These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: CD #1029 — Must a Person Eat Bread in Order to Bentch? Good Shabbos!
The Power of the Kohen Gadol Stems from the Power of the People
Parshas Acharei Mos is the parsha which details the ritual of the Avodas Yom haKippurim [Yom Kippur Service] in the Beis HaMikdash. That is why we read from this parsha on Yom Kippur morning, and the entire Tractate Yoma revolves around how to exegetically interpret the pesukim in this week’s Torah reading. If that is the case, we would expect the parsha to have begun with pasuk 16:2, “And Hashem said to Moshe: Speak to Aaron your brother – he may not come at all times into the Sanctuary, within the Curtain…”. And yet, the opening pasuk in the parsha is the one which precedes this introduction to the Avodas Yom haKippurim.
The Parsha begins: “Hashem spoke to Moses after the death of Aaron’s two sons, when they approached before Hashem, and they died.” [Vayikra 16:1] Why is this pasuk here? Nadav and Avihu died earlier in Parshas Shemini. Offhand, we would say it is non-germane to the whole subject of Avodas Yom HaKippurim. Rashi raises this issue. Rashi explains by way of a parable, in the name of the Tanna Rav Elazar ben Azarya:
It can be compared to a sick person to whom a doctor entered to treat. The doctor said to him “Do not eat cold food, and do not lie in a damp, chilly place.” Another doctor came and said to him, “Do not eat cold food and do not lie in a damp, chilly place, so that you will not die the way that So-and-So died.” This second doctor motivated him to follow his instructions more than the first doctor. That is why it says “after the death of Aaron’s two sons”; “And Hashem said to Moshe: Speak to Aaron, your brother – he may not come…” so that he will not die, the way that his sons died.
Figuratively speaking, Hashem was putting the Fear of G-d into Aharon here: “You better do this right, so you won’t die like Nadav and Avihu died!” This is Rashi’s approach.
However, the example given needs to be analyzed. Let us say a person comes into a doctor and has emphysema. The doctor will tell him, “You know, you have to stop smoking.” Another person will come into the doctor with high cholesterol. Will the doctor tell him “You know, that other fellow died from emphysema. You better watch it too!”? The patient will rightly respond, “That has nothing to do with me. I don’t have emphysema; I have high cholesterol!”
The fact that the Torah mentions “After the death of Aharon’s two sons” is not directly germane to the Avodas Yom haKippurim. How is that supposed to put the fear of death into Aharon when he performs the Avodas Yom haKippurim? Why did Nadav and Avihu die? It was because they offered a “foreign fire” before Hashem. Aharon is not going to do that!
Chazal actually have an entire list of suggestions as to why Nadav and Avihu died: They died because they “taught the halacha in front of their master”; they died because they did not get married and have children; they died because they drank wine before entering the Bais Hamikdash. All these reasons are cited about Aharon’s sons. Those reasons were not applicable to Aharon, and they were not applicable to Avodas Yom haKippurim.
So this whole parable Rashi presents is problematic. The example being cited (the death of Nadav and Avihu) is not germane to Aharon, and would not seem to scare, or in any other way motivate him, to properly perform the Avodas Yom haKippurim.
Obviously, we must say that Nadav and Avihu did do something related to the Avodas Yom haKippurim. Somehow, proper Avodas Yom haKippurim must be placed at the exact opposite end of the spiritual spectrum from that which Nadav and Avihu did.
The Sefer Tiferes Shlomo clarifies Rashi’s intention. The fact that the Torah says that the righteous Nadav and Avihu brought “a foreign fire before Hashem” is a very difficult issue, particularly inasmuch as Chazal give a host of other reasons for which they were punished, as stated above. What is the connection between their bringing a “foreign fire” and doing all the other things listed by Chazal? The Tiferes Shlomo’s contention is that their primary aveira [sin], and all the derivatives thereof, stemmed from one thing: “…when they drew near before Hashem and they died.” [Vayikra 16:1]
They had this burning passion to come close before the Ribono shel Olam in their own way. They perceived that the way the rest of Klal Yisrael conducted themselves was all fine and good for the masses (the ‘hamon am’). They did not consider themselves to be part of the ‘proletariat.’ They felt, “We are higher. We have a different protocol than everyone else.” They saw themselves — by virtue of their having “drawn near before Hashem” — to be separated from the people. That is why they did not take the fire from the outer Altar the way they were supposed to. They said to themselves: What is the “Outer Altar”? That is the Public Altar. We do not want to have anything to do with the public.
That, too, is why they did not get married. “Regular people need to get married. We are above that. We want to be closer to the Ribono shel Olam.” That is why they did not want to have children. “Children? They are a pain! Diapers! This, that — we do not need that. That is not the way to get close to the Ribono shel Olam.”
Therefore, the common denominator of all their shortcomings is linked to this perception of their wanting to have their own approach to G-d, stemming from their feeling of being uniquely close to Him. They wanted to be separate from the people.
Avodas Yom HaKippurim is the opposite of that. The Kohen Gadol enters the Kodesh Hakodashim [Holy of Holies] once a year, on Yom Kippur. The Kli Yakar explains that he is permitted to go into this holy place on Yom Kippur because on that day Klal Yisrael is pure. The Kohen Gadol, who represents Klal Yisrael, can only enter then because of the holiness of the entire nation on that unique day. He does not enter as an individual. He enters as the representative of the people, because of his connection to the people.
This is the connection between the warning to Aharon before beginning the Avodas Yom HaKippurim, and the reminder of the death of his two sons. They did not see themselves as connected to — and representatives of — the rest of the nation. Rather, they died as a result of seeking personal closeness to the Almighty.
The concern of the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur must be the concern of ‘amcha’ – the regular people, for the spiritual power of the Kohen Gadol is from the spiritual power of the people.
Our Prayers Should be for what We Truly Need
The above thought leads us to another matter. The Talmud teaches in Tractate Yoma [53b] that when the Kohen Gadol [High Priest] exited from the Kodesh Hakodashim [Holy of Holies], he uttered a “brief prayer” (Tefilla Ketzara). This was a prayer that was solely related to Klal Yisrael. What was this prayer that the Kohen Gadol recited upon emerging from the Kodesh Hakodashim?
#1. Klal Yisrael should retain its sovereignty over itself, and should not be subjugated to any other government or political power.
#2. Everyone in Your nation should have a decent livelihood; they should not have to beg from one another, or from others.
#3. Do not accept the prayers of the travelers. (Travelers pray that there should be good weather, and that it should not rain while they are on the road.)
As mentioned above, on Yom Kippur, the Kohen Gadol is attached to Klal Yisrael. He enters the Kodesh Hakodashim in the merit of Klal Yisrael. The fire he takes into the Kodesh Hakodashim is from the Outer Mizbayach [Altar], the “mizbayach of the people.” His focus must be on the people at all times.
When he emerges from the Kodesh Hakodashim, he utters a short prayer. He does not have a lot of time. These are the three most important things this holy person is praying for in that holy place, at that holy moment, on the holiest day of the year. Clearly, the first two components of this prayer are vital, and of global significance, but what about the third component? Is not accepting the travelers’ prayers in the same league as continued sovereignty and sustenance?
The sefer Bei Chiya cites this question, and brings an explanation from the sefer Divrei Yechezkel on Tehillim. I believe that what he says is a very important concept.
The pasuk in Tehillim 22:2 says, “…rachok m’yeshuasi, divrei sha’agasi” [So far from my salvation are the words of my scream]. That which I scream (daven and pray) for is so distant from the salvation I really need. The Divrei Yechezkel says that people do not realize what their needs really are. Rather than thinking globally — in terms of the big picture — they think in terms of trivialities. They merely think in terms of those needs which are right in front of their noses. The reason the Ribono shel Olam does not respond to my prayers is because I am praying for what I do not really need.
We daven that our child who is in Little League should get a hit so that he will not be embarrassed in front of his friends. But that is a trivial matter. A year from now, it will not make the slightest difference if he got the hit or not. This, however, is what we are thinking about. It is on our head because our kid is crying that he struck out. It is disturbing to us. But do not waste your tefillos on such nonsense! Rachok m’yeshuasi, divrei sha’agasi. The Divrei sha’agasi [that which I am crying about] are so distant from what I really need! People are short-sighted. They fail to see beyond the here and now. They do not look at the future.
Tefillos need to be big. They need to be important. They need to focus on what we really need, and what Klal Yisrael really needs. They need to be karov l’yeshuasi – close to the mark of where my true needs really are.
When the Kohen Gadol prays on Yom Kippur “Let the prayers of the wayfarers not come in before You,” he is not only davening about the travelers. The travelers are symptomatic of people who only daven for the here and now. Joe Traveler needs to be on the road today, so he davens that it should not rain. Do not be small minded. Do not be so transient and so temporal. Think big. Think about what you really need. By praying not to accept the prayers of the travelers, the Kohen Gadol is beseeching the Almighty not to accept people’s trivial prayers. People should have the capacity to daven for that which is important and truly significant.
Among the big things the Kohen Gadol davens for — Sovereignty and Livelihood — he also prays that people should daven for the right things that they really need, and that they should allow the trivialities to fall by the wayside.
Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]
Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]
This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Kedoshim is provided below:
- CD# 009 – Prohibition Against Using a Razor
- CD# 052 – Prohibition Against Revenge
- CD# 095 – The Mezonos Roll: Does it Exist?
- CD# 143 – Inviting the Non-Observant to Your Shabbos Table
- CD# 190 – The Prohibition of Negiah
- CD# 236 – The Do’s & Don’ts of Giving Tochacha
- CD# 280 – “Lo Sa’amod Al Dam Re’echa”
- CD# 326 – Mipnei Seiva Takum: Honoring the Elderly
- CD# 370 – Deserts — Do They Require a Brocha?
- CD# 414 – Giving an Injection to One’s Father
- CD# 458 – Giving Tochacha: Private or Public?
- CD# 502 – Kissui HaDam
- CD# 546 – Treating Mitzvos with Respect
- CD# 590 – Sofaik Be’racha
- CD# 634 – The Prohibition of Hating Another Jew
- CD# 678 – Tochacha: Is Ignorance Bliss?
- CD# 722 – Stealing as a Practical Joke
- CD# 766 – Making Shiduchim Among Non-Observant
- CD# 810 – The Prohibition of Hating Another Jew
- CD# 854 – Tatoos: Totally Taboo?
- CD# 898 – Paying the Plumber and the Babysitter
- CD# 943 – Oy! They Shaved My Payos
- CD# 985 – Giving the Benefit of the Doubt – Always?
- CD#1029 – Must a Person Eat Bread in Order to Bentch?
- CD#1074 – Paying for Someone’s Expensive Medical Treatment
- CD#1116 – Eating Before Davening
- CD#1158 – “I Don’t Want You Spending Time With So-and-so”-Must a child listen?
- CD#1202 – A Bracha On Tums? On Listerine Strips? And Other Brachos Issues
A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit http://www.yadyechiel.org/ for further information.