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Parashat Aharei Mot Kedoshim


One of the students of Rabbi Aharon zs”l, author of “Shomer Emunim,” sent his rebbe a deep question regarding his first work, “Shulhan Hatahor.” In his response, which was published in a collection of his letters, the sadik revealed something fascinating: “You should know, my son,” he wrote, “that when I wrote my book, I beseeched the Al-mighty that the answer to every question which arises in the book should be found on the same page as the question. Indeed, the answer to your question is found on that same page.” True, it is amazing, but this is not anything new. We have a tradition that the answer to any question can be found in the weekly parashah, as it will always offer insight into a Torah perspective on any issue.

The State of Israel is currently covered with flags in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the state. Although fifty years is not all that much, still, something is happening here. Throughout this period we have not lived in peace, be it politically, strategically, or economically. The impression is that from every perspective the blanket is a little too small. When we finally got inflation under control, unemployment rose. As soon as we made progress securing our borders, we faced political crises. No matter where we go, something starts to crumble. We are in trouble if we leave Lebanon, we are in trouble if we stay. It is not in our best interest to seal off the territories, nor is it wise to lift a closure. What’s going on here?

The answer may be found in the parashah, and is related to the following story of a wealthy man who had but one son. The father hired the most experienced teachers and tutors for his son, and he adopted an orphan boy to be his son’s friend.

At first, the orphan was very grateful for this opportunity, and he studied diligently. Gradually, however, he began feeling too comfortable in his new home, and his enthusiasm started weakening. He caused trouble for his tutors, his games became wild, he walked the streets and befriended the wrong crowds, and introduced vulgar speech into his benefactor’s home, threatening to drag the man’s son along with him.

Upon realizing what is happening, the man immediately drove the mischievous boy from his house, sending him to the streets whose inhabitants he had already befriended.

The orphan left the house, but the seeds of mischief which he implanted in his friend’s heart grew and flourished. He, too, began rebelling against his teachers, he behaved disrespectfully towards his parents and tutors, and, following his friend, joined the wild street-gangs.

Eventually, the father took his son by the arm into his room, grabbed the rod and hit him fiercely, until the boy’s shrieks filled the house. Only when the boy promised to improve his behavior did his father’s anger subside.

His servant asked him, “Why were you so much more angry with your son than that orphan boy, who was the one who incited your son to behave this way in the first place?”

The father responded, “That boy was a stranger - what do I have to do with him? As long as he helped my son, I kept him here. Once he left the proper path, I let him go. But my son is my own flesh and blood. How can I send him from my house? I will punish him until, whether he likes it or not, he returns to the proper mode of behavior.”

Similarly, we read in our parashah (chapter 18): “Speak to Benei Yisrael and say to them, I am Hashem your G-d.” As if to say, “You are my sons, and I cannot allow you to collapse!” The pesukim continue, “Do not do like the ways of Egypt which you left, and do not do like the ways of Canaan to which I am bringing you, and in their ways you shall not walk. You shall observe my statutes and laws to walk with them, I am Hashem your G-d.”

What follows is a series of warnings: “For all these abominations were done by the inhabitants of the land before you, and the land was defiled.” Perhaps you will think that if you behave this way you will be driven out, as well?

Wrong! “The land will not discharge you when you defile it like it discharged the nation before you.” They were like foreign children who were then sent away. But you are sons to the Al-mighty, and, whether you like it or not, you will be punished until you return to the proper path: “For anyone who does these abominable activities will be cut off from their nation.” Therefore, you will have no choice but to obey. “You will observe my warning not to do any of these abominable acts which were done before you so that you will not be defiled by them, I am Hashem your G-d.” I am your father who loves you dearly, and I will not leave you until you improve your ways and return to Me.


Parashat Kedoshim opens with the directive, “You shall be holy.” The parashah concludes with the commandment, “You shall be holy to Me.” Likewise, we find in the middle of the parashah, “You shall become holy, and you shall be holy.” Explaining the significance for this repetition, the Midrash presents a story of a king who owned a large wine cellar. He hired watchmen to guard the wine. Among the watchmen were several “nezirim,” who are forbidden to drink wine, while the others were alcoholics. At the end of the day, when their shift ended and the king paid them for their work, he doubled the salary of the alcoholics. The nezirim asked him, “Your Majesty, didn’t we all guard the cellar together? Why did the others receive double pay?” The king answered, “They are drunkards, and therefore had a far more difficult struggle to overcome. They are therefore entitled to double salary.” Similarly, the angels, who do not have a yesser hara, are described with only one expression of sanctity. Humans, who must constantly struggle with their evil inclination, receive the mention of two “kedushot” - “You shall become holy, and you shall be holy.” Their reward is doubled and tripled, as we fulfill a misvah each time we hold ourselves back from indulgence, each time we observe the proper degree of seni’ut and sanctity.

Similarly, we might add, in the earlier generations the lifestyle more closely resembled that of angels - the streets were clear of immodest dress and behavior, people were constrained. Nowadays, however, the opposite can be said. Therefore, with every limitation which we take upon ourselves, with every added degree of seni’ut which we observe, our reward will be multiplied again and again.

The wonders of the creator
The Kiwi

Have you heard of the kiwi? No, we are not referring to the fruit which has become more and more common at our tables. Rather, we are dealing with a strange, winged creature, who shares the same name as the aforementioned fruit - the kiwi. The kiwi is an awfully strange bird which resides in New Zealand. Its wings are completely non-functional and thus it cannot fly. The Creator, in His infinite mercy, ensured that it will not have to fly. Most birds fly in order to run away from various enemies. Others need to travel vast distances in order to find food, while others need to travel to change climates. The kiwi, by contrast, lives in a comfortable climate on a permanent basis with no need to migrate. Furthermore, its food is easily secured and it faces no danger as it lives in thick forests and remote places, where there exists no threat to its life.

The most interesting question regarding this creature is, how does a bird which does not fly and whose vision is impaired find its food? The answer is just as interesting. At night, the kiwi goes out using its beak like a cane. Leaning on its beak, it walks around slowly in the dark. When its smells a worm, it thrusts its beak into the ground and waits. When it captures the worm, he raises it ever so carefully to ensure that it does not break on the way up. Apparently, the kiwi prefers it food whole and not cut.

Another interesting method of the kiwi to catch food is by stamping on the ground with its strong legs. The worms down below think that the rain season has begun and come out of their holes, right into the kiwi’s beak.

We see, therefore, how the Al-mighty provides for even a bird who cannot fly and whose vision is impaired, ensuring that it is nourished.

As Jews, we realize that the key to livelihood is held by Hashem alone, and we are therefore not only confident that we are in the best hands possible, but we are also careful not to violate any prohibitions, as we need merely to turn to the source of all wealth, since prayers are always helpful.

The Repaid Debt
a continuing saga (part sixteen)

Flashback: Naftali, the boy who was on his way to stand trial for accidentally injuring an officer, was saved by a Jewish villager who took him into his home and supported him. When the boy reached adulthood, the man offered his daughter in marriage but Naftali said that it was revealed to him that she is not his proper mate. He left the man’s house and joined a yeshivah where he became the best student. He married and became the rabbi of Pozna and the head of its yeshivah. The daughter of the man who had cared for Naftali, too, was married, and the couple was supported by the father-in-law. Afterward, they moved to the city, where the husband started a beverage company and supported the family comfortably.

One night, the woman was walking in the street. The street was dark, and there was not a living creature to be seen. Suddenly, she heard the sound of galloping horses. She quickly turned to the side to avoid the oncoming carriage. Then, she felt a pair of hands descend upon her. The horseman kneeled from his horse and raised her onto the carriage. The horses then continued on their way to the palace in the outskirts of the city.

Upon their arrival, the horseman called and his servant came. The foreign dignitary gave him the woman, who had fainted, and the servant carried her through the maze of chambers. He eventually reached an enormous room and let her down on the couch. When she regained consciousness, she was looking at her kidnapper. In an attempt to stall for time, she wailed in a weak voice, “Please...bring me some water.” The official left the room and she looked around. She saw his hat and jacket, and reached her conclusion. She quickly put on the hat with its wide rim and wrapped herself in the jacket, which weighed heavily upon her. She left the room, praying that she would find her way through the complex without getting caught.

Indeed, her prayers were answered. Opposite her she saw a servant carrying a torch. In the dark, he figured that the person he saw was his master in his official garb ready to go outside. He immediately showed her the way to the palace gate....

to be continued...

The Golden Column
Rabbi Meir “Ba’al Haness” zs”l

Sunday, 14th Iyar (Pesah Sheni) marks the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Meir “Ba’al Haness,” one of the greatest of the tannaim. The Gemara writes about him, “It was clear to the One Who created the world that there was none like Rabbi Meir in his generation.”

Why was he called, “Ba’al Haness” (“the Master of the Miracle”)? Rabbi Meir was married to Beruriah, the daughter of Rabbi Hanina Ben Teradyon, one of the ten martyrs. The government ordered his and his wife’s execution for teaching Torah publicly. They decreed that his daughter should live a life of shame. Beruriah asked her husband to save her sister. He disguised himself as a Roman horseman, took a bag of gold coins, located the place where his sister-in-law was held captive and offered the money as a bribe to the guard. The guard replied, “When my supervisor comes, he will notice one missing and kill me.” Rabbi Meir answered, “Take half the money for yourself, and use the other half to bribe the officials.” The guard continued, “And when there is no more money, and the supervisors come - then what will I do?” Rabbi Meir answered, “Say, ‘The G-d of Meir - answer me!’ and you will be saved.” The guard asked, “And how can I be guaranteed that this will save me?” Rabbi Meir replied, “Look - there are man-eating dogs over there. I will go to them and you will see for yourself.” Rabbi Meir walked over the dogs and they ran over to him to tear him apart. He cried, “G-d of Meir - answer me!” and the dogs retreated. The guard was convinced and gave him the girl. When the group of supervisors came, the guard bribed them with the money. Eventually, the money was used up, and it was publicized what had happened. They arrested the guard and sentenced him to death by hanging. They tied the rope around his neck and he said, “G-d of Meir - answer me!” The rope tore, much to everyone’s amazement. He told them the incident, and they went after Rabbi Meir. The guard was saved.

From then on, we have a tradition that when a Jew finds himself, Heaven forbid, in any sort of crisis, he should give charity for the benefit of Torah students in Israel, which ever yeshivah it may be, and should dedicate the charity in memory of Rabbi Meir Baal Haness. He should then say, “G-d of Meir - answer me! G-d of Meir - answer me!” and will merit salvation from his crisis.

“Do not conduct yourself as a tale-bearer among your nation”

The Rambam writes (Hilchot Dei’ot chapter 7), “One who speaks gossip about another violates a negative commandment and causes the killing of many Jewish souls. Therefore, the Torah writes immediately next to [the prohibition of tale-bearing], ‘Do not stand idly by the blood of your brother.’ A tale-bearer is one who collects information and goes from one person to another, even if it true. This is a most severe sin, which is included under this prohibition, and this is what is known as lashon hara. This refers to one who speaks badly about another, even if he speaks the truth.”

“Do not hate your brother in your heart”

Rabbi Yis’hak Abarbanel zs”l connects these pesukim together: “Do not conduct yourself as a tale-bearer among your nation, do not stand by idly over the blood of your brother, do not hate your brother in your heart, and not bear a sin over him.” First, there is a prohibition to fight and cause embarrassment or murder. And even should the tale-bearer himself violate this prohibition, and tells someone that somebody else spoke wrongly about him, the victim should not hate him. Rather, he should approach him peacefully and clarify the issue, and more often than not he will find that the rumors had distorted the facts.

“Do not take revenge and bear a grudge against other members of your nation”

Rabbi Moshe Alshich zs”l continues to connect the next few pesukim: “You shall reproach you friend and not bear a sin over him; do not take revenge or bear a grudge against other members of your nation, and you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem.” In other words, if someone shared with you gossip, telling you that someone spoke wrongly about you, do not decide automatically that he has wronged you, before you approach him to discuss the matter. And even should it turn out that it was true, still, “Do not take revenge or bear a grudge,” do not hate him. Why? “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” - remember that he is your friend, as you, too, most likely spoke improperly about another at some point.

How to Earn the Blessings of Heaven

Our parashah presents the prohibition of speaking lashon hara, a prohibition about which Hazal remarked that all the misvot which a person performs throughout his life can turn into ashes as a result of this sin, the sin of inappropriate speech.

In general, we can say that any derogatory speech about another is considered lashon hara. Furthermore, very often this also involves the prohibition of embarrassing another (if the slander was said in his presence), or libel (if the rumors being spread are false). The Hafess Hayyim zs”l counts in the introduction to his book no fewer than seventeen negative commandments and fourteen positive commandments which are related to lashon hara, not to mention the verse, “Cursed is the one who smites his friend in secret,” about whom the Gemara (Shavuot 36b) says that he is cursed and excommunicated.

Masses of Jews flocked to Radin, the hometown of the Hafess Hayyim, to receive his blessing and be saved. The sadik would say, “Why do you come all the way here? You spend so much time and money, and who knows if they will, in fact, listen to my prayers on your behalf in Heaven? Who knows if my words will bring you blessing? You have the capability to receive the blessing from Hashem Himself, without all the effort and money of travel, if you would only guard your tongues against evil speech. The Torah presents a blessing corresponding to every curse. Therefore, there is a blessing for those who do not smite their friends with their tongues. But if you do not guard your tongues from evil speech, and you enter the curse of those who speak inappropriately about others, then no blessing of a sadik will help you!”

And, in truth, he would point out, guarding our tongues is not all that difficult. It is permissible to say everything as long as we omit the identity of the person about whom we are talking. In this way, the speech will yield no harm. Let us accept upon ourselves to be careful and stay away from derogatory speech about others, not to harp on the faults of others and not to take revenge from them. Certainly, we must never embarrass another. In this way, may we merit the blessings of Heaven which will accompany us in everything we do!

excerpts from
Sing You Righteous...
by: Rabbi Avigdor Miller shlit”a

Aristocracy of commandments (part I)

Aaron: What is meant by the expression “holy to your G-d”?

Mr. Goodfriend: It denotes the personal aura which brings one closer to G-d. Therefore, “He relates His words to Jacob; His statutes and judgements to Israel; this He did to no nation” (Tehillim 147:19), “An Israelite that sinned, is still an Israelite”. (Sanhedrin 44a) because he is still obligated in all commandments; but one who is deprived of the obligation of even one Mitzvah loses the name of Israel.


Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit”a
Arranged by Rav Moshe Yossef shlit”a

The Laws of Sefirat Haomer

1) Sefirat haomer should be recited standing. Hazal found an allusion to this halachah from the pasuk, “From when your sickle begins on the grain, begin to count...” The word, “kamah” (grain) may be read, “komah,” implying an erect position. In any event, one who counted sitting has fulfilled his obligation and does not need to count again. Therefore, an elderly or sick individual who has difficulty standing may count sitting (even “lechatehilah”), as is the case regarding other misvot which are to be recited standing (hallel, milah, etc.).

2) The misvah is for each individual Jew to count himself, as the pasuk about sefirat haomer is written in plural form, suggesting that all members of the Jewish people must count the omer. Nevertheless, one can fulfill his obligation through the counting of another if both parties had in mind that the single counting should fulfill the obligation of the listener.

3) The counting is to be done at night. Ideally, it should be done after nightfall, approximately eighteen minutes after sundown. However, a congregation which concluded “Arbit” services immediately after sundown but before nightfall, a period about which we are unsure if it is night or day, and there is a legitimate concern that members of the community will forget to count later, they may count then with a berachah. However, under no circumstances may they count the omer before sundown, even on Erev Shabbat after services if the sun has not set.

4) One who forgets to count the omer at night but remembers the following day and counts then without a berachah, may continue counting throughout the rest of the omer with a berachah. However, if the individual failed to count a complete day, he may no longer continue counting with a berachah, for the Torah requires that the counting be complete. The same applies to one who counted incorrectly and did not correct his mistake throughout the entire day. He, too, may no longer count with a berachah.

5) One who is in doubt whether or not he counted on a given night, and knows that he did not count during the following day, he may continue counting the next night with a berachah, since we have a double doubt. Since there are some views that this misvah is Biblical even today in the absence of the Bet Hamikdash, we may rely on the double doubt and continue counting with a berachah.

6) When who realizes during twilight (between sundown and nightfall) that he did not count the previous night or that entire day, should count immediately without a berachah and should then wait until after nightfall and count with a berachah.

7) One who counted the days but did not properly count the weeks may continue counting with a berachah.

8) One who is unsure of the day to count and has no way of clarifying what day it is in the omer should not count, as a doubtful counting is not considered a counting at all. If, however, he counted without a berachah and discovered on the following day that he was correct, he may continue counting with a berachah

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