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Parashat Aharei Mot-Kedoshim


Our parashah presents the missvah of administering rebuke: "You shall surely reprove your comrade, that you shall not bear a sin on his account."

The Ramban comments, "For you will be guilty when he sins and you did not chastise him." In fact, this concept appears explicitly in the book of Yehezkel (3): "When I say to the wicked person, 'You will surely die,' and you did not warn him - he is the wicked, he will die on account of his sin, and his blood I will seek from your hand. And you who warned the wicked person and he did not return from his iniquity and evil path - he will die in his sin, and you have spared your own life."

How frightening! "One who could have protested and did not protest is caught by the same sin." For this reason, ssadikim were killed at the time of the destruction, as a result of their having failed to protest against the sinners (Masechet Shabbat 54b). Imagine - an observant Jew who strictly adheres to the halachot of Shabbat, kashrut and family purity can stand before the Heavenly Tribunal and be accused of violating Shabbat, eating non-kosher food, and performing all types of sinful acts. Why? Because he did not protest against sinners. How can we justify ourselves? Do we adequately raise objections to the sinners around us?

One easy way to fulfill this obligation is to choose government representatives who will stand guard for us, identifying breaches of proper standards and work towards their elimination. If they succeed, their success will be considered as our merit. And if not - at very least they will protest in our name.


Among the many missvot listed in our parashah is the obligation to administer rebuke. It appears in juxtaposition to the pasuk, "Do not stand idly by the blood of your comrade, and do not hate your brother in your heart." One who sees his friend committing a sin and does not try to dissuade him and prevent him from the transgression - although he knows full well that a sin constitutes spiritual suicide, a terrible defect, the severance of a limb from the soul, and still stands by comfortably - is considered to have stood by idly by his friend's blood. Only a sworn enemy can sit back and relax while witnessing the other's suicide.

We generally tend to associate "tochehah" ( rebuke) with stern admonishment, harsh words, warnings about punishment, and penetrating mussar. True, these measure constitute, strictly speaking, tochehah. However, it was said close to two-thousand years ago about this type of approach, "I wonder if there is anyone in our generation who knows how to rebuke" (Masechet Arachin 16b). Proper rebuke is an art; one tries to influence and inspire without causing further distancing and resentment, without embarrassing or generating discomfort. This is the art of walking the tightrope of rebuke, balancing just the right amount of rebuke with enough respect and warmth, not to flatter on the one hand but not to put one to shame, on the other. Indeed, there are but a select few who genuinely succeed.

But there is also a second type of tochehah, an additional means by which one can fulfill this missvah, a way that is only good. This method involves not driving away the darkness by force, but rather bringing in rays of light. This means is most effective and is the direction given to us by our leader, Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a, who established in Israel a wonderful movement to restore the glory of Torah to its rightful place through pleasantness and a sincere sense of fraternity with all Jews. Under his guidance and influence the "El Hamaayan" movement operates, running hundreds of Torah-oriented youth programs throughout Israel. Tens of thousands of youngsters - may they only increase - participate in these programs and learn more about their ancestral heritage and beautiful tradition. The movement has initiated thousands of Torah classes throughout Israel, where thousands come to study and learn Gemara, Mishnah, Humash or Midrash. All this is in addition to the many summer camps and programs for mothers, the "Benei Hayyil" youth movement and all its wonderful functions. This approach is implemented as well by the women's organization, "Margalit, Em B'Yisrael," which introduces the laws of family purity into thousands of homes in Israel. This is the approach of the Torah education network, "Maayan Hahinuch HaTorani," which has established hundreds of kindergartens, schools and day-care centers, thus educating tens of thousands of children along the path of our forefathers and the eternal fountains of Torah. "Our nation is a nation only through its Torah!"

Far more than what meets the eye occurs on a day-to-day basis by the devoted staff that works under the direction of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a.

Representatives of the movement at every level work tirelessly, be it in the Kenesset, government offices or local councils. Hard to believe, but in the past there were Jewish neighborhoods developed in Israel where everything was taken care of - landscaping, sewage, electricity and telephone wires, television cables, medical centers, schools, community centers, sports facilities - but no Bet Kenesset or mikveh! One could not imagine the efforts and difficulties involved in securing a license to construct another mikveh or Bet Kenesset. Millions are poured into theaters and sports facilities with no problem. But one must fight like a lion for a budget to provide for old-age homes, day-care centers, even a minimal budget for Torah classes, special education, or another Torah school that could bring the light of Torah to several hundred more students.

This operation is a widespread and effective one, and Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a oversees the entire movement. May Hashem lengthen his days and years in good health and happiness, that he may see the fruits of his labor, the continued growth and development of the sacred movement. Already, so many ba'alei teshuvah are seen in our circles, the Batei Kenesset are full and not a seat is available in the Batei Midrash. The nation is gradually returning to its source, the Creator, and the redemption is taking giant steps in its approach. And, when the Moshiah will come, he will ask each person, "Did you help the holy movement, did you take part in the blessed revolution?"


"You shall be holy. Each person - his mother and father you shall fear, and My Shabbatot you shall observe"

Rabbenu Behayei zs"l explains that the concept of "kedushah" involves separation and abstinence: "This parashah warns all of Yisrael that they must separate themselves in their conduct." The pasuk here comes to teach a person how to overcome his natural inclinations and restrain his desires: "Each person - his father and mother you shall fear, and My Shabbatot you shall observe." One must recognize the authority of parents and the commandments of the Almighty Who created everything in seven days, to which Shabbat testifies. Once there exists a concept of authority to which one is subject, this recognition guarantees the ability to overcome his natural impulses.

"You shall be holy. Each person - his mother and father you shall fear, and My Shabbatot you shall observe"

The "Siftei Kohen" zs"l explains that "You shall be holy" involves not only a commandment, but a promise, as well. At times, the choice is not in the individual's hands. There may be sights that he never wanted to see and speech that he did not want to hear. The pasuk thus promises the person that if he invests the effort to sanctify himself and avoid seeing and hearing that which is inappropriate and forbidden, he will receive divine assistance towards that end. As the Gemara states (Yoma 39): "A person sanctifies himself down below, and he will then be sanctified from above." The pasuk then continues, "Each person - his mother and father you shall fear, and My Shabbatot you shall observe." The word, "ish" (person) seems superfluous, but it alludes to an important reminder to the parents. As if to say, you have been given a precious soul, a son or daughter - do not relate to the child as just a child. Realize that in just a few years he/she will grow into an "ish," an adult. You thus bear the responsibility to educate their children that they observe the Shabbat and become connected to the heritage: "Each person - his mother and father you shall fear - and my Shabbatot you shall observe, I am Hashem your God!"

. Each person - his mother and father you shall fear, and My Shabbatot you shall observe"

Rabbi Refael Moshe Albaz zs"l of Morocco notes, in his work "Eden Mikedem," that the word, "kadosh" (holy) has the same numerical value as "shema." This alludes to the fact that one who reads the Shema from the beginning until the words, "ani Hashem Elokeichem," concentrates properly on the content and listens carefully to what he says - i.e., the parashah of the acceptance of the yoke of Heaven and the yoke of missvot, as well as the recollection of Yessi'at Missrayim - can reach great heights of "kedushah"!

"You shall be holy"


Rabbi Yehudah Sadkah zs"l

Each year, between Pesah and Shavuot, the revered Rabbi Yehudah Sadkah zs"l, Rosh Yeshivat Porat Yossef, would remove, as it were, the crown of the Rosh Yeshivah and involve himself in the registration of small children for Torah schooling. He would run from house to house, climbing stairs and running wherever he needed to go in order to converse with parents and try to influence them. He would plead with parents, "Do not do harm to the child...his blood will be demanded. Part of your responsibility as parents is to provide them an education based on the foundations of our faith, a connection to our heritage and the knowledge of Torah."

"What about honor for the Torah?" asked one of his reverent students, who was uncomfortable with the way Rabbi Yehudah exerted himself so intensely. "The honor of Torah is achieved when one more child merits an education of faith," answered the Rosh Yeshivah contentedly. He insisted that those working in the field of registration for Torah schools are working in the field of saving lives, and they are thus exempt from studying Torah and praying. He personally wrote a note in the yeshivah that said, "Do not stand idly by the blood of your comrade! These are the days of school registration. Thus, everyone must speak about this issue in his Bet Kenesset to open people's eyes and suggest where they should send their children. Every action in this regard will yield blessing, and whoever saves a single life is considered to have sustained an entire world. All the generations resulting from this one action will all contribute to the merit."

Once, as he was on the way to registering children, the driver put in a musical cassette. The rabbi passionately cried, "My creatures are drowning in the sea - and you are listening to music!"


A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

by Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

Chapter 5: Laws of Proper Concentration When Reciting Berachot

The proper intention that one must have when reciting "amen" depends upon the berachah recited. In this regard, berachot are divided into three classifications. The first group consists of berachot that are praise to the Almighty, such as the "birchot hashahar," "baruch she'amar," "yishtabah," the first three berachot of Shemoneh Esreih, the berachah of "modim" and the second berachah of birkat hamazon. When reciting "amen" for these berachot, one should think, "That which has been stated is true, and I believe it."

The second group contains those berachot which are requests or supplications before Hashem, such as the responses of "amen" in kaddish, after each "harahaman" in birkat hamazon and the responses in "ya'aleh veyavo" or "resseih." When responding "amen" in these instances, one should think, "So shall be Hashem's will."

The third group is berachot that are both praise as well as supplication before Hashem, such as the middle berachot of Shemoneh Esreih (from "atah honen" until "hamahzir shechinato lessiyon"), the berachah of "sim shalom," and all other such berachot. When answering "amen" in these cases, one should think both the aforementioned thoughts at once, i.e., "It is true, and so shall be His will."

Chapter 4: The Berachah of "Asher Yassar" and "Elokai Neshamah"

In the berachah of "asher yassar," some recite the text, "sh'im yipatei'ah ehad meihem o yisatem ehad meihem..." This is the custom of the Ashkenazim. The custom of the Sefaradim and Edot Hamizrah, however, is to recite, "sh'im yisatem ehad meihem o yipatei'ah ehad meihem..."

Some recite towards the end of the berachah, "i efshar l'hitkayem" (with a "hirik" under the "alef"), and others pronounce it, "ai efshar..." (with a "sseirei" under the "alef"). It would seem that one is no less correct than the other, so both versions are legitimate.

The custom of the Sefaradim and Edot Hamizrah is to recite, "i efshar lehitkayem afilu sha'ah ahat," whereas the custom of many Ashkenazim is to omit "afilu sha'ah ahat."

At the end of the berachah, some have the custom of reciting, "rofei holei kol basser," while other recite, "rofei chol bassar umafli la'asot." The widespread custom follows this second version.

Optimally, when washing one's hands in the morning, he should recite the berachah before drying his hands. If, however, he did not, or if he was unable because the room was unclean, for example, he may recite the berachah even after drying his hands. Even one who recites the berachah in Bet Kenesset because his room was unclean has authorities upon whom to rely. Nevertheless, one should try to recite the berachah as close to the washing as possible. (This entire discussion pertains only to washing in the morning. But regarding washing for a meal, one who did not recite the berachah before drying does not recite the berachah afterwards, for we never recite a berachah when its requirement is in doubt.)

The Berayta in Masechet Berachot (46a) says that all berachot begin with "baruch" and close with "baruch," except for berachot over food and before the performance of missvot (which do not end with "baruch") and a berachah recited immediately following another (which does not open with "baruch").

Rishonim write that the berachah of "Elokai neshamah" does not begin with "baruch" because it is a blessing of thanksgiving, which also does not open with "baruch." Other Rishonim, however, maintain that "Elokai neshamah" does not open with "baruch" for a different reason: because it immediately follows the berachah of "asher yassar." Therefore, although strictly speaking one does not need to do so, one should try to recite "Elokai neshamah" immediately following the recitation of "asher yassar."


The Senses

Any child who is asked how many senses there are in the human being will immediately answer five - vision, hearing, touch, smell and taste. However, when an individual excels in extraordinary fashion in a given field, he is said to have a special intuition for that skill, or, as it is sometimes called, a "sixth sense." But besides these senses, the Creator graced the human being with additional, internal senses through which the person knows what's going on inside him. For example, this internal sense informs the person that he is hungry or thirsty. Another sense updates the individual regarding his state of fatigue, and yet another transmits the message to the brain that a certain part of the body is in pain, a warning signal that something is not right. Of critical importance is the sense of balance, without which the person would be swaying back and forth, unaware of whether he is standing or lying down, or even hanging upside down. Although these senses have no special limbs as do the five external senses - the eyes for the sense of vision, the nose for the sense of smell, the ears for the sense of hearing, the tongue for the sense of taste, the hands for the sense of touch - each of the other senses do, in fact, have a particular location in the body. For example, the sense governing hunger is situated in the stomach. All these senses exist in animals, as well. In fact, some animals even possess sharper senses than humans. The ears of a dog, for example, can hear sounds inaudible to the human ear. Additionally, certain animals have senses that humans don't. Birds, for example, can fly for long periods of time, traversing enormous distances without a compass and never make a mistake in direction. A spider spins its web with a sense that no other creature possesses.

We must conclude, therefore, that the human being's superiority over other creatures lay not in his physical superiority, but spiritual greatness. The human being is crowned with the distinction of possessing free choice. He is granted the independence to choose his path and he alone controls his behavior. A corner-stone of the Torah is the belief in our ability to choose life or the opposite, and the Torah enjoins us, "you shall choose life." A person must control himself that he not live on instinct like the beasts of the field. The Jew knows how to even use his senses as a person with free choice. A Jew that feels hungry, for example, will never simply pounce on food and devour it like an animal. Rather, he will eat only after verifying the "kashrut" of the food and blessing He Who feeds and sustains him.


Father and Son (12)

Flashback: A righteous, wealthy man hosted in his inn a brilliant rabbi who was traveling with his family in search of a rabbinical post after having left his righteous brother to run the family's store. As the rabbi left the inn, he blessed the innkeeper that he should be blessed with a son and, sure enough, his son, Yosef, was soon born to him. Yosef's parents died while he was still a youngster and was a wild, ignorant child. He eventually joined a group of wandering nomads who traveled from town to town, until they arrived at the town of that same rabbi.

Upon their arrival, they retreated to the local shelter and rested a bit from their journey. They then went around the city streets collecting donations, as was their want. The young Yosef also went around the various homes, and, as he was accustomed to doing, in one house he would ask for food, in another he demanded something to drink, here he would ask for a large donation, and in another place he would just utter vulgar curses for no particular reason. He made his way from house to house, running wild and making noise, until he arrived at the rabbi's house. He came in the side door into the kitchen and demanded some food to eat. He eat gluttonously and then demanded a donation. They gave him some money but then he asked for twice as much. When his request was denied, he began cursing loudly, his voice resonating throughout the house. The rabbi's students heard the noise and quickly came to see what was going on. The delinquent youngster was not at all intimidated by them, and he just shouted rudely and brazenly. When they admonished him, he starting throwing fists at the group. At this point, they could not hold back and they fought with him until he shouted a bitter cry, which was heard by the rabbi who was sitting and learning in his chamber. He raised his head and wondered, who is shouting this way, like an injured animal, like the roar of a lion? He got up and went to see what had happened. He entered the kitchen and saw a most unusual sight: his students surrounded a large boy who tried defending himself against their merciless beatings. "Lay off him!" cried the rabbi, and the students, in reverent obedience, immediately complied. The rabbi approached the boy and said hello. "What is your name?" he asked. "Yossele," bellowed the boy. "Where are you from?" asked the rabbi. "Nowhere," came the reply. "Who are your parents?" continued the rabbi. "My father was a kind innkeeper, but he passed away, along with my mother."

At this point, the rabbi knew that this was the boy who was born as a result of his blessing.

to be continued...


The Torah writes in our parashah: "Hashem spoke to Mosheh...To Benei Yisrael you shall say, any person from Benei Yisrael or from the foreigner dwelling in Yisrael who gives from his offspring to Molech shall surely die, the common-folk shall stone him. And I will pay attention to that person and I will cut him off from the midst of his nation. For from his offspring he gave to Molech, in order to defile My sanctuary (Rashi: Kenesset Yisrael, which is sanctified to the Almighty) and desecrate My sacred Name." Since the Torah is eternal and its lessons apply to each individual in every generation, what can we learn from the prohibition and strict punishment of Molech in today's age when this institution no longer exists? The Haffess Hayyim zs"l derived a critical lesson from this commandment, and he published it in an open letter (Michtevei HaHafess Hayyim, letter 44):

I was asked from a certain place, a country not too far from here (i.e., Communist Russia), where the government issued an edict that everyone must send their children ages six and over to the public schools, and should the parents not register their children they would be punished with a year or more in prison, or they would be exiled to a known place (i.e., a labor camp in Siberia). Since the public schools are places where heresy and apostasy are disseminated, where they deny Hashem and His Torah and make jest of those who fear God, and those educated there become heretics and apostates, Heaven forbid, I was thus asked if parents are allowed to register their children out of fear of the government.

I responded that the parents have no power to withstand the authorities that forcefully grab their children, and they have no one to whom they can present their complaint, as this is the decree of the government. However, it is forbidden from the Torah to actively give their children over to an education of heresy, and this constitutes an explicit prohibition in the Torah: "From your offspring you shall not give to pass over to Molech." Rashi explains, "'You shall not give' - this refers to giving to the gentile priests," implying that the giving over it itself constitutes a Torah violation. We know that a person must sacrifice all his money in order not to violate a Torah prohibition (as explained in Shulhan Aruch, Orah Hayyim 656). The same applies regarding our issue; heresy and apostasy is outright idolatry like the worship of Molech. Thus, the very giving over [of children] to those who disseminate heresy, who have the status of idolatrous priests, is forbidden from the Torah.

I am amazed by those parents who voluntarily send their children to schools that teach heresy and do not consider the severity of the sin. If they were to hear that so-and-so converted out of the faith, Heaven forbid, they would put him to shame and humiliate him, distancing him like he was excommunicated. And yet, they pay no attention to this issue of sending their children to heresy. This is tantamount to bringing them into a church and actively assisting in their children's conversion, for in the end the children will become heretics as a result of their education. How can a person in whose heart dwells faith, who wants that his children be attached to the heritage of faith, register his children in a heretical school system and send them to the students of Nimrod?

The bottom line is, every Jew must realize that the schools where heresy is disseminated are actual houses of idolatry, and everyone who denies God and His Torah is an outright heretic. Parents are obligated to be careful with all the strength of their spirit, soul and resources not to register their children in these institutions, even if they will be punished with imprisonment for several years. They are required by the Torah to suffer this, and their reward in the World to Come will be great.

This is the main point of my response, and I found it necessary to inform this to the masses in order to publicize it throughout all of Yisrael, that it is forbidden to send one's children to schools where heresy is disseminated. In this reward, may Hashem shower upon them an abundance of blessing and success in all their endeavors, and they shall merit all the good that is in store for them.


Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan

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