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Parashat Aharei Mot
The Temporary Man
The kohen gadol confesses all the sins of Am Yisrael as he places his hands on the goat that is sent to the wilderness. The "ish iti," designated to take the goat to the desert, takes the goat to the wilderness and casts it from the cliff, destroying it together with the nation's sins.
Undoubtedly, behind this ritual lie many secrets, and we do not involve ourselves in the hidden areas of the Torah. But the Hizkuni zs"l cites a Midrash of Hazal that "ish iti" means a "temporary person," because the one who took the goat to the wilderness didn't live for more than a year thereafter. Therefore, from the outset they would choose for this task someone who - as they saw with their wisdom - would die that year. The obvious question arises, what did he do? Why should he die? He took part in the process of atonement!
The reason is the same reason why we burn together with the hamess the feather that swept it as well as the candle used during the search. The same question may be raised - what did they do? The hamess symbolizes sins and the evil inclination and is therefore burned. But what did the feather and candle do? They just helped in the search! The answer is that the Almighty does not look favorably upon those who search for sins and spiritual blemishes, who accompany the scapegoat. The Almighty looks favorably upon those who look for the good in Am Yisrael, who argue for their merits, who always seek to defend the Jewish people.
One who is good sees good; the innocent one will always look at others innocently. The ssadik strives to always increase the goodness and justice in the world!
THE MESSAGE OF THE DAYS OF SEFIRAT HA'OMER
"Rabbi Akiva had twelve thousand pairs of students from Gavat until Antipatras, and they all died in one period because they did not afford honor to one another. The world was then desolate until Rabbi Akiva came to our rabbis in the south and taught them: Rabbi Meir, Rabbi Yehudah, Rabbi Yossi, Rabbi Shimon Ben Yohai and Rabbi Elazar Ben Shamua. They were the ones who upheld the Torah. We have learned that they all died between Pesah and Asseret [Shavuot] with an awful death. Which was it? 'Askarah'" (Yevamot 62b). Of the nine hundred and thirty types of death that Hashem created in the world, death from "askarah" is the worst. The soul's departure during such a death is painful like removing a piece of wool that was caught among thorns (Berachot 8a). This disease, which begins in the stomach and ends in the throat, serves as a punishment for the sin of lashon hara, inappropriate speech about others, which begins in one's kidneys - i.e., his thoughts - and ends in his throat - when the speech actually leaves his mouth (Shabbat 33b). Eventually, this disease leads one to choke to death (Ketubot 30b and Rashi there; Tosafot Pesahim 105a).
How devastating! Twenty-four thousand students, themselves great Torah leaders and teachers - for they didn't learn before their rebbe, but rather drew from his Torah from Gavat until Antipatras. What remarkable honor for the Torah this is! Yet, this great blossom of Torah study was discontinued at one shot. Each of them in his place was stricken by this horrible illness, and died the most painful death imaginable, suffering immensely until the soul departed. The world remained desolate! Why did this catastrophe occur? "Because they did not afford honor to one another."
They did not, Heaven forbid, speak negatively about each other, they did not scorn or anger one another, they did not speak lashon hara or gossip. We are dealing with the greatest of giants, whose deaths we mourn to this very day! But if so, then what was the sin? Why was there such wrath?
An answer appears in the work, "Mishnat Hachamim" by Maharam Hagiz zs"l (in "Divrei Hayyim," the section of "kvod talmidei hachamim"). Rabbi Akiva's students perished because by not affording honor to one another, they exhibited disrespect towards Torah scholars. The Zohar teaches us (vol. 3, 173), "In every place, the Almighty demands the honor of the ssadikim, more so than His own [honor]."
Similarly, when the wicked government issued a decree against the Jewish community, the Torah sages sat to decide who would represent the community and plead their case before the authorities. They decided to send Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, who was capable of performing miracles, and Rabbi Elazar Ben Rabbi Yossi would accompany him. Upon their departure, a certain question in halachah was presented to them. Rabbi Elazar knew the answer, but in order not to issue a ruling of halachah in the presence of his rebbe, he answered in a whisper. He moved his lips without any voice. But Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai saw and read his lips. He then proceeded to confirm the response: "From the movement of your lips it is clear that you are a Torah scholar!" Nevertheless, since he insulted the honor of Rabbi Shimon, he was punished with "askarah," and were it not for Rabbi Shimon's plea for mercy on his behalf, he would have died from choking! (Me'ilah 17b, and Tosafot).
Herein, therefore, lies the message of the mourning period during sefirat ha'omer. We must be extra careful in our respect towards the sages and "to be careful from their coal," for Hashem does not easily forgive one who insults their honor. This message also emerges from our parashah: "Hashem said to Mosheh after the death of Aharon's two sons. Speak to Aharon your brother, that he should not come at any moment into the Sanctuary." Rashi adds, "So that he not die the way his sons died." The question arises, Aharon's sons died because they issued a ruling of halachah in the presence of their rebbe, Mosheh (Rashi, Vayikra 10:2) and because they did not consult with one another (Vayikra Rabbah 2:8) - just like Rabbi Akiva's students! What does their sin have to do with the warning in the pasuk regarding proper respect and reverence for the Mikdash?
The answer is that the Torah here alludes to the comments of the Ramhal zs"l in Mesilat Yesharim chapter 26: "The sacred individual, who is constantly attached to his God, he himself is considered as a Mishkan, Mikdash and altar, as Hazal say, 'The ssadikim are a the chariot [of the Shechinah].' For the Shechinah rests upon them as it rested in the Mikdash." When Aharon's sons showed insufficient respect to Mosheh Rabbenu - or even to each other - it was as if they showed disrespect to the Mikdash of Hashem and the kodesh hakodashim.
For good reason, the entire nation for dozens of generations commemorates the death of Rabbi Akiva's students with mourning, so that we know that if even these great sages perished, how careful we must be to show proper respect to the scholars!
FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH
"For in a cloud I will appear over the kapporet"
The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l addresses the juxtaposition between these two pesukim: "He shall not come at any moment into the Sanctuary. that he not die, for in a cloud I will appear over the kapporet - with this shall Aharon come into the Sanctuary." If all year round the kohen gadol was prohibited from entering the Mikdash, then certainly on Yom Kippur, when the Shechinah rests there more so than on any other day, he may not enter the sacred realm. Why, then, is there a special prohibition against his entering into the kodesh hakodashim specifically on Yom Kippur?
We can answer this question through a story in the Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 21:12) about Shimon Hassadik. In the year before his death, he told the people, "This year he [referring to himself] will die." "How do you know?"
they asked. He said, "Each year there was an old man wearing white and wrapped in white that would come in with me [to the Sanctuary on Yom Kippur] and leave with me. This year, he came in with me but did not walk out with me." Rabbi Avahu said, "Who said that it was a person? (Meaning, obviously this wasn't a person, since the pasuk instructs, 'No man shall be in the Ohel Moed when he comes to atone in the Sanctuary until he leaves.'
Therefore, this must have been merely an image that appeared to him prophetically.) Rather, it was the Almighty Himself in all His Glory Who came in and left with him."
This is what the pasuk means, "Speak to you brother Aharon, that he shall not come at any moment into the Sanctuary, that he shall not die." And if you would ask, how could he enter the sacred place on the most sacred day, the answer is, "for in a cloud I will appear over the kapporet." Meaning, a prophetic revelation of the Creator will occur in the kodesh hakodashim, and "with this shall Aharon come into the Sanctuary" - accompanied by this revelation, the kohen gadol enters the kodesh hakodashim, and this revelation protects him from the moment he enters until his departure.
"For on this day He will atone for you. before Hashem, you will be purified"
The Hid"a zs"l writes that the word "titharu" ("you shall be purified") seems superfluous. The pasuk could have written, "For on this day He will atone for you, to purify you from all your sins before Hashem." What is added by the extra phrase, "you will be purified"?
The answer is that the Almighty here tells Benei Yisrael, "I make a covenant with you, that when you come to beseech Me on this sacred day, I will atone for you to purify you. However, this is on one condition - 'titharu' - that you take upon yourselves the responsibility of purifying yourselves from here on, to conduct yourselves properly and avoid committing sins. But if one says to himself, 'I will sin and Yom Kippur will atone,' then Yom Kippur will not atone for him. Yom Kippur atones only for those who repent!"
THE GOLDEN COLUMN
Rav Yisrael Abihassera zs"l
The Zohar Hakadosh says that a rope was tied to the foot of the kohen gadol prior to his entry into the kodesh hakodashim, so that if he died inside the Sanctuary he can pulled out with the rope. A similar rope was tied to the foot of the Baba Sali zs"l in his youth, during the follow incident:
When he first visited Eress Yisrael and went to Ssefat, he found the Bet Kenesset of the Ar"i zs"l locked and inaccessible to those wishing to pray there, since whoever entered died on the spot. He prayed at the grave of the Ar"i, immersed himself in the Ar"i's mikveh, and ordered that the attendant of the Bet Kenesset come before him with his keys. The attendant was frightened and informed him that he was ordered by the local rabbis not to give over the keys to anyone, since people's lives are at risk! But the Baba Sali insisted that he hand over the keys, and the attendant finally consented but with one condition - that he allow a rope to be tied around his leg, so that should tragedy strike as it did to those before him, the attendant will not have to go after him and risk his own life.
The Baba Sali told his helper to hold on to his cloak and come with him.
Gripped with sanctity, he opened the gates, entered the Bet Kenesset, opened the aron hakodesh, took out the Sefer Torah attributed to the Ar"i Hakadosh, read from it, and returned it to the aron. He then told the astonished assistant, "I did this so that the Bet Kenesset can now be opened to everyone!"
The assistant ran and told the local rabbis of the miracle that had occurred. They came and told the Baba Sali that they want to honor him with a lavish feast, just as the kohen gadol would celebrate his safe exit from the Sanctuary with a feast. But the rav refused the honor and publicity, and quickly left for Yerushalayim, to the house of his friend, Rabbi Yossef Shalosh zs"l.
A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
Taken from the work, "Osserot Yossef" by Rav David Yossef shlit"a,
The Missvah of Sefirat Ha'omer
When counting the omer, one must verbally articulate the counting; one does not fulfill his obligation by merely thinking the counting in his mind.
One who counted only in his mind must count again, verbally, with a berachah.
Similarly, one who dates a letter with the day of the omer has not fulfilled his obligation, and must therefore count again verbally with a berachah.
Nevertheless, one should optimally not write the day of the omer before fulfilling the obligation by counting verbally.
One must be particularly meticulous in his observance of the missvah of sefirat ha'omer. Hazal comment (Vayikra Rabbah 28:6) that in the merit of this missvah Avraham Avinu earned inheritance of Eress Yisrael for himself and his progeny. One who does not fulfill the missvah of counting the omer has neglected a rabbinic enactment. The Zohar (Parashat Emor 97b) says about one who does not fulfill this missvah that he is not considered pure and he is undeserving of a portion in the Torah. Therefore, it is proper to make an extra effort to recite arvit with a minyan, so that he does not forget to count the omer.
Women are not obligated in the missvah of sefirat ha'omer since it is limited to a specific time frame, and women are not obligated in time-bound missvot. Women who wish to accept upon themselves the stringency of counting the omer may do so, though they may not recite the berachah.
(Even according to the custom of the Ashkenazim that women recite berachot when performing time-bound missvot, many poskim rule that they should not recite the berachah over sefirat ha'omer, for one of two reasons: either because this missvah entails merely speech, and women may recite the berachah only on missvot that involve an action, or because we are concerned that they will forget to count one night, and thus any berachot recited on the counting of earlier nights are retroactively considered "berachot levatalah" - wasted berachot.)
According to the view of the Kabbalists, women should not count sefirat ha'omer at all, even without a berachah.
A minor who has reached the age of missvah training should be taught to count the omer each night with a berachah. If the child forgot one night to count and remembered the following night, he nevertheless continues to count with a berachah in order that he be properly educated in the missvah of sefirat ha'omer. A child may not fulfill the obligation of sefirat ha'omer on behalf of an adult.
A boy who became a bar missvah during the omer period, even if his birthday occurred on the second day of the counting, may not continue counting the omer with a berachah from the day of his bar missvah. The reason is that since prior to his birthday he was not obligated in the missvah, and, as such, his counting during those days was not considered a valid "counting" as far as the halachah is concerned, his counting after his bar missvah cannot be considered "complete" (as the pasuk requires, "temimot").
Therefore, from his thirteenth birthday on he counts the omer without a berachah, and in the following year he counts the omer with a berachah.
As we know, we never recite a berachah when its obligation is in doubt. The boy should preferably listen to the berachah from the sheli'ah ssibur, answer amen, and then count the omer by himself.
THE WONDERS OF CREATION
The Largest Bird in the World
The ostrich is the largest bird in the world, and because of its weight it is unable to fly like other birds. It reaches 2.7 meters in height and weighs around 150 kg. Its head is small and rests on top of its high neck, through the help of which the ostrich can reach high plants that it uses for food. Its eyes are particularly sharp and enable it to see several kilometers into the distance. Its legs are long and strong, allowing the ostrich to run at remarkable speeds. In effect, running for the ostrich serves as a substitute for flying. When the ostrich encounters danger, it quickly escapes with lightening speed, estimated at 90 kilometers per hour.
The ostrich uses its strong legs for self defense, as well. A kick by an attacked ostrich could seriously endanger the enemy. Nevertheless, the ostrich generally prefers to run away. The ostrich lays anywhere from 3 to 10 eggs, each one weighing about one and a half kg. The nest is a hole dug in the ground by the male ostrich. The couple sit on the eggs in an arranged schedule. The male sits from 4:00 PM until 8:00 AM, and the female takes over for the next shift. Six weeks later the eggs hatch, each one giving birth to a chick the size of an average chicken with an exceptionally healthy appetite. After only a year, the youngsters are full-fledged ostriches.
The ostrich has been slandered by accusations that it sticks its head in the sand, thus ignoring impending danger, thinking that since it cannot see, it cannot be seen, either. In truth, the ostrich sits on his nest and stretches its head over the sand such that its body appears as a small hill, thus avoiding the attention of wild animals. The ostrich's sticking is head in the sand can teach us an important lesson. Certainly, it is foolish to overlook a problem that presents itself and think that the problem will somehow solve itself. Rationally, it makes more sense to deal with the problem and come up with a way out. However, there are times when people worry about things that haven't happened yet and their occurrence is far from certain. Regarding such concerns Hazal say, "A crisis in its time is enough." There is no need to worry when no concrete reason for concern exists. Additionally, there are times when specifically distracting one's attention is the best solution. When all types of worries and concerns detract from the Jew's concentration on his avodat Hashem, he must shake these worries from his mind, and this is the most effective cure. Indeed, the pasuk states (Mishlei 12:25), "If there is anxiety in a man's mind let him quash it." If he can't, then he should discuss his problems with others, with those who are capable of offering him sound advice (Yoma 75).
The Espionage Case (10)
Flashback: In the pocket of Efrayim Leboviss, a German student in the yeshivah of Radin, were maliciously hidden the architectural plans of the fortresses of the city of Kovna, just prior to the German attack on the city during World War I. The boy was arrested and charged with espionage, and it was expected that he would be punished by execution.
Urgent intervention led to his being transferred to the detective's cellars in Vilna, for a thorough investigation involving torture. This investigation was, however, disrupted with the advance of the German army, and Efrayim was taken to the interior regions of Russia, where his tracks were lost. In the meantime, the German army advanced near Radin, and the Hafess Hayyim decided to flee together with most of his yeshivah to the interior regions.
The journey of the Hafess Hayyim and his entourage was laden with obstacles and dangers. The roads were full of retreating battalions, who blamed the Jews for their failure on the battlefield. They were barely able to find places on the trains, which were filled with refugees and made their way along the dangerous tracks. As Shabbat approached, the Hafess Hayyim decided that travel was permitted on Shabbat due to the life-threatening situation and dire need to flee. He nevertheless reasoned that he would get off the train before the onset of Shabbat, since there were people non-proficient in the laws of Shabbat who may say, "I saw with my own eyes the Hafess Hayyim riding a train on Shabbat," thus leading to a hillul Hashem, which is not overridden by a risk to life. As the train slowed approaching one of the bridges, the Hafess Hayyim quickly got off together with his young daughter, his student Rav Elhanan Wasserman, and a handful of students. They spent Shabbat out in the field while army units passed by and hurled curses and even fiery torches in their direction. They eventually reached the city of Shumiatz, where the Hafess Hayyim established his yeshivah with great devotion and dedication. One day, a Jew arrived and said that he was a government contractor, who worked in the field of building renovation. He was brought to do some renovations in the prison in the city of Panza in the interior regions, and one day he heard a voice coming from behind the gate, "My fellow Jew, please do me a favor. Find the Hafess Hayyim and tell him that Efrayim Leboviss from Germany is locked in this prison!"
The Hafess Hayyim was overcome with emotion upon hearing the news, and he sent one of his students to Panza to see how they could help the young prisoner, who was arrested on false charges.
To be continued.
WITH THIS SHALL AHARON ENTER THE SANCTUARY
The Midrash (Shemot Rabbah 38:8) says, "In which merit would Aharon enter the kodesh hakodashim? The merit of circumcision would enter with him, as it says, 'With this [b'zot] shall Aharon enter the Sanctuary,' which refers to circumcision, as it says, 'This [zot] is My covenant that you shall observe.' It says similarly, 'My covenant was with him, life and peace' [meaning, in the merit of berit milah he merited to leave the kodesh hakodashim alive and well]. Rabbi Yisshak says, the merit of the tribes would enter with him, as it says, 'This [zeh] is the thing that you shall do for them.' The numerical value of 'zeh' is twelve, referring to the twelve stones that were placed on Aharon's heart, upon which were written the names of the tribes."
The Midrash asked a basic question - in what merit Aharon entered the Sanctuary. But why should that interest us, how is this applicable to us?
Especially nowadays, when the Bet Hamikdash is destroyed and the avodah is not conducted, why is this issue important? When looking a little more closely, we see that this question is in fact the main question that must occupy us at all times! We will all one day find ourselves in the same situation as the kohen gadol on Yom Kippur, only ten times worse. The kohen gadol was the among the greatest among the people, and seven days before Yom Kippur he left home and was taught how to conduct the sacred service of the awesome day of Yom Kippur. He confessed his sins over and over again, and trembling he entered the sacred chamber carrying the atonement incense.
Nevertheless, hundreds of kohanim died in the kodesh hakodashim; the sacred chamber rejected them, and their bodies had to be dragged with the rope that was tied to their leg.
We, of course, are not kohanim gedolim. We know full well who we are; let's not fool ourselves. The day will come when our souls will ascend to the Heavens, and we hope that we will earn a favorable judgment.
Hopefully, somehow, we will not be sent to Gehinnom. Hopefully, somehow, we will hear, "Okay, bring him into Gan Eden."
But wait - Gan Eden is the kodesh hakodashim! The same awe and dread that gripped the kohen gadol as he approached the chamber dressed in white, incense pan in hand, walking barefoot, step by step, towards the place of the residence of the Shechinah, the source of kedushah - this sense of awe is nothing compared to the fear that falls upon the soul as it approaches Gan Eden, the source of sanctity and the most exalted level of purity.
Will the soul be accepted in Gan Eden? Will it not reject it? Eress Yisrael rejects sinners - will Gan Eden accept his soul?
Therefore, the answer of the Midrash is ever so critical for us. "The merit of circumcision would enter with him" - the merit of proper observance of purity laws. Without it, Gan Eden will discard the impurity from its midst. "The merit of the tribes would enter with him." One who maintains the ancestral heritage is assisted by the merit of our ancestors. The Ramban cites the Midrash in our parashah that adds additional merits, all of which are critical for us: "in the merit of the Torah, as the pasuk says, 'This [zot] is the Torah.'" The Torah is sacred, and hence its students are sanctified. The Torah is spiritual, and therefore its students belong to the world of the spiritual. The Torah is eternal, and its students thus belong to the eternal world. Has the individual allotted time for Torah study? Has he taught his children Torah? If he has, then this merit will protect him, it will bring him to Gan Eden. "In the merit of Shabbat, as it says, 'Fortunate is the human being who does this [zot]. who observes Shabbat from desecrating it.'" Shabbat is a form of the World to Come, and thus one who observes it properly belongs in the World to Come. He earns a portion in Gan Eden.
The Ramban concludes, "This requires a lengthy discussion." In truth, this demands not only an intricate analysis, but a lifetime of hard work and concentrated effort. One must acquire a true holding in the life of purity, of Torah and the pleasantness of Shabbat, in order that we become worthy of the World to Come. And when we merit this world, we will enter with joy, and find our places in the kodesh hakodashim forever.
Eliyahu Ben Masudah & Yaakov ben Senyar
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