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Parashat Aharei Mot-Kedoshim
"And He Shall Not Die!"
If a person really wants to know himself, if he does not want to delude himself, to live in an imaginary world based on self-deception, then he should focus on the beginning of this week's parashah. Let him read this essay.
"And G-d said to Mosheh, speak to Aharon, your brother, and let him not come at all times into the Holy, and he shall not die… and the cloud of incense shall cover the kaporet, and he shall not die." About whom is it talking here! About Aharon, the holy man of G-d. who is called by the verse, "the holy of holies" (Divrei Hayamim 1 23:13), and an "angel of the G-d of Hosts" (Malachit 2:7). He was a prophet in Egypt before Mosheh Rabbeinu prophesized (Shemuel 1 2:27). "He loved peace and pursued peace, loved the creations and brought them close to the Torah" (Avot 1:12). No, we can not even begin to comprehend the holiness of our Rabbis, the rishonim, who were like angels, not to mention the Geonim and the Amoraim, the Tanaim and the Men of the Great Assembly, the prophets and the elders. Certainly not one of the generation of wisdom, "that the least of their women was like Yehezkel the prophet" (Shemoneh Perakim of the Rambam, 4). Certainly not their great leaders, their holy ones, and the holy of holies, Aharon the kohen!
And now, what if we were asked: Why did the Baba Sali zs"l wake up for tikun hassot every night, what caused him to give shiurim in the middle of the night, to prayer early in the morning? Would we not make fun of the question! All of his life was a chain of service of G-d. The joy of his life was the Holy Torah. And prayer?! "All of his intents during prayer were the giving up of his soul to G-d" (Hovot Halevavot 8:3). Did he need urging and inspiration? On his own, he strengthened himself like a lion to serve his Creator!
What if he had merited, and the Creator himself had sent him a specific prophecy, saying: This is how I want you to serve me, in this and this way. He would have been overjoyed to strengthen himself like a lion to run in that path! That is how any ssadik would behave, and how much more so Aharon, the kohen!
But as much as these words are true, and they are true, Mosheh Rabbeinu was commanded to tell his brother, the holy one of G-d, "Do not come at all times into the Holy, so that he shall not die. And when you come, do such and such, for if you do not do so, you shall die!" Did Aharon need this warning, this threat? Wasn't the warning itself enough? The answer: Not only did he need this, but the warning itself was not enough. The verse juxtaposed it to the death of his two sons, like a doctor who warns his patient: "Do not eat cold food, and do not sleep in rags, so that you will not die, as so-and-so died!" (Rashi, at the beginning of the parashah) A tangible threat, and a warning accompanied by an example!
We are surprised, because we do not realize the power of the evil inclination! When it attacks, all of the senses are swallowed up, and all of our comprehension is forgotten. It all disappears - "when it is the time of the evil inclination, the good inclination is not remembered" (Nedarim 32b). Only one thing can stop and prevent it: "Calculate the reward of a commandment as opposed to its loss" (Bava Batra 78b). The knowledge that "after one eats and after one drinks, the judge will clean out his teeth" (Shaarei Teshuvah 1:10). To know that a person has never profited from a sin, and one will never lose out from a good deed!
One who concentrates on this is fulfilling a positive commandment from the Torah, the commandment of fear of G-d: "who has commanded us to believe in his awe and to fear him, and we should not be like the heretics who walk by the whistling of their hearts. Rather we should fear with the fear of punishment at all times, and this is what it means by: Hashem, your G-d, you should fear" (Sefer Hamissvot of the Rambam, Positive Commandment 4). "One, who a matter of sin comes to his hand, is obligated to revive his spirit and to place on his heart at that time that G-d is watching over all of the actions of man, and that he is meting out retribution according to the evil of the action. One who violates this, and does not pay attention to this at those hours, has nullified this positive commandment, for this is the time to fulfill this special positive commandment!" (Sefer Hahinuch, Commandment 432).
Well-known are the words of our Rabbis, the Kabbalists, that the main point of punishments in this world and in Gehinnom is to expunge the enjoyment of the sin, like the cleansing and burning out of the absorption of something forbidden! We stand at the opening of the summer, and a person must concentrate on which cleansing he may need, halilah, for every forbidden stare, for every look. The eye sees, and the heart desires, and how many sufferings might he need to undergo to uproot this desire? How much will he suffer for that stare? If he knows this, if he places this before his eyes, then he will fulfill the positive commandment from the Torah, and he will prevent himself from terrible and bitter suffering, may G-d save us!
This is the Gateway to G-d!
"And G-d spoke to Mosheh, saying: Speak to the whole congregation of the Children of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy." This teaches us that this section was said at a gathering of the people, because most of the essentials of Torah are dependent on it. "You shall be holy," be separate from licentiousness and from sin. (Rashi) How wondrous is the explanation of the Maharal from Prague zs"l: The parashah of Aharei Mot ends with a warning against the abomination of sexual misbehavior. Afterwards, the parashah begins with a warning: "You shall be holy" and continues with many commandments, instructions and warnings involving many topics. This is to tell you that caution about the boundaries of modesty and the ways of a Jewish household, the boundaries of holiness and purity, are the basis for a life of Torah and missvot. This is the gateway to G-d, the righteous shall come through it. This is a condition to holiness, and most of the essentials of Torah are dependent on it.
The summer is at the doorway, and from previous experience, the streets will be overflowing with a flooding, like that of the generation of the flood, of unbounded animalistic behavior, generating absolute disgust. Breaching of all of the boundaries of holiness, trampling on all purity. We should have pity for all of the oppressed Jewish souls, who have lost their sensitivity. But let us have pity first and foremost for ourselves, that we should not lose our sensitivity. Let us remember the words of the gemara (Bava Batra 57b) that if it is possible to avoid a forbidden stare, and one does not avoid it, he is called "wicked!"
Rabbeinu, the Rambam zs"l (1)
The great eagle, Rabbeinu Mosheh ben Maymon zs"l was born in Cordoba, Spain on Erev Pesah, in the year 4895 (1135 C.E.) to his father, who served there as a judge. His lineage extends all the way back to Rabbeinu Hakadosh, and even further back to King David. In his youth, he merited meeting Rabbeinu Yosef Ibn Migash zs"l, the student of Rabbeinu, the Rif. Later on, he wrote his commentary on the Mishnayot based on the commentaries of his father, and his other Rabbis "up until Rabbeinu Yosef Halevi (Ibn Migash zs"l), for that man's knowledge of the Talmud is awesome to those who look at his words and the depth of his intelligence, to the extent that we can almost say about him: And like him there was no king, like his behavior and his way" (Introduction to Commentary on the Mishnayot).
When he was around twenty, extremist Moslems conquered Spain in a storm. They took over Cordoba and destroyed its synagogues. They sowed destruction and ruin in the community and tried to force its Jews to convert to Islam. The father of the Rambam took his two sons, Rabbeinu Mosheh and Rabbi David, and migrated to the city of Fez, Morocco. The hand of the extremist Moslems reached there too, and the Jews were brutally oppressed. The Rambam found a hiding place in an attic in an ancient house, where he learned Torah night and day, with one of his students risking his life to bring him food. This house remains in the city to this day, and is considered a holy place. From his hiding place, he strengthened the resolve of the Jews of the place to remain faithful to their Judaism despite the persecution, and because of his activity, a death warrant was issued against him. Through the efforts of one of the local Jews, his exodus from the country became possible, and on Mossaei Shabbat, on the fourth of Iyar, 4925 (1165 C.E.), when he was thirty years old, he traveled to the land of Israel. The trip took a whole month, and on the way, they were trapped in a terrible storm, from which they were miraculously saved. They remained a half a year in Acre, and at the beginning of the winter, they moved to Yerushalayim and Hevron. However, the difficult living conditions of the times forced him to migrate to Egypt. When he came, he found that the community was in state of breakdown, following in the ways of the Karaites, who were lenient about Torah prohibitions. Through the strength of his personality and his greatness in Torah, he brought them all back to the ways of the Torah.
"A man shall fear his mother and father "
This is the language of the Rambam (Sefer Hamissvot, positive commandment 211): "He has commanded us to fear father and mother, which means to behave towards them as towards one from whom he is afraid that will punish him, like the king! He should walk with them in the way that one walks with one from whom he is afraid, and he should be afraid of them receiving from him something that they would not be satisfied with."
The Sefer Hahinuch wrote (commandment 212): "From the laws of the commandment: What our Rabbis said, z"l (Kidushin 31b): To what extent is the fear of father and mother? That even if they embarrass him and spit in his face, he should not embarrass them!" For this is what they said in the gemara: There was a story of a gentile in Ashkelon, named Dama ben Netina, who was wearing a robe embroidered with gold, and was sitting amongst the leaders of Rome. His mother came and tore it off of him, and beat him on the head, and spit in his face, and he did not embarrass her." Rabbeinu, the Meiri, wrote about this "The honoring of father and mother has no limit, to the extent that even the other nations, who are not commanded in it, practice it with no limit!"
The Sefer Haredim wrote (15: 26) "A man shall fear his mother and father - because of the commandment of G-d, they should appear in his eyes like a king and queen, and he should fear and tremble about violating their will. Rather, everything that they say, both of them or one of them, should be in his eyes like the word of the king. He should not stray right or left, for the language of fear only applies by a master or a king to his servants, as it says: "If I am a master, where is the fear of me" (Malachi 1:6), "Fear G-d, my son, and rule" (Mishlei 24:21). The principle of the matter: He should behave towards them as he would behave towards a flesh and blood king, from whom he is afraid, lest he chop off his head! For even if they rip his clothing, and spit in his face, he should be silent and suffer because of the fear of G-d and the glory of his genius, who compared the fear of Him to the fear of them, for the three of them are partners in his creation. One who causes pain to his father and mother, is like one who causes pain to the Creator.
Out of fear of them, he should not sit or stand in a place that is theirs, and he should not contradict their words. Even if he knows that they are not so, he should not say: "It is not like that." Even to decide and say "My father spoke well, or my mother" is forbidden, for he is equating himself to them, as if he is worthy of deciding. This commandment is incumbent upon sons and daughters equally.
Rabbeinu Yonah wrote (Shaarei Teshuvah 3:21) that one who violates this commandment, not only did he nullify a positive commandment from the Torah, but he brought upon himself, halilah, a curse. As it says: "Cursed is the one who shows disrespect to his father and mother" (Devarim 27:16). The definition of disrespect is making light of their honor and undoing their fear.
In the book Reishit Hochmah (Shaar Hakedushah, 7), he learns a law from the language of "his mother" and "his father," and from the fact that it does not say "Fear fathers and mothers." It is appropriate for a person to fear and honor his mother, not only because of the commandment of fear of mother, but from the very fact that she is his mothe. He should remember how much she toiled on his behalf, how much sleep she lost, how much she worried about him and devoted herself to him. So too regarding his father, from the fact that he is his father, how much he worried about supporting him, and how much effort he put in for his sake. Hoe much gratitude he owes them, and how much of an ingrate he would be if he shames them and pains them, halilah!
The holy Ari zs"l (in Shaar Haposkim) brought down the words of the holy Zohar (in parashat Shelah), that one who comes up with innovative Torah thoughts causes great honor for his father in Gan Eden. This is learned from the juxtaposition of the verses "A man shall fear his mother and his father, and you shall guard my Shabbatot." The time most appropriate to honor them is the Shabbat day, through new Torah thoughts!
According to the Order of the Shulchan Aruch, Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a
By Rav David Yossef shlit"a
The Juxtaposition of Geulah to Prayer
The preference of juxtaposition of geulah to prayer over prayer with a congregation
• One who came late to the synagogue, and found that the congregation was almost up to shemoneh esrei, is not permitted to stand and pray with them and to say the Shema and its blessings afterwards. This is becase the juxtaposition of geulah to prayer is more important than prayer with a congregation.
This is only regarding the shaharit prayer. But during the arvit prayer, he should pray with the congregation and afterwards say the Shema with its blessings. This is because during the arvit prayer, prayer with a congregation is more important than the juxtaposition of geulah to prayer. (See above, chapter 66, section 34.) Even on Shabbat or holidays, during shaharit it is preferable to juxtapose geulah to prayer over praying with a congregation.
To Not Make Additions into the First and Last Three Blessings
• Our sages organized the order of the shemoneh esrei prayer such that the first three blessings are all praise and adulation of G-d, as it says (Berachot 32a), "Rabbi Semalai explained: A person should always organize the praise of the Holy One, blessed be He, and then he should pray." They learned this from Mosheh Rabbeinu, who first said "Hashem, G-d, You have begun to show Your servant Your greatness" (Devarim 3:24). Afterwards, he requests "May I please pass over and see the good land" (3:25).
Afterwards, our sages organized the middle blessings from "atah honen" until "shomea tefilah," which are all the requests for the needs of man. Afterwards, our sages organized the three last blessings, which are praise and thanks of G-d. In Berachot (34a): Rabbi Yeudah said: One should never make a request for his needs, not during the first three, nor in the last three, but in the middle ones, for Rabbi Hanina said: During the first ones, he is like a servant who is organizing his praise before his master. During the middle ones, he is like a servant who is requesting a gift from is master. During the final ones, he is like a servant who received a gift from his master and takes his leave of him. At any rate, it is permitted to request the needs of the community even during the first three blessings and the last three blessings. Therefore, it is the custom of Israel, during the ten days of repentance, to add in "zochrenu lehayim" into the first blessing, and "uchetov lehayim" and "besefer hahayim" into the final blessings, for they are the needs of the community. There are some Ashkenazim who have the custom of saying piyutim on special days during the first three blessing of the repetition of the prayer by the hazan, such as on the first day that we begin to pray for dew and rain. The Sefardim have a custom not to say piyutim in the first three blessings at all. The custom has spread amongst the Sefardim to say during the repetition of the prayer on Yom Hakipurim, "Seder Hakedushah" which was instituted by Rabbi Yehudah Halevi and his colleagues. This should be said by one who is standing next to the hazan, and the hazan should be silent while they are being said. If there is no one to say them except for the hazan, he is permitted to say them, and there is no fear of an inappropriate pause here. At any rate, they should be careful that while these piyutim or "seder kedushah" are being said, one should not pause with speech, and that the time for prayer should not pass because of them.
We are commanded: "On all of your sacrifices, you shall offer salt" (Vayikra 2:13). Rabbeinu, the Ramban zs"l explained that the sacrifices are like the drawing of a covenant with the Creator, and an eternal covenant is the "Covenant of eternal salt" (Bamidbar 18:19). Rashi explains there that salt is "something that is healthy and remains and brings health to others." That is to say, that salt does not ever spoil, and causes even other products to be preserved when they are salted. But the Ramban has another deep explanation: Salt, from one perspective, brings life to the world, when it is eaten in proper measure. But when there is an overflowing of salt, it is death and destruction, like salted earth and like the Dead Sea. Death and life are both joined in it. So too is the drawing up of a covenant, which has these two extremes. If we guard it properly, then it will bring life and satisfaction and peace. But if we break its boundaries, we are liable to bring ire upon ourselves, halilah, and to bring about "sulfur and salt, the burning of the whole land," may G-d save us. But the main emphasis is on the necessity of salt, which is a balm of life. Just like water and air, it is impossible to exist without it. The living body is a sophisticated chemical mechanism, extremely complicated and sensitive. Only the Creator could create something of this nature, which is why He is "a healer of all flesh and one who does wonders." The salt plays a vital role in this. A person needs a small amount of salt, less than one percent of the liquid part of the blood. But that amount is absolutely vital, and must be distributed in his body in an equal and balanced way. This is one of the jobs of the kidneys, which regulate the amount of blood and its concentration in the body. It drains out the extra in a wondrous way. Even our sense of taste had an important role, to desire the taste of salt and to enjoy it, and to push away excess salt!
We shall end off with the conclusion of the gemara (Ketuvot 66b): "Melah mamon haser." Even money needs a small amount of salt to guard over it, and this is charity, which is given by means of it, and brings a blessing to one's money and business, like the blessing of G-d which was promised to those who give charity and do acts of kindness!
From the book, "Great are the Deeds of G-d"
Summary: A wealthy and honorable father warns his son about his bad friends. The son claims that one does not abandon friends, and the father proves to him that these are not loyal friends. When he tells them that he has become involved in difficulties, they all abandon him. Only the "half-friend" of the father brought him into his house and hid him. He returned to his father and agreed that he was right. "But I have a question," he asked.
"What is your question, my son?" asked the father.
"You said that he is your 'half-friend.' He is a perfect friend! He was ready to give me a hiding place, which none of my friends would give me. I completely depended on them!"
"You are right," answered the father. "But when you pay close attention, you will find that he is only a half-friend, and not more. You told me that he said that because of this crime, as you told him, it would have been correct of him not to endanger himself and his family. But what could he do, considering that you are the son of his beloved friend. Against his will, he was forced to upon his house to you. In these words, he revealed that he is only a half-friend. For a loyal friend would say nothing! A loyal friend would not give a bad feeling, a bitter taste. A loyal friend would have opened his door widely, without saying anything, and would give over words of encouragement and consolation!"
The son was shocked: "But what does it matter? He endangered himself, and endangered his family and buried the corpse, and hid the evidence. All because of his love for you and your friendship with him!"
"You are right," agreed the father. "That is why he is truly a half-friend."
The son was moved. "If this is a half-friend, who is your complete friend?"
"Aha," answered the father, with longing and yearning. "I have a friend like this, but he lives far away. In the past, when I would have to travel because of my business, I would regularly visit his home. Now, We have not seen each other for years. But the love has not diminished!"
The son pleaded: "Tell me who he is. Please, I want to meet him! You have opened my eyes to tell the difference between false friends and half-friends. Now I want to know the difference between a half-friend and a complete friend!"
The father held back, saying: "Listen, you are our only son, and all journeys are entail a possibility of danger. If something should happen to you, has vehalilah, you would bring down our old age in misery!"
But the son did not give up. He pleaded before his father and his mother, until they gave in to his request. The father told him that his friend lives in Alexandria in Egypt. He accompanied him to the boat and separated from him with tears, before his long journey.
To be continued, G-d willing, next week…
A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shelit"a
The Laws of the Counting of the Omer
1. The days of the counting of the Omer are days of judgement. This is because in these days, the students of Rabbi Akiva died because they did not act respectfully towards each other. They were jealous of each other's success in Torah, which was a desecration of G-d name. They died up until the 34th day of the Omer. Therefore, during these days, there is a custom in all Israel not to cut the hairs of one's head and beard, and not to get married until the morning of the 34th day of the Omer.
2. Technically, one who has not fulfilled the commandment of procreation is permitted to get married during the first month of mourning, and during the Omer. However, the custom is not to do so unless it is an extreme case.
3. One is permitted to move into a new house during the Omer, if he was unable to do so beforehand. It is also permitted to eat a new fruit, if one came to him then, and to say a sheheheyanu on it. Also, one is permitted to prepare for one's wedding that will take place after the 34th day of the Omer.
4. On the day of a berit milah, the father of the son, the mohel and the sandak are permitted to take a haircut. If there is no time that day, they may do so on the day before, for it is a holiday for them.
5. One should not take trips if possible during these days, for they are days of judgement, and he should not endanger himself. Rather, he should stay at home and learn Torah.
6. We have recently read the parshiyot of Tazria and Messora, which deal with blemishes, which come as a result of the sin of lashon hara. Life and death are in the hands of the tongue, and how one speaks truly determines one's fate.
The Lesson of the Days of Couting
I saw a beautiful sentence in the writings of the Mashgiah, Rabbi Yeruham from Mir zs"l, a key sentence. One of the things that our sages teach us is how not to come in contact with time. This sounds strange, but when it will be explained, these words will illuminate with a glorious light. Our Rabbis knew the secrets of time, fourteen times for good and fourteen times for bad. There are times that are geared towards specific things and others that are more geared towards other things. The three weeks, for example, between the fast of the Seventeenth of Tamuz and the Ninth of Av, are bound together as days of anger and fury. Therefore, they commanded us not to hit students then, not even symbolically. We must conquer our anger then, and not allow it to come alive, halilah. The month of Menahem Av is a month of destruction. We should avoid confrontations with gentiles then, for it is likely that Israel will not have the upper hand. Similarly, the days of the counting of the Omer in which we are found. On these days, G-d's attribute of judgement took the 24,000 students of Rabbi Akiva. They died with terrible suffering, with the plague of askarah, because they did not behave with the proper respect to each other. What does this story, and the custom of mourning throughout the generations, come to teach us? That during this time there is especial stringency about this, much more than during the rest of the year. We must understand: We are talking about the greatest of the greatest. How could they fall in the hands of such a terrible sin? That is the exact point: Because they were so great, and we are not discussing strangers, but their close friends, they found excuses for themselves. We are all brothers, honest people, good friends who can say a sharp sentence. We don't mind these things. "It's all in the family." But this is not true, rather the opposite. Specifically amongst the company of good friends, their opinion is so much more so important to me. We are hurt from them all the more so. Even if we smile, the heart is wounded. Even if we hold back, the heart is bleeding. And in the Heavens, all is written down, and on these days, the attribute of justice is ready…
These words also refer to the closest friendship that exists, amongst family members. There is no doubt: love and brotherhood and peace and friendship should be the portion of a couple, and there is nothing stronger than the love of parents for children. Specifically because of this, one spouse may think, and halilah, to act on the basis of this: The bond is so strong and tight, what harm will it cause if I let a thorn loose, if I release a sharp arrow. He does not realize how much this arrow hurts. How he is piercing their hearts and how the blood is spilt. How he is poisoning and dirtying. This is also true between parents and children. They permit themselves, out of their great love, to tease sometimes, to irritate, to criticize. There is no end to the children, and to the adults, who bear silent wounds upon themselves!
No more! Enough! Let the twenty-four thousand students of Rabbi Akiva stand before our eyes. Let us think so that we shall internalize their lesson. No more! Let us strengthen ourselves so that we can admit our mistake, and to ask forgiveness for the past, and most importantly, to guard our tongue for the future. The opposite, let us do absolute repentance. Let us encourage instead of criticizing, let us compliment instead of teasing, let us value instead of trampling, let us elevate instead of denigrating. From now on, let us start a new life!
With the blessings of Shabbat Shalom,
Gamliel Ben Nizha and Yosef Ben Hanom
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