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

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Vol. 23   No. 31

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmas
Gavriel ben Yitzchak z"l
by his children

Parshas Kedoshim

Loving a Fellow-Jew

"Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge against your countrymen, and love your fellow-Jew (le're'acho) like yourself, I am Hashem" (19:18).


Rashi, quoting Rebbi Akiva, comments 'This is a major principle in the Torah'.

The Gemara in Shabbos (Daf 31a) tells the story of a gentile who approached first Shamai, then Hillel, with a request to teach him the entire Torah whilst he stood on one foot. The K'li Yakar explains that what he meant was that they teach him one principle that would serve as a basis for the entire Torah. Hillel therefore said to him, 'What you yourself do not like being done to you, do not do to others'. This in fact, is the Targum Yonasan's translation of the above phrase "Love your fellow-Jew like yourself".


The Ramban writes that the Pasuk in question is impossible to carry out literally, since nobody can love someone else to the extent that he loves himself. Indeed, he argues, Rebbi Akiva has already taught us (in Bava Metzi'a, 62a) that if two people are travelling in the desert, and one of them has enough water for one, then he may drink the water - without having to share it with his companion - because his own life takes precedence over that of his friend.


Based on the 'Lamed' in "le're'acho", the Ramban therefore explains that what the Torah means is that a Jew should want for his friend like he cares about himself, to help and assist him, by the same standards as he sees to his own needs, in matters regarding his finances, his health, his honour and dignity and his quality of life. In short, the Torah is instructing us to leave aside one's natural jealousy towards others, and to treat them with the same care that one treats oneself.

This is something that is possible to achieve. In fact, it is similar to the explanation of Targum Yonasan - who, in all likelihood, switches from the positive connotations of the Pasuk to the negative due to the Ramban's opening comment. Alternatively, it can be attributed to the difficulty in using oneself as a gauge for somebody else's needs, which may well differ from one's own. Whereas, on the other hand, one can safely assume that most people do not like being hurt, insulted or slandered just like he doesn't.

Another point in favour of the explanation of Hillel and the Targum Yonasan is the fact that the two preceding commands in the same Pasuk are both negative commands. Having said that, all the Mitzvos contained in the previous Pesukim, starting with 'Don't steal' (in Pasuk 11) are Mitzvos Lo Sa'aseh. In which case it makes sense to say that the Torah concludes the list with 'Love your fellow-Jew like yourself' (irrespective of how one interprets it) a directive that will help us avoid transgressing those commands.

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Don't Eat on the Blood
(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

"Don't eat on the blood, and don't indulge in plain sorcery or in sorcery that is connected with times" (19:26).


The Torah often presents us with vaguely worded Mitzvos, presumably, in order to include a number of Mitzos under the same umbrella command. The current Mitzvah is a prime example of such a case, as the Gemara in Sanhedrin (63a), lists no less than five interpretations of this La'av.

One should bear in mind that in such situations, the various interpretations of the Mitzvah are not subject to Malkos (thirty-nine lashes) to which Chayvei La'avin (negative commands) are generally subject. Moreover, the Poskim explain that most, if not all, of the listed Mitzvos are Asmachtos (Mitzvos de'Rabbanan that are hinted in the Torah), which, in view of the fact that the Torah specifically hints them, may be a little more stringent in character than other Mitzvos de'Rabbanan, but are mi'de'Rabbanan nonetheless.


The literal interpretation of the Mitzvah, the Torah Temimah points out, is to counter the accepted practice common among the gentiles at that time. They would gather the blood of a slaughtered animal into a pit and eat around it. It was a form of divining and magic, to delve into the future, and this explains its juxtaposition to the two other Mitzvos listed here in the same Pasuk. In fact, we find it mentioned in Shmuel 1, 14, where King Shaul rebuked the soldiers of his army for "eating on the blood" (as the R'dak explains there).


Here is a list of the additional La'avin which, according to the Gemara in Sanhedrin, are included in 'Lo sochlu al ha'dam':

1 Not to eat from an animal as long as it is still alive.

2 Not to eat the meat of a Korban as long as the blood has not yet been sprinkled.

3 Not to provide the family of someone killed by Beis-Din with the Se'udas Havra'ah (the first meal after the burial).

4 The Sanhedrin must fast the entire day after having sentenced someone to death.

5 A warning for a ben Sorer u'Moreh - the only one of the above La'avin that is subject to Malkos, since the punishment of Malkos for the boy's initial spree of misbehavior is clearly written in the Pasuk (See Rashi in Ki Seitzei, 21:18).


The most common interpretation of the La'av, however, that applies to virtually everyone on a daily basis, is the prohibition of eating before 'having prayed for one's blood' (i.e. soul), in other words the prohibition of eating before Davening. Interestingly, it is mentioned, not in Sanhedrin together with all the other interpretations, but in B'rachos (Daf 10b).

The Torah Temimah, without explaining why this interpretation appears in B'rachos, connects it with the second of the above-mentioned explanations. As we know, he says, Tefilah, replaces (certain aspects of) the Korbanos, the main part of which is the blood. Consequently, seeing as the prohibition of not eating before the blood of the Korban has been sprinkled, which is min ha'Torah, entails giving precedence to one's own needs over those of one's Creator, the Chachamim likewise forbade eating before one has prayed to Him. In the same vein, the Gemara, citing the Pasuk in Melachim (1,14) "And they have cast Me after their own bodies" in connection with somebody who eats and drinks before Davenning - comments 'After he has boosted his own ego,, he takes upon himself the Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven!'

* * *

Mipnei Seivah Takum

"Arise before a seivah (an old man) and honour a zakein (a sage)" (19:32).


"Honour a zakein", Rashi explains, informs us that 'Seivah' mentioned at the beginning of the Pasuk is a Talmid-Chacham - not 'a zaken ashma'i (one who is totally unlearned [as Tosfos explains])'.

This is the opinion of the Tana Kama of the B'raisa in Kidushin. (32b).

Rebbi Yossi Hag'lili agrees with the Tana Kama's interpretation of rising before a 'Seivah'. But he maintains that the "Zakein" mentioned there extends to a young sage. Both Tana'im agree that the Torah does not obligate us to honour an old man if he is not a Talmid-Chacham.


A third opinion - which is Halachah, is that of Isi ben Yehudah, who interprets "seivah" as an old man - even if he is a zakein ashma'I, whom one is obligated to honour due to the many lifetime experiences he has been through. The obligation however, does not extend to an old man who does not observe Mitzvos - See Tosfos (DH 'Zakein Ashma'I').

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