Saturday, May 5, 2012

Acharei & Kedoshim

The Torah Portion of Acharei

The first service within the inner sanctuary on Yom Kippur is the Ketoret (incense offering) which atones for Lashon Hara (evil speech).  "There should come something which occurs secretly and atone for something which occurs secretly", and the Chafetz Chaim says that if there wouldn't have been an atonement at the start of the service for Lashon Hara, all the service of the day would not have been effective.

"For on this day He will atone for you to purify, etc..." (Vayikra 16:30)

The verse begins with a language of atonement and ends with a language of purification, since the sin which a person transgresses, G-d forbid, besides the essence of the sin itself, also defiles and blocks up the heart, and that is why it says that Yom Kippur atones as well as purifies.

"Before Hashem you will become purified."  (Vayikra 16:30) 

The teachers of Mussar (ethics) say that before Yom Kippur we need to purify ourselves, and not wait until Yom Kippur.

The Torah Portion of Kedoshim:

"Do not go as a talebearer." (Vayikra 19:16)

With Lashon Hara (evil speech) one transgresses 17 negative commandments, 14 positive commandments, and 4 curses.  The Sages say that Lashon Hara causes poverty.  There is a hint  to this in the word "Parnassah" (a livelihood), which has the same letters as "Peh Ressen" (reign in the mouth), since one who reigns in his mouth from speaking Lashon Hara will have an abundant livelihood.  The Sages say that the generation of Achav were idol worshipers and yet they went down to war and were victorious since they did not have among them speakers of Lashon Hara (i.e., slanderers).  But the generation of Shaul would go down to war and not be victorious, even though there was no idol worship, because they had among them wicked people who spoke Lashon Hara.

"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem." (Vayikra 19:18)

 There is a story told about two friends, who loved and were faithful to one another.  One time false charges were brought up against one of them, and the court system decreed a death penalty on him, and his faithful friend tried with all his strength to do everything in his power to save him from the death sentence, but it was to no avail.  And then, at the time that the bitter day arrrived and he  (the one sentenced to death) was already being led to the place of the gallows, and his friend saw how they were bringing him chained and with ropes around his neck, G-d forbid, he felt great pain and suffering, and was not able to see that his friend and close companion was being led that way to death. And he wasn't able to hold himself back, and in his agitation he ran to the place of the gallows shouting "Gevalt! Don't kill a man who is innocent of any crime, who didn't do anything!  I am the one who did the crime and it wasn't him!"  He did that from his great love because he couldn't bear to see the death of his friend and he requested  that they would carry out the death sentence on him and not on his friend who was an upright person.  And the executioners, who wanted to perform their role in carrying out the death sentence, were agitated and astonished, and they wondered, is such a thing possible that the guilty will be acquitted and the innocent will be found guilty? And then the one who had been sentenced to death himself, courageously raised his voice and declared that his friend had intentionally spoken a lie, in order to save me from your hands and he is prepared to die in my place.  And also he (the one who had been sentenced to death), from the great love he felt for his friend, didn't agree that his friend would sacrifice his life for him.  While they were still arguing between themselves about which one was telling the truth, a great ruckuss was made around them, until the matter came to the ears of the king.  The king was very moved by seeing that a great love like this could exist between two close companions, and he immediately canceled the death sentence, and requested from them to please include him also as a partner in their friendship.  Similarly, the Holy One Blessed Be He, when He sees that there is love and friendship between a man and his fellow man, as it were, He also wants to include Himself with them, and that it why it is written in the verse "And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem"; if you will love one  each other, "I am Hashem", I will be a partner in your love. (from Mayana Shel Torah)

"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem."  (Vayikra 19:18)

The Holy One Blessed Be He says that the way in which you behave towards your fellowman will be the way that I behave towards you. (from Otzar HaChaim)

"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem."  (Vayikra 19:18)

The Sefat Emet says that this Mitzvah is very difficult to fulfill, and therefore the verse ends with the words "I am Hashem", that if you truly want to fulfill it, I (Hashem) will help you to do so.

"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, this is a great general principle of the Torah."  (from Rabbi Akiva)  

To be concerned that your friend will make progress in the Torah (i.e. in his Torah learning and observance), that is a worthwhile way of loving your neighbor.

"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, I am Hashem."  (Vayikra 19:18)

In the Aruch HaShulchan Orach Chaim paragraph 215 sub-point 1, it is written that someone who hears that they are making a Mishebairach (i.e.,a blessing at the Torah reading for a sick person to recover from illness)  for someone, it is proper to answer Amen and to fulfill by doing that the Mitzvah of loving your neighbor as yourself.

"And you shall love your neighbor as yourself, this is a great general principle of the Torah."  (from Rabbi Akiva)  

It is written in the Gemarrah that one time a non-Jew came to Hillel HaZakein and said to him, Rabbi, convert me to Judaism on the condition that you will teach me all of the Torah on one foot.  Hillel said to him, this is a general principle which you should carry in your hands, that which is hateful to you, don't do it to your friend and now go finish it.  The explanation is, that which you hate if people do it to you, don't do to your friend, and the rest of the Mitzvot of the Torah you can learn from this general principle.  Now, regarding the intellectually logical Mitzvot (i.e., commandments and prohibitions)  such as stealing, robbery, extortion, returning a lost object, murder, and the like, it's understandable how they are included in this general principle.  But regarding Mitzvot concerning the eating of pork, Sha'atnez (wearing garments of linen mixed with wool), Klai'im (planting crops of different varieties mixed together), and the like, it is not understandable how they are included in this general principle.  The Mateh Yosef wrote that he heard from the Chatam Sofer ztzuk"l, a parable about a boy who was an orphan without a father or mother, who didn't have anything.  A rich man met him and took him to his house, raised him and taught him and gave him everything that he lacked.  When the boy grew up and it became known to him that this man, who wasn't his real father, had given him benefits just as if he were one of his real children, he recognized that he needed to thank the wealthy man beyond all measure. One day the wealthy man went with the orphan to teach him about commercial business methods and they came to a big city and entered a very big store full of expensive merchandise, and the wealthy man said to the orphan, choose for yourself here merchandise for your wardrobe, and even if it is the most expensive clothing in the store I am prepared to pay for you.  And the orphan chose for himself a very expensive item, and the wealthy man looked and saw that it was a red colored garment, and he said "It bothers me very much that you chose the color red, which I dislike; chose for yourself from the other colors whichever one you want and at whatever high price, whatever is good in your eyes, but only the color red don't pick for yourself."  Now certainly, the orphan is required to nullify his own choice and fulfill with great delight the will of the wealthy benefactor who gave him many great benefits.  And if he doesn't do so and rebels against the wealthy man's will and takes the red garment he is despicable and lacks gratitude, and certainly it would be correct for the rich man to get angry at the despicability of this orphan.  The lesson to be learned from this parable applies to the people of Israel in relationship to Our Father in Heaven (Hashem).  Hashem in His compassion has allowed us to eat various livestock, animals and birds, but has prohibited us from eating pork.  He has allowed us to wear clothing from anything that we desire, only that there should not be Sha'atnez (linen and wool mixed together) within it.  He has allowed us to plant all the crops in the world and to plant all the vineyards according to what is good in our eyes, only not Klai'im (mixtures of different kinds of plants together in one place).  Now certainly we are required to fulfill with great delight the will of our Father, the Compassionate Father, and if we don't fulfill it then we are despicable, we are destructive children.  But if we take to heart the idea, "that which is hateful to you, don't do to your friend",  go and consider, if you were to do so many good things for your friend just like the Holy One Blessed Be He does for you, and if he were to do something against your will, wouldn't you be angry and wouldn't you punish him appropriately? Similarly, you should think how you are required to do the will of your Creator who gives you life and health and intelligence and understanding and houses and fields and vineyards, and doesn't request from you anything except to be in awe of Him and to serve Him and to fulfill His will.  It is simply apparent  that you are required to fulfill His will with a strong desire and it is well understood how all the entire Torah is included in the Mitzvah of "You shall love your neighbor as yourself". 

The Torah Portion of Acharei has 80 verses, 2 positive commandments, and 26 negative commandments.  The Torah Portion of Kedoshim has 64 verses, 13 positive commandments, and 38 negative commandments.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor ben R' Chaim ztz"l

Shabbat Shalom!

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