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Vol. 7 No. 30
Parshas Acharei Mos
The Ruling Power
(Based on R. Bachye's introduction to the parshah)
"When you sit down to eat with the ruler, be aware of what is before you" (Mishlei 23:1).
Shlomoh ha'Melech is warning us here not to run after the princes and the officers in the palace of the king, who rules over the land, not to approach too close to him, so as not to come to grief. Because the ruling power is compared to fire, which incorporates both usefulness and harm: usefulness through its heat and light; and harm through coming too close and getting burnt. Chazal too, have warned us: 'Do not become too familiar with the ruling power' (Pirkei Ovos 1:10). The ruling power is referred to as 'reshus' because they have the 'reshus' (the authority) to do as they please - to open, to close, to save or to destroy.
Furthermore they said (Pirkei Ovos 2:3) "Be wary of the ruling power, who only draw a person near for their own benefit. They appear to be good friends as long as it is in their interest, but they do not stand up for a person when he is bard-pressed."
Besides this, the ruling power is responsible for inestimable damage - spiritual damage - inasmuch as they cast their dread on their subjects, causing them to become lax in the service of G-d, because, out of fear of the king, they put his service first.
Therefore, Shlomoh said "Fear G-d, my son, and the king, and do not mix with those who reverse the order" (Mishlei 24:21). Firstly, he is saying, one should put into practice the fear of G-d, and then the fear of the king. To do the reverse, to give precedence to the king's decrees is a desecration of G-d's Name. And so we find by the Shunamis, whom T'nach describes as a wise woman - when Elisha asked her whether he should speak to the king on her behalf, or to the captain of the army, she replied "I (prefer to) dwell among my people" (Melochim II 4:13).
That is why Shlomoh writes here "When you sit down to eat with the ruler ..." - when you wish to come close to the king's household, to be among those who eat at his table, you should first reflect on those who did the same before you, and see what happened to them. You will soon discover that not everyone who came before the king did so to his advantage. Just as not everyone who ventured into the business world became wealthy.
This is why the posuk writes "Many seek the face of the ruler, but the judgement of man comes from G-d" (Mishlei 29:26). He means that those who seek are many, but those who succeed in their quest are few, all according to G-d's judgement.
If you are a man of stature who wishes to grow in spirit, then you would be well-advised not to go for that 'material food'. That is why the posuk continues "And you shall place a knife in your cheeks, if you are a man of spirit" (to stay away from the king's table, however tempting eating there may appear).
This is the simple explanation of the posuk. Allegorically speaking, the posuk refers to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is a warning not to delve with one's own level of understanding into levels that are beyond human comprehension. Because G-d is referred to in the Torah as the Ruler, as Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehilim (29:29) "For to Hashem belongs sovereignty and He is the Ruler over the nations".
That is why Shlomoh wrote "When you sit down to eat with the Ruler, be aware of what is before you". When you settle down to consider attaining that wisdom (which is the food of the soul, just as bread is the food of the body), limit your understanding to what you see before you; in other words, delve into the ways of G-d and His wondrous deeds that are revealed to you, and which you can therefore understand, as it is written "When I see Your heaven, the work of your fingers ... " (Tehilim 8:4).
Notice that the posuk repeats the word "bin tovin" (be aware, understand well), implying 'understanding after understanding', since one cannot initially fathom G-d, who is Divine. It is only after one thinks and thinks again , that one can begin to comprehend Him, as the Torah writes in Devorim (4:39) "And you will know today and you will take it to heart".
And we find this by Eliyohu, where the Novi writes "And a big and strong wind passed; but Hashem was not in the wind. After the wind came a noise; but Hashem was not in the noise either. After the noise came a fire; but Hashem was not in the fire. And after the fire came a silent, thin voice". That is why Shlomoh wrote "bin tovin", because before one can understand G-d one needs to reflect many times. So if you are wise, you would do well to refrain from probing in areas that are beyond human comprehension, as the posuk writes in Mishlei "And you shall place a knife in your cheeks ..." (refrain), bearing in mind that the cheeks incorporate the concept of speech, and not only of food. And one should also bear in mind that someone who does not pay heed to this, but insists on pursuing esoterical ideas that are beyond his reach, will perish and go out of his mind, as the posuk writes in Koheles (7:16) "And do not try and be too clever, why should you close your mind?"
Indeed, this is what happened to the sons of Aharon, who were punished because, at Ma'amad Har Sinai, they attempted to comprehend levels of understanding that are unattainable. They 'saw G-d' and broke their ranks to ascend to Him, in spite of Moshe's warning "And the Kohanim and the people shall not break their ranks" (Sh'mos 19:24). And it is because they came too close, that death was decreed upon them, as the Torah explains at the beginning of this parshah.
Nodov and Avihu Remained in the Chotzer
The Gemoro in Eiruvin (63a) cites the opinion of Rebbi Elozor ben Azaryoh, that Nodov and Avihu died because they issued a ruling in the vicinity of their Rebbi, Moshe.
What ruling did they issue?
They ruled that even though fire would descend from heaven and consume the sacrifices on the Mizbei'ach, it was a mitzvah to bring ordinary fire too.
Considering that this principle (of bringing one's own fire) is written in connection with the large copper Mizbei'ach that stood in the Azoroh, it would appear, says Tosfos, that Nodov and Avihu brought their Ketores on the copper Mizbei'ach, seeing as the principle did not pertain to the inner Mizbei'ach. In that case, seeing as the Ketores was normally burned on the small golden Mizbei'ach that stood in the Kodesh, this must have been a momentary ruling (for that one occasion only).
Nodov and Avihu Entered the Kodesh
The Ramban however, in Parshas Shemini (10:4) cites a Toras Kohanim, which holds that, according to Rebbi Eliezer, Nodov and Avihu died in the outer part of the Azoroh, a location where Mishoel and Eltzofon (Aharon's nephews, Levi'im who had been charged to take out the corpses and to bury them) were permitted to enter, because an angel pushed them out from the Kodesh (presumably), where they had entered to burn the Ketores. According to Rebbi Akivah however, they pulled the corpses out by attaching hooks to their clothes and dragging them out. In any event, it is clear that they were burning the Ketores on the golden Mizbei'ach (for the Ketores), and not on the copper Mizbei'ach (for the sacrifices), or perhaps even the Kodesh Kodshim, as we shall see.
The Torah Temimah refutes Tosfos' proof, suggesting that perhaps Nodov and Avihu thought that the mitzvah to bring one's own fire extended to the golden Mizbei'ach, whereas in reality, the fire for the golden Mizbei'ach had to be taken from the copper Mizbei'ach (see Torah Temimah 10:2). He too, clearly understands that they were bringing the Ketores on the golden inner Mizbei'ach.
Nodov and Avihu Entered the Kodesh Kodshim
Tosfos also cites the opinion of the Toras Kohanim which implies that in fact, Nodov and Avihu entered the Kodesh Kodshim to bring the Ketores (like Aharon on Yom Kipur) - and that seems to be the opinion of the opening Rashi in this week's parshah. Rashi, quoting Rebbi Elozor ben Azaryoh (the same source as that cited in the Gemoro in Eiruvin - according to the text of the Bach), explains that, when the Torah opens the parshah with the words "And G-d spoke to Moshe after the death of the sons of Aharon ... speak to Aharon and he shall not enter the Kodesh (Kodshim)", it means to warn Aharon that if he goes in the footsteps of his sons Nodov and Avihu, he will suffer the same fate as they did (see also Ramban).
Yom Kipur and the Ovos
"With this Aharon shall come into the Kodesh (Kodshim), with a bull for a sin-offering and a ram for a burnt-offering ... And from Yisroel he shall take two goats for a sin-offering ...".
The bull, says the Medrash, corresponds to Avrohom (as the Torah writes "and Avrohom ran to the bull" [Bereishis 18:7]); the ram, to Yitzchok in whose stead Avrohom brought a ram; and the two goats, to Ya'akov, whom Rifkah commanded "And take for me from there two goats" (Bereishis 27:9).
What the Medrash means, the Kli Yokor explains, is that just as G-d appeared to Moshe at the burning bush only on the merit of the Ovos, as the Torah writes there ("In order that they will believe that Hashem, the G-d of their fathers appeared to you, the G-d of Avrohom ... "), so too, did G-d appear to the Kohen Godol on Yom Kipur, only on the merit of the Ovos.
Indeed, he says, Avrohom took the bull on Yom Kipur. (This is most unclear, because, if, as the Kli Yokor himself writes, Avrohom's bris milah took place on Yom Kipur, then he would have taken the bull on the thirteenth of Tishri (on the third day after his bris, as the Torah specifically writes!)
The Akeidoh too, when Yitzchok was bound, took place, according to some opinions, on Yom Kipur; and as for the two goats, the Medrash writes "Two good goats" - good for you and good for your children (descendants). Good for you, because through them you will obtain the b'rochos; good for your children, because, through them, they will receive atonement on Yom Kipur. Already then, Ya'akov was promised that on this holy day of Yom Kipur, the two goats would atone for the sins of his children.
The Goat That Was Sent Away
The Torah juxtaposes the parshah of 'Sh'chutei Chutz' (the prohibition of Shechting sacrifices outside the Beis ha'Mikdosh) to that of the goat on Yom Kipur that was sent to Az'ozeil, to stress that, even though Hashem permitted sending the So'ir ha'Mishtalei'ach outside the camp, that is only because pushing it off a cliff-edge was considered to be its Shechitah, but as far as other Kodshim are concerned, beware not to shecht them outside the designated spot - Ba'al ha'Turim. The Kli Yokor explains it slightly differently ...
Shechting Korbonos Outside the Azoroh
The Torah juxtaposes the prohibition of 'Sh'chutei chutz' (Shechting sacrifices outside the Azoroh) to that of the So'ir ha'Mishtalei'ach, the Kli Yokor eplains, to negate the notion that the latter was a sacrifice to the demons. So the Torah immediately goes on to prohibit 'Sh'chutei chutz', adding "And they shall no longer shecht their sacrifices to the demons" - indicating with the word "no longer" that it had been until then, a common practice to do so, but that that practice must now stop.
The goat on Yom Kipur, in fact, was not a sacrifice at all. It was, as the Ramban explains, a gift to Samo'el, the Angel whose domain was the desert and areas of desolation. He is the cause of the stars of the sword, of bloodshed, wars, wounds, beatings, disintegration and destruction. In a nutshell, he is the soul of the planet Mars, and he is the Angel of Eisov from among all the nations, the nation that inherited the sword and warfare. From among all the animals, it is the goat that fell to his lot, and that incorporates the demons which share their name - se'irim') and are also called 'destroyers' - Ramban.
And the Kli Yokor goes on to explain with this, why the Torah refers to bloodshed in connection with someone who does shecht sacrifices outside the Azoroh. Because, he explains, the demons to whom he is shechting, represent bloodshed, as we just explained. And so, by shechting to them, and harnessing their powers, he is bringing bloodshed upon the world.
The Gemoro in Megilah explains why the hundred and twenty members of the Anshei K'nesses ha'Gedoloh, among them a number of prophets, arranged the eighteen b'rochos that comprise the Amidah in the order that we say it today. This is why they did it that way:
1. Ovos (the forefathers) - because Dovid ha'Melech said in Tehilim (Chap. 29, which contains the Name of Hashem - Havayah - eighteen times, corresponding to the eighteen b'rochos, plus once the Name Keil, a hint to the nineteenth b'rochoh) "Hovu la'Hashem B'nei Eilim" (mention before Hashem the mighty men [in spirit] of the land]) a reference to the Avos.
2. G'vuros (Might) - because the posuk there continues "Hovu la'Hashem kovod vo'oz" (mention before Him His honour and strength).
3. Kedushos (Holiness) - because the posuk goes on to say "Hovu la'Hashem kevod Sh'mo, hishtachavu la'Hashem be'hadras Kodesh" (mention the glory of His Name, bow to Hashem in holy reverence).
4. Binoh (Understanding) - because Yeshayah wrote (29:23-24) "And they will sanctify the Holy One of Ya'akov ... and those who went astray will obtain understanding".
5. Teshuvah (repentance) - as it is written "And his heart will understand and he will repent and be healed (from his sin) -" (Tehilim 6:10).
6. S'lichoh (forgiveness - after teshuvah) - as it is written there (55:7) "And he will return to Hashem who will have mercy on him, and to our G-d because He will forgive him abundantly". And it is written in Tehilim (103:3) "Who forgives all your iniquities, who cures all your sicknesses, and who redeems your lives from the deep pit" indicating the two b'rochos that follow it.
7. Ge'ulah (redemption - from our current troubles) is the seventh b'rochoh, because the ultimate redemption (Moshi'ach) will take place in the seventh year (this refers to the battles due to take place in the seventh year which are considered the beginning of the redemption which will actually occur in the eighth year).
8. Refu'oh (healing) is the eighth b'rochoh because the bris milah takes place on the eighth day, and bris milah requires healing (see Rashi at the beginning of Vayeiro).
9. Birkas ha'Shonim (the blessing of the years) is the ninth b'rochoh, because of the wicked people who hike the prices of staple foods, making life miserable for the poor - and it is in the ninth chapter of Tehilim that Dovid ha'Melech wrote about them.
10. Kibutz Golu'yos (the gathering of the exiles) - because Yechezkel refers to the gathering of the exiles immediately after he mentions a bountiful harvest, in the same posuk (36:8).
11. Din b'Resho'im (the judgement of the wicked) - because Yeshayah placed them together when he wrote "And I will return My hand on you and I will wash the impurities away with soap ... and I will return your judges like they were before" (1:25-26).
12. Ve'la'malshinim (the destruction of the rebels and the slanderers) - because Yeshayah wrote (ibid. 1:28) "And the rebels and the idolaters will be broken simultaneously and those who forsake G-d will be exterminated".
13. Al ha'Tzadikim (the exaltation of the righteous) - because once the rebels have been exterminated, the power of the tzadikim will be raised, as Dovid ha'Melech wrote in Tehillim "And I will cut down the power of the wicked and the power of the righteous will be raised" (75:11).
And the righteous converts are included with the tzadikim, because the Torah too, juxtaposes them when it writes in Kedoshim (19:32-33) "Stand up before an elderly man and honour a wise one (a sage) ... and when a convert resides in your land".
14. Binyan Yerusholayim (the building of Jerusalem) - because that is where the power of the tzadikim will be raised, as Dovid wrote in Tehillim (122:6).
15. Tzemach Dovid (the growth of Dovid) - because once Yerusholayim is built, Dovid comes, as the Novi wrote in Hoshei'a (3:5).
16. Shomei'a Tefilah (accepting our prayers) - because when Dovid comes, prayer comes too, as it is written in Yeshayah (57:7) "And I will bring them to My holy mountain (Moshi'ach ben Dovid), and I will give them cause to rejoice in the house of My prayer".
17. Avodah (the acceptance of our worship) - because worship goes together with prayer, as Yeshayah continues "their burnt-offerings and their peace-offerings for goodwill on My Altar".
18. Todah (thanks to G-d) - because with the avodah there comes thanks, as the posuk writes in Tehilim (50:23). And besides, it is logical to place them together, because avodah and thanks are really one and the same.
Birchas Kohanim (the blessing of the Kohanim) - because so the Torah writes in Shemini (9:22) "And Aharon raised his hands and he blessed them, and he descended" - after he had descended from bringing the sin-offering, the burnt-offering and the peace-offering.
19. Sholom (the blessing of peace) - because the Torah writes in Noso (Bamidbor 6:27) "And they (the Kohanim) shall place My Name on the B'nei Yisroel, and I will bless them". And the blessing of Hashem is peace, as it is written in Tehilim (29:11) - the very paragraph with which we began - "Hashem will bless His people with peace".
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