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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Achrei Mos

And (he) shall provide atonement for himself and for his household. (16:6)

The Kohen Gadol gained atonement by pronouncing vidui, confession, for his own - as well as his family's -- transgressions. The Torah seems to place emphasis upon the Kohen Gadol's "baiso," household. Indeed, in the beginning of Meseches Yoma the Mishnah states that we prepare another woman for the Kohen Gadol in the event his wife dies prior to the Yom Kippur service. The Kohen Gadol who does not have a wife is disqualified from performing the avodah service. Horav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, renders a practical reason for this halachah. Without a wife one lacks sheleimus, completion/perfection. He is deficient, lacking an integral component in completing himself as a man. The individual who represents Klal Yisrael on Yom Kippur must be an adam ha'shaleim, a complete person. On the holiest day of the year, when we seek atonement to perfect ourselves, we must stand before Hashem b'sheleimus.

Horav Shternbuch distinguishes between the Jewish religion and the theology of the gentile nations. Christian dogma expounds that one cannot be holy if he is married. Sanctity and marriage just do not seem to coincide - according to their beliefs. Consequently, in order to maintain their virtue and holiness, their priests do not marry. This is not consistent with what we have been taught. The Kohen Gadol, who must sanctify himself to the ultimate level of kedushah on the holiest day of the year, can perform the avodah only if he is married. The Christians seem to have a different perspective on sheleimus.

This halacha also repudiates the claim of the Torah's liberal antagonists that women are not viewed on an equal footing with men; we derive from here the exact opposite perspective. A woman is a man's life partner, without whom he is considered incomplete. What greater proof is needed to substantiate woman's equality? Regrettably, for those that question the Torah, no answer is sufficient.

And (he) shall provide atonement for himself and for his household and for all the congregation of Yisrael. (16:17)

Horav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, derives an important lesson for all of us from this pasuk. Before one extends himself for klal work, community endeavors, he should ascertain that everything is in order with his own family. Many good-willed, good-minded individuals respond to Klal Yisrael's needs. They hear the cries of the oppressed and needy, but at whose expense? Who takes over the role of the father when he is out saving the world? Children need both parents. One should at least do for his own children what he wholeheartedly does for other people's children.

Regarding those askanim, lay leaders, who feel that the merit of working for Klal Yisrael will elevate them to a position in which they do not have to perfect themselves, the Torah seems to have a different idea. The Kohen Gadol must see to the needs and failings of his own family before he can go out to act on behalf of Klal Yisrael.

And (he) shall place them upon the head of the he-goat, and send it with a designated man to the desert. The he-goat will bear upon itself all their iniquities to an inhabited land. (16:21,22)

The Kli Yakar cites Chazal who say that the word, "avonosam," "their iniquities" is an acronym for two words: "avonos - tam", alluding to the sins of he who is called the tam - wholesome - Yaakov Avinu. He explains that whoever causes others to sin, carries the onus of guilt for all the sins which he catalyzed. Eisav and his guardian angel are the ones whose goal it is to bring Klal Yisrael the descendants of Yaakov - ish tam - to sin. It is, therefore, appropriate that Yaakov's sins - which were caused through Eisav's "sponsorship" - should be carried away and brought "back" to Eisav's guardian angel. The sins of "Bnei Tam" are sent l'azazel, to the saro shel Eisav, the angel who represents all that is evil in Eisav.

Horav Matisyahu Solomon, Shlita, derives from here the profundity of shiluach seir l'azalzel, sending the he-goat into the wilderness. When Klal Yisrael stood before Hashem on Yom Kippur, divested of their physical dimension, they came to the realization that olam hazeh, the temporary world in which we live, is nothing more than a vestibule, a stepping-stone to Olam Habah, the Eternal World, the World to Come. They began to wonder: How did they sink to such a nadir of sin, to the depths of depravity, to transgress before the Almighty, to rebel against the Creator? They realized that it was Eisav the wicked who presented this world --with all its beauty -- as something more than temporary and fleeting. He has influenced them to the allure of this world through the blandishments of the yetzer hora, evil inclination. They regrettably fell victim to his guile and were swayed by his cunning, as he convinced them to turn their backs on the Almighty. By nature, we know the truth: It is Eisav who has alienated us by presenting olam hazeh as an end unto itself. We send the he-goat -- with everything it represents -- to the source of our iniquity.

We now also understand why the he-goat is sent away through an ish iti, designated man. Chezkuni, citing Chazal, explains that an ish iti is a person who senses that his "eis", time, has come. "Iti", from the word "eis", refers to an individual whom we know, via Divine inspiration, will not live till next Rosh Hashanah. Horav Y. Weintraub, zl, who was rav in Pinsk, explains that one who is acutely aware of his impending demise rejects this world. He ignores and disregards the blandishments of this world. All of the desires and lusts that plague others have no significance to him. He becomes a spiritual person, abnegating himself of his physical dimension. He is the perfect person to effect atonement for Klal Yisrael on this holiest of days. It is specifically he who repudiates the allure of this world, who is not captivated by its enticements, that has license to send the he-goat to its death. He truly understands what Eisav and his co-horts have done to us. He can well relate to the significance and meaning of Yom Kippur.

You shall observe My decrees and My judgements, which man shall carry out and live by them. (18:8)

Rashi explains that "v'chai bahem," "and live by them," is a reference to Olam Habah, the World to Come. In the Talmud Chullin 142 a, Chazal state this fact in regard to the two mitzvos for which the reward of long life is recorded in the Torah: Kibud Av v'Eim, honoring one's parents; and Shiluach Ha'kein, sending away the mother bird. To support this idea, they recount a story in which a father instructed his son to climb a ladder to retrieve some young chicks in a nest after first sending away the mother bird. He carried out his father's wishes, sending away the mother bird. As he was climbing down the ladder with the young chicks, however, he slipped and fell off the ladder. He subsequently died as a result of his fall. Certainly, if arichas yamim, longevity, was to occur in this world, why did the boy die? He was fulfilling not one -- but two -- mitzvos whose reward is longevity. This supports the thesis that "chaim," life, is a reward which one "collects" in Olam Habah.

Nachlas Tzvi cites an incredible story that reinforces the concept of "life" in Olam Habah: It happened that during the Russian Kaiser's birthday, a group of young Jewish children were forcibly taken from their families and conscripted into the army. These Cantonists, as they were called, were lined up at the river under the watchful eye of the priest who was to baptize them. One can only begin to imagine the emotions of these young children at this most tragic moment. The signal was given, and they were told to enter the water. The priest was about to issue his official proclamation welcoming these innocent children into the Christian religion, when something strange happened. All of the children screamed out in unison, "Naase v'nishma," "We will do and we will listen," and they jumped into the water, but did not resurface. They went to their deaths with the same clarion cry that their ancestors proclaimed as they stood at Har Sinai about to accept the Torah.

This was not always the case. Many Jewish children have been baptized and, ultimately, lost forever to the Jewish People. The rabbis of various communities did everything within their means either to rescue these hapless children or to speak to them in a manner that would encourage them not to relinquish their faith. For example, the story is told that once Horav Yitzchok Izak Chaver, zl, the famous rav of Vilkovisk, came to a small town in Lithuania. As he entered the Jewish ghetto, he was met with the heart-rending screams of parents whose children had been grabbed and were about to be sent away - forever. Quickly, he removed his rabbinic garb and donned the outfit worn by the Russian/Christian peasant. He went out in the street shaking back and forth, acting like a drunk in an advanced state of inebriation. Noticing the commotion he was causing, the police called him aside and asked to see his passport. Rav Yitzchak Izak continued his ruse, so that he was remanded to the jail cell for the night. This was, of course, his intent, since this was the same prison in which the children were being held in preparation for being shipped out the next day.

Once in jail, the rav was able to locate the children. After doing so, he revealed his true identity to them and began to speak to them about Judaism, in an attempt to inspire them for one last time before they were shipped off to spiritual oblivion. He related stories of faith and conviction, telling them how our ancestors had given up their lives so that they could live as Jews. Mesiras nefesh, self-sacrifice for Torah and mitzvos, is the primary component in avodas Hashem, serving the Almighty. He implored them to face up to the challenge that would now confront them. "Observe Shabbos, keep kosher, never forget Hashem - even if they rake your skin to death." He described the strength of conviction that was exemplified by the Asarah Harugei Malchus, ten Tanaim, whose lives were taken under the most cruel and painful means; he related the superhuman strength of Chanah and her seven sons, who gave up their lives in defiance of the king, rather than bow down to an idol.

As dawn broke, the guards came for the children. In his parting words, the rav turned to the children and spoke with great emotion, "Holy children, we now are about to separate from each other. I am going to be punished with many painful lashes because I have come to you. You are leaving to face the most trying challenges to your faith. I do not know if I will still be alive when you return, but we will meet again, in Olam Habah. I hope that I will not be eternally disgraced before the Heavenly Court." Those words, emanating from a loving heart entered into the young hearts of the children, imbuing them with the strength and determination to withstand the challenge to their faith.

You shall not present any of your children to pass through for Molech and do not profane the name of your G-d. (18:22)

The thought of delivering one's child to the Molech god is horrifying. Indeed, we have no idea of the mindset of those who fell into the grasp of the pagan gods. Idolatry was rampant. Unless one was totally suffused with Torah, he was subject to the allure and blandishment of the idols and everything for which they stood. Targum Yonasan ben Uziel goes so far as to maintain that the Molech prohibition is an admonishment against any form of intermarriage. A parent has a responsibility to see to it that his children are raised and educated in such a manner that they will choose a mate who will maintain their standard of spiritual values and aspirations. As parents, we must take an active role in making sure that each of our children marries either a ben Torah or a bas Yisrael b'melo muvan ha'milah, in the full extent of the word. How else can we hope to have grandchildren who will adhere to our noble heritage? We are responsible for the education our children receive, as well as for the results of that education.

The Chofetz Chaim, zl., writes that an individual who sends his child to a school where he will be exposed to heretical teachings is included in the Molech prohibition. After all, in both circumstances the innocent child is being exposed to idolatry of the lowest order. One should be prepared to spend all of his money to provide a Torah education for his child. The Chofetz Chaim concludes that the prohibition against sending a child to a school that teaches kefirah, heresy, supercedes the rules of the civil government. Even if one lives in a place where the government demands all children must be educated in such a school - one is forbidden to listen. Evidently, Hashem's law takes precedence over the secular government. Regrettably, many of us do not understand and accept this idea.

Horav Moshe Shternbuch, Shlita, supplements this, positing that the parents will have to answer one day for any transgressions perpetrated by their child as a result of the deficient education he has received. Parents have an enormous responsibility in raising their children. The Almighty grants us the privilege to raise the children that He so graciously shares with us. Unfortunately, many of us lose sight of this most precious gift.

You shall safeguard My change that these abominable traditions not be done. (18:30)

We may note that shemiras ha'mitzvos, mitzvah observance, guarding Hashem's laws and precepts, is not presented here as a means for spiritual advancement. Rather, it is a preventative measure to protect the individual from sinking into the abyss of the abominate. From the zenith of virtue to the nadir of depravity - that is the essence of mitzvah observance. One who observes can, and will, rise to the pinnacle of holiness; one who does not, can quite possibly fall into the depths of immorality.

Horav David Shneuer, Shlita, feels that this is the specific reason that Chazal instituted the reading of the parsha of arayos, the chapter dealing with immoral and illicit relationships, during Minchah on Yom Kippur. One would think that at such a time, when one is physically and emotionally drained, when he has reached his lowest point of humility; when he no longer has the ability to even think about falling prey to his base desires, the Torah reading would deal with subjects that address spiritual ascendancy - not immorality and prurience.

The Torah is acutely aware of man's base nature and weakness in withstanding the evil inclinations, the challenge to his commitment. The Torah is conveying to us that, regardless of the moment, one's spiritual achievements not withstanding, he can fall - and fall hard - even on Yom Kippur! That is the message. We only have to accept the warning.



1) What is the punishment for a Kohen Gadol who enters the Kodshei Kedoshim when he is not permitted to enter?

2) When may the Kohen Gadol enter the Kodshei Kodoshim?

3) A. What is the gematria of "b'zos"? (B'zos yavoh Aharon." 16:3)
B. To what does the number allude?

4) A. What type of vestments did he give to the Kohen Gadol to wear when he entered the Kodshei Kodoshim?
II. To whom did these vestments belong?

5) How many times did the Kohen Gadol change vestments on Yom Kippur?

6) May a Kohen Gadol who was not anointed with the Shemen Ha'Mishchah perform the Yom Kippur service?


1) Death.

2) On Yom Kippur, when he burns the Ketores.

3) A. 410.
B. This number is an allusion to the first Bais Ha'Mikdash, which stood for 410 years.

4) A. White linen.
B. They were the property of the Bais Hamikdash.

5) Five times.

6) Yes. This includes a Kohen Gadol Merubah Begadim, whose garments were increased, even though he was not anointed.


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