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by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek


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Parashas Acharei Mos/Kedoshim (64)

We have another double sedra this week. Achrei Mos speaks of the Yom Kippur service in the Temple and the illicit sexual relations. Kedoshim teaches us many laws regarding man's relations with other people. I have chosen a verse regarding the Temple service an innocent looking Rashi which teaches us about his sensitivity to words.

Leviticus 16:2

And Hashem said to Moses: Speak to your brother Aaron your brother that heshould not come at any time into the Holy [of Holies] inside the Paroches facing the Kapores which is on the Ark and he will not die because in a cloud I will appear on the Kapores.


And he will not die: Rashi: For if he comes (into the Holy of Holies), he will die.

Certainly this is a strange comment !

Your Question:


A Question: What has Rashi told us? This is obvious! Of course, if the Torah says: "Heshould not go into the Holy of Holies and he will not die" then clearly if he does go in, he will die. Too obvious to need mentioning.

Why then did Rashi mention it?

Your Answer:


An Answer: To understand Rashi we must remember his exquisite sensitivity to the Hebrew language. He hears things that we take for granted. Let us too try to "hear" the words closely.

"If he doesn't go in...he will not die." Is that so? The priest will certainly die, maybe not now, but at sometime in the future he will die; everyone dies, he is no exception. By not going into the Holy of Holies he has not guaranteed for himself an escape from death. But taken literally that is what the words of the Torah seem to imply.

This is what Rashi comes to clarify.

How does his brief comment clarify matters?

Your Answer:


An Answer: There is an overlooked subtlety here. The connecting letter 'vav' in the Tanach is usually translated as "and" and many English translations do so, yet this is frequently incorrect. The letter 'vav' also has the meaning of "so that." That is its meaning here. "And he should not come at all times into the Holy place ...so that he not die."

This is precisely Rashi's lesson: "He should not go in so that he will not die, because if he does go in he will die." But, of course, he may die for others reasons.


Rashi teaches us to pay close attention to each word, indeed, to each letter, in order to correctly understand what the Torah is saying.

Shabbat Shalom

Avigdor Bonchek

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