Kedoshim 5771 – Gilayon #699


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Parshat Kedoshim

A Jew who went through the Shoah, a Jew who lived

through five wars:

the War of Independence,

the Sinai War, the Six Day War, the Yom Kippur War, and the Lebanon War, aside

from the War of Attrition – is allowed to fear another war.

 (Harav Amital, of Blessed Memory: "To Hear the

Cry of a Baby" – quoted in: Moshe Maya – A World Built, Destroyed, and

Rebuilt, p. 20)

 

Blessed is the match

which burned and ignited flames,

Blessed is the flame

which burned

In the secret

recesses of the heart,

Blessed are the

hearts which knew to cease honorably…

Blessed the match

which burned and ignited flames

(Chana Senesh)

 

We stand in silence before the

phenomenon of the Shoah, and we have no explanation. "And Your

faithfulness in the night" – this is one of the trials with which the Holy

One tests us. Despite it all, we continue to adhere to the Holy One, a kind of "We

fled from You to You" – but an answer? None.

Certain circles and rabbis

provide explanations and answers for every tragedy and disaster. They know how

to explain, for example, why children were killed. Many times they blame it on

the sins of others… a willingness to supply answers about ten murdered

children means the removal of the shoah from our religious consciousness. One

who has not expelled the Shoah from his consciousness will never say: "I

have an explanation."

(Harav Amital, of Blessed Memory: "To Hear the Cry of a Baby"

– quoted in: Moshe Maya – A World Built, Destroyed, and Rebuilt, p. 20)

 

 

 

Parashat kedoshim and its haftarot –

Reproach and reassurance1

Dalia Marx

Dedicated with love to Gili and Tamar, on their

becoming Bnot Mitzvah

The public Torah

readings return us yearly to the creation of the universe, to the stories of

the patriarchs and matriarchs, to slavery in Egypt and deliverance, to desert

wanderings and to standing on the threshold of the promised land. The weekly

haftara reading is different. Here there is no sequential textual continuity – the

readings were chosen from Nevi'im – the Prophets – because of their relevance

to the Torah lectionary or to the annual cycle. With the Torah reading, choices

do not exist; this holds true both for the yearly Torah reading cycle – as

practiced in Babylonia – and for the Eretz

Yisrael triennial cycle.. In contrast, once easily discerns different

traditions in the choice of haftara readings. From this we can deduce that

originally the haftarot were not set; the choice of the Nevi'im readings was

determined by the respective Jewish communities.

Some maintain

that the public reading from Prophets was an attempt to circumvent decrees

which forbade public Torah reading. This claim, however, is difficult to prove.

The function of haftarah reading is to set before us the eternal messages of

the Prophets of Israel. The Torah is read in its entirety, and large portions

of Ketuvim (Scriptures) entered the prayer book (especially Psalms) and are

read publicly on the Festivals (the Five Scrolls). There was concern that, without

study and remembering, the words of the Prophets would vanish from the national

consciousness. Perhaps this was one of the reasons for inclusion of the haftara

along with the Torah reading.

Types of

connections between haftara and parasha vary. Sometimes the haftara goes into

detail regarding a matter dealt with in the parasha; sometimes it sheds light

on the parasha from a new angle. More than once, the haftara challenges certain

dimensions of the parasha. On occasion, the Torah commands, and the haftara

examines the quality of execution. Sometimes the connection is tight and

strong, sometimes tenuous. Sometimes a phrase or string of words recalling a

point in the parasha determines that a particular chapter of Nevi'im be

included with the Shabbat service in the synagogue. On special Sabbaths we

recite special haftarot connected to the calendar rather than to the parasha of

the week; so with the three weeks prior to the 9th of Av and the 'seven

weeks of consolation' which follow. As a rule, however, the haftara is related

to the parasha. Yet more, it can be argued that the haftara was early

commentary on the portion of the week, and may be read as Torah explication.

The fact that the haftara is read immediately following the parasha may determine,

in some degree, our understanding of the parasha and may shape our understanding

of the Torah reading.

This year the

Torah parshiyot "Acharei-Mot" and "Kedoshim" are read

separately. Customs regarding the choice of haftarot for this week's parasha

differ; Sepharadim read Ezekiel's chastisement (20-2)2,

Ashkenazim read the final prophecy in the Book of Amos (9:7-15). Sefer HaParedes, a composition originating in the School of Rashi states:

"Here in

Mainz and Worms we recite for the maftir "To Me, O Israelites, you are

just like the Ethiopians", even though it be short, for this was the

practice here every year, nothing added, nothing subtracted… and do not

deviate from community customs. And our Rabbi Kolonymos of Rome said that they recite a different

haftara in its stead". (p. 353)

In the coming

lines I will discuss the two alternate haftara readings for "Kedoshim",

and will attempt to show how each, in its own way, illuminates the Torah reading.

The prophecy customarily read in communities following the Sephardic and

Yemenite rite is the severe prophecy of admonishment leveled against the

wayward elders of Israel.

(Ezekiel 8:12). Ezekiel is commanded to censure

them for their evil ways and serves notice that the Lord will hide his countenance

from them. He recalls the goodness that the Lord had showered upon Israel "That same day I swore to them to

take them out of the land

of Egypt into a land

flowing with milk and honey, a land which I had sought out for them, the

fairest of all lands." (Ibid. 20:6). But

the People of Israel shows no gratitude to its savior and deviates from His

path. The haftara continues with a survey of divine commandments – all

transgressed by the people; as a consequence the Lord plans time and again to

destroy His people but refrains from executing the decree: "But I acted

for the sake of My name that it might not be profaned in the sight of the

nations" (Ibid., ibid., 9,14).

The haftara

ends with the commanding of children of the sinful fathers to observe the

Shabbat: "And hallow My Sabbaths, that they may be a sign between Me and

you, that you may know that I the Lord am your God." (Ibid., ibid., 20)3. The commandment

brings us back to our parasha's opening commandment (Vayikra 19:3), thus framing the parasha and its haftara.

The haftara

read among the Ashkenazic communities begins with a harsh statement: "To

Me, Israelites, you are like Ethiopians." (Amos,

9:7) It is conceivable that this statement is carrying on a dialogue

with the first statement of our parasha: "You shall be holy" (Vayikra 19:2). The Jews are not genetically

holy. On the contrary, the prophet tells us that Israel

is essentially no different from other nations – Ethiopians, Philistines, or

Arameans. Here, too, we find God intending to destroy his people, but

abstaining from total destruction. Instead there will come partial calamity

upon the sinners (the imagry of the people being strained through a sieve is

complex but does not ignore the plain meaning). The second part of the haftara

is a prophecy of consolation (the only one in Amos) which ends the book with a

reminder of the everlasting covenant between God and His people. Amos promises

the rejuvenation of the House of David:

"I will set up again the fallen booth of David:

I will mend its breaches and set up its ruins anew. I will build it firm as in

the days of old" (Amos 9:11). The

prophet, a resident of Tekoa, promises extraordinary agricultural prosperity: "A

time is coming – declares the Lord – when the plowman shall meet the reaper,

and the treader of grapes him who sows the seed; when the mountains shall drip sweet

wine and all the hills shall melt" (Ibid.

ibid. 13). The people will return to their land: "And I will plant

them upon their soil, nevermore to be uprooted from their soil" (Ibid. ibid. 15).

Let us devote

a few moments to how the prophet (who identifies himself as "a cattle

breeder and a tender of sycamore figs"- 7:13)

describes the agricultural abundance. He depicts amazing profusion – even as

the harvesters still harvest the large crop, the time for plowing will arrive;

the sowers still sow their many fields and already the time for grape harvest

will arrive, and the sowers will meet up with the treaders of the grapes at the

wine press. The mountains will drip sweet wine on their own – no need to

extract it – and the hills shall overflow with their rich produce. The vision is

one of a Garden of Eden on earth. The haftara opens, then, with alienation and

arbitrariness, but ends with intimacy and Divine Providence similar to that

with which a mother generously supplies her unborn infant with all its needs

without being asked.

The points of

view and the envisioned horizons of the respective haftarot are quite

different. The haftara from Ezekiel deals with the period between the exodus

from Egypt

and the sins of our fathers in the wilderness, the haftara from Amos spreads a

wide historical canvas –from the beginning of time and the birth of nations,

until the breathtaking vision of the end of days which evokes essence of Eden.

Both haftarot relate to the threat in our parasha: "You shall faithfully

observe all My laws and all My regulations, lest the land to which I bring you

to settle in spew you out." (20:22),

but the overall impressions left by each one is very different. One leaves us

with impressions of a shameful past and orders for the unknown future; the

other leaves us with a sixtieth of a taste of Eden

hidden away for the future to come.

The two

alternate haftarot for "Kedoshim: represent two psychological and

educational paths. Sometimes there is a need (or at least it seems there

is a need) for threat and intimidation, and sometimes for the vision of an

optimistic future which can bring learning and change. These things are true

for any day, but even more so now that we are on the verge of Israel's Day of

Independence.

1. My thanks to Prof. Alexander Rofeh and to Pinchas

Leiser for their helpful comments.

2. The Yemenite ritual ends with verse 15, the Italians

also read this haftara. We are not able, in this framework, to deal with the

multiplicity of customs related to the determination of the haftara for "Kedoshim"

when it is read independently and when is read together with "Acharei Mot".

(See commentaries to Shulchan Aruch, Orach Hayim 458:8)

3. The haftara ends in the middle of list of commandments

and their violation. Immediately following it is written: "But the

children rebelled against Me" (20:12), and then again God's anger, His

desire to annihilate the people and his refraining therefrom.

Dr.

Dalia Marx teaches Liturgy and Midrash at the Hebrew

Union College

in Jerusalem.       Her book "When I Sleep and When I Wake:

On Prayers Between Dusk and Dawn" was recently issued by Yedioth Sepharim.

 

And you shall keep all my

statues and all My laws and do then, lest the land to which I bring you to

dwell there spew you out. And you shall not go by the statutes of the nation

which I am about to send away before you, for all these things they have done,

and I loathed them. . And you shall be holy to Me for I the Lord am holy. And

I have separated you from the nations to be mine.

(Vayikra 20:22,23,26)

 

The

Election of Israel

– a Moral Challenge with a Universal Goal.

And

I have set you apart from the nations to be Mine – If you will be

separate from them, you will be mine; but if not, you shall belong to Nebuchadnezzar

and his cohorts. Rabbi Elazar ben Azarya said: From where do we know that one

should not say 'I am disgusted by swine flesh, I have no desire to wear clothes

which of shatnez [a mixture of wool and linen] ; he should rather say: 'I

could, but what can I do… my father in heaven has forbidden me?' Scripture

comes to teach us "I have separated you from the nations to be mine"

– your separation from them should be for My sake – that one should keep aloof

from sin and take upon himself the yoke of the Kingdom

of Heaven.

(Rashi, Vayikra 20:26)

 

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 a

beginning, only the restarting of the spiritual and moral rebuilding of

mankind, only the first step to that future 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 will have

found their way to God.

(R' Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, ibid., ibid.)

 

"And you shall do that

which is just and good in the eyes of God"- The plain meaning is that

you should observe the commandments of God and his testimonies and his

statutes, and while observing them, have the intent to do only that which is

good and just in His eyes. "So that He do well by you" – this

is a promise, meaning that when you do good his eyes, he will be good to you,

because the Almighty does good to those who are good and straight in their

hearts. Our Sages had a nice midrash, saying that this verse refers to

compromise and to acting beyond the demands of the law. The meaning of this is

that initially He says that you should observe his statutes and testimonies

which He commands you, and now He says that even with regard to that which He

did not command you, be careful to-do that which is good and just in His eyes,

because he loves that which is good and just.

This is a very

important matter, because it is impossible for the Torah to relate to all of

man's interactions with his neighbors and his friends and all of his dealings

and all social organization 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)

 

Like the native among you shall

be the sojourner who sojourns with you, you shall love him like yourself, for

you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.

I am the Lord your God.

You shall love him like

yourself – The ancient peoples loved only their own, and the deceiving of

aliens was not despicable in their eyes. Therefore does it say here "You

shall love him like yourself" – Behave towards him as you would wish that

others would behave towards you if you were a sojourner, and this is in keeping

with that which I wrote above (v. 18) on "And

you shall love your fellow man as yourself".

(Shmuel David Luzatto, Vayikra 19:34)

 

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