Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Acharei Mot – Kedoshim
Volume XV, No. 27
12 Iyar 5761
May 5, 2001
Orach Chaim 435:1-436:2
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Gittin 87
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Avodah Zarah 21
This week, we read the double-parashah, Acharei Mot – Kedoshim. Numerous commentaries follow Ramban in explaining that the injunction of Kedoshim is to sanctify even that which the Torah does not regulate explicitly (“kadesh azmecha ba’mutar lecha”). This mitzvah enjoins us, for example, to refrain from eating in a gluttonous manner even when the food is strictly kosher and all the required blessings are recited.
Some commentaries note, however, that this idea is already alluded to in the closing section of Parashat Acharei Mot. We read (18:1), “Like the deeds of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled, you shall not do, and like the deeds of the land of Canaan to which I bring you, you shall not do, and do not follow their traditions.” Rashi notes that this verse appears to contain a redundancy (“Like the deeds . . . you shall not do, and do not follow their traditions”). The message, explains R’ Shalom Noach Brazovsky z”l (the “Slonimer Rebbe”; died 2000), is that not only shall you not repeat the sinful deeds of the Canaanites, but even when you are acting in a permitted manner, doing those things which are neither mitzvah nor sin, your behavior should be noticeably different and should have a “Jewish character.”
R’ Klonimus Kalman Shapiro z”l (the “Piaseczno Rebbe”; also called “The Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto”) wrote upon turning 40- years old: “What resolution can I make – to learn more Torah? I think that I already waste very little time. To control my desires? Thank G-d I am not subjugated to them. What am I lacking? To be a Jew.”
This is an awesome lesson, writes R’ Brazovsky. One can be fully devoted to Torah study and to acting in a holy manner, yet he can lack “Jewishness.” This is something a person must work on separately. (Netivot Shalom)
“They / ‘haim’ are sacred garments . . .” (16:4)
R’ Moshe Hager shlita (the “Vizhnitzer Rebbe”) commented: What is the sacred garment that distinguishes a Jew? Humility, signified by the word “haim” – the same Hebrew letters as “mah” / “what?” as in Moshe Rabbenu’s exclamation of humility (Shmot 16:7): “For ‘mah’ / what are we?” (Sichot U’ma’amarei Kodesh p. 338)
“You shall be kedoshim / holy, for I am holy, Hashem, your G- d.” (19:1)
R’ Aryeh Leib Zunz-Charif z’l (Poland; 1765-1833) observes: The first time that the word “holy” appears in the verse, it is spelled chaser / incompletely, i.e., it lacks the letter “vav.” The second time, it is spelled with the letter “vav.” The message of these spellings is as follows:
When one attempts to become holy, the yetzer hara attacks him mercilessly. And, if not for the assistance that Hashem provides, one could never vanquish the yetzer hara. Thus, the holiness that a person achieves independently is necessarily incomplete, and only because Hashem is holy and He lends a hand can man’s holiness be complete. (Melo Ha’omer)
“You shall not hate your brother in your heart; you shall surely reprove your fellow . . .” (19:17)
In the Torah, we find two different words that refer to the heart. One is the word “lev,” which refers to the yetzer hara (as in Bereishit 8:21). The second is the word “levav,” which refers to the entire heart, including both the good and evil inclinations (see Rashi to Devarim 6:5).
Our verse uses the word “levav.” Why? Is it not only the yetzer hara, not the yetzer hatov, which hates? R’ Yitzchak Parchi z”l (1782-1853; the “Maggid Ha’Yerushalmi”) explains in the name of R’ Avraham Mizrachi z”l:
The gemara (Pesachim 113b) teaches that if one person — call him Reuven — sees another person — call him Shimon — sin but is unable to testify against him in court (because two witnesses are needed in order to prosecute a sinner), Reuven is permitted to hate Shimon. This, explains R’ Parchi, is hate that comes from the yetzer hatov.
Although such hatred is permitted, continues R’ Parchi, our verse is instructing that it should be avoided. Why? Because Mishlei (27:19) teaches: “As water reflects a face back to a face, so one’s heart is reflected back to him by another.” In other words, if Reuven hates Shimon, even with the Torah’s permission, Shimon will sense this hatred and will come to hate Reuven. But, since Shimon has no basis for hating Reuven, his hatred of Reuven will be sinat chinam / baseless hatred, which is itself a sin. Therefore, in order to prevent Shimon from committing yet another sin (i.e., sinat chinam), Reuven should not hate Shimon.
What should Reuven do instead? Our verse tells us: “You shall surely reprove your fellow.” (Matok La’nefesh p. 129)
Akavia ben Mahalalel said, “Consider three things and you will not come into the grip of sin: Know from where you came, where you are destined to go, and before Whom you will give account and reckoning. ‘From where you came’ – from a putrid drop; ‘Where you are destined to go’ – to a place of dust etc.; ‘And before Whom you are destined to give justification and reckoning’ – before the King who reigns over kings, the Holy One, Blessed is He.” (Chapter 3, mishnah 1)
R’ Samson R. Hirsch z”l (Germany; 1808-1888) comments: Most of our sins are outgrowths of an over-emphasis of the sensuous physical aspects of our being and of their demands, and of a disregard or, at least, of insufficient regard for the spiritual and moral facets of our personality and its purpose. We must bear in mind at all times that, someday, we will be called upon to render strict accounting for the manner in which we fulfilled, or failed to fulfill, this — our purpose. We are reminded, too, that our whole sensuous bodily being is doomed to decay from the very beginning. It is only the spiritual and moral element within us, that part of us which is conscious of its destiny and is capable of decision and judgment over our actions, that will survive the decay of the purely physical and will enter into eternity. There it will render an accounting as to the extent to which it has achieved its destiny on earth, and as to the manner in which it has husbanded the resources and the faculties with which it had been endowed for this purpose. And, the One before Whom this accounting is to be made is none other than He Who is the absolute Ruler over all things and Who is fully able to ensure for Himself the ultimate total obedience of all things and all men. (The Hirsch Siddur p. 450)
This week, we present the introduction to the halachic code Mishnah Berurah by R’ Yisroel Meir Hakohen z”l (the “Chafetz Chaim”; approximately 1838 – 1933):
Blessed is Hashem, the G-d of the heavens and the G-d of the earth, Who created everything in His kindness in six days and, in the end, created man. This man is the least numerous among the creatures and was the last one created, but qualitatively – if he merits to attach himself to Hashem and if runs to do His will – he is the most important among the creations. This is the meaning of the verses (Yishayah 66:1-2), “Thus said Hashem, ‘The heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool; . . . My hand created all these things and thus all these things came into being – this is the word of Hashem – but it is to this that I look: to the poor and broken-spirited man who is zealous regarding My word’.” Everything was prepared for man during the Six Days and under his control were placed the fish of the sea and the birds of the heaven and everything that moves on the land. All of this was prepared for his convenience and to serve him, and he was created to serve his Master by studying Torah and performing mitzvot. For this purpose the whole world was created . . .
I have explained elsewhere the verse [in this week’s parashah, 18:5]: “You shall observe My decrees and My laws, which man shall carry out and by which he shall live.” Onkelos interprets: “By which he shall live an eternal life.” The explanation of this is as it sounds. It is known that every one of the creations, whether man down here on earth or that which is found in the sky or even the higher creations, they all need sustenance from Hashem, for only Hashem Himself is complete [on His own]. . . However, the sustenance of the higher beings is not like ours, for it is spiritual “food.” It is plain that even the neshamah / soul needs “food” after it leaves the physical body, just as one would not think that merely because the body has removed its weekday clothes and dressed itself in Shabbat clothes that it would not need food thereafter. [The author apparently is referring to the elevated spiritual state that one attains on Shabbat which is said to be a glimpse of the World-to-Come.] . . . [The soul] cannot live eternally on physical food precisely because that food is physical and because, since such food is part of this world, which is bound by time, it can only sustain a person for a short time, whether one or two days – but forever, certainly not! Therefore, Hashem, in his great mercy, gave us the holy Torah which is eternal, and, by observing it, one shines the light of Hashem on his soul, and from that light we derive pleasure [and sustenance in the World-to-Come]. [This is the meaning of the verse at the beginning of this paragraph and Onkelos’ comment.]
Now! Although the mitzvah of learning Torah is fulfilled by learning any part of the Torah, even Kodshim and Taharot [which have little practical application when the Temple is not standing], nevertheless, man’s primary study must be that which leads to action . . . Look in Yoreh Deah (chapter 246), in the commentary of the Siftei Kohen, where he quotes from the work called Prishah that man must study halachah / law every day so that his study will lead to action. Through studying halachah, one is guaranteed life in the World-to-Come, but one must take care to study every day . . .
Therefore, it is obvious that the section [of the Shulchan Aruch] called Orach Chaim should be the first one studied. [Ed. note: This section includes the laws of prayer, blessings and Shabbat, among others.] Although all four sections of the Shulchan Aruch are necessary in order to act [properly], nevertheless, this section must come first because it is crucial for every day of a person’s life, and, without it, no Jew can even lift a hand or a foot.
Marcia Goodman and family, in memory of parents and grandparents Yehuda Zvi ben Shlomo Halevi a”h and Rivka bat Yehuda Leib Halevi a”h
Copyright © 2000 by Shlomo Katz and Project Genesis, Inc.
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