APRIL 27-28, 2007 10 IYAR 5767
DAY 25 OF THE OMER
"Hashem spoke to Moshe after the deaths of Aharon's two sons." (Vayikra 16:1)
Why is this portion read on Yom Kippur? Firstly, it contains in detail the Yom Kippur service in the Mishkan. However, before the Torah describes this service, it mentions the tragic death of Aharon's two sons. Why do we need to read this on Yom Kippur?
Rabbi Abraham Pam explains that on Yom Kippur a person is reminded of his own mortality more than on any other day of the year. Therefore, by mentioning the sudden death of Aharon's sons, the Torah wants us to reflect on the great value of life - that as long as a person is alive, that person can perform misvot, even if that person is extremely weak and uncomfortable. It's possible to perform misvot and acquire an eternal portion in the next world.
Two great examples can be cited to show us the great value of life. We are familiar with the request Ya'akob Abinu made of his son Yosef to be buried in Israel. A number of reasons are given. One reason mentioned in the Midrash is that the people that are buried in Israel are the first ones to be brought back to life when the resurrection of the dead occurs. If you think about it, this request is a bit unusual. Ya'akob Abinu has a great position in heaven right now His position close to the Shechinah is one that very few mortals have ever attained. If so, what is Ya'akob Abinu's rush to leave the Shechinah to be first on line at the time of the resurrection? Why is he so anxious to reunite his body with his soul? The answer is that even one moment of life to perform misvot and serve Hashem is more precious than anything else. This can only be done while one is alive. The Talmud tells about the great Rabbi, Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi, who commanded his household to prepare his usual place at the Friday night dinner table even after he dies. After death he returned every Friday night for a period of time, to make Kidush for his family Friday night. Rabbi Yehudah Hanasi was given this special merit after his death to return to this world to perform this beautiful misvah. Again we see that it was worth it to leave his great position in Heaven in order to come back to perform a misvah.
Therefore, when we read about the tragic premature deaths of Nadab and Abihu in this perashah, and when we read it again on Yom Kippur, we should be inspired to fill every precious moment of life with Torah and misvot. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Do not take revenge or bear a grudge" (Vayikra 19:18)
We are all familiar with the concept of revenge. If someone does evil to us or holds back a favor from us, we are not permitted to retaliate on the basis of his action. Rather, we must try to help out the person regardless of what he did to us. The second half of the verse is not as well known but equally important. Do not bear a grudge means that if someone holds back something from us, we are not allowed to remind him of it even if we do him the favor. We may not say, "I'll lend you this item even though you didn't lend me the thing I asked you for." The Rambam says we are supposed to go even one step further and not have his refusal in our mind when we do him the favor. This takes a clear understanding that what happens to us is from Hashem. Even though that individual refused to do me a favor, as far as I am concerned, it wasn't from him but from Hashem. Therefore I will do him the favor and not even remember his refusal.
Although this is definitely not an easy task, if one accomplishes this commandment he will reinforce his faith in Hashem and it will give him the peace of mind which comes with the faith and trust in Hashem. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
My ordinances you shall do, and My statutes you shall observe, to walk with them, I am the Lord, your G-d" (Vayikra 18:4)
The Ketab Sofer commented on the words, "to walk with them": a person needs to walk from one level to the next level. That is, a person should constantly keep on growing and elevating himself.
It is not enough to keep on the same level that you were on the previous day. Rather, each day should be a climb higher than the day before. When difficult tests come your way, you might not always appreciate them. But the only way to keep on elevating yourself is to keep passing more and more difficult life-tests. View every day as a means of elevating yourself by applying the appropriate Torah principles. At the end of each day, ask yourself, "What did I do today to elevate myself a little higher?" If you cannot find an answer, ask yourself, "What can I plan to do tomorrow to elevate myself?" (Growth through Torah)
"And you shall keep My statutes and My ordinances, which a man shall do and live by them, I am Hashem" (Vayikra 18:5)
On the words, "And live by them," the Shelah comments: When you do good deeds they should be done with life, that is, with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
When you fulfill good deeds with enthusiasm, your whole being becomes alive. There is no comparison between doing a good deed with a feeling of being oppressed and forced and doing the same thing with joy and excitement. The life of a person who constantly does good deeds with joy is a life of pleasure and elevation. Not only do you gain very much yourself by this, but you will also motivate others. When others see how much enjoyment you have from doing good deeds, they too will be motivated to follow in your footsteps and their positive behavior will be a merit for you.
If you would like to experience enthusiasm but do not as yet, the Mesilat Yesharim advises you to act as if you were enthusiastic and your outer behavior will influence your inner feelings. (Growth through Torah)
"And you shall show respect to elders and fear your G-d" (Vayikra 19:32)
The honor and respect afforded to a Torah scholar and teacher is expressed in the following statement: "The fear of your teacher shall be similar to your fear of Heaven" (Abot 4:15). Hazal in various places have described in clear terms the severe punishments for those who do not show proper respect to their Torah teachers. Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that the rationale for this is because improper respect for teachers and elders weakens their leadership and diminishes their overall influence on us. Lack of respect for elders means, in effect, the elimination of Torah leadership over Klal Yisrael. The Jewish people are different from other nations in that they cannot survive without the institution of "elders." Although other nations can exist without being led by Sages or elders, it is Klal Yisrael's uniqueness that make their elders a necessity rather than a luxury. Surpassing the power of the elders is tantamount to striking a fatal blow at the very core of the life force of the Jewish people. They are a link in the chain of Torah transmission from Har Sinai. (Peninim on the Torah)
It is customary to study Pirkei Abot (Ethics of the Fathers) during the six weeks between Pesah and Shabuot, one chapter every Shabbat.
""Whoever forgets anything of his Torah learning, Scripture considers it as if he were guilty of a mortal sin" (Abot 3:8)
Why is there such a harsh judgment for the person who forgets only "dabar ehad - one thing"?
Torah is not just another book of knowledge. It is the infinite wisdom of Hashem. When He gave the commandments on Mount Sinai, His opening word was "Anochi." The Gemara (Shabbat 105a) says this is an acronym for "ana nafshi ketibat yehabit - I myself wrote it [the Torah] and gave it." Hasidut offers a more profound interpretation: Hashem wrote Himself into the Torah and gave Himself to Klal Yisrael through it.
The Mishnah is not merely talking of forgetting one item, but forgetting the One and Only - Hashem. When a person studies Torah and thinks that it is knowledge like any other knowledge and forgets "dabar ehad" - that it is the words of the One and Only, he is committing a very grave iniquity and is guilty of a mortal sin.
The Gemara (Hagigah 9b) says about the pasuk "You will return and see the difference between a righteous person and a wicked person, between one who serves G-d and one who does not serve Him," (Malachi 3:18) that there is no comparison between one who recited his passage one hundred times "leshonah pirkoh me'ah pe'amim ve'ehad" - "to the one who recited his passage one hundred and one times."
Why would one extra time be of such significance?
Perhaps the Gemara's message is that the one who studies one hundred times cannot be compared to the one who studies one hundred times "ve'ehad" - and constantly bears in mind that it is the wisdom of "Ehad" - "the One and Only" - Hashem. Through his study he bolsters his consciousness of the Divine. The other may study the same number of times, but he still lacks the most important recognition, that his is not ordinary knowledge, but Hashem's knowledge, and is therefore considered as "one who does not serve Him." (Vedibarta Bam)
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