by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS SHMINI -HACHODESH 5760 BS"D
Ch. 9, v. 2: "Kach l'cho eigel" - The Daas Z'keinim points out that only a young calf is appropriate and not a full grown ox, since this is to bring an atonement for the sin of the golden calf.
Ch. 9, v. 2: "Eigel ben bokor" - The Baal Haturim says that the numeric value of these words is equal to "L'cha'peir cheit ho'eigel."
Ch. 9, v. 2: "Eigel ben bokor l'chatos" - This is the sacrifice which atones for Aharon. For the bnei Yisroel the Torah prescribes "V'eigel vo'che'ves bnei shonoh l'oloh." Why isn't the bnei Yisroel's calf also a chatos offering? The Kli Yokor answers that Aharon did not actually sin in the realm thought when creating the golden calf. His intention was an attempt to stall the bnei Yisroel. His only sin was in the ACTION of creating a golden calf. Hence he required a chatos offering, which atones for unintentional ACTIONS of sin. The bnei Yisroel, however, did not create the golden calf, but did mentally sin by accepting it as a deity. They therefore required an oloh offering, which atones for improper thoughts as per Toras Kohanim 3:7. For their ACTION of serving the golden calf they brought a goat, as mentioned in the next verse.
Ch. 9, v. 3: "S'ir izim l'chatos" - The Toras Kohanim says that this sin offering served to atone for the sale of Yoseif. Why did this sin suddenly now require atonement? The Meshech Chochmoh answers that up until the sin of the golden calf the bnei Yisroel had an excuse for selling Yoseif. They could have claimed that had he rebuked them directly instead of bringing negative reports to their father, they might have accepted his words and repented. However, at the time of serving the golden calf Chur rebuked them openly and directly. Their response was to kill him. This negated the previously mentioned justification and required atonement at this point in time.
Ch. 9, v. 7: "Krav el hamizbei'ach" - Rashi says that Aharon was embarrassed and afraid to come to the altar and officiate. Moshe responded, "Why are you embarrassed? 'L'KACH nivcharto,' - For this you were chosen." L'KACH has numerous interpretations.
1) BECAUSE you have sinned you were chosen. The gemara Yoma 22b says that only a person who has a "basket of vermin hanging behind him," in our colloquial "skeletons in the closet," should be chosen as a leader. Rashi explains that this is required because otherwise there would be a fear that upon being placed in a position of great authority a person might be tempted to wield too much power when the position goes to his head. Having a tainted history, either through one's own actions, or by a stain on the family tree keeps one in line. Since Aharon was involved in the creation of the golden calf, thus staining his otherwise flawless reputation, specifically for this reason he was chosen to be Kohein Godol. (Moshav Z'keinim)
2) Moshe told Aharon that Moshe was originally to be given the position of Kohein Godol but lost it by being reluctant to fulfill Hashem's request to be the agent to take the bnei Yisroel out of Egypt. It was then given to Aharon. Moshe told Aharon, "Why are you bashful? It is exactly for this reason, that I was bashful that I lost the K'hunoh G'doloh" and you were chosen. (M'ga'leh Amukos)
3) Specifically because you are bashful and fearful, you were chosen. These are the character traits required of one who has the awesome task of being the Kohein Godol. (Ari z"l)
4) You were chosen to serve in the capacity of Kohein Godol coupled with the traits of bashfulness and fear. (Sfas Emes)
5) In the writings of Rabbi Chaim Vi'tal it is mentioned that each person has a specific field of serving Hashem which he is sent to this world to rectify. This is often a matter which gives the person much difficulty by virtue of an inner drive to do the opposite of what is demanded in that mitzvoh. If Aharon had great difficulty in approaching the altar to serve as Kohein Godol, it is indicative of K'hunoh G'doloh being specifically the task which was cut out for him. (Imrei Emes)
A question can be raised on the words of the Moshav Z'keinim mentioned above. Moshe had the position of leader of the bnei Yisroel. The gemara even says that he had the status of a king. What was the "skeleton in his closet?" Answers next week be"H.
Ch. 10, v. 2: "Vatochal osom va'yomusu" - The gemara Sanhedrin 52a says that Nodov and Avihu said, "When will these two elderly leaders die and allow us to take over the leadership?" However the Medrash Tanchumoh on parshas Acha'rei Mose chapter 6 says that there is a disagreement in this matter. Rabbi Yudin in the name of Rabbi Eivo says that they actually verbalised the above, while Rabbi Pinchos says that they only thought these thoughts. The gemara Sanhedrin mentions two opinions as to how Nodov and Avihu died by fire. One opinion is that their souls only were burned and their bodies remained intact. This is the opinion that states that four beams of fire emanated from the Holy of Holies and entered their nostrils, burning their insides only. A second opinion is that their bodies were consumed. Rabbi Shaul haLevi Katzenelenboigen, the head of the Kobriner Rabbinical court, says that these two opinions are inter-dependant with the two opinions mentioned in the Medrash Tanchumoh. According to the opinion that they only thought these matters in their minds, having kept this internal, correspondingly Hashem punished them by having their insides only consumed by fire. According to the opinion that they actually verbalised these matters, thus involving a bodily action, correspondingly their bodies were burned. Rabbi E.E. Dessler compiled a list of 12 reasons mentioned in the writings of our Rabbis (This is by no means exhaustive.) for the deaths of Nodov and Avihu.
1) They ruled a Torah law while in the presence of their teacher Moshe.
2) They entered the Holy of Holies.
3) They offered a sacrifice which they were not commanded to offer.
4) They brought a foreign fire, i.e. from an improper source.
5) They did not take counsel from each other, but proceeded independently.
6) They entered the Sanctuary while under the influence of wine.
7) They did the priestly servitude while not wearing all the required priestly vestments, "cho'seir m'il."
8) They did the priestly servitude without first going through the sanctification of their hands and feet from the laver.
9) They did not have children.
10) They did not have wives. They reasoned, "Our paternal uncle (Moshe) is a king, our maternal uncle is a tribal leader, our father is the Kohein Godol, we are Vice Kohanim G'dolim (s'ganim). Do there exist women who are worthy to become our wives?"
11) They said or thought, "When will these two elders (Moshe and Aharon) pass on, so that we may be in the position of leadership?"
12) They coarsened their hearts and satiated their eyes with a vision of the Holy Spirit (Shmos 24:11). A question remains to be answered. Although they deserved to die, why did Aharon deserve to suffer the death of two of his children? Answer next week be"H.
Ch. 10, v. 3: "Va'yidome Aharon" - Rashi says that because Aharon accepted the death of his children readily and without complaining he merited to be rewarded. His reward was that the chapter of law dealing with Kohanim being restricted from serving when having drunk wine was given to him from Hashem directly. How do we know from Aharon's remaining mute that he accepted the punishment willingly and had no negative emotional reaction? The Parpro'os L'chochmoh answers that had he not accepted the death of his children in a positive light, he would have been thrown into the depths of depression and Hashem does not bestow His Holy Sh'chinoh on one who is depressed (gemara Shabbos 30b, Yerushalmi Sukoh 1:5). Since Hashem spoke to him immediately afterwards, transmitting the laws of Kohanim and wine, it is obvious that Aharon had a positive attitude. The Chofetz Chaim answers that this is derived from the term "va'yidome," and not having the term "va'yacharish" used. "Va'yacharish" is used to denote that one was quiet. However, there is no indication that there is no change in mood. However, "va'yidome" connotes not only remaining still, but also having absolutely no change in demeanour, from the root word "domeim," an inanimate object, which has no emotional change no matter what is done to it. Perhaps a simple answer could be that we have no indication as to Aharon's attitude, but Hashem knows all that takes place in one's heart. Since we see that Aharon was rewarded for remaining mute, it indicates that he accepted the death of his sons with a positive attitude.
Ch. 10, v. 20: "Va'yishma Moshe va'yitav b'einov" - The M.R. 13:1 says that Moshe had an announcement proclaimed throughout the encampment that he was mistaken and his brother Aharon taught him the correct halacha. Why was it necessary to do this? Since the mistake took place among Moshe and Aharon and his sons would it not have been sufficient to state that he was mistaken to Aharon and his sons only? We clearly see from this medrash that it is all-important to teach people to admit their mistakes. If Moshe the teacher of all teachers admitted to making a mistake and had it proclaimed, all the more so when the common man makes a mistake. The following story illustrates to what extent a great Talmid Chochom admitted to having made a mistake, one which in reality he never made. Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Spector zt"l, the Kovner Rov, and possibly the most prestigious halachic authority in Lithuania of his time received a question from a person living in a smaller community. This question raised the curiosity of the Kovner Rov since he knew that there was a relatively newly appointed Rov in that town who was quite capable of answering the question. He came to the conclusion that the person sending this query realised that his own Rov had responded incorrectly to this question when presented to him as an "halacha l'maa'seh" question. By writing to the Kovner Rov and receiving a response that would differ from his local Rov's answer, he would use it as ammunition to belittle his own Rov. This sent the Kovner Rov on a challenging mental pursuit to find a likely incorrect halachic conclusion, hopefully the same incorrect conclusion which he surmised was arrived at by the Rov. After some effort the Kovner Rov felt he had found a logical incorrect answer. He immediately sent off this incorrect response by regular postal service, knowing that it would arrive in the other community a few days later. He then sent a telegram to the same person stating that he had mistakenly come to the wrong conclusion in the letter which he had sent, and was now specifically sending a telegram with the correct response, which would arrive earlier and pre-empt the wrong halachic response, avoiding anyone acting incorrectly on the strength of the Kovner Rov's earlier "wrong" conclusion. All of this was done to protect the new Rov's honour and not have the community's trust in his rulings eroded. If the Kovner Rov could make such a mistake, surely a small community Rov could be excused. Eventually Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon met the Rov and found that he had correctly surmised all that had happened, had correctly figured the incorrect answer, and had saved the Rov from being dishonoured.
Ch. 11, v. 3: "Kole mafreses parsoh v'shosaas shesa prosos maalas geiroh bab'heimoh osoh tocheilu" - Which species both chews its cud and has totally split hooves, and is still forbidden to eat? It is a "b'feirishe" verse in the Torah.
Ch. 11, v. 19: "V'eis hachasidoh" - The Ibn Ezra says that the bird "chasidoh" is only sighted at certain times, "mo'adim," of the year. The Holy Admor of Kotzk says that we see from the words of the Ibn Ezra that if one acts as a "chosid" at only certain times of the year, i.e. when he goes to his Rebbe for a Yom Tov, etc. it is the sign of a non-kosher chosid, just like the "chasidoh" is a non-kosher bird species.
In the added prayers for parshas Hachodesh, Yotzros l'Musof, we find, "Chodesh asher y'shu'os bo MAKIFOS." This is commonly translated as, "A month in which salvations abound." The Sfas Emes translates "MAKIFOS" as "BORROW." The month of Nison was a month of salvation by virtue of the exodus from Egypt. However, Hashem was only willing to free the bnei Yisroel on the condition that they later accept the Torah, as it says (Shmos 3:12), "B'hotzi'acho es ho'om miMitzrayim taavdun hoElokim al hohor ha'zeh." Accepting the Torah had not yet taken place at the time of the exodus, hence it was a month of salvation on "credit," done through borrowing this merit.
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