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

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Vol. 22   No. 27

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
R' Aryeh Leib ben Avraham z"l
whose Yohrzeit was on 30 Nisan
by his family

Parshas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim

The Sa'ir la'Azazel
(Adapted from the Ramban)

#Catch 33 - Part 1.

"And Aharon shall place lots on the two goats; one lot for Hashem and one lot for Azazel"16:8).

The Ib'n Ezra refers to the secret in the name of 'Azazel' (which is the acronym of Eiz ozal - the goat goes or Az ozal - it goes to a tough location) and the word that follows it (in Pasuk 10) "to the desert". In revealing 'part of the secret' he writes 'When you will be thirty-three, you will understand it'.

The commentaries explain that the author wrote thirty-three in the feminine ('sheloshim ve'sholosh'), pretending that he is referring to a person's age - that when he reaches the mature age of thirty-three, he will be better equipped to understand it. In reality however, he is referring to the thirty-third Pasuk following the current one - in which case it ought to have written 'sheloshim u'sheloshah' (in the masculine), and he used the feminine to hide the secret from those who are not worthy to hear it.

The thirty-third Pasuk later (17:7) reads - "And one should no longer sacrifice their Korbanos to the Se'irim (demons) after whom they go astray".


The Ramban undertakes to divulge the secrets referred to by the Ib'n Ezra, only he explains that he is merely revealing what various Medrashim have already done before him. And he proceeds to elaborate in detail on the Sa'ir la'Azazel, in the course of which he uncovers them all


The Sa'ir la'Azazel - Part 2.

"And the goat shall carry on itself all their sins to an uninhabited place, and he shall send the goat to the desert" (16:22).

"And the goat shall carry on itself". This refers to Eisav, whom Ya'akov called 'Ish Sa'ir" (a man who is hairy like a goat).

"All their sins (avonotam)" refers to Ya'akov, whom the Torah called "ish tam (simple, honest and straightforward)". Medrash Rabah.


And quoting the Pirkei de'Rebbi Eliezer, he explains how the goat is a form of bribery to Sama'el (the angel of Eisav). It is to prevent him from prosecuting them on Yom Kipur, thereby negating the sin-offering that they offer up to Hashem on that day. And this explains the lots that the Kohen Gadol draws on Yom Kipur - one for Hashem; the other one for Azazel, which carried all their sins

When Sama'el, affected by the connived bribery, sees on Yom Kipur, that Yisrael are devoid of sin, he begins to sing Yisrael's praises before Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu. 'Master of the World', he announces, "You have a nation on earth that can be compared to angels. Like angels, they go barefooted, they do not eat or drink, they jump (as angels, in the form of human-beings) they have no knee-bone, they live in peace with each other and they are free of sin". And when Hakadosh-Baruch-Hu hears this testimony from Yisrael's chief prosecutor, He atones on the Mizbe'ach, on the Mikdash, on the Kohanim and on the entire congregation of Yisrael!

The Angel Sama'el, the author explains, is so-called a). because he operates from the left (S'mol) - the north (of the Shechinah, which is in the west), as the Pasuk writes - "The evil will come from the north", bearing in mind that the Shechinah is in the west; and b). because he blinds the people's eyes ('suma' is a blind person). This is in keeping with the saying of Chazal that the Yeitzer ha'Ra, the Satan and the Angel of Death are one and the same.


Revealing the Secret - Part 3.

The Ramban stresses that the following explanation should not be misconstrued as sacrificing to Azazel, particularly bearing in mind that it was common practice in those times to sacrifice to the various celestial powers to garner favour with them. As a matter of fact, the reason that it is not Shechted is precisely to preclude such a misconception.


As is well-known, the twelve Mazalos (constellations) are responsible for events - good or bad - that occur in this world. A good example of this is Mazal T'le (lamb) which governs in the month of Nisan, and whose power Yisrael subdued when they brought the Korban Pesach in Egypt.

One of the Mazalos is 'Ma'adim' (the planet Mars), the Mazel of war, bloodshed and destruction, whose domain covers the desert, the location that denotes destruction and desolation. The animals that lie in his domain are goats (Se'irim or Izim), and the nation over which it has jurisdiction is Edom, which has the same root as Ma'adim, or Se'ir - Eisav's territory - the nation that inherited the sword. Incidentally, the Sheidim (demons) too, which are also called 'Se'irim', lie under Ma'adim's jurisdiction.

To explain the significance of the Sa'ir la'Azazel, the Ramban gives the following parable: A man once arranged a banquet for his master, who instructed him to send a portion to one of his servants, which he did.

Clearly, the portion that the Ba'al ha'Se'udah gave to the servant was a gift from him, not to the servant, but to his master. Indeed, the master's objective was so that all his servants, even those who were unable to attend the banquet, should speak his praises.


When the 'prepared man' took the goat out to a barren rock in the desert, he was sending a gift to Sama'el not from Yisrael, but from G-d! The Kohen Gadol places the two goats before Hashem and draws lots to determine which goat goes to Hashem and which, to Azazel, the Ramban explains, to indicate that the gift to Sama'el, is from G-d and not from Yisrael. And he stressed this further when, after drawing the lots, he placed it before Hashem a second time, as the Torah specifically states (in Pasuk (16:10).

Earlier, we cited the Ramban, who points out that the Sa'ir la'Azazel was not Shechted, to rule out any assumption that it was being brought as a Korban to Azazel. He also cites Unklus who makes the same point when, in Pasuk 8, with reference to the two lots, he writes 'one in the Name of Hashem, and one, for Azazel' (implying, but not in the name of Azazel).

* * *

Parshah Pearls

(Adapted from the Ramban)

Where Moshe could Go but Aharon Couldn't

"And G-d said to Moshe 'Speak to Aharon your brother, that he may not come to the Kodesh within the curtain at any time, so that he should not die " (16:2).

The Ramban explains that Moshe was to warn Aharon that although he (Moshe) was permitted to enter the Kodesh Kodshim at any time, he (Aharon) should not think that because he was his brother, he too was permitted to do so.


Nadav & Avihu's Sin


Connecting this Pasuk with the previous one, which states that Nadav and Avihu died because "they came too close before Hashem", the Ib'n Ezra assumes that their sin comprised entering the Kodesh Kodshim (with their Ketores).

The Ramban however, who refers to his own interpretation (in Parshas Shemini) as to the sin that caused Nadav and Avihu's death (i.e. that they brought the Ketores with the wrong Kavanah), rejects that of the Ib'n Ezra. And he does so most prominently because these two Tzadikim would not have had the audacity to enter a location where their esteemed father, who was the Kohen Gadol, had not yet merited entering.


He therefore explains that what the Pasuk means is that Aharon should take care not to follow in his sons' footsteps when approaching Hashem (i.e. performing the Avodah), but that he should only perform in the place and at the time that he was commanded.

As for the warning against entering the Kodesh Kodshim at any time, the Pasuk is merely answering those who complained that the Ketores only has the power to kill. What it is saying is that Aharon was permitted to go one stage further than his sons. They died on account of the Ketores; he was permitted not only to enter the Kodesh Kodshim with the Ketores, but if he entered without it, he would die.


The Prohibition of Drinking Blood

"For the soul of the flesh lies in the blood, and I have assigned it for you upon the Mizbe'ach" (17:11).

The Pasuk implies, says the Ramban, that the prohibition of drinking blood is due to G-d's having designated it for Himself, as it were (though one then needs to understand why we are permitted to benefit from it).

In that case, he asks, why is the blood of Chayos and of birds other than doves and pigeons, included in the prohibition, even though they are not eligible to be brought as Korbanos?

And he attributes it to the fact that one cannot tell the difference between the various bloods. Consequently, the Torah places a blanket prohibition on the blood of all species of animals.


Regarding the prohibition on Cheilev (suet) on the other hand, the Torah confines it to Beheimos; it does not extend to (Kasher) Chayos, since it is possible to distinguish between the two types of Cheilev.



Why Everyone had to be There

"Speak to the entire congregation of the B'nei Yisrael and say to them 'You shall be holy " (19:2).


This Parshah was said in an assembly, Rashi explains, because it covers so many major issues of the Torah.

But why, asks the Ramban, does the Parshah itself appear specifically in Toras Kohanim (Seifer Vayikra)?

To answer this question, he gives two answers: 1). Because it contains details of the Korban Todah, and 2). Because it mentions the judgement in connection with the abominations that the Torah discusses at the end of the Seifer. These in turn, belong in Toras Kohanim, a. because they are labelled as 'Tamei', and therefore cause the Shechinah to depart from Yisrael, and b. because most of them are subject to a Korban if transgressed be'Shogeg (as the Ramban explained in his introduction to Seifer Vayikra).


The Prohibition of Cursing

"Do not curse a deaf-mute" (19:14).


Quoting the Toras Kohanim, Rashi explains that from the word "be'amcho (among your people)" in the Pasuk in Mishpatim (22:27 [and a prince among your people you shall not curse]), we extend the prohibition to cursing anybody else, and the Torah writes a deaf-mute, to preclude cursing a dead person from the Isur.

The Ramban however, cites the Gemara in Sanhedrin (66a) which learns cursing anybody else from the fact that the Torah mentions a deaf-mute here, and a prince in Mishpatim, to include whoever is in between. Consequently, the word "be'am'cho" is superfluous, to confine the Isur to cursing someone who 'performs the deeds of your people', and to preclude someone who does not keep the Mitzvos - him one is permitted to curse.

* * *

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