Understand the Warning
"...the two of them shall be put to death..." (20:11)
Parshas Kedoshim contains the consequences that befall a person
who engages in the prohibited consanguineous relationships. In the previous
parsha, Acharei Mos, the Torah enjoins Bnei Yisroel from engaging in these
relationships. This reflects the Talmudic dictum "ein onshim elah im kein
mazhirim" - "A punitive action is not meted out for the transgression of a
prohibition unless there is a prior scriptural warning." Why does the
Torah divide the warnings and the punishments into two separate parshios?
A legal system which expects its citizens to abide by its laws for fear of
the consequences that occur if the laws are broken is doomed to fail. If the
only restraint is punishment, man will risk the negative consequences to
attain the perceived benefits. Only a system which instructs its adherents
to abide by the laws because transgression of them is inherently wrong and
damaging to the individual, can be successful. Therefore, the Torah
separates the directives enjoining us from engaging in these illicit acts
from the consequences that accompany them to illustrate that we should not
adhere to these rules out of fear of punishment, but because they are
2.See Makkos 17b
Stand Up For Yourself
"In the presence of an old person shall you rise..." (19:32)
The Torah instructs a person to rise in respect of the sagacity
of a scholar. The verse concludes "veyareisa meilokecha ani Hashem" - "and
you shall fear your G-d, I am Hashem". Citing the Talmud, Rashi explains
that the Torah juxtaposes the two parts of the verse for a person may
pretend not to see a scholar to avoid standing for him. Therefore, we are
reminded to fear Hashem for He is aware of our thoughts. If the sage is
unaware that he was seen why is the person still obligated to stand?
The Talmud states that if a sage has the option of walking through an area
that will require people to stand for him or take a circuitous route, he
should opt for the second path. The Talmud cites a verse to uphold this
ruling. The implication is that if there had been no verse concerning
this issue, it would be preferable to walk through the area that requires
others to rise. The message that the Torah is delivering is that the
obligation to stand for a sage is not a "bein adam lechaveiro" - "between
man and his fellow man" responsibility. Rather, it is a "bein adam l'atzmo"
- "between man and himself" responsibility. This precept is aimed at
sensitizing man to the awe and respect that he must have for the Torah and
those who study it. Consequently, one could have assumed that the sage is
required to take the path that will require people to stand, not for his own
benefit but to instill within the people the necessary sensitivities.
Therefore, even if the scholar is unaware that a person is standing for him
the individual is still obligated to stand.
The Friendly Teacher
"...you shall love your fellow as yourself..." (19:18)
There appears to be a contradiction between two Mishnayos in
Pirkei Avos. In the second chapter we are enjoined to afford our friends
the same honor we afford ourselves. In the fourth chapter however, we
discover that the honor that we must have for our friends equals that of the
honor we afford our teachers. To assume that this is a Tannaic dispute is
a difficult position to maintain for if there were divergent opinions they
would have been recorded side by side in the same Mishna. How do we
reconcile the apparent contradiction?
The position requiring us to respect a friend with the same intensity as we
would our teacher is apparently refuted by a verse in this week's parsha.
The Torah commands "v'ahavta l'reiyacha kamocha" - "you shall love your
friend as yourself." Clearly the emphasis is "as yourself" not greater
than yourself. If so, why does the Mishna in the fourth chapter require that
the honor afforded to a friend be equal to that of a teacher, which is
presumably greater than the honor a person expects for himself?
The Rambam cites Aristotle who defines different levels of friendship.
During his lifetime, a person may have many friends The most common type are
friends with whom a person shares experiences; although he may enjoy their
company, a person still maintains a facade, unwilling to present his
vulnerabilities to them for fear that they may use this information against
him. This form of relationship is defined by the Rambam as "ahavas
hato'eles" - "a friendship based upon shared convenience". Very rarely do we
find a friend in whom we place our complete trust and to whom we are willing
to let down our guard and share our insecurities. This only occurs if we
sense that this friend is completely dedicated to our growth and his actions
are motivated by his concern for our best interests.
There is no contradiction between the two Mishnayos. They are identifying
different relationships. We must treat a friend with whom we share
experiences with the same level of respect that we would afford ourselves..
It is this form of friend whom we are commanded by the Torah to make an
effort to love, to take the relationship to a higher level than one of
convenience. The second Mishna is referring to the friend who is dedicated
to our growth. This type of friend must be afforded the respect that one
would a teacher.
4.Rambam's commentary to Avos 1:6