Acharei Mot 5771 – Gilayon #698

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Parshat Achary Mot – Pessah

Rabbi Hiya taught: the Torah spoke of four son;

a wise son, a wicked son, a stupid son, and a son who does not know how to ask.

(Yerushalmi Pesahim 10,4)


My honored father of blessed memory said: that at

first it was said, "Blessed be He who gave Torah to His people Israel,

blessed be He," and afterward, "the Torah spoke of four sons,"

because by virtue of the Torah it is even possible to correct the wicked

son." The exile in Egypt

was of clay and bricks, and it is written in the Holy Zohar,

"in heavy clay" – in the heaviness of logical syllogisms; "in

whitened bricks" – in whitening the Halakha. In

making vessels fit to use there is boiling and there is whitening, and the

greatest fitness is that of whitening, and this is the whitening of the Halakha.

("Imrei Emet" by Rabbi Abraham

Mordecai Alter of Gur).


In Chapter Ten of Mishnah Pesahim, the Pesah Hagadah is described, and there it says: according to the

son's mind, thus his father should teach him. It is possible to see the Midrash on the four sons as an extension and filling out of

this statement, i.e.: that every son should be taught according to his

character and abilities.

The four sons represent stages in a person's life, and

the ways of education appropriate to them:

The one who does not know how to ask is an infant.

The innocent one is a child who has begun his

education and acquaintance with the world.

The wicked one is an adolescent, who is examining the

boundaries of his identity and affiliation by rebelling against

adult culture.

The wise son is an adult who is committed to the

culture and wishes to know its meanings.

Within every person there are various psychic forces

that are mingled. Every one of us is wise and wicked as well as innocent and

unable to ask.


Proposal for Seder (Order), published by Yediot Aharonot – the "Judaism Here and Now" series)


Happy Holiday to all

the House of Israel

In the time of our

freedom, may we fulfill the verse:

And remember that you

were a slave in the Land

of Egypt:

Therefore I command

you to do this thing

"Do not oppress

the wage-earner, the poor, the destitute among your

brethren or among those who dwell in your land and at your gates."





let him not come to the holy place…

 and he will not die

Yossi Hatav

Both the name of our portion, "after the death,"

and the reference to the death of Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aaron, "in their approaching before

the Lord," before the warning that God wishes to convey to Aaron about the

conditions under which he is permitted to enter the Holy of Holies, invite us

to examine the story of the death of Aaron's sons in Parashat

Shemini (Lev. 10:1-7).

From the time of the revelation at Mount

Sinai, no production in the Torah was as gigantic and impressive

as that "eighth day." The Tabernacle was completed in the splendor of

"all that God commanded Moses." For seven

days the Priests prepared and studied the details of offering the sacrifices. They

were prepared, their clothing washed, their hair combed – the members of the

watch and the members of the order together, as stated in the Tractate Ta'anit. Everyone was naturally very excited.

Until then sacrifices had been private: Cain, Abel,

Noah, Abraham, and Jacob. These were spontaneous sacrifices, without

complicated laws, or they were family sacrifices like the Pesah

sacrifice: "a kid for every household, a kid for each house."

This time the sacrifices are public: the sacrifice of

the entire nation with a complex and obligatory protocol. Everyone is prepared,

gathered around the Tabernacle, and Moses rises and commands Aaron alone

to sacrifice the sin-offering and the sacrificial ram, and nothing more! And what about the rest of the Priests? Nadav and Avihu,

El'azar and Itamar? What

will come of all the complex preparation, the waiting and the expectation? Disappointment, anger, and perplexity.

Moses is also from the Tribe of Levi, and he knew that

his brethren found it difficult to restrain themselves. Jacob, long before

Moses, took note of the violent nature of Levi and his brother Simeon: "Simeon

and Levi are brothers: instruments of cruelty are in their habitations."

At the inauguration of the Tabernacle, Moses confronts

his tribesmen with a test of their self-restraint, a necessary condition for

fulfilling the task of sacrificial priest. Moses turns to the people as a

people in general who must sacrifice, without the assistance of the Priests: "a

kid of the goats for a sin offering, and a calf and a lamb."

And the entire nation drew near, 603,550 men over the

age of twenty, and then "the glory of God appeared before them." The

entire people are involved in these sacrifices. Everyone wants to offer a

sacrifice and draw close and reach the peak, to see the glory of God, which is

what they feared to do so much on Mount Sinai.

But now they even wish to see the glory of God.

On this unique occasion, the people

are already "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" – a supreme

experience. Because sanctity, according to the late Rabbi

Raphael Luria, is "an extension of time and place in which people meet

their God," particularly on that eighth day, beyond the Sabbath, in that

place within and around the Tabernacle.

All of them together and each of them

individually experience the sanctity of nearness to

God: "among those close to me, I will sanctify." Those close to me

are the entire nation, and not various chosen ones who claim to speak in His

name and "know" His will and His intention. For the verse continues: "and

upon the entire nation I will be honored." And finally, "and Aaron

was silent." He accepted the judgment of the preference for the nation in

the eyes of God. God is sanctified and the nation is sanctified in the

closeness that is created by this act of approaching.

The choice of the sacrificial animal

is no coincidence, presumably, and the animal is a representation, in our

terms, the focus, of "the intellectual identification."

For Aaron the calf is a sin-offering,

because the sin was with the calf, which missed its target in the dreadful

event that had just occurred: the creation of the golden calf. Later he will be

commanded regarding the red heifer, which atones for its son, the calf. For the

nation, it is raised up! For the the

entire nation identified with that calf.

When the Tractate Hagiga

in the Gemara examines the degree of pressure placed

upon the back or side of the sacrificial animal, it examines the degree of

identification, the internalization, the psychic fusion between the person

offering the sacrifice and the animal that is being sacrificed. For while the

humans being is truly created in the image of God, he also has an "animal

image" within him, and it is that image within him that he sacrifices,

trying to remove it by means of his sacrifices. "For hearts are drawn

after actions. This is true of the sacrifices, the festivals, and tefilin. This is a great principle of Torah education. We

are not content with exalted, abstract, and sophisticated ideas. There is a

need for practical commandments in order to sustain the ideas.

The nation completed its sacrifices,

and meanwhile the Priests wait, disappointed and surprised.

Nadav and Avihu,

the most impetuous among the Priests, who are impetuous in any event, did not

like this democratization of sanctity and of the altar, for they were the only

ones who ascended the mountain: "And to Moses He said: go up to God, you

and Aaron and Nadav and Avihu

and seventy elders of Israel,… and they saw the God of Israel beneath his

feet like as it were a paved work of sapphire stone and as the very heaven in

purity: and upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His

hand and they saw God, and they ate and drank" (Ex. 24). They must show their uniqueness,

they are not ordinary people, nor are they ordinary Priests. They allow

themselves to take an initiative, for are they not chosen by God? The offer their own strange fire. It is not connected to the

rest. They sacrifice before God and before the people. Their fire sows

dispersion, as in the expression "He that scattered Israel" (Jer. 31:10), rather than gathering them

together, as is to be expected of a Priest. They are burned in the fire of

narcissism, the fire of dispersion, the fire of dissension.

I will not dwell here upon the

argument that apparently breaks out between Moses and the Priests regarding

eating the sin offering. The Priests found it difficult to eat the sacrifices

after the death of their brothers, and they could not internalize their

responsibility as the Priests of the people by eating the sacrifice. That is to

say, as taking the people's sin upon themselves.

Eating is an integral part of the

sacred work of the Priests. Hence, the Christian separations of the chapters of

the Torah between that on the sacrifices and that of eating them are

superfluous and erroneous. On Mount Sinai, Nadav and Avihu, along with Moses

and Aaron and the seventy elders "saw God, and they ate and drank." And

in Deuteronomy 12:16 it says: "only in all that your soul desires shall

you sacrifice and eat the meat as the blessing of the Lord your God."

Some of the sacrifices are eaten in

completion of the process of internalization, identification with the

sacrificial animal. This is also true of eating every day. We are only

permitted to eat animals that are worthy of being sacrificed. Because the animals is a representation of the image of the animal

within humanity. "The bestial soul," as the Tanya calls it.

With great caution it is possible to

regard the signs of kashrut as allusions to the need

for correction by sacrifice and/or eating. Instead of stating "an animal

with a cloven hoof" as an anatomical designation, an active and continuous

verb form is used: "one that divides its division and chews its cud."

Rabbi Elhanan Jacobovich interprets this: "dividing

its division" is the act of dividing, so it appears that this is

the meaning of the "divides its division." "Division" is a

noun and "to divide" is the verb. Just as it chews its cud every time

it eats, it divides its division every time it takes a step. And it is demanded

of us that we must not be among the four prime causes of damage, and certainly

not to cause a "division" like Nadav and Avihu.

Rabbi RAM Hacohen

explained to me there are no sacrifices of kosher fish in the spirit of

the teachings we have mentioned, it can be said that the sacrificial animals

have something in them "of mankind," in that they live on the earth

and breathe the air, but fish are different and so far from us, although they

are almost at the top of the evolutionary chain, according to Darwin,

sacrificing them will not bring us close to our own soul, to ourselves, to our

essence. Therefore there is no benefit in sacrificing fish.

Preparation for entering sanctity – sanctification

– is an infinite process, that traverses various paths: sacrifice, eating,

prayer, and, in our parasha, Aaron himself, the High

Priest, is warned: "He is not to come all the time to the holy place… so

he will not die.. and with

this shall Aaron come to the holy place." As Rabbi Samon Raphael Hirsch explains: "In his entry into the

holy place, he will express the meaning of his priesthood and he will keep it

constantly before his eyes. He will go there as a 'ox' – as 'an ox of

labor on the earth of the Lord of the purpose of life among the Jews'; and he

will come as a 'bullock': he will devote himself to his service in

acknowledgment of his personal purpose before the Lord and His Torah… but

this acknowledgment will be like a sin-offering: not as a task of life that has

already been fulfilled, and which leads to arrogance of pride; but he will

recognize the need to atone for his own soul – in accordance with the great

distance between the task and its accomplishment… in this expression of the

given task, which he did not impose upon himself as he saw fit – with this will

Aaron come to the holy place."

It seems to me that this

acknowledgment does indeed require restraint and modesty, and "with this"

serves as a warning to Aaron and instruction to everyone who wishes "to

come to the holy place" and live.

Dr. Yossi Hatav

is a psychiatrist and psychoanalyst



In Every Generation a Person must

Regard Himself

Pinchas Leiser

In my view, the most central sentence in the Pesah Hagadah is taken from

Tractate Pesahim of the Mishnah

(10:9), namely: "In every generation a

person must see himself as if he had left Egypt," and, in the words of

Maimonides (Mishneh Torah, Hilkhot Hametz 7:8):

In every generation a person must see

himself as if he himself had left now from the bondage of Egypt, as it is

said, 'and he took us from there…' (Deut. 6:23).

And on this matter the Torah commanded, 'and you shall remember that you were a

slave' (Deut. 5:14;

15:15; 16:12; 24:18; 24:22).

That is to say, as if you yourself had been a slave,

and you had gone out into freedom and were redeemed.

From this Mishnah

and from Maimonides' ruling, we learn that the commandment of telling the story

of the Exodus from Egypt has a goal: to experience liberation every year anew,

the experience of the transition from slavery to freedom, and, like other

commandments, we are commanded to remember that we were slaves, and each

and every one of us is addressed. That is to say: every one of us is as if he

or she were personally a freed slave.

Indeed, the Gemara

(Bavli Pesahim 116a) tells

us about an interesting conversation between Rav Nahman and his slave Daro:

"Rav Nahman said to

his slave Daro: A slave whose master brings him out

into freedom and gives him silver and gold, what should he say to him? He

answered: He must thank and praise his master. He said to him: If so, you have

exempted me from the obligation of reciting 'Why is this night different from

all other nights.' So he began by saying, 'We were slaves in Egypt.'"

Giving the story current relevance is

a serious challenge. True, we are commanded to remember the Exodus from Egypt

with every step we take, at every moment (the Sabbath kiddush,

the verses of the tefilin, the recitation of "Listen,

Israel," the prohibition against cheating non-Jews, etc.), but the

commandment of telling applies only to the night of the fifteenth of

Nissan, "When matza and maror

lie before you," and it is essentially different from the constant

commandment to remember.

What, then, is the relevant meaning

of the story of the Exodus from Egypt

on the Seder night?

If you read the Mishnah

cited above to the end, you will find two differences of opinion:

Regarding the recitation of the Hallel before eating matza, maror and the meal, Beit Shammai

say: How far does he recite it? Until "the mother of the sons is joyous"

[that is to say, to the end of the first Psalm]. In contrast, Beit Hillel say: until "Who

turns the flint to a spring of water." There are various explanations of

this difference of opinion, but in the Jerusalem Talmud they explain that Beit Shammai insisted on

remembering the Exodus (which appears in the second Psalm, "When Israel

left from Egypt") at midnight, the time when the redemption began, whereas

Beit Hillel were of the opinion that there was no

need to delay, because in any event the Exodus from Egypt only began in the


Rabbi Tarfon

was of the opinion that one finished reading the Hallel

with "who redeemed us and redeemed our fathers," but without a

concluding benediction, whereas Rabbi Akiba, who

added a section that relates to the future, "May the Lord our God and the

God of our fathers bring us to other holidays and festivals, may they come to

us in peace, joyous in the building of Your city and happy in Your service, and

may we eat there of the sacrifices and the paschal lamb," and one

concludes: "Blessed are You, the Redeemer of Israel."

The Tosafists

interpret Rabbi Tarfon's position by saying that he

was not accustomed to make long petitions, and therefore he, too, he is

satisfied with thanks for what has already happened, for the redemption

that already took place, whereas in contrast Rabbi Akiba

made long petitions, and therefore he concludes the Hallel

with a request relating to future redemption.

Rabbi Tarfon

was scrupulous in certain matters to follow the rulings of Beit

Shammai (Mishnah, Brakhot,

1:3), because he had

studied in that school, and one can find a common denominator in the two

differences of opinion:

According to Beit

Shammai, the reliving of an event that already took

place requires of us that we wait until the point in time when in that event

took place, and perhaps one can compare Beit Shammai's approach here to his manner of lighting the Hanuccah candles (from many to few). His religious consciousness

was based on what had already happened and on what was happening now (past and

present); in contrast, according to Beit Hillel, if

the redemption is to occur, it is also permitted to praise and exalt even if

its time has not yet come.

Rabbi Tarfon

also relates to what has already happened in his religious consciousness, and

to the present meaning of that event. However his religious consciousness does

not include the future, in contrast to Rabbi Akiba,

the optimistic believer, who relates to the prophecy that might be fulfilled as

if it had already been fulfilled (and see the story of the fox who leaves the Holy of Holies at the end of Tractate Makot).

Maimonides rules that we must tell

the story of the Exodus from Egypt and experience liberation in our lives, here

and now, but at the same time, regarding the text of the Hagadah, he rules with Rabbi Akiba

(and Beit Hillel) and includes the petition that

expresses our expectation of future redemption in the blessing that concludes

the first part of the Hallel.

A religious consciousness based on

memory of the past and internalizing ethical messages that derive from that

memory can create an empathetic attitude toward all those who are still in

bondage, as we were in Egypt.

At the same time, when this consciousness does not include an aspect of hope

and faith in a better world, this is liable to give rise to despair and


A religious consciousness based on

faith in the future is likely to inspire us with hope in situations where we

experience servitude again, as the Maharal of Prague

said in his commentary on the Hagadah, and this was

also Rabbi Akiba's greatness, for even in a period of

destruction, he had the privilege of hearing from his discouraged comrades, "Akiba, you have consoled us." But sometimes – and this

even happened to Rabbi Akiba – there is a danger that

because of too much expectation of redemption, one can rush matters, and give a

messianic interpretation to historical events. Along with that danger, there is

another one, no less grave: the belief that our redemption can come at the

expense of others.

Only the correct balance between

these two types of consciousness can advance us, one day, toward full

redemption, and as Maimonides stated: (Hilkhot Melakhim

12, 7-8):

7. The prophets and sages did not

desire the days of the messiah either so that they could ruled over the whole

world or so that they could oppress the gentiles, and not so that the nations

will raise them up, and not to eat and drink and be merry: only so that they

will be free to study Torah and wisdom, and that there will be no oppressor and

no one to impede them, so that they will merit life in the world to come, as we

explained in the Halakhot of repentance.

8. And at that time, there will be no

hunger and no war and no envy and no competition, that

great goodness will be abundant, and all delicacies will be as plentiful as

dust. There will be no dealings in the whole world except knowing God. And

therefore, there will be great Sages, and they will know obscure and deep

things; and they will comprehend the mind of their Creator as far as human

power can do so, as it is said, "For the earth will be full of knowledge

of God as waters covers the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).

Pinchas Leiser, the Editor of Shabbat

Shalom, is a psychologist.




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