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Rabbi A. Leib Scheinbaum
Hebrew Academy of Cleveland

Parshas Achrei Mos - Kedoshim

He shall don a sacred linen tunic; linen breeches shall be upon his flesh. (16:4)

The Kohen Gadol performed all of the daily rituals, as well as part of the Yom Kippur service, while wearing his golden vestments. When the Kohen Gadol entered the Kodesh Hakodoshim, the Holy of Holies, to seek penance for Klal Yisrael, he changed into the simple linen vestments. Since the Jewish People had sinned by worshipping the Golden Calf, it would have been inappropriate to seek penance wearing gold. The material of gold acts as a prosecuting agent against the Jewish People. Hence, gold vestments are not the appropriate attire for effecting a positive response for forgiveness.

We infer from here the importance of trying to see the good in the Jewish People. This positive outlook, unfortunately, has deficits. Horav Zalmen Sorotzkin, zl, decries those who would justify every infraction performed by a Jew. These do-gooders criticize anyone who dares to chastise another Jew for transgressing any commandment of the Torah. They invoke the memory of the great saint Horav Levi Yitzchak, zl, M'Berditchev, who was able to find a positive aspect in a Jew's actions, regardless of the gravity of his behavior. Indeed, once the rav of a community chastised a member for eating non-kosher meat in a butcher store owned by a Jewish apostate. The more "liberal" members of the community critiqued him for his lack of sensitivity in finding fault in another Jew. The rav should have looked for a reason to "justify" the Jew's transgression.

This utter foolishness has reached its pique in contemporary times when we are induced to find excuses to mitigate what used to be considered transgressions, but have currently been labeled, "errors". Indeed, the mitzvah of tochachah, reproach, has almost become antiquated. The rav who gives mussar, reproach, might jeopardize his position or, at best, be called inconsiderate! We will only succeed in reaching out to those who have accepted an alternative to a Torah way of life by telling the truth, not fearing it and and "sugar coating" violations. This approach can be compared to a situation in which a doctor is told not to reveal the true diagnosis to his patient. The unsuspecting patient will continue to maintain the lifestyle that has precipitated his present illness. Is the doctor actually helping the patient?

Horav Sorotzkin adds that this orientation is appropriate only during the rav or leader's dialogue with the people. In his supplication to the Almighty, however, he must make every effort to intercede on his behalf of his flock, seeking ways to justify their actions. This distinction may be noted from the Kohen Gadol's manner of dress on Yom Kippur when he was outside the Holy of Holies. As he stood in the Azarah, surrounded by the Kohanim, Leviim, and Yisraelim, he donned golden vestments, despite the damaging impression this makes. On the contrary, let the people notice and reflect upon the sin of Golden Calf which they perpetuated. Let them recognize their ingratitude toward Hashem and be cognizant of the anger they aroused in Him. When the Kohen Gadol enters the Holy of Holies to entreat Hashem on behalf of Klal Yisrael, when no one but Hashem hears him, then he wears the simple, white linen vestments, the symbol of virtue and purity.

You shall observe My decrees and My laws, which man shall carry out and by which he shall live. (18:5)

Chazal have derived from the words, "V'chai bahem", "by which he shall live," that the mitzvos were given for the sake of life, not death. Consequently, if the performance of a ritual becomes life threatening, such as during a life threatening situation on Shabbos, life certainly takes precedence. This is not considered to be a violation of the laws of Shabbos. The exceptions to this rule are the three cardinal sins: idolatry, murder or adultery -- or chillul Hashem, in which violating a mitzvah would desecrate Hashem's Name.

We suggest another interpretation of "V'chai bahem". Many people would give up their life for Judaism, would fight to the bitter end, accepting any challenge regardless of the consequences, all for the sake of Judaism. Are these same people, however, prepared to live for Judaism? Are they willing to observe Hashem's Torah even if it does not mean having to relinquish their lives for it? Regrettably, we see wonderful Jewish men and women in today's society who stand ready to do whatever they can to further Judaism --- everything but observe the Torah. We are admonished, "V'chai bahem", the Torah should be our lifestyle, our reason for living - not our reason for giving up our life.

It is necessary to make concessions to be observant. These are concessions only if one considers them to be concessions. If one views the Torah's commandments not as restrictions, but rather as sound advise, as guidelines for enhancing our lives, then they become a source of joy, a fount of goodness, a basis for success and nachas. Horav Moshe Swift, zl, derives this lesson from a well-known Chazal, which states, "The pairing together of two people in marriage is as difficult as the parting of the Red Sea". It is enigmatic that Chazal would use as their analogy an example of something divided, rather than something which is united. Why compare the creation of a zivug, the harmonious melding of a young couple, to the splitting of the Red Sea? The parting of the Red Sea divided a unit, while a zivug is the combining of two separate entities. In order to create a symbiotic unit of two distinct people, of two divergent personalities, it is sometimes necessary to make a Krias Yam Suf, splitting of the Red Sea. We must cut away certain parts, hone some edges, cut away such superfluities that would hamper a harmonious relationship. In order to make it fit, we have to do some splitting. Each member of the marriage unit must be willing to concede, to give a little of himself in order to gain so much as a couple.

Many of us are unwilling to make those adjustments, whether it is in marriage, in our relationship with our spouse, or in religion in our relationship with Hashem. We want it all - our way. We have the secular and the religious aspects of life. The world of work is in one compartment - in no way under the purview of religion, while religion is something we do only at specific times. Yet, these same people stand ready to die for Judaism, for their People, for their Land. What Hashem really requires of us is to live for Him, not just to die for Him.


1) The Torah says "B'zos yavoh Aharon". What is the numerical equivalent of "B'zos", and what is derived from this word?
2) What was different about the vestments worn by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur compared to those he wore during the year?
3) What is a Kohen Gadol Merubah B'bgadim?
4) Does one have to perform Kissui Hadam after slaughtering a non-kosher fowl (in the event one needed the fowl for critically ill person)?
5) Which forbidden marriage is permitted after the death of the woman who was the source of the prohibition?

1) a. 410 b. It implies the 410 years of the Bais Hamikdash Ha'rishon, which is the length of time the Kohen Gadol served in the Bais Hamikdash.
2) On Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol wore vestments made of linen, whereas during the year, he wore vestments made of gold.
3) During the second Bais Hamikdash there was no Shemen Ha'mishchah, anointing oil, to anoint the Kohen Gadol. Consequently, his primary distinction was the fact that he was Merubah b'gadin.
4) No
5) Achos ishto; his wife's sister is permitted after his wife's death l"z .


Reprove your fellow (19:17)

Usually when the Torah repeats a word it is providing emphasis. In this case the emphasis placed upon the word "hochei'ach", reprove, tells us, "you shall surely reprove". Horav David Feinstein, Shlita, goes a step further. He suggests that while the emphasis is apparently upon the reproach, the focus, however, is not on the one who has sinned, but rather on the mochi'ach, the one who is reproving. There must be constant reproof. This means that prior to reproving someone else, one should first go through a bit of self-censure, chastising himself repeatedly in order to ensure that his own behavior is above reproach. How can we expect our criticism to be accepted if we ourselves are far from being the models of virtue? When the recipient sees that the one who is reproving him is looking out for the sinner's own good with no ulterior motives, then the words might strike that critical chord in his heart and inspire him to mend his ways.

Horav Feinstein notes that Aharon Ha'kohen exemplified this concept. Everyone loved and revered him, even those who were unfortunately on the receiving end of his mussar, reproach. The Torah attests to Aharon's personal demeanor in Malachi 2:6, "He went with me in peace and righteousness. Therefore, he turned many back from sin". Aharon represented the Torah scholar in his whole being. His virtue was manifest in his total personality. He received the respect of people because he deserved it. Just by seeing his personal example, many sinners were inspired to perform teshuvah and repent their ways. Aharon Ha'kohen did not simply give mussar; he represented the essence of mussar!

You shall love your fellow as yourself - I am Hashem. (19:18)

Rabbi Akiva said that the commandment to "love your fellow as yourself" is the fundamental rule of the Torah. Hashem adjures us to be sensitive to the needs of others. Indeed, Chazal base a variety of laws upon this rule. Unfortunately, Rabbi Akiva, who expounded this rule, who emphasized its critical importance, did not merit to see this rule adopted by his twenty-four thousand students. They all passed away tragically during the seven week period between Pesach and Shavuous. According to Chazal, they died because they did not give the proper kavod, honor, to one another. Rabbi Akiva did not permit this tragedy to deter him from disseminating Torah. He found five new students, and they were the ones that taught Torah to Klal Yisrael.

It is important that we focus upon the sin of "lo nohagu kavod zeh lazeh," "they did not show respect one for another". After all, we are not speaking about common people. These students were Torah scholars who were exemplary in their avodas Hashem, service to the Almighty. Moreover, Chazal emphasize that Rabbi Akiva had twelve-thousand pairs of students - not twenty-four thousand students. This would imply that they truly did benefit each other - they were zugos, pairs!

Chazal tell us that Rabbi Akiva told his second group of students: "My sons, the first group of students died because their eyes were intolerant of each other. Be careful not to do as they did. This is enigmatic. If they died because they did not render kavod to each other, why did Rabbi Akiva give his new students an apparently different reason? The Ponevezer Rav, zl, explains that in reality these reasons are identical with one another. The blemish on their character was a lack of tolerance for the good fortune enjoyed by their friends. This intolerance manifested itself in a lack of respect for one another.

What does "tzarus ayin" mean? Horav Chaim Friedlander, zl, interprets this in Yiddish, "Min fargint nisht yenem;" it literally bothers you that your friend has and enjoys something. You feel that he is taking something away from you. This narrow-mindedness causes one to act without proper respect for his fellow. This is the underlying meaning of the command to "love your fellow as yourself". Chazal interpret the word, "reiecha", friend, as referring to Hashem.

By expressing our unequivocal love for Hashem, we negate ourselves and realize that everything we have comes from Him. Once we have purged ourselves of our egocentricity, we have room for our fellow man. One who is obsessed with himself has no room for others.

You shall be holy for Me;......and I have separated you from the peoples to be Mine. (20:26)

Rashi cites Chazal who explain this pasuk in the following manner: If you keep yourselves separate from the nations and their life styles, you will be Mine; otherwise, you will belong to Nebuchanetzar and his ilk. Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya adds, one should not say, "I do not eat pig because I do not like pig meat." Rather, one should say, I would like to eat pig meat, but Hashem has prohibited me from eating it and has commanded me to separate from the other nations to be His, and only His" Horav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, zl, remarks that essentially Chazal are teaching us two lessons.

First, it is not only important to serve Hashem and observe His mitzvos, it is necessary for every Jew to realize and feel his distinctiveness, his separation from the nations of the world. Hashem wants us to feel distinct from the rest of the world. A person should not observe mitzvos merely because he was commanded to do so, since such an attitude cannot guarantee an enduring relationship with Hashem. People, by nature, do not want to be different; no one wants to stand apart. After awhile, his commitment will weaken. If, however, one's observance is motivated by his membership in a nation that is separate from the world, then he is different. People have a problem acting different, not being different. By viewing ourselves as distinct from the nations of the world, we will enjoy a lasting commitment to Hashem's mitzvos.

Second, we note an addendum to this havdalah, separateness. We are not to view ourselves as a nation like other nations that have a specific set of laws which permit -- and in some instances prohibit -- certain activities and foods. This means that as other nations have their code of ethics and laws, so do we. Essentially, we are just another nation. This is not the Torah perspective. We distinguish ourselves only by a single reality -- we serve Hashem. We are His servants - we are His nation. This is the only justification for being called a nation. As Rabbeinu Saadya Goan writes, "We are a nation only because of the Torah". The Torah is not simply our code, it is our license to nationhood. We are not citizens of our respective countries who just happen to believe in the Jewish religion. This belief defines our nationhood, our citizenship, and our allegiance to Hashem.


QUESTIONS and ANSWERS 1) What is kibbud av and what is morah av?
2) How is Maaser Sheni similar to Neta Revai?
3) Does the mitzvah of building the Bais Hamikdash override the prohibition of chilul Shabbos?
4) What is the punishment for one who wounds his father?
5) What is the punishment for a married woman who commits adultery?

Answers: 1) Morah refers to negative acts. One should not sit in his father's place or contradict his words. Kibbud refers to positive acts. One should show respect by standing up, feeding and performing positive acts of respect for a parent.
2) They are both kodesh and must be eaten in Yerusholayim unless they are redeemed.
3) No.
4) He is executed by chenek, choking
5) She is executed by chenek.


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