Acharei Mot 5773 – Gilayon #795

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Parshat Achary Mot – Kedoshim

You shall rise before the aged and show deference to

the old;

You shall fear your god: i

am the lord.

(Vayikra 19:32)


[I might

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 Israel".

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.)



…We see

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

holy (Vayikra


Avner Roei

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"

applies to Israel

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 Israel as "Kedoshim"

– 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 Hakadoshour 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

Saints Day".

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 David Rabinowitz, 'People

of Yerushalayim, fighters in the War of Independence'.

Avner Roei is a member of Kibbutz



And aaron

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.

(Vayikra 16:8-10)


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 Arabia, and of

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 countrymenYou

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 agedetc., 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.

(RaMBaNDevarim 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

hated of David's soul (II Samuel 5:8), and tell me of he whom my soul loves (Shir HaShirim 1:7), etc. And a person has no control

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)


"You are

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


(Vayikra 19:13)



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


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.

Nechama Leibowitz)


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 hinI am the lord, your god, who brought you out of the land of egypt.

(Vayikra 19:35-36)


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 Egypt, with which this command of

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 Israel – a Moral Challenge

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 Israel as

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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