach, the Navi is teaching us here, when the ways of Hashem will be revealed for all to see, we will not need to wait until the end to understand what Hashem is doing and why He is doing it, because "the ploughman will meet the harvester" … the purpose of everything that occurs will be clear already from the outset.
* * *
A Way to Rebuke
"Rebuke your friend, but do not bear a sin because of him" (19:17).
The Gemara in Erchin learns from here, that when rebuking a fellow-Jew, one should do so gently, without causing him undue embarrassment.
The Chochmas Chayim cites the story of R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld, who once visited R. Micha'el Herman, who was in charge of the Tzedakah fund of Kolel Shomrei ha'Chomos, and with whom he was very close. Imagine the Rav's surprise, when, in his apartment, he saw a large clothes cupboard with a large mirror attached to the front, an article of furniture which, at that time, was deeply frowned upon.
Taking great care not to cause him any embarrassment, R. Yosef Chayim asked him jokingly what Micha'el was doing with a mirror, adding that, had his name been Gavriel, he would have understood.
The puzzled host turned to his guest and asked him what the difference was between Micha'el and Gavriel in this regard.
Back came the Rav's reply: 'Gavriel' has the same numerical value as 'Mir'eh'; Micha'el does not!'
R. Herman got the hint. A short while later, the mirror had disappeared.
Hashem is our Shadow
"And you shall love your fellow-Jew like yourself, I am Hashem" (19:18).
The Pasuk in Tehilim defines Hashem as "your shadow". Just as a shadow faithfully imitates the person to whom it belongs, so too, does Hashem faithfully imitate us, by doing to us what we do to others. Consequently, when we love a fellow-Jew irrespective of whether he is worthy or not, Hashem will respond by loving us whether we are worthy or not.
The Besht fits this thought into the above Pasuk, by changing the comma … "And if you love your fellow-Jew, I, Hashem, will do the same to you".
The story is told of a wealthy Chasid of R. Zusha, who discovered that his Rebbe paid regular visits to his Rebbe, the Maggid from Mezritch (who was clearly greater than him). In that case, he mused, why visit a lesser Rebbe, when for the same price, he could go to a greater one. No sooner said than done, and he too, began visiting the Magid mi'Mezrich instead of R. Zusha.
The moment he made the switch however, his fortunes took a turn for the worse, and it was not long before he lost his entire fortune and was reduced to poverty.
So he decided to switch back. On his first journey back to R. Zusha, he asked him to explain the strange phenomenon that had occurred.
'Not strange at all', the Rebbe replied with a smile.
'As long as you were giving your money to the unworthy Zusha, Hashem said that He would do likewise, and bless you with wealth, even though you were unworthy. But when you decided to look for a worthy Rebbe to whom to give your money, Hashem followed suit, and decided that He too, would rather distribute the wealth that He had blessed you with to a more wealthy incumbent. And that is what He did!'
Sorry, No Korbanos Yet!
"Observe My Shabbosos and fear My Mikdash, I am Hashem" (19:30).
The Gemara in Yevamos (6b) learns from here that the sanctity of the Beis-Hamikdash remains intact even today, when it is not standing - just like Shabbos, which applies even today.
When the British appointed Sir Herbert Samuel (who was a Shomer Torah u'Mitzvos), High Commissioner of Eretz Yisrael, R. Yosef Chayim sent him a letter with a request for government permission to post signs at various gates surrounding the Har ha'Bayis, informing people that entering them was strictly forbidden and was punishable by Kareis. Unfortunately, he refused, and we shall see why later.
On another occasion, R. Shimon Sofer (grandson of the Chasam Sofer), sent R. Yosef Chayim a She'eilah concerning building a Mizbei'ach and bringing Korbanos on it. His contention was that based on a Tosfos Yom-Tov in Ma'aser Sheini (5:2), a letter from his great-grandfather R. Akiva Eiger to his grandfather the Chasam Sofer and a Teshuvah written by the latter, the time may have arrived for all the Gedolei Chachamim in Eretz Yisrael, or even perhaps just those of Yerushalayim, to request from the ruling power of the land (the Turks, at that time) to grant them permission to do so. Money would not be an object, he claimed, since every Jew living in Eretz Yisrael (or Palestine, as it was called then) would gladly donate the annual tax of half a Shekel, which would amount to far more than the amount that was required for this purpose. And on top of that there were bound to be many wealthy people who would donate generously towards such a worthy cause.
Nor would there be a problem with regard to the relevant Halachos in connection with bringing Korbanos (as Kodshim was not yet being studied extensively as it is today), since the Chachamim and Ge'onim of Eretz Yisrael would study them and would soon become conversant in them.
R. Shimon Sofer based his suggestion on the fact that at that time, the ruling power granted the Jews full religious freedom to practice Torah and Mitzvos without interference. Without such permission, it seems, implementing Korbanos would have incurred the wrath of the gentiles, who would have given vent to their anger at a tremendous cost in Jewish lives, and was therefore unthinkable.
And it is on the basis of this latter point that R. Yosef Chayim sent his reply. Citing the incident that we mentioned earlier, he disagreed with the writer's contention that the Yishuv was granted full religious freedom to practice Torah and Mitzvos without interference. And he cited as an example, Sir Herbert Samuel's refusal to ask for government permission to post signs at various gates surrounding the Har ha'Bayis of which we spoke earlier, precisely because this would raise the hackles (not of the Turks, but) of the irreligious segment of the Jewish community. In that case, how could one speak in terms of religious freedom?
And besides, he added, the location of the Beis-Hamikdash was entirely in the hands of the Arabs, and any attempt on their own part to start bringing Korbanos, would have sparked off violent recriminations and would have resulted in widespread bloodshed.
Unfortunately, he concluded, there was nothing to do but to wait for the coming of Mashi'ach and the salvation of Hashem, may it happen speedily in our days.
* * *
"And Hashem spoke to Moshe after the two sons of Aharon, Kohanim Gedolim, when they brought a strange fire before Hashem, and they died by a flaming fire" (16:1).
"A linen shirt he shall wear … only with clothes containing gold he may not enter (the Kodesh Kodshim), in order that sin of the Golden Calf should not be remembered when he goes in; and before he enters, he shall 'bathe' his flesh in forty Sa'ah of water and put them on" (16:4).
"And he shall turn sideways and leave the Kodesh (Kodshim) to go to the Mizbei'ach which is before Hashem, and he shall atone on it with words" (i.e. Viduy [confession]), and he shall take from the blood of the bull and the blood of the goat, after they have been mixed, and put it on the four 'horns' round about (i.e. on each of the four corners) 16:18.
" … Aharon shall lean his hands in one order, right-hand over left, on the head of the live goat, and he shall confess on it all the iniquities of B'nei Yisrael, all their rebellious sins and all the sins that they performed inadvertently, and he shall place them, with an oath incorporating the great and precious Name of Hashem, on the head of the goat; then he shall send it with a man who has been designated since last year, to a rocky part of the desert which is its habitat" (16:21).
" … the goat shall carry on it('s shoulders) all their sins … and the man shall take the goat to the rocky part of the desert, where a strong gust of wind from Hashem will push it (off the cliff) and it will die" (16:22).
"And the bull of the Chatas and the goat of the Chatas whose blood was taken inside the Kodesh to atone, shall be carried outside the camp on a pole carried by young Kohanim, and they shall burn it in fire … its skin, its flesh and its dung" (16:27).
"And this shall be for you an everlasting statute, on the tenth of the seventh month, the month of Tishri, you shall afflict yourselves, from food and drink, from washing, anointing yourselves with spices and from inter-marital relations; nor may you perform any work … " (16:29).