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

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Vol. 4 No. 31

Parshas Kedoshim

Love Your Neighbour

The Ramban maintains that the Mitzvah of "Ve'ohavto le'reiacho komocho" does not necessitate literally loving every other Jew like oneself, since this is virtually impossible. What the Torah therefore advocates is that every Jew should feel for the other and should avoid doing to him something that he would not like done to himself; and so too should he want for him (ve'ohavto le'reiacho komocho), the same sort of treatment as he himself would like to receive from others.

From the Ramban it would seem that, whenever one's own needs clash with one's fellow-Jew's, it is acceptable to follow his natural instinct, and to put himself first. Indeed we have a precedent for this, in the words of the very same Rabbi Akiva. R. Akiva is quoted in Bovo Metziy'a (62a) as saying that, if two people are lost in a desert, and one of them has enough water for only one of them to drink and survive, then the owner may drink the water. He is not obliged to give it to his friend.

Yet how worthy is the Jew who takes the posuk literally, who refuses to treat his fellow-Jew with the same sensitivity as he naturally feels towards himself. The two following incidents are well-worth repeating in the context in which we are citing them). The first story concerns non-Jews, yet, like the well-known story of Domo ben Nesina, who refused to wake up his father, in spite of the great financial loss caused by his refusal. We can and should learn, even from gentiles, as Dovid Ha'melech wrote in Tehillim (119:99) "I became wise from all my teachers" (whoever they were).

The first story took place when Alexander the Great, during his quest to capture the world, was invited by the King of Africa to attend a court-case. The case concerned a certain man who purchased a field from another. In the process of digging the field, he discovered a treasure, which he now claimed was not his, since he had bought the field, not the treasure. The seller, for his part, argued that he had sold the entire field with whatever was in it, and if the purchaser discovered a treasure in his field, then that was his good fortune.

The end of the story is of little consequence to our topic, but imagine such a court-case, where each party's concern is for the rights of the other. And a similar moral can be drawn from the poignant story, told in the Medrash, of two brothers, the one married, the other single:

It occurred one night to the married brother, how fortunate he was. He had a wife and children whom he adored. His poor brother, on the other hand, lacked these. How lonely he must be. He would have to do something to boost his spirits and make him happy. No sooner said than done.

He jumped out of bed and began lugging cart-loads of crops and fruit from his own stock-pile to his brother's.

On the following night, it was the single brother who had the same thought. He was single and had no difficulty in supporting himself. Not so easy for his brother, who had a whole family to support.

This time, it was his turn to jump out of bed, and he began to transfer cart-loads of food from his stock-pile to that of his brother.

This went on for a few nights, until the time that the two brothers chose to do their act of kindness on the same night. When they met, they fell around each other's necks and cried, out of pure joy and love. It is said that on that spot the Beis Ha'mikdosh was built.

As long as one concentrates on one's own needs, it is virtually impossible to sympathise with the other person's. Human nature dictates that "I come first!" With that sort of attitude, we would no doubt have been faced with very different scenarios in both of the above stories. In the first, each would have claimed "The treasure is mine!". In the second, each would have sought ways and means to better his own lot, who knows, perhaps even at the expense of his brother's.

The secret is to open one's heart to one's brother, to one's fellow-Jew, and to focus on him and his needs - because he is a Jew like oneself - because he is a Tzelem Elokim - because Hashem loves him. In this way, one's mind is too occupied thinking about the other man's requirements to worry about one's own.

That is the real interpretation of "Ve'ohavto le'reiacho komocho". It is the sort of approach that G-d had in mind when He created the world, for so Dovid Ha'melech wrote in Tehillim (89:3) "Olom chessed yiboneh".


Rashi connects the two Parshiyos very simply: the end of Acharei-Mos deals with the parshah of forbidden marriages, while Kedoshim opens with the warning "Be holy" - a special mitzvah to 'make a fence' around the prohibition of 'arayos'. Presumably, this is what the Ohr Ha'chayim is referring to when he explains that one should guard one's eyes from even just looking at a woman for enjoyment, and one's heart from merely thinking about a woman by day, in order to avoid sinning more seriously by night.

Another explanation brought by the Ohr Ha'Chayim is that, whereas in Acharei-mos the Torah forbids the 'aroyos' with a la'av and koreis, in Kedoshim it adds the asei of "Kedoshim tihyu".

The Ba'al Ha'Turim writes how the last possuk in Acharei-mos begins with the words "And you shall guard My charge" (take steps not to sin), and follows with the possuk "Kedoshim tihyu". If you do take steps to avoid sinning, he explains, then G-d will help you to achieve your goal. You will not sin and you will become holy. (A similar interpretation is given to the possuk "And you shall make yourselves holy, and you will be holy" - 20:7). And that is also how the Ohr Ha'Chayim, in the first explanation quoted earlier, explains the ensuing words, "because I, your G-d am holy". You may well think, Hashem is saying, that it is impossible to control one's thoughts by night, when one lies in bed.

Therefore the Torah writes "because I Hashem your G-d am holy". Since I, Hashem your G-d (who looks after you) am holy, I will be with you, in which case I will prevent you from sinking to levels of tum'ah - provided you do not drive Me away from your midst, on account of your behaviour during the day.

The connection between the two Parshiyos is adequately expressed by the Seforno, who writes, "G-d rested His Shechinah in Yisroel, in order to sanctify them for everlasting life. This is what He meant when He said (at Har Sinai), "And you will be for Me a Kingdom of Cohanim and a holy nation", and when He said "Because I am Hashem who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be for you a G-d, and you shall be holy!'"

After resting His Shechinah among them and separating them from impure drives and sexual offences, (Shemini) by way of the tum'ah of the nidah and the disease of tzora'as which results from it, and from the tu'mah of the zovoh (Tazriya-Metzoro) and of other sins (by way of atonement on Yom Kippur), as it is written "From all your sins, before G-d, you shall purify yourselves" (Acharei Mos). And from the companionship of the demons and the spirit of impurity and the tum'ah of adultery and incest, as the Torah writes "Do not render yourselves impure with all of these" (end of Acharei Mos Vayikro 18:24)......

The Torah goes on to write how the purpose of all these warnings is in order to be holy. This in turn, is in order to emulate the example set by G-d, as far as is humanly possible. Indeed, this was the very purpose of the creation, as it is written "Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness" (Bereishis 1:26).

And that is what the Torah writes here "because I, Hashem your G-d, am Holy", and it is therefore befitting for you to liken yourself to Me as far as possible, both in study and in deed. In order to achieve this likeness, it is necessary to fulfill all the mitzvos written on the first Luach (which are basically spelt out in the opening pesukim of the Parshah).

To elaborate a little on the Seforno's theme, the mitzvos contained in Kedoshim have the ability to lead us to Kedushah (which, in turn, is synonymous with eternity, as the Meforshim explain), in order to be like our G-d, who is eternal. However, that is only possible, if we first discard the evil and perverted ways practised by the other nations as described in Acharei Mos, much in the same way as, however beautifully one adorns the fabrics, that beauty will be lost as long as the fabrics are dirty. It is only when one has removed all traces of dirt, that the embellishments will underline and enhance the cloth's natural beauty. That is why the Torah concludes the Parshah of Acharei Mos with a warning to abstain from emulating the practices of the Cana'anim and the Egyptians, before bidding us to be Holy, by performing the relevant mitzvos. And this is really what Dovid Ha'Melech advises us in Tehillim (34) "Depart from evil (first) and (then) do good."

At the same time, we can derive from the juxtaposition of the last posuk in Acharei Mos and the first possuk in Kedoshim that in Judaism, there is no middle path. If a Jew deviates from Torah then he will inevitably sink to the lowest of levels - to perform the abominations of the most perverted of nations. Whereas if he strives to go on the path of Torah, he will ultimately rise to the heights of Kedushah, to be (kevayochol) like G-d Himself.

Finally we have the explanation of the Ibn Ezra. One may well think, he writes, by looking at the final pesukim in Acharei Mos, that our right to Eretz Yisroel depends entirely on our maintaining the Parshah of "arayos" - forbidden marriages. Therefore the Torah breaks that myth by following with Kedoshim, to tell us that there are also other mitzvos upon which our remaining in Eretz Yisroel depend, and these include the Aseres Ha'dibros, that are all mentioned in the opening section of Kedoshim.

(Kedoshim) (Yechezkel 22:1-16)

G-d speaks to Yechezkel Ha'novi and tells him to pass judgement on Yerusholayim, the city of bloodshed, to clarify as to what they had done to deserve the imminent destruction that they were about to witness (see Malbim).

And the remainder of the Haftorah goes on to list a wide variety of sins, reminiscent of the wide variety of mitzvos that comprise the Parshah. Indeed, most of the sins coincide with the mitzvos of the Parshah, and are their opposites.

The Novi stresses murder, repeating it a number of times, and follows with idolatry, treating parents with disrespect - and Rashi here comments that all the abominations from Parshas Kedoshim are listed here - robbing the converts, cheating the orphans and widows, despising the sacrifices and desecrating Shabbos. He continues with rampant slander, adultery and some of the different types of incest dealt with in the Parshah. The acceptance of bribery and the taking of interest are all mentioned, too. The Redak however, highlights murder, and points out how the Novi refers to it as "a city which spills blood inside it". He explains that they did not even bother to perform their evil acts discreetly, in hidden places; they did it publicly, in the city's streets, in full view of the inhabitants. And, he continues, "inside it" also infers that murder was so rampant that the entire city was filled with blood from one end to the other, as the Pasuk writes expressly regarding King Menasheh.

Then, to the idolatry stressed in the opening pesukim, he adds the adultery to which the Novi refers later, whilst pointing out how those were the two sins which caused their predecessors the Cana'anim, to be expelled from the land, as the Torah expressly writes (Va'yikro 18:24-28), and which would ultimately cause their expulsion too. He also explains the possuk "therefore I made you a disgrace to the nations" meaning that Hashem caused the gentiles to despise us, because we forsook the Torah of our G-d - something of which even they (the gentiles) were not guilty, as the Novi Yirmiyah testifies (Yirmiyoh 2:11).

How different it would be if we were to do the will of Hashem, instead of desecrating His Holy Name. Because about such a situation it is written, "And the nations of the world will know that the Name of Hashem is called upon you, and they will be afraid of you" (Devorim 28:10).

Finally, after complaining how Yisroel forgot G-d, how they turned to other nations for help, whilst ignoring the G-d who took them out of Egypt and to whom they had sworn allegiance, Yechezkel writes "Behold I clapped My hands (out of frustration) for the theft of which you were guilty, and for the blood that was spilt within you (Yerusholayim)". From here we see, writes Rashi, that theft is worse than all the other sins, for theft was the last straw which sealed their fate, just as it served as the last straw in the days of the flood. That is why Yisroel must be exiled among the nations and scattered around the world.

But, G-d promises that He will remove our impurities by means of the golus. Before the eyes of the nations He will become sanctified through us, and we will know that He is G-d (Targum Yonoson). The Redak however, and the Metzudas Dovid, explain that it is when Yisroel suffer among the nations, they will see that G-d has fulfilled all the prophecies that forecast their predicament, and it is then that they will know that He is G-d.

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