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Parashat Aharei Mot - Kedoshim


In our parashah we are commanded with regard to "mora mikdash," proper reverence for the Mikdash, including the prohibition to ascend the Temple Mount with shoes, a money pouch, or dust on one's feet (see Rashi 19:30; nowadays, it is prohibited to ascend the Temple Mount at all because we are all considered "tamei," and one who did ascend must perform teshuvah!!).

The pasuk refers to Batei Kenesset as "Batei Mikdash me'at" - "minor" Batei Mikdash. Hazal teach us that the misvah of "mora mikdash" applies to them, as well. It is forbidden to conduct oneself frivolously or engage in idle talk in the Batei Kenesset. The Tosefot Yom Tov zs"l composed a special prayer describing the berachot that should be bestowed upon those who make a point not to speak during the tefilah!

It would seem that nothing violates the prohibition against "entering with a money pouch" more than the ringing of cellular phones during tefilah. Even if it does not actually ring, even if merely vibrates, even if it does not disturb anyone else, it so profoundly infringes upon the Al-mighty's honor, and brings the environment outside the synagogue into the holy sanctuary.

The Hafess Haim zs"l asked why Hazal introduced so many prayers and requests at the end of birkat hamazon. He answered that as the recitation of birkat hamazon fulfills a misvah, it generates an "et rasson" - a special opportunity when our prayers our answered. Similarly, one who respects the sanctity of the Bet Kenesset and fulfills the misvah of "You shall revere My sanctuary" has a much better chance for his prayers to be accepted and his requests granted for goodness and blessing.


It is told that the Gaon of Vilna was asked as to which misvah he believes to be the most difficult to perform. He reportedly pointed to the misvah of "you shall rejoice on the your festival," the obligation to rejoice for seven days continuously, without stop. This gives us good reason to be jealous of the sacred sage. We cannot feel jealous over his remarkable talents, that when he delivered his bar misvah address at age thirteen he had already mastered the entire Torah. But if we had been asked this question, we would have undoubtedly provided a different answer, a misvah found in our parashah: "You shall love your fellow as yourself." The Ramhal zs"l (Mesilat Yesharim 11) explained this to mean that we must love others precisely as we love ourselves, without any gap whatoever between the two feelings of love. Fortunate is the one for whom this is not the most difficult misvah to observe - to love each and every Jew exactly as he loves himself!

But how, in truth, does one reach this level? Hazal informed us (in the Zohar) that Hashem first looked at the Torah and created the world according to that blueprint. Thus, there is nothing more natural than observing the Torah. At first glance, however, it seems that human nature draws a person to self-love, egoism and selfishness, whereas the imperative of "Love your fellow as yourself" demands subduing this natural tendency and opposing one's instinct. Moreover, the Torah itself testifies to this natural tendency, as it describes the love required towards others as "like yourself" - acknowledging that one naturally loves himself more than anyone else!

But our sages have already told us that all answers are found in the Torah itself; the One who gave us the precious gift gave us directions how to find it (Baba Batra 71a). Here, too, the Torah tells us, "You shall love your fellow as yourself, I am Hashem." Young soldiers come from different backgrounds, having received different types education, different societies, and by chance ended up in the same battalion and were sent together to the battlefield. What brings them together and leads them to share with one another, come to the assistance of one another, and even risk their lives for one another? The answer: a common goal and shared destiny. They join forces and all isolated barriers come tumbling down. Not that they are no longer selfish, but the "self" whose interests they pursue now includes the entire battalion, including all of one's comrades.

We learn this from the pasuk, "You shall love your fellow as yourself, I am Hashem." We are all soldiers in Hashem's army, and the fraternity among warriors must be felt among our nation.

The Gemara (Sotah 40a) tells that Rabbi Abahu, the leader of his generation, would deliver his shiur before hundreds of students in a whisper. One student with a particular loud and articulate voice would then relay the information to the entire audience. Once, Rabbi Abahu's wife came and said to her husband, "The wife of that student met me and arrogantly remarked, 'The truth is that my husband says the entire shiur himself. He is just nice to your husband by pretending to lean forward to hear his words to appear as though he hears it from your husband!'" What gall! Rabbi Abahu calmly responded, "What difference does it make? The students learn and the Al-mighty is pleased. Of what consequence is it who delivers the shiur? Either way - the Creator is praised!"

One who knows the purpose for which he came into existence, for which he was created, and what his purpose is in the world - "I was created to serve my Creator" (Kiddushin 82a); "Blessed is our G-d who created us for His honor"; "All that Hashem created is for Him"; "All who are linked to My Name, whom I have created, formed, and made for My glory"; "This nation I have created for Me, and My praise they shall speak" - one who knows this, and one who knows that every Jew, through his conduct, through his singularity, increases Hashem's honor, and there is so much of Hashem's honor to increase in the world, and we are all drafted for this purpose and goal; and the Ramhal zs"l implanted within us the notion that every statement of Hashem's honor - through prayer, berachot, misvot, acts of kindness, and Torah study, which equals all the rest - returns the sparks of sanctity that have been scattered and brings the redemption closer - when we realize all this, then we lend a hand to every fellow soldier, to all who helps and assists, to every comrade. Herein lies the essence of, "Yisrael encamped there opposite the mountain" - as one man with a single heart. Once there is a common perspective, a shared goal, in which everyone takes part and which is actualized through the combined efforts of all, then there is unity and fraternity, there are no personal interests or calculations, as the Yerushalmi says: "if the left hand hit the right hand, the right hand will not return a blow."

Incidentally, everything we said regarding the nation in its entirety applies as well to the family unit - a point to ponder and implement…


The Komodo Dragon

You have to see it to believe it - a lizard of monstrous size, over nine feet in length, that lazily moves along, blocking with its body the path for pedestrians! The Komodo dragon's movement is indeed a wondrous sight. Its powerful legs, featuring sharp nails, thrust forward, its long neck with its head bends to the right, the giant tail swings to the left, and its heavy hind-legs are dragged forward. One who courageously approaches the dragon will see its yellow tongue, which extends a foot and a half long, shoot outward and then recoil back and disappear among its fangs. Small wonder that some people view the Komodo dragon as the inspirational source of all the frightening, mythological dragons. In the dragon's saliva live many dangerous bacteria that kill any victim it reaches. For this reason, even a target that manages to escape will eventually die; the dragon then finds the corpse and enjoys its meal. In the past, "guardians of nature" would provide the dragon's food by hanging the remains of deceased goats for them to eat. The Komodos would pounce on the food and devour it in just a few minutes. Gradually, the creatures became slower and more lethargic and lost their hunting talents - which led to the decision to allow these enormous creatures do the work themselves, as the Almighty created them to begin with.

One might have thought that a giant, frightening creature such as the Komodo dragon was never given the possibility of change, and that its ferocious hunting techniques was something it could never lose. As it turned out, however, when it receives its food without effort, it begins to act like a quiet, peaceful lizard lying in the sun. This has much to say about a human being, "lehavdil," who claims, "I am already a lost cause"; "I will never perform teshuvah after so much improper conduct, so many sins - there is no chance that my teshuvah will be accepted." The fact is that even one who sees himself on the lowest of levels must believe with all his heart that the Al-mighty wants genuine effort and desire, and he must know with certainty that nothing stands in the way of sincere will. He will then see the fulfillment of the axiom, "The place where ba'alei teshuvah stand - even the greatest sadikim cannot stand!"


Three Pieces of Advice (7)

Flashback: Equipped with the advice of the sadik, Rav Levi Yis’hak of Berditchev zs"l, not to believe any rumors until he could verify their authenticity, the husband, who had been away from his family for a long time, did not believe the rumors about his wife's infidelity. He disguised as a wayfarer, went to his home, and asked to eat and sleep over in the home, offering to pay.

The woman sadly smiled: "We used to run an inn," she said, "and we made a living from our service to the guests. We no longer have this means of livelihood, so Heaven forbid that I should accept money for this misvah. But my house is small and cramped."

"I am used to such conditions," he said, and he entered the house - his home.

The table was immediately set. The entire supper consisted of leftover, low-quality bread and a meager portion of porridge. But the quiet, pleasant demeanor and kind hospitality created a heartwarming environment. He took a look around and noticed that poverty made its mark on every corner of the home. Nevertheless, a sense of order prevailed throughout the house and fine "middot" were manifest in everything that went on. He was very hungry and thoroughly enjoyed this small meal. But he enjoyed even more those in whose company he ate - his sons and daughters, and he was proud and overjoyed. They had grown so much, and they had been educated so wonderfully with terrific manners. All this was the result of the work of his devoted wife.

As soon as he thought of his wife, he remembered the rumors that had spread about her. The food then got caught in his throat and he lost his appetite. He sighed deeply and recited birkat hamazon.

He recited Arbit, and his bed was prepared in the dining room. He laid down to sleep, but could not. He is finally home, with his wife and children around him. He had dreamt about and imagined this moment for so long, so many times he thought of the joy and exuberance of his return. But now his dream had burst into pieces. He is but a stranger in his own home, disguised, his identity concealed. Why, what for? Because of an evil, wicked rumor, an awful piece of slander. He had himself seen, with his very own eyes, that it is false. There is no way that a woman could raise and educate such humble, G-d-fearing children of such fine character, unless she had served as a shining example herself, a perfect example for them to follow.

If so, then what was he waiting for? Why does he not arise and declare, "Wake up - I have returned! I am your husband, your father! I have returned, and the time has now come to end your poverty and suffering!"

He tossed and turned in his bed, going back and forth trying to decide his next move. Suddenly, he shuddered: a weak knock was heard at the window, and a strange face peered in, the face of a young, gentile man…

to be continued


Dear Brothers,

In our parashah we find the following pasuk that combines two different issues: "Do not despise your brother in your heart; you shall rebuke your fellow." The Zohar takes note of this juxtaposition and explains that even when one sees the shortcomings of the other and offers words of rebuke, "you shall not despise your brother." "Lovers of Hashem - despise evil." We are called upon us to despise the evil - but still love the Jew. Even when a Jew does evil, the Ba'al Ha'Tanya zs"l teaches, we must despise only the evil within him, but still love him, the Jew. "Judge every person favorably," we are commanded. The Sefat Emet zs"l explained that generally, people see the weaknesses of others, their evil or corruption, and immediately judge them and cast them off entirely as bad. This, however, is neither truthful nor proper. One must judge the entirety of another person favorably. Concentrate the criticism, and realize that if not for the concentrated area of wickedness, the individual would be perfect, a beautiful, unblemished soul. Only in this way is there a chance that your words of rebuke will yield the desired result. This is what the wisest of men meant when he wrote: "Do not rebuke a scoffer, for he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you" (Mishlei 9:8). In other words, do not tell the other that he is a "scoffer," that he is outright rejected, "for he will hate you," he will certainly not heed your words. Rather, "reprove a wise man" - tell him, "You are wise, you are good, almost perfect - why don't you be absolutely perfect?" Then - "he will love you."

These words are written with a good deal of pain. We live in the period of "the heel of the Mashi'ah," a period replete with troubles and suffering. Among the curses of our generation is, "Truth is missing." Hazal explain this pasuk to mean that "Truth will be divided into many flocks and leave." What does this mean? A healthy nation will always have differing views and outlooks. We deal with a thinking populace, and just as every person looks different from the other, so do his views and perspectives differ from the other's. One person thinks one way, the second thinks differently. This is especially true during difficult times, when there is no simple solution, and particularly with regard to spiritual matters, which have many different paths and directions. But one side has never rejected the legitimacy of the other. It was always understood that people have different views just as they feature different countenances. Bet Hillel and Bet Shammai engaged in so many disputes, and yet the Gemara testifies to the fact that they observed the pasuk, "You shall love truth and peace." Each one held steadfastly to his own truth, with peace prevailing among both disputants. It is told that a bitter debate broke out between the Hassidic approaches of Peshis'ha and Rupshiss. The rabbi of Alexander, a student of the rabbi of Peshis'ha, once met with Rabbi Hayim of Sanz, a student of the rabbi of Rupshiss. They argued and debated, with each side remaining steadfast to his position. When the rabbi of Alexander took leave, the rabbi of Sanz escorted him. He patted him on the shoulder and said, "When all is said and done, we both serve the same G-d."

Am Yisrael divided into twelve tribes, each with its own character. One was likened to a lion, the other to a wolf, a third to a bull and others to a donkey, a hind, and a snake. Each had its own approach, and even the Yam Suf split into twelve different lanes, with each walking through its own passageway. But the walls of water, Hazal teach us, were transparent, so that each tribes could see the others and thus not think that there is none besides its own tribe.

The Bet Hamikdash was destroyed because of disunity and strife, because of "sin'at hinam" - baseless hatred. This means that the pinpointed criticism turned into absolute rejection and condemnation. If we want redemption, let us ensure to uproot it from our hearts!

Shabbat Shalom

Aryeh Deri


"You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the elderly"

This pasuk introduces the misvah to rise in the presence of an individual seventy years of age or older (according to the Ar"i zs"l, from sixty years of age; and one should conduct himself stringently when faced with a doubt concerning a Torah obligation). At what point must one rise before the individual? When he comes within four amot, until he passes. One may not close his eyes before the person comes within four amot in order that he will not have to rise before him (Shulhan Aruch, Y.D. 244).

"You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the elderly"

"There is a misvah to show honor to every Torah scholar, even if he is not one's rabbi, as it says, 'You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the elderly' - this [the word 'zaken,' the elderly] refers to someone who acquired knowledge. It is a grave sin to humiliate the scholars or to despise them. Jerusalem was not destroyed until people there humiliated the Torah scholars, as it says, 'They would insult the angels of G-d and scorn His words' - meaning, they scorned those who taught His word. Similarly, that which the Torah says, 'And if you despise My statutes' - this refers to despising those who teach My statutes. Whoever humiliates the scholars has no share in the world to come, and he is included in, 'for he has scorned the word of Hashem'" (Rambam, Hilchot Talmud Torah 6).

"You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the elderly"

A question arises as to a case where the scholar or elderly person walks into a Bet Kenesset or courtyard surrounded by a fence. Do we consider the entire building or closed-off area as if it is all one four-cubit area, and one must thus rise even though they are not within his four cubits? The Hid"a zs"l, in his Brikei Yossef, writes that as this doubt concerns a Torah obligation, one must conduct himself stringently in this regard and rise before the scholar or elderly person in such a situation. If, however, one knows that they will ultimately come within his four amot, he should wait until they come near him (Ben Ish Hai, Shanah 2, Ki Tesse).

"You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the elderly"

"Among the roots of the misvah: The main purpose why a person is created in the world is for wisdom, in order that he recognize his Creator. It is therefore appropriate for people to respect those who have attained it, and they will thereby arouse themselves to attain it. For this reason one must rise before an elderly person who is not a scholar, for it is appropriate to honor him, because given his many years he has certainly seen and become familiar with Hashem's actions and wonders. He is therefore worthy of honor" (Sefer Hahinuch, 257).

"You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the elderly"

The Alshich Hakadosh zs"l explained this pasuk as a direct continuation of the preceding pasuk: "Do not turn to ghosts and do not inquire of spirits, to be defiled by them; I am Hashem your G-d." These types of supernatural forces, such as palm-reading and other nonsense, are prohibited. If you want to know what to do, which path will lead to success and which leads to distress, "You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the elderly." Afford honor to those older and wiser than yourself, seek their counsel. Not because they are prophets or have been granted hidden powers, but because the Al-mighty will put the correct answer before them, as Hazal promise, "Whoever consults the elders succeeds." The pasuk therefore ends, "you shall fear your G-d - I am Hashem."

"You shall rise before the aged and show deference to the elderly"

The Hid"a zs"l cites the explanation and halachah of Rabbenu Efrayim concerning this pasuk. "Before the aged" - if you see a weak, elderly person standing, "you shall rise" and let him have your seat. But if you see an elderly person who is not weak or frail, then you need not rise immediately. Rather, you shall "show deference" by offering your seat. If he accepts the offer, rise; otherwise, you may continue sitting.

A Treasury of Halachot and Customs of the Festivals of Yisrael Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

The Misvah of Sefirat Ha'omer (continued)

The Time for Sefirat Ha'omer

Arbit is recited before the counting of the omer. As Arbit is recited more frequently, it takes precedence (based on the principle of "tadir veshe'eino tadir, tadir kodem"). Furthermore, Arbit contains the Torah obligation of shema, which takes precedence over the counting of the omer, which nowadays constitutes but a rabbinic obligation. One who, for whatever reason, cannot participate with a minyan for Arbit must make some kind of sign for himself so that he remembers to count the omer after Arbit.

On Mossa'ei Shabbat, sefirat ha'omer takes place before havdalah. Although havdalah occurs more frequently than does sefirat ha'omer, the counting nevertheless takes precedence in the interest of delaying the departure from Shabbat. The widespread practice is to count the omer before birkat ha'levanah. If there is concern that clouds may conceal the moon in the interim, birkat ha'levanah should precede the counting of the omer.

The Procedure of Sefirat Ha'omer

It is forbidden to eat before sefirat ha'omer, as it is forbidden to sleep - even briefly - before counting. This prohibition begins a half an hour before the time for counting the omer begins. Preferably, one should refrain from eating or sleeping already a full hour before sundown.

The prohibition against eating before the counting of the omer involves only the consumption of more than a "kebessah" (around 56 grams) of baked goods. Strictly speaking, one may eat fruits or vegetables of any quantity before counting, as well as meat or fish or any foods not made from the five basic grains (wheat, barley, oats, rye and spelt). One may also drink tea, coffee, milk or other beverages before sefirat ha'omer, and partake of less than a "kebessah" of baked goods.

If one asked a friend to remind him to count the omer, he may eat even more than a "kebessah" of bread or other baked goods before counting. One who is stringent and refrains from eating at all before sefirat ha'omer - including foods not made from the five grains - is worthy of blessing.

If one started a meal earlier than a half-hour before the time for sefirah, he may continue his meal even after the time for counting comes, since he began the meal when this is permissible, and he may wait to count until after the meal. Some, however, hold he should count sefirat ha'omer and then continue his meal.

One may not begin any work within a half an hour of the time for sefirat ha'omer. Some have the custom to refrain from work at night throughout the omer period, as we will explain further next week iy"H.


Rav Yis’hak Mayu zs"l

The sadik Rav Yisshak Mayu zs"l was the rabbi and Rosh Yeshivah of Izmir, Turkey, around two hundred years ago, and a student of the Sha'ar Ha'melech zs"l. Together with his colleague, Rabbi Yosef Refael Hazzan zs"l, they enacted many effective measures for the community of that city. Among other things, they ordered total separation of the genders during semahot, including two separate sets of musicians, in order that a male musician should not play in front of women or vice versa. Even the beggars were affected by these restrictions: males were permitted to collect only among the men, and women among the women.

Rav Yis’hak was an exceptionally brilliant scholar. He composed the work of responsa, "Sefat Hayam," a homiletical work, "Darchei Hayam," and a work on Masechet Bessah, "Pe'at Hayam." However, he is most famously known for his major work, "Shorshei Hayam," a three-volume set on the Rambam's fourteen guidelines by which he identified the 613 misvot. His greatness was accompanied by remarkable humility. Rabbenu Hayyim Plagi zs"l writes (in his work, "Tochahat Haim," Tazria) that he heard from Rav Yis’hak that he would never become angry with those who studied his works, questioned what he wrote and disputed his conclusions.

In the work, "Birkat Mo'adecha le'Hayyim" (vol. 1, "derush" 5 on teshuvah), the author, the Habif zs"l, writes, "I call upon heaven and earth as witnesses for me that I saw in a dream our master, the great rabbi, the leader of the community, Rav Yis’hak Mayu zs"l, author of the Shorshei Hayam, sitting and teaching like Moshe, from the mouth of the Al-mighty" about the "petihat Eliyahu" (in Tikkunei ha'Zohar 17a), that a person must sanctify all his limbs so that they allude to the heavenly qualities: the right must be devoted to kindness and charity, one's left should push away the yesser hara, his legs shall walk towards the fulfillment of misvot, and one's mouth should be used for constant Torah study.

A Summary of the Shiur Delivered on Mossa'ei Shabbat by Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

Halachot of Sefirat Ha'omer

One who misses one day of counting during the omer may not continue counting with a berachah, as he can no longer be considered as counting seven "complete" weeks as the Torah requires. He should therefore continue counting without a berachah.

A child who becomes a bar misvah during the omer period may not count with a berachah from that day on, even if he had counted every day with a berachah before his bar misvah. (Preferably, he should ask the hazzan every night to have him in mind when reciting the berachah.) The reason is that any misvah a person performs when the obligation did not apply to him is not considered a fulfillment of a misvah. Therefore, his counting before his bar misvah, when he was still exempt from misvah observance, cannot be considered a valid counting that could render his counting throughout the omer period "complete." For example, the Gemara (Rosh Hashanah 28a) teaches that one who eats massah on Pesah eve while stricken with a temporary mental disorder (which exempts him from misvot) must eat massah again after he has recovered. For the same reason, a gentile who converts to Judaism during the omer period may not count that year with a berachah.

The same applies to birkat ha'Torah. A gentile who converts to Judaism must recite birkat ha'Torah after his conversion before engaging in Torah or reciting shema, since his recitation of birkat ha'Torah that morning did not fulfill the misvah. Similarly, when a child becomes a bar misvah he should have in mind during Arbit on the night of his birthday that the berachah of "ahavat olam" should satisfy his requirement of birkat ha'Torah. Then, immediately after Arbit, he should say some divrei Torah so that some Torah study will follow his birkat ha'Torah.

Am Yisrael has the custom of observing several mourning practices during this period of the omer, to commemorate the death of Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students who perished during these weeks. Hazal tell us (Yevamot 62b) that Rabbi Akiva's students were punished because they did not treat each other respectfully. But why were they punished specifically during this period, between Pesah and Shavuot? The answer is that this period is one of judgment, as Hazal say (Eduyot 2:10), "The sentence of the wicked in Gehinnom occurs from Pesah to Shavuot," meaning, during these weeks the attribute of justice is particularly strong.

This tragedy prompted Rabbi Akiva to remark, "If one studied Torah in his youth - he shall study Torah in old age; if one taught students in his younger years - he should have students in his older years" (Yevamot 62b). Rabbi Akiva saw with his own eyes that the students produced in one's younger years are not enough.

The custom among the Sefaradim and eastern communities is to refrain from conducting weddings from Pesah until the morning of the 34th of the omer. The Ashkenazim, however, follow the Rema's ruling, allowing weddings on Lag Ba'omer, but then refraining until Shavuot. The widespread custom applies this prohibition even to those who have yet to produce children. Rabbis should be reminded in case they are approached by Sefaradim who wish to be married on Lag Ba'omer, that Sefaradic custom is to refrain from conducting weddings until the morning of the 34th of the omer.

The widespread custom is to refrain from haircutting and shaving, as well, until the morning of the 34th day of the omer.

Nizha Bat Oro and Yis'hak Shaul Ben Leah

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