Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Parashat Acharei Mot
Volume XVII, No. 29
24 Nissan 5763
April 26, 2003
Tamid 5:6 -6:1
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Avodah Zarah 44
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Yoma 4
Much of this week's parashah is devoted to describing the
sacrificial service that the Kohen Gadol was required to perform
whenever he entered the Kodesh Ha'kodashim/The Holy of Holies.
The Torah says (Vayikra 16:2), "He shall not come at all times
into the Sanctuary . . ." Why not?
Rashi explains: "Because My Shechinah is revealed there, Aharon
should be careful not to enter regularly." R' Chaim Shmuelevitz
z"l (1902-1979; Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva in Shanghai and Yerushalayim)
elaborates, saying: "Habit is the greatest enemy of one who
wishes to feel holy and uplifted. When one stands opposite that
which is sublime and exalted, and in his soul burn sparks of a
holy fire, habit sneaks in and douses the embers one by one until
the entire fire is extinguished."
R' Shmuelevitz continues: The prophet Yechezkel writes (46:9),
"When the populace comes before Hashem on the appointed days,
whoever comes in by way of the northern gate [of the Temple] to
prostrate himself shall go out by way of the southern gate, and
whoever comes in by way of the southern gate shall go out by way
of the northern gate. He shall not return by way of the gate
through which he came in; rather, he shall go out opposite it."
R' Yosef Yaavetz z"l (died 1507) explains that Hashem does not
want a person to see one of the gates twice lest he equate it in
his mind with the gate of his own house. Likewise, one should
not see the same wall of the Bet Hamikdash twice lest he equate
it with the walls of his own house. In fact, writes R' Yaavetz,
this is what caused the sin of the Golden Calf, for they took the
Ohel Mo'ed/Tent of Meeting for granted and began to despise it.
Therefore, after the sin, we read (Shemot 33:7) that Moshe
dismantled the Tent and rebuilt it outside of the camp. (Sichot
Mussar 5731, No. 16)
"B'zot / Thus shall Aharon enter the Holy . . ."
The gematria of the word "b'zot" is 410, alluding to the 410
years that the first Temple stood. The second Temple is not
alluded to here because the Holy of Holies in the second Temple
did not contain the aron (which had been hidden away), and was
less holy than in the first Temple.
(Rav Yisrael Isserlin z"l, author of Terumat Hadeshen)
"You shall safeguard My charge . . ." (18:30)
The gemara (Yevamot 21a) interprets this verse to mean that the
Sages should enact decrees to "protect" the laws of the Torah and
to distance people from sin. Thus, the Sages decreed, for
example, that the nighttime Shema should be recited before
midnight, even though the Torah permits Shema to be recited all
night. Other examples of rabbinic decrees based on this verse
include those Shabbat prohibitions which are of rabbinic origin
and whose purpose is to lessen the chance that one will violate a
We read in Bereishit (3:3) that Chava said, "Of the fruit of
the tree which is in the center of the garden G-d has said, 'You
shall neither eat of it nor touch it, lest you die'." In fact,
Hashem had never said that. He did say that if Adam and Chava
ate of the Tree of Knowledge they would die, but He never said
that they would die if they touched the Tree!
Why did Chava "misquote" G-d? The midrash Avot De'Rabbi Natan
(Chapter 1) teaches that Adam made the type of decree to which
this verse refers. Adam was trying to distance Chava from
sinning by extending the prohibition farther than the Torah
required. Unfortunately, the plan backfired when the snake
pushed Chava against the tree and said, "You see? You did not
die! Similarly, you will not die if you eat from the tree."
[Apparently, Chava did not know what Hashem had really said. If
she did, the snake's ploy would not have worked. (See Binyan
Yehoshua to Avot De'Rabbi Natan, Ch. 1.)]
R' Yisrael Yaakov Lubchansky z"l (mashgiach ruchani of the Ohel
Torah Yeshiva in Baranovitch, Poland) asks: Why is making decrees
that extend the Torah's prohibitions good for us if it was bad
for our ancestor Chava? He explains:
In Parashat Naso, the laws of Sotah and the laws of Nazir are
adjacent to each other. Why? This teaches, the gemara explains,
that one who sees the humiliation of a Sotah should be inspired
to recognize the danger of excessive drinking and should take the
vow of a Nazir. On the other hand, we are taught that one who
takes the vow of a Nazir without having such a reason is
considered to be a sinner. In general, one should not refrain
from enjoying the good things that Hashem created unless one has
a good reason for doing so.
Adam and Chava were made by G-d's Hands and had no yetzer hara.
They had no reason to make decrees in addition to the Torah's
prohibition. About Adam's decree, one can say (in the words of
the Sages), "Whoever adds, detracts." But for us, who are under
constant attack from the yetzer hara, additional decrees are good
and are necessary.
(Quoted in Haggadah Shel Peach Baranovitch p. 3)
"Make a fence for the Torah." (1:1)
R' Chaim of Volozhin z"l (died 1821) writes: The fence for the
Torah is Yirat Shamayim/Fear of Heaven. However, just as there
is no need for a fence around an empty field, so Yirah without
Torah knowledge is worthless. In the Sages' words (Shabbat 31b),
"It's a pity when one builds a door for an apartment, but has no
R' Yaakov Chaim z"l of Baghdad (1854-1920; son of R' Yosef
Chaim, the "Ben Ish Chai") offers several interpretations for the
injunction: "Make a fence for the Torah."
(1) Although the previous phrase in the Mishnah says, "Develop
many disciples," nevertheless, make a fence and do not accept a
student who clearly is morally unfit ("talmid sh'aino hagun").
(2) Make a fence to hold your words in, i.e., sometimes you
should keep your words to yourself. The Sages have taught, "Just
as it is a mitzvah to give reproof that will be listened to, so
it is a mitzvah not to give reproof that will not be listened
(3) Make a fence to keep what you have learned from escaping
from you, i.e., use mnemonic devices to remember what you have
(4) Make a fence that will separate your learning into
sections to fulfill the instruction if the Sages (Kiddushin 30a),
"One should always divide his learning in thirds: one-third
Bible, one-third Mishnah, and one-third Gemara."
(5) Make a fence to ensure that you teach your students on a
level that is appropriate to them.
(6) Protect your Torah study by dividing your time between
study and work, as we are taught (Avot 2:2), "All Torah study
that is not joined with work will cease in the end and leads to
"Avtalyon said: `Wise men - be careful with your words, lest
you be subjected to a decree of exile . . .' " (Chapter 1)
Why would wise men be subjected to exile if they are not
careful with their words? Rav Chaim Sanzer of Brody z"l explains
Chazal enacted various rabbinic decrees to distance us from the
possibility of transgressing Torah prohibitions. Some people
might say, "I do not have to observe the rabbinic decrees,
because I can be trusted not to transgress the related Torah
prohibitions." Even if this is so, says Avtalyon, be careful
with your words [i.e., the rabbinic laws], lest someone else
learn from you. If another person transgresses a serious Torah
law because he learned from you to be lax in the rabbinic
ordinances, you will be a manslaughterer in the eyes of G-d (and
a mansluaghterer's punishment is exile to a city of refuge).
(Peirush Rav Chaim Sanzer Mi'Brody)
R' Shalom Mashash z"l
Two weeks ago, on Shabbat Hagadol, Yerushalayim's Sefardic
Chief Rabbi and Av Bet Din (head) of the city's Rabbinical
Courts, R' Shalom Mashash, passed away at the age of 90. R'
Mashash served as Yerushalayim's Chief Rabbi for 25 years. Born
in Morocco, he was a considered a Torah prodigy and was a leading
student of Morocco's Chief Rabbi, R' Yehoshua Berdugo. R'
Mashash was appointed Chief Rabbi of Casablanca in the year 1949,
and later served as Chief Rabbi of Morocco.
R' Mashash wrote many books, edited many others, and left many
others in manuscript form. He wrote his first significant
scholarly work, Mizrach Shemesh at age 17, and his last work, a
Torah commentary, V'Cham Ha'shemesh, was published a few days
before his death.
In 1978, then-Israeli Chief Rabbi R' Ovadiah Yosef asked R'
Mashash to come to Yerushalayim and become its chief Sefardic
rabbinic authority. When he departed for Israel, R' Mashash was
escorted to the airport by Morocco's King Hassan, who requested
that the rabbi bless him one last time before his departure, and
that it be his last act on Moroccan soil.
R' Mashash's son, R' David Mashash, is currently the Chief
Rabbi of Paris.
R' Mashash was active right up to his last moments. A close
student, R' Eliyahu Aberjil, said, "I was with him on Thursday
night [before his passing] discussing with him a serious matter
of Jewish Law that had come up; he studied it until late in the
night and agreed to sign the ruling that I had issued. He was
very exact in preserving Sefardic customs. He would work full
days and nights to try to find a halachic solution for an agunah
or a psul-chitun [people who are halachically forbidden from
marrying], saying that he would do this for his sister, so why
not for someone else?" (Based on the report of Arutz Sheva,
April 13, 2003)
Copyright © 2002 by Shlomo Katz
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