Parashat Aharei Mot Kedoshim
WHAT'S GOING ON HERE?
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
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,
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.
“YOU SHALL BECOME HOLY, AND YOU SHALL BE HOLY”
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
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
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!
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.
ASKING AND EXPOUNDING
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
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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