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Beloved Comanions - Insights on Domestic Tranquility From the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yisrael Pesach Feinhandler
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Acharei Mos


Forgive And You Will Be Forgiven

With this shall Aharon come into the holy place: with a young bullock for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering. A holy linen coat shall be put on, and linen breeches shall he have on his flesh and a linen sash he shall wear upon himself, and a linen headdress shall be bound on his head; these are holy garments; therefore shall he wash his flesh in water, and then put them on.
(Vayikra 16:3,4)

In the town of Kossov lived a Jew who was very vicious. Everyone was afraid of him and he even tormented Rabbi Menachem Mendel, the distinguished head of the Vishnitz chassidic lineage, and caused him a great deal of trouble.

Nevertheless, once when this Jew had a problem, he went to the house of Rabbi Menachern Mendel to ask for advice.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel's aides, upon seeing him arrive at the Rebbe's house, were sure that the Rabbi would throw him out at once. To everyone's surprise, however, Rabbi Menachem Mendel welcomed him warmly, turned to him with love and asked, "My dear friend, what is bothering you?"

The man poured out his heart to Rabbi Menachem Mendel, and told him that his business was falling apart and that he was in a very bad situation and had no idea what might happen the next day.

The Rebbe's aide, who was present in the room, was convinced that now the Rebbe would utilize the opportunity to rebuke the man for his vindictive and corrupt behavior. But Rabbi Menachem Mendel did not do so. Instead, he told him, "It is forbidden for a Jew to give up hope. G-d helps everyone and He will help you also." He added more words of encouragement and also blessed him that everything would turn out well.

Not satisfied with the Rebbe's words, the Jew told the Rebbe, "my daughter has become of age, and I cannot find a shidduch for her since I have no money for a dowry."

The chutzpah of this man was too much for the aide, who felt like shouting out, "Are you not ashamed? Is it not enough that you have tormented the Rebbe, but you even dare to tell him stories like this? Perhaps you would like the Rebbe to give you the money for the dowry?" Of course the aide could not say anything, but his heart was in turmoil. But Rabbi Menachem Mendel asked the man, "How much money do you need?"

The man, who was surprised by the Rebbe's question, named a large sum. Without saying a word, the Rebbe opened a drawer and began counting into the man's hands the large amount that he had requested. He gave it to the very person who had chased him and tormented him for years.

The incident would have remained a secret, since it is forbidden for a Rebbe's aide to reveal what is said privately in the Rebbe's room, but the arrogant man could not contain himself, and went around town telling anyone he met of the unbelievable goodness of the Rebbe and of his new-found fortune.

Rabbi Yltzchak, the brother of Rabbi Menachem Mendel, was enraged by Rabbi Menachem Mendel's actions and complained to him bitterly, "Should a person be so willing to give to sinners? You yourself have barely enough to eat, the storekeepers are after you to pay your debts, how could you have given such a gigantic sum to help a person who has made so much trouble for you and for all the People of Kossov?"

The Rabbi replied calmly, "You are not the first to try to persuade me, and the one before you was also unsuccessful. The one before you was the yetzer hara, who tried with much talent to persuade but thank G-d I did not give in. My principle is to give so much love to my enemies that they turn into my friends."
(K'tzes Ha-Shemesh Bi-Gvuraso, p. 222)

Rabbi Menachem Mendel's capacity to forgive was exemplary. He held no grudge and gave unlimited help to the person who tormented him. In marriage, where we are legally obligated to assist our spouses, surely we are required to do the same.

Rabbi Chananyah, the friend of the Sages, said, "Why does the Kohen Gadol, serve on Yom Kippur in the beis Ha-mikdash with eight items of Clothing, when part of the day he wears only four items of clothing, which would seem to show that really four items of clothing would have sufficed? This is symbolic of the mitzvah of circumcision, which is performed on the eighth day, as it is written, 'My convenant was with him.' l The verse is speaking of a kohen and uses the Hebrew word 'bris,' which has the double meaning of 'convenant' as well as signifying the mitzvah of circumcision, to hint that the kohen's task is symbolic of circumcision."

Rabbi Simon said in the name of Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi, "Why does the high priest not wear golden clothes on Yom Kippur when he enters the Holy of Holies? He sheds the eight clothes of the high priest that have gold in them and puts on only the four articles of clothing that a regular kohen wears because the one who serves as prosecutor cannot also represent the defendant. Which is to say that we fear that the Satan will begin the prosecution by saying, 'Yesterday they made gods of gold [the Golden Calfl, and today they are serving You in the beis Ha-mikdash wearing golden clothes.' "

Rabbi Yehoshua of Sichnin said in the name of Rabbi Levi, "The golden clothes were not used on Yom Kippur in the Holy of Holies in order to have pity on Israel's money." Rabbi Levi said, "The reason that golden clothes were not used on Yom Kippur in the Holy of Holies was in order to avoid haughtiness, as it is written, 'Do not glorify yourself in the presence of a king.' "2

"With an ox," this is a reference to Avraham. From this I only know that in the merit of our Patriarchs, we have the sacrifices of Yom Kippur; from where do I learn that they are also in the merit of our Matriarchs? I can learn this since it is written "linen." 4 The Hebrew word for linen can also be interpreted as an abbreviation meaning "with four." This is because linen is spelled with two letters, "beis" and "daled", which in abbreviated form have that meaning. Therefore we learn that the verse is alluding to the four Matriarchs Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah.
(YALKUT 571 par. Bezos)

In the above midrash we see that the eight clothes that he high priest wears on Yom Kippur are symbolic of the bris, but what is the real connection between the two? What are our Sages teaching us when they say, "The one who serves as prosecutor cannot also represent the defendant'? Why would it be a contradiction to wear golden clothes when asking for forgiveness on Yom Kippur? How can we say that refraining from wearing golden clothes on Yom Kippur was done in order to save money, when for part of the day the high priest did wear these clothes? Why is haughtiness problematic when seeking forgiveness on Yom Kippur? What is the connection between our Patriarchs, Matriarchs, and the service of Yom Kippur?

The connection between circumcision and the service of Yom Kippur could be explained by the idea that circumcision is called "bris"' which means "a convenant." Circumcision symbolizes that we belong to the Creator, and we have in that sign a constant reminder to be faithful to Him and to obey His commandments. But G-d also wanted to give us a way to gain forgiveness if we do err by breaking this covenant. That corrective method is Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. So the eight clothes of the high priest are symbolic of the great demands expected from a Jew, because they allude to the convenant he makes on his body on the eighth day of his life. On the other hand the eight garments teach of the willingness of G-d to forgive when a Jew asks for atonement for failing to fulfill his end of the agreement.

Abstaining from wearing gold in the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, because the Jews had sinned with the Golden Calf, is based on the idea that the one who serves as prosecutor cannot also represent the defendant. This teaches us that when a person repents he must wipe out entirely any thoughts of previous sin from his mind and become completely devoted to doing G-d's will. We do not want G-d to remember our previous sins. Therefore we must take the same attitude. Our previous transgressions are entirely gone, we do not think of them, and certainly we do not wear clothing that would be a reminder of those sins.

With this approach it is much easier for a person to repent. Thoughts of previous sins are a burden. One must realize that the objective in seeking atonement is to wipe out past Sins entirely as if they never existed at all. At the pinnacle of the day of Yom Kippur, which is the service inside the Holy of Holies, there is no gold, that is, no reminder of previous sins, just hope for a future of holiness.

"The reason that golden clothes were not used on Yom Kippur in the Holy of Holies was in order to have pity on Israel's money." Even though the golden clothes were used by the high priest on that day for the services outside of the Holy of Holies, the fact that simple white clothes were used the rest of the time, insured that the more expensive gold clothes would last longer. Thus money would be saved, since they would not have to be replaced so quickly.

We can learn from this the great importance of using money wisely, since it was taken into consideration and affected even this most crucial matter.

Rabbi Levi said, "The reason that golden clothes were not used on Yom Kippur in the Holy of Holies was because of haughtiness, as it is written, 'Do not glorify yourself in the presence of a king.' " 5 Here is another important factor to help a person on Yom Kippur. One must humble himself and feel that he is not deserving of mercy because of his many sins. He should be keenly aware that he has nothing to be proud of since he has not fulfilled his full potential. These feelings of modesty and humility are essential for a person's success on Yom Kippur. Therefore Rabbi Levi explains that in order to instill these feelings in people, the high priest did not wear golden clothes in the Holy of Holies, since gold tends to give a person the feeling of haughtiness.

"With an ox," this is Avraham. All the sacrifices of Yom Kippur play an important part in our atonement on this holy day. We were able, through these sacrifices, to facilitate our atonement in the merit of our forefathers, whose service to G-d was perfect. Thus we inherit their devotion to G-d as a starting point so that we can climb spiritually, and most important of all, we are worthy of atonement because of their merits.

Our Sages say that our Matriarchs also played a part in obtaining this atonement. This teaches us how important women are in their service to G-d. We must highly revere their spiritual capabilities. Even though women may not learn the Talmud, this does not diminish the importance of their tasks in life. When they perform their tasks properly, they are a vital link in the chain of tradition and are held in high esteem by the Creator.

We Can Learn From G-d How to Forgive Others

The idea of atonement and forgiveness, is one that is vital to marriage. One should never hold a grudge against his spouse, but should always be ready to forgive. This is true even though it is not easy to forgive someone when an injustice was done to you.

Our Sages say, "Anyone who is willing to forgive others for what they have done to him is forgiven for all his sins." 6 Who does not want forgiveness from G-d? The prerequisite is to be a person who forgives others.

When our spouses have erred, we can learn from the way G-d forgives how we should forgive them. We know that G-d forgives us even though we err many times, so we must also forgive our spouses even though they may have erred many times, We must continue to forgive them, just as G-d does for us, no matter how many times they err. It is also important to recognize when you have made a mistake and sincerely ask for forgiveness from G-d and also from your spouse whenever it is necessary.

Even though there are disagreements and differences in a marriage between the couple, it is never too late to start anew. Decide in your heart that you are going to emulate Your Creator, who is always ready to forgive. He even made a special day for atonement. You can also make a special day which will be like a Yom Kippur between the two of you. Just as after Yom Kippur a person feels refreshed and is ready to make a new start, so will you be able to make a new start in your marriage after you forgive your spouse. For if you are ready to forgive, then you will be readily forgiven from Above. This truth should be in your mind constantly.

1. Malachi 2:5
2. Mishlei 25:6
3. Vayikra 16:3
4. Vayikra 16:4
5. Mishlei 25:6
6. Rosh Hashanah 17a

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