Torah Weekly - Acharei Mos / Kedoshim

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Acharei Mos / Kedoshim

For the week ending 6 Iyar 5758 in Israel and 13 Iyar outside of Israel
1-2 May 1998 in Israel and 8-9 May outside of Israel

  • Summary
  • Acharei Mos
  • Kedoshim
  • Insights:
  • Rain On My Parade
  • Inside Out
  • Cliffhanger
  • Haftorah
  • Love of the Land
  • Measure for Measure
  • What do you do with Torah Weekly
  • Back Issues of Torah Weekly
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  • Ohr Somayach Home Page

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  • Overview



    Hashem instructs the kohanim to exercise extreme care when they enter the Mishkan. On Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol is to approach the holiest part of the Mishkan after special preparations and in special clothing. He brings offerings that are unique for Yom Kippur, including the two identical goats that are designated by lottery. One is "for Hashem" and is offered in the Temple, while the other is "for Azazel" in the desert. The Torah states the individual's obligations on Yom Kippur: On the 10th day of the seventh month, one must afflict oneself. We abstain from eating and drinking, anointing, wearing leather footwear, washing, and marital relations.

    Consumption of blood is prohibited. The blood of slaughtered birds and undomesticated beasts must be covered. The people are warned against engaging in the wicked practices that were common in Egypt. Incest is defined and prohibited. Marital relations are forbidden during a women's monthly cycle. Homosexuality, bestiality and child sacrifice are prohibited.


    The nation is enjoined to be holy. Many prohibitions and positive commandments are taught: Prohibitions: Idolatry; eating offerings after their time-limit; theft and robbery; denial of theft; false oaths; retention of someone's property; delaying payment to an employee; hating or cursing a fellow Jew (especially one's parents); gossip; placing physical and spiritual stumbling blocks; perversion of justice; inaction when others are in danger; embarrassing; revenge; bearing a grudge; cross-breeding; wearing a garment of wool and linen; harvesting a tree during its first three years; gluttony and intoxication; witchcraft; shaving the beard and sideburns; and tattooing.

    Positive: Awe for parents and respect for the elderly; leaving part of the harvest for the poor; loving others (especially a convert); eating fruits from a tree's 4th year in Jerusalem; awe for the Temple; respect for Torah scholars, the blind and the deaf.

    Family life must be holy. We are warned again not to imitate gentile behavior, lest we lose the Land of Israel. We must observe kashrus and thereby maintain our unique and separate status.




    "You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge..." (19:18)

    You wake up with a smile on your face. It's good to be alive. Another day. Another gift. As you leave your house, you bump into your neighbor. "Good morning, Fred!" you beam. "What's good about it?" comes the dour reply. He gets into his car and drives off. You try out your smile again, but you find that there's a little dent in it that wasn't there before.

    The Torah prohibits a person from taking revenge: You ask your neighbor to lend you his lawn mower and he refuses. The next week he asks to borrow your drill. You're not allowed to refuse him because he refused you. That's called taking revenge. You're not even allowed to say "Of course, you can borrow my drill - I'm not like you; I lend my things." The Torah categorically calls this bearing a grudge.

    The question arises however: If I'm not allowed to take revenge by refusing to lend my drill, shouldn't the Torah also prohibit my "friend" from refusing to lend me his lawn mower? After all, it was he who started things. If it hadn't been for him not lending me his lawn mower, none of this would have happened in the first place.

    Someone who refuses to lend his possessions may not be the greatest guy on the block, but the Torah doesn't make it an offense to be stingy. What the Torah is concerned about is that his stingyness will generate hatred, that his bad character will sour that of his neighbor and turn his natural generosity into hatred. That cannot be allowed to happen. And so the Torah tells us to overcome the knee-jerk reaction and let our natural love of our fellow come through.

    When your neighbor returns your friendly greeting with a look that could freeze a fire, don't let him control your life. Go on and smile and smile. Don't let other people's behavior dictate who you are.


    "And he (Aharon) will place the incense on the fire in front of Hashem" (16:13)

    The Mishneh Torah is undoubtedly Maimonides' masterwork. It details in the greatest precision every aspect of Jewish Life. As it is a work of halacha, one would think that a story would be out of place. However, in the section that deals with the Yom Kippur service in the Beis Hamikdash, Maimonides seems to depart from the eternal exactness of halacha to describe a most moving scene:

    Before the Kohen Gadol went out to perform the Yom Kippur service, the Elders of the Sanhedrin would make him swear to do the service exactly as instructed. Specifically, they would make him swear to burn the incense only inside the Holy of Holies as the Oral Torah mandates. The Sadducees, who denied the authority of the Oral Torah, claimed that the incense should first be placed on a burning fire-pan outside the Holy of Holies. The Elders made the Kohen Gadol swear not to perform the service in the manner of the Sadducees.

    Then, both Kohen Gadol and the Elders would turn aside from each other and weep. The Kohen Gadol wept because they suspected him of being a Sadducee. The Elders wept because there was reason to suspect him.

    But why did Maimonides choose to enshrine this tragically touching moment in a work designed to be a practical halacha manual?

    Let us understand how this ceremony came into being. It happened that one year the Sadducees proposed a compromise. They suggested that for the sake of peace and unity, the Kohen Gadol should light the incense outside and inside the Holy of Holies.

    What could be better than this? Everyone would be happy! You observe Judaism your way, and I'll do it my way.

    The Rabbis were in a no-win situation. To accept this offer would add a mitzvah to the Torah, which is expressly forbidden; to refuse would make them seem indifferent to Jewish Unity.

    The Rabbis had no option but to demur. But at what great cost! And with what heavy hearts, for they knew they would seem inflexible and uncaring.

    Sometimes, those who guard the Torah must make decisions which are a public relation's person's nightmare. But they have no choice. They are protecting the most precious treasure in the world - a treasure that must never be corrupted or adulterated. But with what heavy hearts, and with what a price these decisions are made.

    When the guardians of the Torah stand up and say no, they do so with tears in their eyes.

    Maimonides included the incident of the Elders weeping as a halacha for all of time. In every generation the Jewish People have their "Sadducees." But in every generation the defenders of the Torah must weep at having to say "No."


    "Do not imitate the practices of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled..." (18:3)

    A group of people live on a mountain top which ends in a sheer cliff and a drop of several thousand feet. One civic-minded fellow, on his own initiative, builds a safety fence to prevent anyone from venturing too close to the edge of the cliff and inadvertently falling off. Would anyone complain that the fence limited his freedom of movement by making it less likely that he plummet off the mountain to his death?

    Those who do not understand the true nature of rabbinic legislation complain that the sages restricted our lives with unnecessary prohibitions. But one who appreciates the seriousness of transgressing a Torah law - the devastating effects such transgressions have on the neshama, one's eternal life, and the world in general - feels much more secure knowing there are safety fences to prevent him from plummeting into a spiritual oblivion.

    • Rain on my Parade - Chizkuni as heard from Rabbi Moshe Zauderer
    • Inside Out - Rabbi Aharon Soleveichik, Rabbi Yonason Rosenblum
    • Cliffhanger - Rabbi Zev Leff in Outlooks and Insights


    Amos 9, 7 - 15


    If you grow up in a city it's easy to think that cucumbers grow in tin cans; that corn has no incarnation other than flakes, and that ketchup is bottled as it wells up from deep tomato springs.

    When it comes to the way Hashem runs the world, we are sometimes like a city kid who knows nothing of farming.

    Someone who had never been out of the city once found himself in the country watching a farmer plowing up the earth and sowing seed in the furrows. He thought to himself: "Here is someone in need of urgent psychiatric help. How could this guy bury perfectly good grain in the earth where it will rot?"

    Shortly afterward he went back to town. Had he stuck around, he would have witnessed the rotting seeds burgeon into heavy sheaves of wheat; their grain gathered in sufficiency for the whole year.

    When we see the wicked prosper and the righteous in dire adversity, we are like that city kid who went back to town before the harvest arrived. We only see the beginning of the process, not its purpose and completion.

    In the future when Hashem will reveal His providential guidance of the world we will understand the purpose of every single event, however seemingly illogical or unfair.

    Then we will see the plowing from the perspective of the harvesting - "When the plower will encounter the reaper..."

    (The Dubna Maggid)

    Selections from classical Torah sources
    which express the special relationship between the People of Israel and Eretz Yisrael

    When the Prophet Chavakuk (3:6) spoke of Hashem "measuring the earth," this measuring, says Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, encompassed many things.

    He measured all the nations and found only Israel worthy of receiving the Torah; all the generations and found only the generation which left Egypt worthy of receiving the Torah; all the mountains and found only Sinai worthy as the site for giving the Torah; all the cities and found only Jerusalem worthy of building the Beis Hamikdash in it.

    Similarly, Hashem measured all the lands, and found only Eretz Yisrael worthy of being given to the People of Israel.

    (Vayikra Rabbah 13)

    The Love of the Land series is also available in one document in these formats: [HTML] [Word] [PDF] Explanation of these symbols

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