Acharei Mot 5773 – Gilayon #795
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Parshat Achary Mot – Kedoshim
You shall rise before the aged and show deference to
You shall fear your god: i
am the lord.
think that one is obliged to rise] even before an aged sinner; therefore the
verse comes to teach [and honor the face of a] zaken [lit.
an aged person] and zaken can refer only to one who has obtained
knowledge – so explains Rashi. Torat Kohanim (Chap
7, 11) presents the text as it appears in the Talmud in Kiddushim (32b), "therefore the verse comes to teach
us 'zaken', and a zaken
can only be a sage, as is written (Bemidbar
11:16) "Gather unto me seventy men of the elders [zkanim]of
R. Jose the Galilean said: Zaken [means] one who has acquired wisdom,
for it said: 'The Lord possessed me [sc. Wisdom personified] as the beginning
of his way'. According to both opinions the mitzvah is to honor only the
wise. And Onkylos translates [into Aramaic], "Rise up before one who is knowledgeable
in Torah and show deference to the old", indicating that he, too, so
understood. Despite this, however, the Gemarrah seems to rule otherwise, for it
says (Kiddushim 32b) Isi b. Yehudah says:
'Rise up before the hoary head" implies even any hoary head, and R.
Yochanan rules (ibid. 33a) "The law
is according to Isi b. Yehuda" – meaning that we
are commanded to honor all the aged, even the ignoramus…
(Ramban Vayikra ibid. ibid.)
that zaken in this verse refers only to a wise person – "even young
and wise": a young man who has achieved wisdom. Scripture here obligates
rising and showing deference to both – to old age of the hoary-headed – "which
is attained by the way of righteousness" (Proverbs
16:31); and to the wisdom of aged, which is attained through the study
of Torah. Thus we find: He who honors the aged, honors experience;
meaning he respects natural human consciousness which matures by way of
repeated events and phenomena of nature and life. And one who honors the zaken
respects wisdom; that is to say: he honors the appreciation of nature
and life which is learned from the word of God; for the word of God reveals
their source and their divine purpose – and their significance for the life mission.
(RaSHaR Hirsch, ibid. ibid).
You shall be holy
For i the lord your god am
Most Biblical commentators were of the opinion that "You shall be
holy" is not a specific independent mitzvah. Rashi saw it as a
summation of the commandments of the preceding parasha, a large portion of
which was concerned with sexual prohibitions. Ramban and Rambam considered it
to be a preface to a long list of commandments appearing in our parasha covering
most basic Torah laws.
R. Hayyim b. Attar, author of the "Ohr HaHayyim" notes that "You shall be holy"
in particular: "This is not so with the nations of the world. Even if one[non-Jew] would, of his own volition, desist from prohibited sexual activity – or
even from permitted activity – even so he would be denied the status of holiness,
and for this reason did He say: "…to the Children of Israel…"
Rarely does the Bible refer to
– holy people. One place where it does so is in Parashat Korah. The reference
there appears in a negative context; the rebellious Korach faction complains to
Moshe: "You have too much! For all the community, they are all holy, and
why should you raise yourself up over the Lord's assembly" (Bemidbar 16:3)?
Yet more. Few are the individual persons described
as "holy" in the Bible. One is the prophet Elisha, who was so called
by Shunamite woman: "I am sure that this is a holy man of God who comes
this way regularly" (II Kings 4:9). The
Talmud ponders the nature of this holiness. Aharon, too, was called holy
in a unique verse in Psalms which recalls the Korach rebellion: "There was
envy of Moses in the camp, and of Aharon, the holy one of the
Lord." What was it in Elisha and Aharon that merited this designation – even
Moshe was not so called. The Nazirite was also called holy (Bemidbar 6:5) for having refrained from wine
and other intoxicants, but the Biblical Nazirites, Sampson and Samuel, were not
called 'holy' men.
With the passing of generations, the description "holy" was
used sparingly, with the exception of outstanding personalities. The Talmud
refers to Rabbi Yehuda the Prince, redactor of the Mishna, as Rabeinu Hakadosh – our Holy Teacher. In the 16th
century R. Yitchak Lurie was called "the Holy Ari". Christian
history, however, has a long list of holy persons and a festival called "All
This being the case, how are we to understand "You
shall be holy"? Is this not a demand which cannot be realized?
The verse reappears at the end of Parashat Kedoshim in the following
formulation: "You shall be holy unto me, because I the Lord am holy,
and I have set you aside from the nations to be mine (20:26). Celestial holiness must resonate
downwards by the application of our uniqueness as the Jewish nation; holiness
is not inherent in the human genome, it is found in the fastening of the connection
between us, human beings and the Holy One, i.e., in the service of God, in the
observance of the mitzvoth between man and his fellow and between man
and the Omniscient, as expressed in the blessing which Chazal charged us to
recite prior to every mitzvah: "…who sanctified us with his commandments
and commanded us …".
The beginning of the parasha emphasizes "Speak to the entire
assembly of the Children of Israel". Rashi, following the Sifra,
teaches that the parasha was to be recited at the "Hakhel"
assembly; its observance is public, not private. Nechama Leibowitz, in her
wonderful words adds:
Let it be
noted that the parasha turns to the Children of Israel, to all ages, in varying
situations, in different occupations. It turns to you, the priest who brings
offerings, the judge before whom stand the litigants, the child whose parents
are still alive, the youngster meeting up with the aged, the farmer during
seasons of sowing, reaping and gathering, the shopkeeper weighing goods for his
customers. This is to say that the complete realization of the Torah is dependent
upon its acceptance by all sectors of the nation, with all it social layers,
its tribes and its trades, young and old, and no single individual, be he
the most righteous of men, can realize the Torah alone.
Amos, whose words we recite in this week's parasha, is considered to be
the most outspoken of prophets appealing for social justice, and perhaps for
this reason a chapter from the Book of Amos which predicates our existence in
this land upon our moral behavior was chosen to accompany our parasha. Would that we be deserving of that which is written: "And I
shall plant them upon their soil, nevermore to be uprooted from the soil I have
given them, said the Lord your God." (Amos
The above was composed in memory of my parents Bella
(nee Broide) and
of Yerushalayim, fighters in the War of Independence'.
Avner Roei is a member of Kibbutz
shall place lots upon the two goats, one marked for the lord and the other
marked for azazel. Aaron shall bring forward the goat
designated by lot for the lord, which he is to offer as a sin offering; while
the goat designated by lot for azazel
shall be left standing before the lord, to make expiation with it and to send
it off to the wilderness for azazel.
Our fathers taught us in their teachings how
awesome the Lord's deed is, and that is the matter of Azazel that is written above, for that word
contains a matter that is found in our teachings, that the word aza [strong] describes a wind, as in ruah kadim aza [a strong east wind] (Shemot 14:21).
Since the letter hey cannot appear in the
middle of a word, it is replaced with an alef,
and the word zel also describes a
sudden and very powerful wind that can demolish human buildings in a moment.
This wind is found in
it it is said a scorching wind is their lot (Psalms 11:6). It flies and kills in a moment. If this is what happens
naturally, all the more so when it occurs wondrously. If this is so, then Azazel is composed of aza and zel, that is to say, a strong zel wind. It [the goat] is pushed away from
before the Lord by a powerful wind which breaks the goat's bones apart, leaving
no two bones connected. This is a wondrous sign of the obliteration of the
sins of the House of Israel. And so Yonatan ben Uziel translated: A powerful wind pushes it
from before the Lord and it dies.
Yitzhak Shemuel Reggio on Vayikra 16:22)
And you shall do
that which is just and good in the eyes of God – The simple understanding of the plain reading
of the text is: Observe God's commandments and his admonitions and his laws,
and, by doing them, intend to do that which is good and just in His sight
alone. That it may go well with you – a promise, saying that
by your doing that which is right in His eyes, it will go well with you, for
God does well by those who are good and straight in their hearts. Our rabbis
explained this in homiletic fashion, saying that this refers to compromise and
to acting beyond the letter of the law. The meaning is this: Initially He said
that you should observe his laws and his admonitions which He commanded; now it
says that even with regard to that which He did not command you, give
thought to do that which is good and straight in His sight, because He loves
that which is good and just.
This is a very important
matter, because it would have been impossible for the Torah to mention all
behavior of man with his neighbors and friends, all his dealings, and all local
and national regulations in their entirety. But, after having mentioned many of
them, such as Do not go about as a talebearer among your countrymen, You
shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge, Do not stand upon the
blood of your fellow, You shall not insult the deaf, You shall rise
before the aged, etc., the Torah establishes a general
rule, decreeing that one should do that which is good and just in all
matters, e.g., compromise and behavior beyond the letter of the law –
such as the law of bar metzra [The
right of pre-emption. When a field is sold, the owner of the neighboring field
has first right of purchase.] and even that
which they said (Yoma 81a,
paraphrased) "His personality is without blemish and his speech with
others is gentle," so that – in all matters – he will be considered a
blameless and upright person.
(RaMBaN, Devarim 6:18)
Thus the land became defiled; and I called it to account
for its iniquity, and the land spewed out its inhabitants. (Vayikra 18:25)
The nations were defiled… and the land was defiled – These words apply in general to the entire world – by
virtue its relationship to humanity; for all the world is called "adamah" – "earth" [adama is related to Adam – man]; – it is as
its name – the foundation for human development…the blessing of the land
depends upon man's moral level. Since the world is "adama"'
it is cursed because of man (see Bereishit 3:17); the earth
which received the brother's blood from the hand of the murderer will not
continue to give him of its strength (see Ibid 4:11-12)… And the
corruption of humanity's path draws all life to that corrupted path… this is
the relationship between man's moral behavior to the entire globe, but the Holy
One established a much stronger body between Israel and its land, for both were
chosen to serve as instruments for the moral reawakening of the human race …
the earth lost its reason for existence – if the society which dwells upon it
corrupted its ways and lost the justification for its existence. Therefore, a population which is socially and morally corrupt has no
future in this land.
Hirsch ibid. ibid)
The words remains forever – said Resh Lakish: All that the
Holy One created in man, he created in the earth. Man has a head, and the
world has a head, as is said, 'and the head of the dust of the world" man has
eyes, and the earth has eyes, as is said "and covered the eye of all the
earth'; man has ears and earth has ears, as is said 'and hearken, earth'; man
eats and the earth eats, as is said, 'a land which devours its inhabitants';
man drinks and earth drinks, as is said "from the rain of the heaven it
drinks water; man becomes angry, earth becomes angry, as is written, "he
grows angry and trembles'; man becomes inebriated and the earth becomes inebriated,
as is said, "the earth wobbles like a drunk"; man vomits and the
earth vomits, as is said "and the land will vomit up its inhabitants",
man has hands and so does earth, as is written "a land broad with hands";
man has a navel and so does the earth, as is said 'Who sits upon the earth's
navel"; man has thighs and so does earth, as is written, "I will
gather them from the thighs of the earth"; man has legs and so does earth,
as is said, "the world stands forever", stands and performs its task,
R. Aha says its nourishment, and the world stands forever, this refers to
Israel, as is said :For you shall be a desired land".
(Yalkut Shimoni Kohellet, Chap. 1, 967)
Do not hate your brother in your heart
Throughout Scripture, both hate and love are attributed to
the soul, because they are independent of intellect and choice; rather, they
are produced by the soul itself, as in the
over that which is implanted in his soul, to change his love to hate or his
hate to love. God did not command us to do the impossible; here the Torah only
warns us of the hatred of the heart. The word heart is always used in connection with
freely willed activity and the mind's judgment; it is forbidden for one to
decide in his heart to hate him.
(R. Yitzhak Shemuel Reggio's commentary on Vayikra 19:17)
When a stranger resides with you in your land, you shall
not wrong him
One is also prohibited to wrong a stranger in the Diaspora.
The expression in your land appears in order to explicate the
nature of this wrong: When you dwell in the land, which I have given to you as
a possession, you might say, "It was given to us as an inheritance,"
and you will not be considerate of the stranger who dwells among you, since he
has no part or portion in it. You will wrong him with words that humiliate and
degrade him. Similarly, the expression to
wrong is always used by
Scripture to speak of the action of the powerful against the weak, those who
benefit from the disadvantage of the weak.
(R. Yitzhak Shemuel Reggio's commentary on Vayikra 19:33)
not to withhold (property) from you neighbor, you are not to commit robbery.
You are not to keep overnight the wages of a hired-hand with you until
are not to keep overnight" – In Those Days – at this Time.
The withholding of wages has a demoralizing effect
upon both employer and employee. The employer loses his awareness of sin. Often
we hear explanations and rationalizations of withholding of wages, as though
the employer has the right to extend himself credit from workers' funds for the
benefit of his enterprise. The employee is demoralized, because it seems to him
that he is not receiving recompense for his work; he is liable to conclude that
there is no value in striving to support himself from the work of his hands. An
original Jewish outlook establishes wage-withholding as a Torah prohibition.
Our Sages, with deep understanding of the problem, included this law in "dinei
nefashot" – laws
governing capital cases. In the words of the Talmud: "On his payday you
must pay him his wages… for he is afflicted, for to it he lifts his life –
breath," – For what does he
climb the ladder and hangs from the tree and endanger his life, if not for his
wages? Hiding a worker's wages is the
equivalent of taking his life. (Bava Metsia 112a)
(Moshe Unna, z"l, member of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu,
former chairman of the Knesset Committee on Law and Justice.
Quoted in New Studies in the Book of Vayikra, Prof.
You shall not commit a perversion of justice with measures,
weights, or liquid measures. You shall have true scales, true weights, a true ephah, and a true hin. I am the lord, your god, who brought you out of the
It forbids us even to have an imperfect weight or measure
in our possession, it forbids us to be careless in measuring or weighing our
material even if there is no immediate idea of trading with it, if there is the
slightest possibility of its being bought or sold, it commands us not only to
exercise the utmost care in the manufacture of weights and measures, but to be
most conscientious in keeping them in good condition and repair, to take
meticulous precautionary measures against any change in weights, scales, and
measures due to wear… The reference to the Exodus from
honesty in measures concludes, shows what an important position in the sphere
of the Lawgiving it occupies. It is on the basis of the redemption from Egypt
and all that which it made known to us of God's management amidst the earth,
in the midst of the life of nations on earth, as well as all that which thereby
established for all time our special relationship to God, and our duty towards
Him, that God makes the demand: You shall not commit a perversion of
justice, etc. true scales, true weights, etc. Hence, we
find in the Torat Kohanim on our verse: "I am the
Lord, your God, Who brought you out of the land of Egypt upon this
condition: I brought you out of the land of Egypt on the condition that you
accept upon yourselves the commandment regarding [fair] measures, for everyone
who accepts the commandment regarding measures accepts [the veracity of] the
Exodus from Egypt, and anyone who rejects the commandment regarding
measures rejects the Exodus from Egypt." The "Law of
Measures" is considered as being on a level with the laws of arayot [prohibited
sexual relations]… Just as in arayot we see the foundation
of personal morality and family life, so in the laws of measures is the
foundation of social life… It wants to make the feeling for right and the
respect and consideration for right and honesty to be a fundamental trait of
the Jewish national character.
(Rabbi S.R. Hirsch
on Vayikra 19:35-36, following the Levy translation)
The Election of
with a Universal Goal
And I have distinguished you from the peoples, to be Mine – So that in no way does Jewish thought look
on the choice of
a rejection of the rest of humanity. It regards the choice of Israel only as a
beginning, only the restarting of the spiritual and moral rebuilding of
Mankind, only the first step to that future where In that day many
nations will attach themselves to the Lord and become My people, and I will
dwell in your midst (Zechariah 2:15),
where many nations will attach themselves to God, and become His people, and
Israel's sanctuary will not only be the central heart of Israel but the center
of Mankind who have found their way to God.
(Rabbi S.R. Hirsch on Vayikra 20: 26,
following Levy translation)
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