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Forethoughts And AfterThoughts Archives
- Vayikra

Purim 08

Esther 7:4 For I and my people were sold to be destroyed, killed, and devastated. And I would have been silent had we been sold as slaves and maids. Rather, the oppressor has no regard for damage to the king.

From the Be'er Yosef:

Why did Ester bring up the notion of selling the Jewish people into slavery? It's certainly a better fate then being annihilated but it's still a bad idea that we wouldn't want Achashverosh to consider.

The Be'er Yosef answers that she did so to strengthen her case.

Many commentators note that at this point in the story, Achashverosh had deep suspicions that Haman was plotting to overthrow him.

Now, the wicked Haman gave the king a huge sum of money to obtain permission to carry out his plot.

Had it been used to purchase the right to sell the Jewish people into slavery then it would have been viewed as a cold business deal. Haman would have become a huge supplier of very cheap labor and all of his appreciative customers would have dampened any criticism of either the king or Haman for letting this outrage occur.

But that's not what happened. Haman gave the king a fortune to get permission to decimate an entire nation for no apparent reason. Critics could have easily portrayed this as an atrocity and war crime. And they would have been right on the money.

This is precisely what Ester was telling the king.

Had Haman been out for merely revenge then he would have gone for the slave market, which would have been a win-win for everybody except the Jewish people.

Rather, Haman wanted more. Today it's revenge and tomorrow it's the crown, for his cohorts would later turn Achashverosh into a criminal and a dangerous fool who is unfit to rule.


And G-D said to Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron) in the land of Egypt, saying.

"And they shall take from the blood and they shall put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel on the houses that they will eat it therein."

…

And Moshe called all of the elders of Israel and said to them, "Withdraw and take for yourselves sheep for your families and slaughter the Passover offering."

"And take a bunch of hyssop and dip it in the blood that is in the basin and from the blood that is in the basin you shall sprinkle it on the lintel and the two doorposts. And you, every man, shall not go out from the door of his house until morning." (Exodus 12:1, 7, 22, 23)

G-D said that the blood of the Passover should be placed on the doorposts and the lintel. Moshe told the people to put the blood on the lintel and the doorposts, reversing the order.

What message can we learn this?

Rabbi Schor, of blessed memory, teaches the following (Ohr Gedaliah).

The Medrash (17:3) teaches that the blood on the lintel is in the merit of our great ancestor Avraham (Abraham) and the two doorposts are in the merit of Yitzchok and Yaakov (Isaac and Jacob).

We note that the lintel is above the doorposts and is connected to the ground by them.

Our connection to our great ancestors is through their children, also ancestors but of a later generation. Our connection to Avraham is through his great children, Yitzchok and Yaakov.

The first Pesach marked the beginning of a great path of spiritual growth for the Jewish people and all mankind.

The tried and tested method of successful development is gradual, one step at a time, be it for the body or for the soul. Skipping steps bring the risk of setback and discouragement.

But then, aiming high is energizing.

As a great leader does, when Moshe charged the people he set their vision and goal at the top, to reach the accomplishments of our greatest ancestor Avraham.

But the Torah also tells us how they should take this into action, which is by stepwise achievement. This is what we can take from how the Torah records G-D's charge.

Wishing you a productive and wonderful Pesach.


Parshas Parah

Numbers 19:2 This is the statute of the Torah that G-D commanded saying, "Speak to the Children of Israel and they shall take to you [Moshe / Moses] a perfect red heifer, one that has no blemish, one that never had a yoke put upon it."

Rashi's commentary on this verse focuses on the 'statute of the Torah.' He says that the evil inclination and the nations of the world single us out saying, "What is this commandment and what is its rationale? Therefore, the Torah references the laws of the red heifer with the term, 'statute.' It is a decree and it is not for us to think about it.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary initially understands Rashi to be saying that the Torah forbids us to think about the reasons for this law.

This is interesting because Rashi later provides an extensive list of rationales for many of the laws of the red heifer.

Furthermore, the Medrash says that King Shlomo (Solomon), wisest of all men, tried to understand the law of the red heifer and he gave up. He writes, "I said (to myself), 'Let me become wise.' But behold, it is beyond me." (Koheles / Ecclesiastics 7:23).

How could Rashi give reasons for these laws if King Shlomo himself said that he couldn't?

Also, says the Chamudei Tzvi, if the Torah doesn't want us to delve into the reasons for this law then instead of writing 'This is the statute of the Torah,' it should have said 'This is the statute of the red heifer.'

To answer, there is nothing wrong with seeing how we can relate our lives to these laws. This is why Rashi proposes reasons.

However, there is an issue about whether we are allowed to assign reasons for the Torah's laws. For by assigning reasons to the Torah's laws, we make those laws dependent upon them. And whenever circumstance makes those reasons irrelevant, the Torah's laws can become the same.

G-D is the author of the Torah. We are taught that G-D used the Torah as a design document for creating the world. And it is my understanding that G-D uses the Torah as a basis for His managing the world, including the affairs of mankind.

Therefore, in a world where the will of G-D is supreme, it is incorrect to say that the Torah is dependent upon circumstance. Rather, it is circumstance that is dependent upon G-D's will, as projected by the Torah.

The evil inclination promotes the notion that the will of mankind is supreme, not G-D's. And those who have yet to recognize the centrality of G-D's role in the world also struggle with not assigning reasons to the Torah's laws. This is what the Medrash is telling us.

Besides taking issue with whether is right to assign reasons to the Torah, we can question whether humanity is even capable of doing so.

For Judaism teaches that G-D is infinite, beyond our comprehension and control.

As the Torah is an expression of G-D's will and a product of His infinite intelligence, whatever reasons that do exist for the Torah's laws are likely to be shrouded in a complexity that is beyond our ability grasp.

This is how we can understand what King Shlomo wrote in Koheles.


Passover 08

The Passover Seder ceremony is introduced with the declaration "Let all who are hungry come and eat (with us)."

The Torah charges us in many places to involve the impoverished in our family celebrations during the holidays.

The Be'er Yosef commentary suggests that this introduction includes a deeper meaning.

Happiness is secured when self-worth comes from what we are, not merely from what we possess.

Furthermore, self-worth that comes from what we have, such as wealth, pales in significance to our self-worth from being connected to G-D, to the Jewish people, to the Torah, our past, our future, and of course our ancestors.

The relatively wealthy host and his guest in tattered clothing will both recline when they drink four cups of wine because this is the manner of a royalty that equally share. This helps us focus on that which has the greatest significance.

Our Seder ceremony is all about maintaining the chain of transmission for subsequent generations. The deeper the happiness we feel from our Judaic identity, the more effective we will be as parents and transmitters.

Have a jubilant Passover.


Pre-Passover 11

Exodus 13:14 And it shall be when your son asks you tomorrow, "What is this (Passover ceremony)?" And you shall tell him, "Because G-D took us out from the house of bondage of Egypt with a strong hand."

The Passover Hagaddah speaks about several types of children.

Some will question the Passover ceremony today and others will ask questions tomorrow.

Those who are wholesome in their relationship with G-D stand ready to fulfill His commandments regardless of whether they fully understand them or not. They will act first and then ask questions, sometimes today and sometimes tomorrow.

Others are not ready to submit to G-D's will. They will delay compliance until all their questions are answered to their satisfaction. There is no trust, no submission. All their questions are today, never tomorrow.


Passover 2011 / 5771

The Jewish people were divided into three groups when the Passover offering was slaughtered in the temple. This is derived from the verse: "And the gathering of the congregation of Israel shall slaughter it" (Exodus 12:6). There was a gathering, a congregation, and there was Israel.

The first group entered and filled the temple courtyard. The doors of the courtyard were closed.

They blew the shofar sounds of a long blast, nine short blasts, and a long blast.

The priests stood in rows. They held golden and silver receptacles for the sacrificial blood. A row either had only silver receptacles or golden receptacles and they did not mix. The receptacles did not have a flat bottom so that they would not put them down, lest one be left there and the blood would congeal.

An Israelite would do the slaughtering and a priest would catch the blood in a receptacle. He would give it to his fellow and the receptacle would then be passed from one priest to another.

A priest on the line would first receive a full cup and would then pass back an empty. The priest who was near the altar would dash the blood onto the base.

The first group left the courtyard and the second group entered. The second group left the courtyard and the third group entered. Whatever was done with the first group was done with the second and third.

They read the Hallel prayer. If they completed the Hallel before all the sacrifices were processed then they said it again. They would have said it a third time but this was never needed.

Rabbi Yehudah said that they never reached the paragraph of "Ahavti" with the third group because it contained very few people. (Mishna Pesachim Chapter 5, 5-7)

One could think that they processed the Passover sacrifice in three shifts because the courtyard was not large enough to hold everyone with their sacrificial animals at one time.

However, it appears from the Jerusalem Talmud that this was done intentionally.

Rabbi Yaakov son of Aba said in the name of Rabbi Yassa that Moshe s (Moses') voice miraculously carried throughout the land of Egypt, a distance of a forty-day journey. He said, "Those who live from this place to that place are one group and from this place to that place are another group" (Pesachim 37a).

It is likely that the Passover offering in the Temple was processed by three groups to reflect how it was originally done in Egypt.

This leaves us to come up with a reason for why the original Passover sacrifice was done in groups and not by everyone at one time.

The Passover sacrifice was among the first things that the Jewish people did to transform into a nation of G-D.

It may have been intended for the three shifts to reflect the three founding ancestors, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob), thereby connecting the formation of the Jewish people with their great forefathers.


Passover 2013 / 5773

Genesis 15:13: And He said to Avraham (Abraham), "You shall surely know that your seed will be a stranger in a land that is not theirs. And they shall make them work and they shall afflict them for four-hundred years."

The Keren Shlomo commentary cites a Medrash that when Pharaoh restored Sarah to Avraham, he accompanied her and walked four cubits in her honor. In response, G-D rewarded Pharaoh by selecting Egypt as the nation that would enslave Avraham's children.

Another Medrash says that Nebuchadnezzar walked four cubits to re-write a royal letter in G-D's honor. As a reward, G-D gave him control over the Jewish people.

The commentary notes a disparity as Nebuchadnezzar was given only seventy years but Pharaoh was given two-hundred-ten years, three times that number.

He offers the following explanation.

The height of an average person is three cubits and the length of a person's step is one cubit, a third of his height.

As far as we know, Nebuchadnezzar was of average height. However, we have a tradition that Pharaoh was a midget and was one cubit tall.

So Pharaoh had to take three times the number steps to walk the same four cubits and this is why he was rewarded with three-times the number of years.

However, given that Pharaoh and Egypt were so thoroughly beaten up, it's difficult to view this as a reward.

The following came to mind.

We have a tradition that Pharaoh had an exceptionally long life, eventually became the King of Nineveh, and led the repentance movement in response to Yonah (Jonah's) prophecy of doom.

Also, we have a tradition that a huge number of Egyptians took part in the Exodus and eventually joined the Jewish people.

Despite the catastrophic losses that were suffered, the encounter with the Jewish people gave both Pharaoh and these Egyptians an opportunity to upgrade their eternity.


Passover 2014 / 5774

During the Temple era we may not eat newly grown grain until the Omer offering is brought. This was always done by noon of the sixteenth of Nisan.

During pre / post Temple eras, when we have no Omer offering, there are views that the new grain is Biblically permitted by daybreak.

The Mishnah says that Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai made a ruling that we must refrain from eating the new grain until the end of that day. He led the Jewish people during the painful period when the Second Temple was destroyed.

The Talmud (Succa 41a) provides the rationale for his ruling. It has to do with the fact that "the (Third) Temple will be built very quickly."

Until we merit the rebuilding of the Third Temple, if people get used to eating the new grain on the morning of the sixteenth of Nisan then they may come to transgress the prohibition should the Temple is rebuilt on that day. This is because only the offering will permit the new grain, not daybreak.

The Talmud asks why we should have to wait the entire day. The priests acted with great zeal and the Omer offering was always done by noon. Why didn't it suffice for Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai to prohibit the new grain until the noon of the sixteenth? Why is the entire day forbidden?

The Talmud answers that it is possible for the Temple to be built shortly before or during the night of the sixteenth. This could provide sufficient time to harvest the grain for the offering, which must be done that night.

Now, we will not know when the Third Temple will be rebuilt until it happens. Understandably, when it does happen, we will all be extremely busy reconstructing the national infrastructures that are needed to operate it.

(Given all that must be done, I would think having it operational by the next day will itself be another miracle. But that should be no problem, especially given all the others.)

And, explains Rashi, the grain must undergo a special process before it's offered. So that year, even if there is enough time to make the preparations, we may not have enough time to make the offering by noon.

Therefore, the Talmud concludes, Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai had no choice but to extend the prohibition until nightfall.

It puzzled me that the Talmud connects the prohibition with the fact that the Third Temple will be built very QUICKLY. The concern really surrounds the timing of the construction, not the speed of the construction.

As the redemption and the restoration of our Temple are closely bound together, perhaps, the speed of the construction is synonymous with the speed at which we will be redeemed.

That is, the Messianic Era, which includes the restoration of the Third Temple, will occur very quickly, regardless of how dark things look, regardless of how far away we think we are.

Passover is all about our redemption from Egypt. And we are taught that Passover was a preparation for this final redemption.

This appears like a lead-up to a possible answer: It is likely that the Moshiach/Third Temple will be rebuilt on the fifteenth of Nisan. Both will occur very quickly and Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai was planning for a likely scenario.

The only problem is that we are one day off. Passover is on the fifteenth of Nisan and the Omer offering was brought on the sixteenth. If the redemption occurs on the fifteenth and reconstruction occurs speedily on that day, then the Temple should be fully operational by the morning of the sixteenth and the offering should process by noon. Why was the new grain forbidden that entire day?

The following came to mind.

So WHEN is that day going to be?

There are two answers. (Sorry).

The first answer is that the redemption will occur on THAT day. But nobody knows when THAT day really is. Only G-D knows. G-D manages history and He'll make it happen precisely then, down to the microsecond / nanosecond / picosecond / etc.

That's the "in its time" redemption (Yeshiah / Isiah 60:22).

So which day is it, already?

While we really have absolutely no idea which year it will be, it's not a bad bet to put money on the fifteenth of Nisan. After all, the Talmud clearly states that we will be redeemed during the month of Nisan (Rosh Hashanah 11a). And what better day in Nisan can you pick? The Hagaddah kind of says it. The Medrash kind of says it.

So in your Passover preparations do take the time to figure out where the passports of your family members are. But then again, you may not need passports. Just hop onto the cloud.

Next question: What's going to happen and when?

One thing we know is that Eliyahu (Elijah the prophet) will precede the coming of the Moshiach (Messiah) by one day (Talmud Eruvin 43b).

So, if Moshiach arrives on Passover, does that mean that Eliyahu will arrive to announce the redemption on the day before Passover?

No way.

The Talmud says that the Jewish people are assured by Heaven that Eliyahu will never arrive on the eve of Shabbos or a holiday because the Jewish people are busy preparing for the celebration. We simply won't be able to properly greet him.

And of all the days before a holiday, nobody has time to do anything on the eve of Passover because everybody is in a frenzy doing everything to get ready for Pesach.

OK, nix the fourteenth of Nisan for the arrival of Eliyahu the prophet.

That takes us to the FIFTEENTH, Passover night! No wonder they had us fill a fifth cup for Eliyahu!

We'll have no trouble staying up all night that Pesach, no matter how many extra cups of wine we drink. And we'll become so amazed with all the wonderful things he'll be saying and explaining that we may need to be reminded in the morning to say the Shema, just like it happened in the Hagaddah.

So if Eliyahu does arrive on the fifteenth then Moshiach will arrive on the sixteenth, in time for the Omer offering!

But there can be no Omer offering on that day unless the Third Temple is rebuilt, "VERY QUICKLY."

Perhaps that's why the Talmud linked Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai's ruling with the Temple being built very quickly.

Historically, the precious Jewish people who ascended to the Jerusalem to joyously celebrate the last Passover in the Second Temple were the ones who were trapped by the invading Roman legions.

Perhaps Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai embedded with his ruling a ray of hope for his and future generations. There will be a better and much brighter Passover, some day.

But why doesn't he come today? What's holding up the redemption?

Our teachers tell us that we will not find the answer in a book. Rather, we will find it by looking in a mirror, at ourselves individually and collectively.

If we can only look at ourselves honestly, stop making excuses, giving up, and belittling others, stop running away from the Torah, stop fragmenting. If we can only get our act together and be together, if we can only extend ourselves a bit more and both obey and LISTEN to the Torah then Moshiach can arrive ANY day, with or without Eliyahu's announcement.

And this is the second answer to the question of when Moshiach will come. It's the "I shall RUSH it" redemption day (Yeshiah / Isiah 60:22).

Until we do this, G-D's process of refining us through Jewish history will roll on, painful as it has been for the past thirty-three centuries.

But we can do it, no matter how impossible it seems. The farther away it seems to be, the closer it really can be.

We may now look at Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai's ruling as another ray of hope for both his generation and ours.

Have a wonderful Passover preparation. Act quickly but keep cool.

I sincerely hope we all meet very soon in the greatest of all rushes.


Passover 2016 / 5776

The Torah gives us an opportunity to make up the Passover offering if couldn't perform it because either we were ritually defiled through contact / encounter with a corpse or because we were too distant from the Temple to be there in time for slaughtering the sacrifice.

The Talmud describes this distance as being a half-day journey from the Temple (Pesachim 93a).

Now, the Torah requires males to present themselves in the Temple three times each year. These are the three pilgrimage festivals: Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos. The Torah provides no opportunity for making them up.

Furthermore, there doesn't appear to be any accommodation because of distance. The Mishnah says that some people lived a travel distance of fifteen days away and faithfully made the journey (Taanis 10).

The guidelines for the pilgrimage festivals appears to be entirely different from the Passover offering, which provides an accommodation for someone that was only a half-day away.

The Chasam Sofer suggests the following message for this difference.

By the time the Jewish people reached the promised land and began celebrating the pilgrimage festivals they had overcome many challenges. By then they developed an intense relationship with G-D. This feeling of closeness helped create the expectation that we would continually reunite in the Temple no matter how far away we lived. It also reduced the impact of the geographic distance between home and the Temple. This relationship energized us to travel great distances to be with G-D, so to speak.

However, in Egypt, the Jewish people felt remote. Many lost the connection of circumcision. Furthermore, extreme hardships pushed many into idol worship. Being in such dire spiritual straits we lacked confidence and energy.

In the merit of our extending ourselves to slaughter the Passover lamb, which was also Egypt's god, and in the merit of our mass circumcision, G-D had mercy and it was He who bridged the remaining distance between us.

The accommodations for the Passover offering serve to remind us of the great kindness that G-D bestowed upon us when He took us out from Egypt.


Parshas Vayikra (Lev. 1-5)

1:1 And He (G-d) called to Moshe (Moses). And G-d spoke to him from the meeting tent, saying .…

The tabernacle's courtyard covered an area of fifty cubits by one-hundred cubits.

This measurement of land is cited in a number of Rabbinical laws that pertain to restrictions for carrying objects during Shabbos. The area is termed a 'Bais Sasayim.'

Now, the Talmud provides specifications for the walls of a succa. It discusses a wall that an average wind can break apart. Such a wall is invalid and must be reinforced (Succa 24b).

The Talmud cites a Mishnah (Eruvin 99b) that discusses a tree whose branches reach within three hand-breadths of the ground. The Mishnah says that the branches can be viewed as a walled area and one may carry objects under the tree during Shabbos.

The Talmud questions why the wall that was formed by the tree's branches is viewed as a valid enclosure to permit carrying, as a wind can break the branches apart.

The Talmud answers that the Mishnah is speaking about a tree whose branches are reinforced, so that they can't break apart.

The Talmud then brings a teaching that one may carry under this tree only if the area enclosed by the branches is less than a Bais Sasayim.

It raises the following issue: If reinforcement made the walls valid, then just like there is no limit to how large an area one's house can be for carrying to be permitted inside, there should also be no limit for the area that is enclosed by the tree's branches.

The Talmud closes the discussion by saying that the enclosed area is different than a person's home. The difference is that the area under the tree is primarily used for that which is outside the tree.

In his explanation of this response, Rashi appears to be saying that the area under the tree is unlike a person's home because it is a makeshift dwelling area.

He connects this with what people did in those times when they erected makeshift shelters when they were out guarding their fields. The primary purpose of such shelters was not to make a living space. Rather, it was for guarding the area outside the shelter. Similarly, the purpose for the area under the tree is viewed as being for that which is outside the tree.

It is interesting that the Talmud's words do not directly focus on the tree being a makeshift shelter or that it was made for watching fields. And it is interesting in his commentary on the discussion, Rashi explicitly links this measurement to tabernacle's courtyard.

It's difficult to see how all these concepts link together.

And, it is pretty rare to find a tree being so large that its drooping branches form an area that is five-thousand square cubits. If a cubit is a foot and a half, that's whopping 11,250 square feet. If my calculations are correct then the diameter of the area is around 120 feet. Three of such trees would fit on a football field, if you include the end-zone.

The following came to mind.

The Torah states, "And you shall guard My guarding" (Leviticus 18:30). The Talmud understands this to mean that we must make safeguards to G-D's guarding (Yevamos 21a).

As keeping the Torah guards the Jewish people, I understand this to mean that the Torah charges our Torah scholars to guard the Torah from the Jewish people themselves.

You see, people really mean well and can be so very clever. Without safeguards, people who think they have adequate Torah knowledge can wind up doing some strange things, even unwillingly transgressing Torah laws.

Here's an example.

Passover is around the corner and the Torah prohibits eating or possessing 'chametz' before and during the holiday.

By definition, chametz is raw products from five grains, such as flour, that have come into contact with water and have not been baked into edible food within eighteen minutes. This is why they rush when they bake Matzah for Passover.

This means no bread, cake, or cookies during Passover.

But yet we are very "advanced" and today and you can find cake and cookies on the shelves that are certified Kosher for Passover.

Frankly, they don't taste to me like cake and cookies and they don't have the same crumble and crunch. Instead of using flour, they are made with potato starch, exotic substitutes, and/or chemicals. But, with enough marketing and imagination, some people purchase them to manage their cravings for chametz during Passover.

Understandably, those who are persistent enough to crack culinary codes and make the most realistic pseudo-chametz will stand to gain great fame and fortune during the holiday.

So picture a religious and somewhat knowledgeable person bringing to the Passover meal what appears to be an appealing cake, icing and all. It tastes great, like real chametz, not like dressed-up sawdust. And it has the same crunch, crumble, and moisture too!

The guests say, Wow!

What was the secret, they ask. After much prodding it is revealed that the cake was made from the same flour that they use to bake a hundred-percent Kosher for Passover Matzah. So if the flour is Kosher enough for Matzah, it has to be Kosher enough for making cake.

The guests say, Oy! And the cake heads for the incinerator.

Getting back to the discussion, Rabbinic safeguards keep us safe from transgressing the Torah, which is itself very unsafe.

A number of Rabbinic safeguards were made to keep us away from carrying objects during Shabbos between private and public domains and within public domains themselves.

Unless one is well versed in all of the technical specifications that define what a private and public domain are, people can come up with some very creative but non-compliant ways to carry on Shabbos.

One of the safeguards provide restrictions on makeshift private domains and on how much "rope" our scholars gave us for carrying within them

Perhaps they searched for a model to package this particular safeguard and decided that it should be the courtyard of the tabernacle. I assume that we carried within that very famous and public enclosure during Shabbos.

Do you catch the potential for a blur? It's public and it's an enclosure.

And it appears to be a perfect match with the makeshift dwelling of one who watches fields.

Just like the watchman's hut isn't an actual residence in all senses of the word, so is the tabernacle, in that is not the actual residence of the One who dwells within it.

And just like the watchman's hut is used to house a person who is busy watching that which is outside it, so is the One who dwells in the tabernacle constantly busy watching and guarding all of us, who live outside.


1:1 And He (G-d) called to Moshe (Moses). And G-d spoke to him from the meeting tent, saying .…

The first word of this Torah reading is "Vayikra." It means "And He called." The last letter of this word is an aleph and is written in a smaller font. Without this aleph, the letters would spell out "Vayikar," which means, "And He chanced a meeting."

In Numbers 23:4 we find the word "Vayikar" when G-D revealed Himself in a dream to Bilam the idolater.

Rashi tells us that 'Vayikra' is an expression of endearment. This expression is used by the ministering angels as is stated, And each one calls to the other..(Yeshiayahu - Isaiah 6:3)".

The Baal Haturim commentary says that in his humility, Moshe wanted to use the word "Vayikar" for G-D's encounters with him.

G-D therefore told Moshe to write the word "Vayikra," not "Vayikar."

But in his humility, Moshe requested that the aleph letter be written in a smaller font so that the world would include a lower level of encounter.

This is puzzling, writes Rabbi Sorotzkin in his book Rinas Yisroel, for Moshe was not like any other prophet.

G-D communicated to him directly, not in a dream or with riddles. (Numbers 12: 6-8). Suggesting otherwise appears to be a distortion.

How do we understand this?

He answers that the Rambam teaches that there are two types of prophetic encounters. One is for the sake of the prophet and the other is for other people. Some are to enhance the prophet's spiritual horizons and others are messages that are meant to be delivered. (Madah: Yesodei Hatorah: 7:7)

Clearly, when Moshe acted as an intermediary his prophecy was not like any other prophet. But this does not preclude the possibility that he experienced lesser levels, especially prior to his encounter at the burning bush.

Rabbi Sorotzkin cites a teaching from Rav Soloveitchik that it appears from the Medrash that those prophetic experiences which Moshe had that were only meant to enhance his spiritual horizons may very well have been on a plane that was comparable to that of other prophets.

As such, we can speak of two types of callings that G-D made to him, depending on the purpose.

The aleph being included in the word but in a smaller font is not a distortion but rather a reflection of these two types of callings.

As written, the word Vayikra reflects both Moshe's humility and the truth of the Torah.


The order in which the types of sacrifices are presented must convey many messages.

The following came to mind.

First of all, most of sacrifices in the Book of Leviticus are from the individual or are from a group of individuals. While we find a concentration of temple-related laws in this book, communal sacrifices are mostly presented in the previous book and in the next.

The olah is presented first. All of its meat is consumed on the altar and the animal skins are given to the priests. Next are voluntary the meal offerings. A part is brought on the altar and the rest is given to the priests. Some communal meal offerings are mentioned afterwards. The voluntary gift offerings called shelamim are written next. The meat is shared by the altar, the priests, and the owner. A variety of sin and corrective offerings are presented next.

Details about the laws of several types are provided in the next Torah reading. It isn't until there that the Torah introduces a sacrifice that is offered for thanksgiving to G-D.

Without the insight that the Oral Torah provides one can have the impression that the Torah defers discussion on the corrective sacrifices, perhaps out of deference for mankind.

However, the Oral Torah teaches that the olah offering can be either voluntarily or it can be used to atone for a lack of inaction.

So in fact, the Torah begins with a corrective theme, only it is not obvious from the written text, perhaps out of deference.

Commentaries have written that the temple is a response to our need for correction from the sin of the golden calf.

The temple appears to be the vehicle that G-D in His mercy provided us collectively and individually to restore our relationship with Him, which is all so sensitive and easily disrupted as we grow towards maturity.

It is perhaps because the primary focus of the Temple for the individual is corrective in nature that the gift and thanksgiving offerings are mentioned later in the text.


1:1 And He (G-d) called to Moshe (Moses). And G-d spoke to him from the meeting tent, saying .…

Rashi provides the following commentary:

There was a calling prior to every conversation and speaking. ('Vayikra' is) an expression of endearment. This language is used by the ministering angels as is stated, And each one calls to the other..(Yeshiayahu - Isaiah 6:3)". However, when He reveals Himself to the prophets of idolaters, G-d uses an expression of an unplanned meeting and of ritual impurity as it states, "And G-d chanced (Vayikar) a meeting with Bilam (Numbers 23:4)"

Rashi is referencing the following teachings.

The word "Vayikra" means "And He called." The last letter of this word is an alef and it is written in miniature. Without this alef, the rest of the letters spell out the word "Vayikar," which means, "And He chanced a meeting."

The Medrash teaches that Moshe wrote the alef in miniature to minimize the distinction that the Torah was bestowing upon him from the word, "Vayikra."

In Exodus 19:3 the Torah also uses this word when G-D called out to Moshe and the alef is not written in miniature.

Why did Moshe write the alef in miniature here and not earlier in the text?

The following came to mind.

Moshe was endeared but he is not alone, for so is all of mankind, in general and in differing degrees.

Much of the Book of Leviticus focuses on mankind's relationship with G-D. It begins with sacrifices and they are meant to repair our relationship and restore our level of endearment.

It was therefore more appropriate to miniaturize the alef in the Book of Leviticus because of its focus on the endearment of mankind, perhaps with the exception of those in the extreme such as Bilam and his ilk.

While the Torah is demonstrating Moshe's endearment at this point in the text, perhaps Moshe is hinting to us that he is not alone in being worthy of being called by G-D, for while we are all endeared, G-D does not always demonstrate this.


1:1 And He (G-D) called to him (Moshe/Moses). And G-D spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, saying.

1:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, "Adam from you that brings near a sacrifice for G-D. You shall bring your sacrifice from the cattle and sheep."'

The Targum Yonasan and other commentaries note that Moshe did not want to enter the Sanctuary without first being invited by G-D. This is why it is written that G-D called to Moshe.

In the end of the previous book of the Torah (Exodus 40:35) it states that Moshe was unable to enter the Sanctuary because of the cloud that rested upon it. Here it implies that he was able but decided not to enter uninvited because this was not appropriate.

What is the Torah trying to tell us from this difference?

This volume of the Torah focuses on building our relationship with G-D and it begins with the laws of sacrifices.

One important law is that stolen livestock and property are unfit for sacrifices. The Talmud derives this from the words, 'from you,' in second verse. Rashi cites a teaching that derives this from the first word in this verse, 'Adam.' That is, when the first Man brought his initial sacrifice he had exclusive ownership of it because as of then there was no other person in the world except him.

According to Rashi's teaching, the very first law of sacrifices in this section is that they may not come from stolen property.

Why did the Torah select this law to introduce the laws of sacrifices?

The following came to mind.

The Sanctuary was a communal and public institution.

The power of being a public entity is not necessary to have a close relationship with G-D. Rather, the Oral Torah (Avos 3:14) teaches that every individual is precious to G-D and this is why we were all created in His image.

The offerings that were brought in the Sanctuary came from both the community and from individuals. This introductory section focuses on personal sacrifices, perhaps to underscore the distinction that G-D assigned to each and every person.

Given the importance of the individual to G-D and given that personal sacrifices are a means for a person to develop his/her relationship with G-D, it becomes obvious that person can not use something other than his/her own to strengthen this very personal relationship.

Perhaps this is message that the Torah is trying to tell us by selecting the law of the stolen sacrifice as an introduction.

Also, we are taught that the purpose of Mankind in the current phase of human history is the proper execution of free-will choice.

Since the focus of this portion of the Torah is the distinction that G-D assigned to Mankind and since this the focus of Mankind is free-will choice, perhaps this theme is reflected by the Torah emphasizing that Moshe chose not to enter the Sanctuary instead of emphasizing the fact that he couldn't.


1:1 And He (G-D) called to Moshe (Moses) and G-D spoke to him from the meeting tent, saying.

The Medrash provides the following teaching:

They (our sages) taught from here that 'A carcass is better that any scholar that has no awareness (of how to behave).' You should know that this is so (from here.) Go learn from Moshe, master of wisdom and of the prophets, who brought Israel out from Egypt, through him many miracles were performed in Egypt and wonders by the Sea of Reeds, who ascended to the heavens above and brought down Torah from heaven, who was engaged in the (construction) work for the sanctuary, and (yet) he did not enter inside and within (the inner chamber) of the sanctuary until He (G-D) called him as it says, "And He called him."

The Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel appears to give a different reason for Moshe's hesitation until he was called. It says the following:

Moshe reasoned (that he should not enter the sanctuary until he was called.) He said, 'If Mount Sinai whose status was elevated for a (relative) moment, and whose sanctity was momentary and yet I was not permitted to ascend until I was told to by G-D, how much more so by the sanctuary, whose elevation is eternal and whose sanctity is eternal, that I should not enter until I am called by G-D.

The Medrash seems to be saying that Moshe hesitated because of etiquette while the Targum seems to be saying that Moshe did so out of reason. Can they be reconciled?

Furthermore, the scripture does not seem to fully support the Targum.

It does say in Exodus 19:20 that G-D called to Moshe before he ascended, on the sixth day of the month of Sivan: "And G-D descended upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain, and G-D called to Moshe towards the top of the mountain, and Moshe ascended."

However when the Jewish people arrived at Mount Sinai, which was on the first day of Sivan, the Torah says the following in 19:3: "And Moshe went up towards G-D and G-D called to him from the mountain saying, 'Say thus to the House of Yaakov and tell the Sons of Israel.'"

It appears in this verse that Moshe ascended the mountain before G-D called him.

How do we understand the Targum? And again, can we reconcile the Medrash with the Targum?

The following came to mind.

The sanctity of Mount Sinai was only evident to humans on the sixth day, as it states in verse 19:18 "And Mount Sinai was totally smoke because G-D ascended down upon it in fire, and its smoke arose like the smoke of a furnace, and the mountain shook very much."

Its sanctity was not evident on the first day, when Moshe ascended without G-D telling him to do so.

Similarly, the sanctity of the sanctuary was already evident to humans when Moshe hesitated.

G-D's presence fills the universe. In real terms it was no less and it was no more on the sixth day of Sivan than on the first. The difference was in how it appeared to people on six Sivan. Similarly, in real terms G-D's presence is the same in the sanctuary as it is anywhere else in the universe. The only difference was in how it appeared to people in Moshe's time.

The recognition of how thing appears to others is a crucial factor in deciding behavior.

Perhaps this is what the Medrash had in mind. Perhaps this is why Moshe did not hesitate on the first day of Sivan but he had to on the seventh.

Perhaps the Medrash and the Targum compliment each other. Moshe's reasoning reflected the importance of being sensitive to how behavior is taken, by how other people perceive reality. This is indeed a fundamental principle of etiquette.


1:1 And He (G-d) called to Moshe (Moses). And G-d spoke to him from the meeting tent, saying .…

Rashi provides the following introductory commentary to the Book of Leviticus:

There was a calling prior to every conversation and speaking. ('Vayikra' is) an expression of endearment. This language is used by the ministering angels as is stated, And each one calls to the other..(Yeshiayahu - Isaiah 6:3)". However, when He reveals Himself to the prophets of idolaters, G-d uses an expression of an unplanned meeting and of ritual impurity as it states, "And G-d happened (Vayikar) to Bilam (Numbers 23:4)"

What is the significance of these two types of encounters? It is merely to accentuate that Moshe's relationship with G-d had more meaning than that of Bilam? Wouldn't we know this anyway?

Also, the reference in Isaiah doesn't appear to have anything to do with endearment. Rashi in Isaiah explains that the angels call to each other for synchronization, to praise G-d in unison. What does this have to do with G-d's calling to Moshe? Of what pertinence is synchronization in this context?

Finally, how do we understand the relation between something that G-d did and that of ritual impurity. At face value, this is incomprehensible.

The following came to mind.

G-d forbid. Rashi is not attributing ritual impurity to something that G-d did. Rather, this must relate to Bilam and his attitude.

The Torah and the history of Jewish people bring out G-d's relationship with the world. G-d exists, He has a relationship with the world, and He actively manages the affairs of mankind. Every historical event is a huge and complex demonstration of care and coordination. This in contrast to foreign theologies such as those of Bilam and Amalek. Their world is one which isolates G-d from the world. Their world is driven by chance, by casting lots. It is represented by the absence of spirituality, by ritual impurity.

"With clear (people) You [G-d] act in a clear manner and with the crooked You act (with them) in a crooked manner." (Samuel II 22:27)

This is a most appropriate introduction to the Book of Leviticus, a portion of the Torah that focuses on sacrifices, on acts that bring a person closer to G-d or that repair the breaks in this relation that were caused by a person's misconduct.


1:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, '(For) a man (literally 'Adam') from you who brings near a sacrifice to G-d: You shall bring your sacrifice, from the beasts, and from the cattle and from the sheep.

1:3 And if his sacrifice is (of the) Olah (category), (if it's) from cattle (then) he shall bring near an unblemished male. He must bring it near to the opening of the Meeting Tent, [Sanctuary] (bringing it) according to his will before G-d.'

We derive many laws about sacrifices from these verses.

Rashi provides some from the Talmud:

1:2 'Adam': (The Torah describes a person with this word) to tell us (the following:) Just as the first man (Adam) did not use something stolen for an offering, as everything belonged to him, you may also not use something stolen.

1:3 'He must bring it near': This teaches us that we are charged to compel a person to fulfil his/her sacrificial obligation. I may therefore think that an offering may be brought against a person's will. The Torah (therefore) says, 'according to his will.' How is it possible (for a person to be compelled to bring a willful sacrifice)? This teaches that we are charged to compel a person to say that he/she wants the sacrifice.

Notwithstanding the ideal of free-choice, the Torah charges us to compel a person to fulfil his/her obligation.

Many sacrifices provide atonement. The Olah sacrifice can atone for a person's inaction, when the person was required to fulfill a commandment and he/she didn't do.

The law of stolen sacrifices and of compelled/willful offerings apply to the other sacrifices. It is noteworthy that they were written by the Olah sacrifice.

The following came to mind.

A person must maintain a balanced approach in life. When not appropriate, inactivity is corruptive. When a person's activity and zeal gets the better of his/her judgment, like when illicit means are used to justify a lofty end, this is also corruptive.

It is therefore suitable for these two laws to be written by the Olah sacrifice.

We are charged to help a person get out of his/her inactive fixation. We disqualify the offering of the over-zealous thief.

During our evening prayers we say, 'Please remove the Satan (evil inclination) from before us and from behind us..'

Evil tries to burn both ends of the candle. It tries to stop us from doing good. It also tries to push us into doing evil in order to achieve a noble goal.


1:3 If one's Olah sacrifice is from the cattle then the person shall bring it (from the) male and (of the) perfect. The person shall bring it near the opening of the Tent of Meeting, "L'Retzono" to/for his will before G-D.

The Talmud (Chulin 90b) provides the following discussion:

We are prohibited from eating a part of an animal's thigh that is called the gid hanashe (Genesis 32:33).

Rav Hunah taught that this part must be removed from the Olah sacrifice, too. Also, it is done after the priests carry the thigh to the top of the altar and before the thigh is placed on the altar's fire.

If the gid hanashe must be removed, asks the Talmud, then why is it brought up to the altar's top in the first place? That is, why isn't the forbidden part removed before the thigh is carried up the altar's ramp? Why must it only be removed on the altar's offering platform? The Talmud answers with the following verse: "Bring (something [as repulsive - e.g. dissected] as) this to your governor. Would he accept you? (Malachi 1:8)"

Rav Hunah's guidance is based on a principle that only kosher food may be offered on the altar and that we postpone the dissection until the thigh has already reached the top of altar so that our bringing it as an offering to G-D can be done in a quality and respectful manner to the maximum practical extent.

Now, the size of the offering platform was between forty-eight and sixty-four feet square. It appears that the dissection could be done anywhere on this platform.

If we are charged to delay the removal of the gid haneshe so that the thigh can remain complete and have a respectful presentation until the last possible moment, then why isn't the removal postponed until the priest is adjacent to the wood pile where the offering is placed? Why is it sufficient to delay the dissection only until the priest reaches altar's top platform?

The following came to mind.

A sacrifice is a means by which a person can achieve a deeper and closer relationship with G-D. It is a process during which a person ascends to a higher level. Indeed, the purpose of the entire sanctuary is for man to come closer to G-D, not for G-D to receive gifts and offerings from man for He does not need them for Himself.

As such, we may be able to say that bringing the animal parts up the altar's ramp is far more significant than placing offerings on the wood pile, for this reflects the purpose of the sanctuary, that of man's ascending to greater heights and becoming more spiritual.

Perhaps to reflect this, the expectations that are imposed by the verse in Malachi are only relevant through the time that the priest is ascending up the altar. Once he reaches the top then the priest, representing donor's ascending closer to G-D, the priest has already reached the limit, which perhaps reflects our own limitations in achieving spiritual heights in our current form of life.

Perhaps then this is why the priest can dissect the thigh on the platform, even if at a distance from the woodpile. Otherwise, it could appear that the actual offering onto the fire has equal significance, or perhaps any significance, with respect to the act of ascending.


1:3-9 If his offering is brought from cattle .. it is an offering that is pleasing to G-d.

1:10-13 And if his offering is brought from sheep .. it is an offering that is pleasing to G-d.

1:14-17 And if from birds .. it is an offering that is pleasing to G-d.

2:1-1 And if a soul brings an offering of flour .. it is an offering that is pleasing to G-d.

We have four classes of sacrifices and they are presented in an order of decreasing monetary value.

In 1:17, the Torah instructs the Kohen (Priest) to burn the bird sacrifice on the Altar, feathers and all.

Rashi notes that burning feathers creates a foul odor. He provides the following comment.

(The bird's feathers are not plucked and instead they are burned) so that the Altar should (appear to) be satisfied and glorified by the sacrifice of the poor person (who is bringing it).

Rashi assumes that the bird is being brought by someone who is poor because the person would have brought cattle or a sheep if he/she had the money.

In the next verse, 1:17, Rashi provides the following commentary in the name of the Toras Kohanim:

It says, 'pleasing to G-d' by bird offerings and it says 'pleasing to G-d' by animal offerings. This tells us that both giving more and giving less are acceptable, as long as one focuses his/her intent towards doing the will of G-d.

The following verse, 2:1, deals with the flour offering. Rashi provides the following comment on 'And if a soul brings an offering.'

The word, 'soul' is only said by a flour offering. This is because a poor person usually brings an offering of flour (because he/she can not afford to bring an animal or a bird.) Says G-d, 'I consider it as if the person gave (up) his/her soul (for Me).

The following questions came to mind.

Rashi in 1:17 says that poor people bring birds. Rashi in 2:1 says that poor people bring flour offerings. This appears to be a contradiction.

By the flour offering, Rashi notes how the Torah acknowledges the sacrifice of the poor by using the word, 'soul.' Why isn't this word used by the bird sacrifice?

Let us examine the teaching of the Toras Kohanim and how it is applied. 'Giving more and giving less are acceptable, as long as one focuses his/her intent towards doing the will of G-d' is said by the bird offering. In and of itself, this teaching is directed at someone who has a choice of how much to give. The Torah is teaching that, a person's intentions are more important than the amount that he/she gives. Now, Rashi told us that the bird offering is brought by a poor person. Why, does the Toras Kohanim give this lesson by the sacrifice of a poor person who can't give any more?

Why does the Toras Kohanim give this lesson by the sacrifice of the bird which is the third class of sacrifices? Since it is directed at people who give either a lot or a little, it should have been written by either the first class sacrifice, the cattle offering, or the fourth, the flour offering.

The following came to mind.

There are different types of poor people.

Some people simply don't have any resources. Others have some resources but they are straddled by expenses and a limited income. They are frequently forced to make trade-offs, which are sometimes emotionally painful.

The first type of poor person is represented by those who bring the flour offering. This person has no money and his sacrifice may very well cause him/her to go without a meal. The Torah treats this sacrifice as though the person offered his/her soul.

The second type of poor person is represented by those who bring the bird offering. This person can put together the money for an animal offering but he/she has pressing financial obligations which created a conflict and forced the decision to bring a bird. The Torah assumes recognizes this painful choice. This person gave less.

Says G-d in His Torah: Let my Altar appear to be satisfied and glorified by the sacrifice of this person. Giving more and giving less are acceptable, as long as the person focuses his/her intent towards doing My will.

As an aside, there is a teaching in Avos that lists ten miracles which were performed in the Temple. Given that G-d made open miracles in the Temple, we note that G-d allowed the foul odor of the bird feathers to remain in its natural state.

Perhaps this was left for us to take this lesson.


1:3 If one's Olah sacrifice is from the cattle then the person shall bring it (from the) male and (of the) perfect. The person shall bring it near the opening of the Tent of Meeting, "L'Retzono" (to his will?) before G-D.

The Hebrew word "L'Retzono" can be understood in many ways.

The Talmud (Arachin 21a) uses a reading of 'by his will,' meaning that an Olah sacrifice must be brought voluntarily.

Other commentators use a reading for 'for His will,' referring to G-D accepting the sacrifice if it meets the requirements that are specified by the Torah. That is, G-D will accept the offering if the animal is a male and has no blemishes, is not stolen, etc.

An alternate reading that came to mind is 'for his will,' the will of the one who brings the sacrifice.

All sacrifice have parts that are offered on the altar. What happens to the rest of the animal's body depends on the sacrifice.

Some are burned outside the Temple. Offerings in this class are completely consumed. They have no parts that are given to man.

Other sacrifices have parts that are consumed by man. These parts may be eaten solely by the priest or they may have parts that are eaten by both priest and non-priest, depending on the sacrifice.

The meat of the Olah is completely consumed on the altar. Man does not eat the meat but the Torah assigns the hide to the priest. In a sense, it combines the aspects of complete consumption and shared consumption.

Now, some sacrifices are required and others are voluntary.

For instance, if a person accidentally sins then he/she may be required to bring a sin-offering. A woman is required to bring an offering after childbirth. A person who was saved from danger should bring an offering of thanksgiving. The communal offerings are all mandatory. This includes the two daily Tamid sacrifices, the Shabbos sacrifice, the Rosh Chodesh (new month) offering, and the holiday offerings.

Other sacrifices are totally voluntary. A person can chose to donate a simple shelamim sacrifice but is never required to so.

The Olah appears to be voluntary. However, the Oral Tradition teaches that it atones for inactivity, lack of a person's response to a requirement to do a positive commandment. It also atones for impure thoughts. Again, the Olah appears to be a hybrid.

The Torah says that one brings an Olah "L'Retzono," which we will now read "for his will."

A person who is lethargic in response to perform a commandment displays a lack of will. He/she lacks appreciation for the significance and meaning of the commandment. We assume that this same person is not lethargic when it comes to doing something that is of great interest to him/her, like taking a maxi-vacation. This same person who lacked the energy and excitement to get up early enough to say the Shema at the proper time will jump out of bed at the crack of dawn and will be well on the road to the airport to make the plane to his/her getaway.

At first glance, impure thoughts appear to be the product of an absence of will, since we can not control what our thought process brings to mind. However, on a deeper level, a person will only come to think about that which he/she is truly interested in.

Perhaps the Olah sacrifice is to emphasize the need for a person to do whatever possible keep adjusting upwards the sphere of his/her interests.

We are taught that the more a person's interest lies in physicality, the less it lies in spirituality. We also observe that on an external level, a person's focus of interest wavers, sometimes towards spirituality and sometimes toward physicality.

Our goal is to maximize the spirituality part in this mix.

Now this does not imply a need to deny physical needs and impulses. To the contrary. We are taught that we will be questioned in heaven about opportunities for pleasure that were provided to us. This does not mean that we are required to partake of every pleasure. Not at all. We will just have to respond with answers, which implies that we have to get through this world with our minds, as well as with our bodies. (Bottom line: Get busy opening your mind, not your mouth.)

So, we should be looking for ways to reduce our excitement towards physicality. Note that I say to reduce, not to eliminate. The Torah does NOT want people to get into spirituality by jumping out of their skin. And it is noteworthy that the skin the Olah offering is indeed given to man.

Strategies we need to be thinking of are short bursts of total focus, with the goal of increasing the share that spirituality has in our 'interest pot' over the long term.

Perhaps this completeness of focus is reflected by the Olah meat being completely consumed on the altar.

If the bursts are not pure then whatever spiritual value they have will be dissolved by the native physicality which we are most closest to. And if the bursts are too long or often then we will risk lose our skins, which is a form of failure that will make the evil powers just as happy as if we went to the other extreme and drowned in our physicality.

By changing the mixture and becoming more excited over spirituality, we will be less prone to be lethargic towards the commandments. The more spirituality dominates our thoughts, the less we will experience inconsistent mental glitches.

What is also significant about the Olah offering is its maximum cost. The most a person is expected to sacrifice is a cow, which costs a significant chunk of money but is not overwhelming. As important as it is to work to improve our underlying motivations, we are reminded to approach this with prudent constraints, thereby maximizing the probability for our success.

So the Olah is "L'Retzono, " to help the person refine his/her will and move towards perfection.

So keep consistent and focused but don't overdo it beyond what makes sense for your energy level and make-up.

Remember this teaching during the upward mobility: "It is not for you to complete job; Neither are you free from doing it."(Avos 2:16).


1:3 If his offering of cattle is for an Olah then he shall bring a complete male. He shall bring it by the opening of the Tent of Meeting for his appeasement before G-D.

2:1 And if a soul brings an offering of flour to G-D then his offering shall be of fine flour. And he shall pour oil on it and he shall put (pieces of) Levonah on it.

2:2 And he shall bring it to the sons of Aharon (Aaron) the priests …

The Torah writes that the animal offering is brought to a place, the opening of the Tent of Meeting. However, the flour offering is brought to people, the sons of Aharon.

Obviously, the Torah is trying to tell us something by making this distinction.

From the laws of sacrifices that I've studied, I don't know of any requirement to bring animal offerings to a place and not to a person, neither do I know of any requirement to being flour offerings to a person and not to a place.

The following thought came to mind.

Rashi provides the following commentary for verse 2:1:

When referencing the person who brings offerings, the Torah only uses the word 'soul' by the flour offering. This is because the donor is typically a poor person who can not afford to bring an animal. Because of this, G-D views the sacrifice as if the donor brought his entire soul as the offering.

It is perhaps because this that the Torah writes that the flour offering should be brought to people and that these people shall be the priests, the sons of Aharon.

People who are not destitute may want to bring a flour offering in order to save money. They really need to think twice about the relevance of economic convenience at a time when a person is bringing a sacrifice to G-D. Perhaps the Torah is reminding them that their flour offering will be given to people who may question the appropriateness of their sacrifice for them.

However, people who are really destitute need to be supported, both financially and emotionally. Aharon was a compassionate and sensitive person. So perhaps the Torah is reminding his descendents of their great heritage so that they will take a personal interest in those need to being a flour offering but who may feel ashamed by doing so.


4:13 And if the entire congregation of Israel makes a mistake and a matter was obscured from the eyes of the congregation and they did one of the things that they were commanded by G-D not to do and became guilty.

This unique sacrifice is brought when the Great Sanhedrin (Supreme Court) rules by mistake that something forbidden may be done and most of the Jewish people follow their ruling and do it.

For example, they rule that sacrificing to an idol is forbidden but one is permitted to bow down to one. Or they rule that one is permitted during Shabbos to carry objects in a public domain.

In such cases they must bring this sacrifice when they realize that their ruling was not consistent with the Torah of Moshe (Moses).

The fact that such a sacrifice is prescribed by the Torah teaches that all of its laws are absolute and are not subject to the preferences of human beings, no matter how empowered or distinguished they are.

For if otherwise then why would they embarrass themselves and undermine the confidence that the public has in their rulings by publicly admitting that they were wrong?

Torah is founded on truth, not politics.


5:8 And he [the one who sinned] shall bring them [the sin offering and the olah offering] to the priest. And he [the priest] shall bring that which is for a sin offering first …

The Rinas Yitzchok commentary references the following teaching, from the Moshav Zekenim commentary.

The ordering of the sacrifices indicates the endearment that G-D has for one who has repented, as every part of the olah sacrifice is consumed on the altar and yet the sin sacrifice which is only partially consumed on the altar precedes it.

This poses a difficulty because we already have a long-standing teaching from the Babylonian Talmud that explains why the sin offering precedes the olah.

Rabbi Shimon says, "Why is the sin offering processed first? This can be compared to one who pleas on behalf of one who slighted the king. The pardon is first obtained [i.e. the sin offering] and then a gift is presented [i.e. the olah offering]" (Zevachim 7a).

Why does the Moshav Zekenim offer an alternate teaching?

The Rinas Yitzchok notes that the Moshav Zekenim appears to address this person as one who had already done repentance, when in fact the sin offering had not yet been processed by the priest. Why is he assigned this status prior to the offering?

I understand his explanation as follows.

A pardon is not atonement for the latter implies restoration.

Consider the following analogy. Mommy asks her child to stay away from the ink bottle. The child does not listen and gets covered with ink. The child cries and asks her forgiveness. Mommy forgives but the child is still dirty until the restoration (bath etc.).

The Rinas Yitzchok notes from Rashi (Yoma 85b) that we assume a person who brings a sin offering has done a form of repentance because of the fact that he is bringing it.

He uses this to explain why the Moshav Zekenim addresses the person as one who has already done repentance, as the sinner is pardoned even before bringing the sacrifice and the sacrifice provides the restoration.

But how do we explain the difference between the Moshav Zekenim and the Talmud?

The following came to mind.

Talmud is talking about the priest who brings the offering on the sinner's behalf and addresses the need to follow formal protocol.

The Moshav Zekenim focuses on the relationship between the sinner himself and G-D. He is saying that the precedence of the sin offering is not merely because his agent needs to follow formal protocol but also because of the significance that G-D assigns to repentance.


The final sections of Vayikra deal with the Asham offering.

5:14 provides a means of atonement for a person who accidentally derived personal use from assets of the Holy Temple or of sacrifices. So to speak, the person was not careful with G-d's property.

5:20 provides a means of atonement for social abuses that are related with purposely making false oaths for unlawful monetary gain. The person was not careful with the property and rights of his fellow human.

The first section, which relates with G-d's property, begins with 'A soul who deals improperly (falsely) and sins by mistake ...' The second section, which relates with the property of human beings begins with, 'A soul that sins and deals improperly (falsely) with G-d ....'

Why is the name of G-d emphasized more in the section which relates with human property and not with G-d's property?

The following came to mind.

Common social justice teaches that we must be concerned with the welfare and property of other humans. We must care about another person's property.

The Torah goes a step further. It also teaches that G-d is concerned with the property of humans. G-d cares about us and actively manages the world so that each person has whatever he needs to fulfill his role.

If a person accidentally uses G-d's property, he needs atonement, even though it was done by mistake. We are human and can make mistakes, but we must take our mistakes seriously, so we need an atonement process.

A person who purposely makes unlawful monetary gain is demonstrating that G-d is not meeting either his needs or his reasonable desires. While he may not mean to, he is saying that G-d doesn't care enough about him.

Perhaps, it is for this reason that the name of G-d is emphasized more in the section which relates with abuse of human property and not with G-d's property.


Parshas Tzav (Lev. 6-8)

6:2 Charge Aharon (Aaron) and his sons saying, "This is the law of the olah offering: This is the olah offering that is on its pyre all night on the altar and for which the fire of altar will burn within it."

Unlike other offerings, this sacrifice is completely consumed in fire, except for the animal's skin.

The Torah tells us the following about the sin offering.

6:17 Speak to Aharon and his sons saying, "This is the law of the sin offering: The sin offering shall be slaughtered in the same area (of the sanctuary) as the olah offering, before G-D. It is holy of holies."

6:18 The priest who processes the sin offering shall eat it. It shall be eaten in a holy place. It shall be eaten in the courtyard of the Tent of Meeting."

The Nesivas Shalom commentary notes that the olah offering appears to be spiritually more significant than the sin offering. Firstly, all of its flesh is consumed by the altar whereas portions of the sin offering are consumed by people. Secondly, it's the sin offering that references the olah, not the reverse.

Furthermore, we know that sin offerings atone for misdeeds, whereas the olah offering atones for unsuitable thoughts that a person keeps to himself.

If anything then, the sin offering should be more significant because they atone for actions.

However, this can all be understood if we include attitude into what the olah addresses, for it is attitude that drives a person's behavior.


6:2 "Charge Aharon (Aaron) and his sons saying, 'This is the Torah of the Olah offering …'"

7:18 "Speak to Aharon and to his sons saying, '"This is the Torah of the Chatas (sin) offering …'"

We are taught that the Olah offering atones for not performing a commandment, for not doing what is required.

The Chatas offering atones for accidently transgressing certain commandments, for doing what is forbidden.

The transgressor is required to bring a Chatas and this is one of the 613 commandments of the Torah. However, we do not find a corresponding commandment to bring an Olah offering for one who does not perform a commandment.

Why is this so?

The following came to mind to explain the difference.

One approach is that transgressions inject a defect and it can only be fully purged by repentance and a sin offering.

However, not performing a commandment represents a lost opportunity for the greatness that the commandment provides. An Olah offering cannot compensate for that particular loss. Instead, not performing a commandment reflects a weakness in the quality of our relationship with G-D. The quality of a relationship can't be upgraded by mandating something. Instead, the one responsible for the disconnect needs to work on himself and upgrade his attitude and awareness.

Another approach is that the reason behind bringing a Chatas is binary. Either you transgressed or you didn't. It doesn't matter how much you could have prevented the accident.

For example, imagine someone who mistakenly adjusted a lamp on Shabbos. Either he adjusted it or he didn't. It doesn't matter whether he could or could not have taken a refresher course to help remind him that this is forbidden.

However, doing a commandment has a qualitative aspect with respect to performing the commandment itself.

For example, say that yesterday a person did not say the Shema with much great zeal and focus but today he succeeded.

He will surely gain from both experiences and Heaven will reward him for both, but obviously not equally.

But as people, is natural to regard the first session as a failure. If the person takes note and uses this to improve the Shema the next time then this is healthy.

But, not giving it any value and viewing it as if it didn't count at all is unhealthy. Given that we are all subject to temptation by the Evil Inclination, It could eventually cause a person to become discouraged and give up. I would count this as a second win for Mr. Evil, the first being the weak Shema.

And if the Torah would require an Olah for not performing a commandment then the person may be tempted by the Evil Inclination to bring one for it, thereby using the Temple service to formalize a weakness that may not be fully his fault.

This could inject anxiety into saying the Shema. Especially if repeated over time, the psychological dynamics could eventually bring a person to shut down and not be able to say the Shema at all, a third and knock-out win for the Evil Inclination, may G-D protect us.


6:3 And the priest shall dress with linen clothing and he shall cloth his flesh with linen pants and he shall raise the ashes (from) when the fire consumes the Olah offering on the altar. And he shall place it by the altar.

The meat of the olah offering is supposed to be totally consumed on the altar. It can symbolize complete dedication to G-D's will.

The remaining ashes are what could not be consumed. They are afforded honor and placed at the side of the altar.

The Mishnah states in the name of Rabbi Tarfon: "The day is short and there is a lot of work to do. The workers are lazy, the wages are great, and the boss is pressing. It is not your responsibility to complete the work. Neither are you free to be idle from it." (Avos 2:15-16)

Try as hard as we can to fulfill G-D's commandments, there are things that we can accomplish and there are things that are beyond our capacity.

The fate of olah ashes tell me that G-D will afford us recognition for that which we tried to do but could not, because of our limitations.


6:3 And the priest shall dress with linen clothing and he shall cloth his flesh with linen pants and he shall raise the ashes (from) when the fire consumes the Olah offering on the altar. And he shall place it by the altar.

6:4 And he shall remove his garments and dress in other clothes. And he shall take the ashes out to another place, to a ritually pure place.

The Oral Torah teaches that the ashes of 6:4 are different than the ashes of 6:3. That is, there were two types of removal.

6:3 requires that a ceremonial removal of ashes be done every day. These ashes were placed at the side of the altar. The removal of ashes in 6:4 was done on an as-needed basis, when where were so much ashes at the top of the altar that they interfered with the service. These ashes were removed from the temple area.

These ashes are the remains of wood and sacrificial parts that were consumed, whose energy was spent out. The distinction that the Torah assigns to ashes is noteworthy.

Had the Torah not told us in verse 6:4 that we should take the ashes to a place that is outside the temple area, it would appear as though we would not be allowed to discard any of these ashes at all, due to their distinction.

If the Torah assigns distinction to that which was donated by mankind but is no longer of any use, then how much more so should distinction be assigned to a person who can no longer function and is no longer able to contribute society.

And for those who can indeed do something but feel at times that they lack significance, then they can learn and practice those Torah-defines behaviors that will only increase significance in their own eyes and in the eyes of their fellow man.

6:3 And the priest shall dress with linen clothing and he shall cloth his flesh with linen pants and he shall raise the ashes (from) when the fire consumes the Olah offering on the altar. And he shall place it by the altar.

The sections that precede the removal of the ashes delineate the procedures for making offerings. The sections that follow delineate the portions from the offerings that are assigned to the priests for their consumption or use.

This placement of this section brought the following thought to mind.

Performing the sacrificial services provided the priest with opportunities for spiritual greatness. It also brought prestige and material reward.

Relative to the sacrificial services, the removal of ashes was of minimal prestige. It also provided no material reward.

Perhaps this placement of this section can serve as a reminder for the priest to focus on the opportunities for spiritual accomplishment and not on the material rewards.


6:3 And the priest shall dress with linen clothing and he shall cloth his flesh with linen pants and he shall raise the ashes (from) when the fire consumes the Olah offering on the altar. And he shall place it by the altar.

The Rashi commentary teaches that the linen clothing is the priestly robe. From the choice of the Hebrew word that the Torah in this verse used to describe the robe, we derive a law that the garments must be the correct size for each priest.

The Torah specifies the priestly garments in the Book of Exodus. Why did the Torah write this law in the Book of Leviticus? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

The Torah writes this law, which is to maintain the noble appearance of the cohen in a section which deals with the least noble of services, that of disposing residue.

Perhaps this is to remind us that any act that is associated with the service of G-D is an opportunity for nobility, as well as an opportunity for nobility.

This is a supportive reminder for us at this time of year, when we are busy cleaning our homes in preparation for the holiday of Passover.

To derive this strength we must bear in mind during this intensive clean-up that we are serving G-D.

And, we can take this into many areas of our lives, from doing laundry to changing diapers, to shopping, even to prayer itself.


6:3 And the priest shall dress with linen clothing and he shall cloth his flesh with linen pants and he shall raise the ashes (from) when the fire consumes the Olah offering on the altar. And he shall place it by the altar.

Leviticus 6:4 And he shall remove his clothing and he shall dress (in) other clothing, and he shall take out the ashes to (a place) outside the camp, to a ritually pure place.

Rashi provides the following comment on 'And he shall remove his clothing'

It is not an obligation for him to do so. Rather, this is proper behavior, so that he should not soil the clothing that he constantly wears, (for this may occur when he takes out the ashes.

(The Talmud - Shabbos 114 and Yoma 23 says the following: ) 'When one mixes a drink for his master, he should not wear the same clothing that he wears when he cooks.'

Therefore, he [the priest] must wear clothing that is of a lesser quality (when he removes the ashes).

According to the Oral Torah, these verses speak about two services. The first is to take up a ceremonial shovel-full of ashes and to place them on the side of the altar. The second is to clear the altar from ashes.

We note that the Torah suggests that the priest should change his clothing for clearing the altar, not for taking up the shovel-full. If there is a concern for soiling the priestly garments, why is this not a concern shovel-full?

From Rashi's words, it can seem that there is a concern for priest soiling his clothing and later wearing them for another service.

However, the Talmud tells us that a priest may not wear soiled clothing. A service that is performed with soiled clothing is invalid. Furthermore, soiled priestly garments were never cleaned and re-worn. Instead, they were recycled. Therefore, there can be no concern that the priest will later do a service in soiled clothing because he wouldn't.

The priest must wear the high quality clothing when he takes up the shovel-full of ashes. Apparently, he can do this in a way that doesn't soil his clothing, because if he can't and if his clothing must get soiled during the procedure, then his service will become invalid. Why can't the altar be cleared from ashes in a similar manner, without soiling the priestly clothing?

Actually, the priest must perform a number of services that may soil his clothing. A formally dressed priest must use a basin to catch the blood from an animal that was sacrificed. He must pour or sprinkle the blood on the altar. He must carry pieces of meat to the altar and put them on the fire. Why are the ashes more of a concern and why are we not concerned with the shovel-full?

Rashi in the Talmud (Shabbos 114) provides the following detail:

The Torah requires that the priest wear clothing of a lesser quality when he removes the ashes (when clearing the altar to remove the ashes) because this is not a choice service, so that his choice clothing should not become filthy, those which he wears when he does services relating to (the altar's) consumption, such as burning the sacrifice and pouring out (wine and water) libations.

Apparently, we are not merely concerned with clothing getting soiled. Rather, we are concerned that clothing which is used for a choice service should not get soiled while being used for a lower-class service.

So, removing the ashes when clearing the altar is not as choice a service as all of the other services. However, we do treat the ceremony of raising the ashes as a choice service. What is the difference between raising the ashes and clearing the altar?

The following came to mind.

On face value, a huge pile of ashes on the altar is not a pretty sight. One may think that the ashes were removed so as to beautify the altar.

However, we are taught the contrary. We are taught that during the pilgrimage festivals, the priests would make a huge ball of ashes in the center of the altar. The Talmud makes it a point to tell us that that this (seemingly ugly) pile was considered a beautification for the altar.

Why?

These ashes indicate that a lot of sacrifices from Mankind were brought up on the altar of G-d and they were accepted.

On the physical plane, ashes are lowly and ugly. On the spiritual plane, ashes on G-d's altar are sublime and even a beautification. They tell a special story.

The Torah raises a special concern about the possibility that a priest may soil his clothing when he clears and removes the ashes. Perhaps this concern is being raised for this service in particular to tell us this message.

By suggesting that the priest change his clothing when he removes the ashes from the Temple area, the Torah is perhaps telling us that this IS a lesser service, not that the priest should change his clothing BECAUSE it is a lesser service. By doing so, the Torah is perhaps telling us that G-d appreciates this reminder of the sacrifices that were brought in His honor.

So, the ashes on the altar were a tribute to the sacrifices of Mankind and their relationship with G-d. When it became necessary to remove some ashes, the removal of the ashes reduced this tribute. This service was therefore placed in a different class.

Using this train of thought, the raising of the ashes was not a lesser service because the ashes were placed at the side of the altar and were not removed from the Temple area. Since the ashes remained nearby, the tribute was not reduced and priest wore his choice clothing for this service.


6:3 And the priest shall dress with linen clothing and he shall cloth his flesh with linen pants and he shall raise the ashes (from) when the fire consumes the Olah offering on the altar. And he shall place it by the altar.

Rashi in Zevachim 20a says that this was the first temple service. Each day, a priest would take a shovel-full of consumed coals from the inner-most layer. He would put it to the east of the ramp that was south of the altar. The ashes would dissolve into the ground.

Rashi in Leviticus 1-16 writes that the ashes of the inner altar, the menorah, and the bird-crops were also placed there. They also dissolved into the ground.

We note that although the ashes dissolved once they were removed from the altar, G-D did not make this happen while they were still on the altar. This indicates that the removal of the ashes was not needed to maintain the altar, as G-D could have performed this miracle before they were removed.

According to tradition, the large pile of ashes on the altar was viewed as an appreciation of the people who sacrifices that were brought in the temple.

It is therefore understandable that G-D did not perform a miracle to reduce the ashes while they were on the altar but only afterwards, once they were removed.


6:19 The priest who makes it into a sin offering (may) eat it. It should be eaten in a sacred place, in the courtyard of the Meeting Tent.

In contrast, the meat of the olah offering is completely consumed on the altar.

There is a set of 'Thou shall nots' for which a person must bring a sin offering when they are transgressed. Thus, a sin offering is brought because of an inappropriate act.

In contrast, a person brings an olah offering because he/she did not do something that the Torah expected.

We thus have two contrasts. The sin offering is brought for inappropriate action and the olah offering is brought for inaction. The meat of the sin offering is consumed by the priest and the meat of the olah offering is consumed by the altar.

These two contrasts brought the following to mind.

Rather then using censure as a response to sin, it is more effective to evoke self-correction when the person is shown that sin is holding him/her back from fulfilling their potential to become greater.

By eating the sin offering, the priest demonstrates the greatness of humanity in that one can rise to become a container of consecrated foods.

A focus on values and meaning brings one to enthusiasm and this is an effective response to inaction.

This is portrayed by the olah's meat being completely enveloped and consumed in the fire that is on the altar.


7:8 And the priest who brings near the olah offering of a person, the skin of the olah shall belong to the priest that brought it near.

The olah offering is completely consumed on the altar but its skin is given to the priest.

One can view this as a consideration for the priest that services the sacrifice.

It also brought to mind these two thoughts:

1. The olah signifies complete devotion to G-D because so much of it is consumed on the altar.

2. Skin provides a living being with its appearance.

Besides using the skin to compensate the priest, perhaps the Torah doesn't even want it to be offered on the altar. Perhaps this is to remind us of the possibility that one can merely provide an appearance of devotion to G-D without being sincere about it.

It's relatively easy to wear the garment of a religious person. However, it's a challenge to consistently live and act like one.


7:11 And this is the law of the peace sacrifice that one would offer to G-D.

The Medrash Tanchuma says the following:

The idol-worshiping nations asked the (wicked) prophet Bilam: Why did G-D tell the Jewish people to offer sacrifices to Him but G-D did not ask us for anything?

Bilam answered that the sacrifices are for peace.

Furthermore, he added, you rejected the Torah when G-D offered it to you. Why are you now seeking to offer sacrifices to G-D? Those who accepted the Torah should be offering sacrifices to G-D as it says, "G-D gave strength to His nation. G-D will bless His nation with peace."

My understanding of this Medrash is as follows.

The idol worshipers desired to know what G-D wanted so that they can get what they want from Him by offering it and making G-D happy. This was behind their question to Bilam.

Idol worshipers had no problem making whatever they wanted into a god. This is because they view themselves as having supreme control, not their gods, and it was up to them to select a god of their fancy.

Sacrifices were way for them to keep their deity performing according to their standards and preferences.

Their inflated ego helped them reject the Torah. And it fostered polytheism, as everyone is different and has their own ego.

Understandably, their being driven by inflated egos nurtured conflict. As such, the notion of having a peace sacrifice in such societies is merely superficial.

This gives additional significance of the notion of a peace sacrifice in the Torah, for it can only have true relevance to those who accepted the Torah.


7:12 If he is bringing it for a thanksgiving offering then …

The Oral Torah provides us with a list of events that require a thanksgiving offering: Recovery from a serious illness, safe arrival from a travel at sea or from a treacherous journey through a wilderness, and release from incarceration. (Berachos 54b)

It also teaches that one may use secondary tithes for this offering (Menachos 81b).

Secondary tithes are restricted to be eaten only in Jerusalem. They were generally in plentiful supply because one would normally not spend ten-percent of their assets on food that could only be eaten in Jerusalem.

Not only does G-D give us reason to express thanksgiving, He also provides the incentive for doing so.


7:12 If he is bringing it for a thanksgiving offering then …

7:15 And the meat from the slaughtering of his thanksgiving peace offering shall be eaten during the day of his sacrifice. It shall be left over to the following morning.

The thanksgiving offering is brought from either cattle or sheep. It is accompanied with ten loafs of bread.

As we see from 7:15, this must be eaten in a relatively short timeframe. I heard the following explanation for this.

Except those with very large families, the one who is responsible for the sacrifice will need to recruit others to help eat this large quantity of food, thereby publicizing the reason and his gratitude for the thanksgiving.


7:11 And this is the Torah of peace offering that a person would bring (near) before G-d.

7:12 If a person offers it for a thanksgiving then ….

7:17 And that which is left over from the meat of the sacrifice shall be burned on the third day.

7:18 And if it is eaten from the meat of the peace offering on the third day … it shall be abhorrent ('pigul'), and the person that eats from it shall bear its iniquity.

7:19 And the meat that touches anything that is ritually impure may not be eaten, it shall be burned in fire…

7:20 And the person that eats meat from his peace offerings for G-d and (who also has) ritual impurity then that person('s soul) shall be cut off from its people.

7:23 Speak to the Children of Israel saying, "Do not eat any (forbidden) fat of an ox, sheep, or goat.

7:25 Whoever eats (forbidden) fat from an animal of a species that can be brought as a fire offering to G-d, then that person('s soul) shall be cut off from its people.

7:26 Do not eat blood of a bird or of an animal throughout all of your settlements.

7:27 (If) any person eats any blood then that person('s soul) shall be cut off from its people.

The Torah clusters many prohibitions that have serious consequences in this particular section, one that deals with thanksgiving peace offerings.

Perhaps this reflects the adage that the best way to express thanks to G-d is by carefully observing his Torah.

And Shmuel said, 'Does G-d desire … sacrifices as much as listening to the voice of G-d? Behold, listening (is more desirable) than a fine sacrifice, to listen (is more desirable) than the fat of rams. (Samuel I, 15:22)


7:33 The one from the sons of Aharon who brings the blood of the peace offering and the fat near (to the altar) shall be given the portion of the (animal's) right thigh.

The Oral Torah derives from this verse that a kohen (priest) is not eligible to get a portion of the sacrifices if he does not believe that the commandments of sacrifices are of Divine origin.

It is noteworthy that the Torah focuses on disqualifying the apostate from receiving the sacrificial portion.

This focus is further emphasized in the following verse.

7:35 This is the greatness of Aharon and the greatness of his sons from the sacrifices of G-d, on the day that they are brought near to minister to G-d.

The Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel provides the following translation:

This is the greatness of Aharon and the greatness of his sons over all of their fellow Levites, in that they eat from the sacrifices of G-d, on the day that they are brought near to minister to G-d.

Why is so much emphasis placed on eating the sacrifices?

The following came to mind.

Judaism believes that acts of physical necessity, such as eating, can be elevated to become a service of G-d.

Even today, our meals are surrounded with ceremony. We wash our hands and recite a blessing before eating bread. We have salt on the table because the table is likened to the Altar. We recite blessings after our meals.

This is most applicable when a person eats to live and the central point in his/her life is fulfilling the commandments of G-d. Their necessary meals, their sleep, and even relaxation can become elevated, as they are done to enable a person to perform G-d's commandments.

A person has a greatness and his/her consumption can be likened to the consumption of the Altar. This was first demonstrated during the Exodus, when the Jewish people were charged to eat from the Passover sacrifice.

The Torah carries this concept further and teaches that the kohen's eating from the sacrifice confers atonement for the person who brought the sacrifice.

So, not only can a person do work in the Temple, a person can be sanctified into the Temple system itself.

The apostate is therefore disqualified from this greatness. We can now better understand how this describesthe kohen's distinction above the Levite


7:37 This is the Torah of the olah offering, the mincha (meal) offering, and the sin offering and the transgression offering, and the dedication offering, and the peace offering.

7:38 That which G-D commanded Moshe on Mount Sinai. On the day that He commanded the Children of Israel to offer their sacrifices to G-D at Mount Sinai.

The laws of sacrifices are introduced in the previous Torah reading and are revisited in this portion. Except for the meal offering, the discussion in the previous portion does not address the shares that the kohanim (priests) are entitled to from the sacrifices. It is only in this section that the Torah says that the kohanim may take a portion of meat from some of the sacrifices that were discussed in the previous section.

What is the Torah trying to tell us by presenting the sacrifices and the priestly shares in this manner?

The following came to mind.

We are taught that by viewing and using the Torah as our instructions for living, we can elevate our lives, sanctifying even the most mundane chore. As we maintain and expand our focus on fulfilling G-D's will, the more our every-day life attains a likeness to the service in the sanctuary, with us taking on the role of the kohain (priest) - in a figurative sense.

We are also taught that G-D rewards us for our good intents and deeds and that this reward is reserved for the afterlife.

Also, even though the place and time for reward is in the afterlife, G-D assigns a person with sufficient assets to accomplish whatever mission he or she has.

Finally, whatever asset G-D gives a person in this world, it is relatively insignificant when compared to the great and eternal reward that a person receives in the next world.

I see these teachings reflected in the above observations about our Torah reading.

This week's reading assigns the kohain with meat, a luxury when compared to the flour and oil of last week's Torah reading.

Perhaps the service of the kohain in last week's Torah reading symbolizes the life of a sincere and G-D fearing person. G-D provides this person with his/her needs, regardless of whether they fulfill his/her desires. This is symbolized by the meal offering.

The time for luxury is for this person is in the next phase of existence, symbolized in his subsequent Torah reading by portions of meat that are allocated to the kohain.


8:3 And (you Moshe/Moses shall) gather all of the congregation to the doorway of the Tent of Meeting.

8:4 And Moshe did just as G-D commanded and the congregation gathered to the doorway of the Tent of Meeting.

Rashi in his commentary on 8:3 references the Medrash that the verse is to be taken literally and that every member of congregation miraculously stood by the doorway.

I would have expected this to be derived from verse four and not verse three.

That is, in verse three G-D told Moshe to gather them to the doorway. From these words alone I would only take this to mean that they should be assembled opposite the doorway as best as they can fit. Had verse four just stated that 'Moshe did just as G-D commanded' then I would not have taken the event to be remarkable. However, since verse four goes further and specifies what happened, that they gathered to the doorway then I would have derived that a miracle occurred from that extra detail.

Yet, the Medrash derives the miracle from verse three. Could it be that the Medrash is trying to tell us something by doing this?

The following came to mind.

The Medrash is assigning the miracle to the charge that G-D gave Moshe.

I have a saying: G-D gives the charge and He also gives the card (i.e. the charge card).

If G-D gives us a commandment then it must be possible for us to fulfill it. And if it isn't then G-D will give us the resources and G-D will manipulate events to make it happen despite the fact that it is currently impossible.

Perhaps this is why the Medrash is associating the miracle to the charge and not to the effect.


Many of the sacrifices that are discussed in the previous week's section (Vayikra, Lev 1-5) are repeated in this section, with additional laws. For all of these sacrifices, why are some of the laws presented in Vayikra and then other laws in Tzav? Why aren't all of the laws combined?

The word Torah, teaching, is used to describe the laws for all of the repeated sacrifices in this section. It is not used at all in the previous section. Why?

Immediately following the laws of sacrifices, we find the story of how Aharon, his sons, and the Temple were sanctified. The Oral Torah frequently derives insight from sections of the Torah being placed adjacent to each other. Do you see anything here?

Finally, Vayikra begins with 'Speak to the Children of Israel.' Tzav begins with 'Command the Children of Israel.' Why?

The following thought came to mind.

The laws in Vayikra deal with what caused the sacrifice to be required. They also teach the portions of the offering that were brought to G-d on the Mizbeach, altar. I shall focus on the latter.

The laws in Tzav include aspects of how and when it is appropriate for people to partake and even eat from the sacrifices that were brought to G-d. Even laws of the Olah, a sacrifice which is completely burned on the Mizbeach, focuses on how the ashes are TAKEN away by the Cohen.

Actually, it was a significant innovation when G-d told us in Egypt to eat the Passover sacrifice. Up until that time in history, every sacrifice was an Olah, completely consumed on an altar to G-d.

Shortly afterwards we received the Torah on Mount Sinai. We received detailed instruction on how we are to live so that we may partake of this world in such a way as to sanctify both what we partake and ourselves, also. We do not believe that a person needs to cut himself off from physicality in order to become holy. Rather, by following the instructions for life, the Torah, a person is able to bring himself and his environment closer to G-d.

With this in mind we can perhaps see how this lesson is reflected in both the way the laws of sacrifices were presented across these two portions of the Torah and why the word Torah was mentioned only in the second portion. The laws of Vayikra deal with aspects of sacrifices which were prevalent prior to our receiving the Torah. The laws in Tzav deal with aspects of sacrifices that became relevant once we were on the way to become the Nation of G-d.

Vayikra begins with 'Speak to the Children of Israel.' Tzav begins with 'Command the Children of Israel.' We achieve our greatness through the commandments.

We can also see this from the adjacent section, which deals with the sanctification of Aharon, his sons, and the Temple.


Parshas Shemini (Lev. 9-11)

9:1 And it was on the eighth day (that) he [Moshe / Moses] called to Aharon (Aaron) and to his sons and to the elders of Israel.

9:6 And Moshe said, "This is what G-D commanded for you to do and the honor of G-D will appear to you."

9:23 And Moshe and Aharon (Aaron) came into the Tent of Meeting and they came out and they blessed the people. And the honor of G-D appeared to the people.

The end of the Book of Exodus records that construction of the sanctuary.

The day that is referenced in verse 9:1 was eighth in a sequence of days during which both the sanctuary and the priests were consecrated. This day was the first of the month of Nissan.

The Oral Torah notes that there was a significant gap in time between the completion of the sanctuary and its consecration. The Pesikta (6) says that the construction was completed on the 25th day of Kislev but the parts of the sanctuary were in storage for over three months until Nissan.

The Pesikta notes that this also occurred during the construction of the First Temple. While the construction was completed in the month of Cheshvan, the building remained sealed until the month of Tishrei, some eleven months later.

The reason for these delays was to coincide the activation of the sanctuary and temple with the birth-months of our ancestors, for Yitzchok (Isaac) was born during Nissan and Avraham (Abraham) was born during Tishrei.

We see the great significance of the link between our great ancestors and our ability to stand before G-D in worship. Coming before G-D in the merit of our ancestors is the foundation stone of our services. Doing so demonstrates to G-D our recognition of the value system of our ancestors who achieved favor in G-D's eyes by the way that they behaved.


9:2 And he said to Aharon (Aaron), "Take for yourself a calf of cattle for a sin offering and a ram for an olah offering and bring them near to G-d.

Rashi provides the following commentary

"Take for yourself a calf:" To make known that through this calf G-d is atoning for the act of the calf (the sin of the Golden Calf) that he (Aharon) did.

Restoration and repair for the sin of the Golden Calf is a reocurring theme throughout this portion.

This day brought great distinction for Aharon. It also brought great misfortune because he lost two sons.

10:2 And a fire went forth from before G-d and consumed them. And they died before G-d.

Rashi cites the following reasons for their death:

Rabbi Eliezer says, "The sons of Aharon died because they rendered a decision before Moshe their teacher." Rabbi Yishmael says, "They entered the Temple area while they were intoxicated."

Here we are taught that Aharon's sons died because of thier own shortcomings.

We find an apparent contradiction to this in Deuteronomy.

9:20 And G-d became extremely furious with Aharon to destroy him (because of the sin of the Golden Calf). And I (Moshe) prayed also for Aharon at that time.

Rashi provides the following commentary:

And I (Moshe) prayed also for Aharon: And my prayer helped to atone (for him) half-way, as two (sons) died and two remained.

Rashi in Deuteronomy seems to be saying that they died because of the sin of the Golden Calf. Here Rashi says that Aharon was forgiven and his sons died because of their own flaws.

How do we understand this?

The following came to mind, based on what I have been taught.

By his participation in the Golden Calf, Aharon sought to shield the Jewish people from the full responsibility of this grave sin.

Had Ahaon not participated in the sin, perhaps his merit would have shielded his own sons from being punished, especially on the day of their inauguration.

Aharon received a full atonement for the flaws that this sin created. While it repaired the damage, perhaps the atonement was unable to restore Aharon's ability to shield his own sons from misfortune, especially since Aharon used this concept as a rationale for his participation in the Golden Calf. He thus lost them, measure for measure.

The untimely deaths of Aharon's sons is mentioned later, in the portion of Aharei Mos. We read that section during Yom Kippur.

The Yalkut and the Zohar make the following statement:

Whoever sheds tears during Yom Kippur over the death of Aharon's sons can be confident that he will not lose his children during his lifetime.

How does one understand this teaching? Given that we never had the privilege of meeting these great men to share hin their tragedy, why would this bring a person to cry over it. In what way does this show merit to deserve protection from tragedy?

The following came to mind.

Despite the great degree of atonement that was demonstrated for Aharon, he still suffered misfortune. The more one takes this lesson to heart, the more one comes to fear the consequences of sin, notwithstanding atonement. One who succeeds in interlizing this teaching during his own day of atonement to the degree that he comes to cry because of it will merit, measure for measure, protection from this very same tragedy.

May the merit of Aharon shield us all from misfortune.


9:3 And speak to the Children Of Israel saying, "Take for yourselves a goat for a sin offering and a perfect one-year old a calf and sheep for an olah offering."

The Safra notes that the goat was to atone for the sin of selling Yosef (Joseph) and the calf was to atone for the sin of the golden calf.

The Malbim commentary asks why the sale of Yosef needed to be addressed at this point in time. He notes that atonement was not a prerequisite to make the Jewish people eligible for either the Exodus or for receiving the Torah.

He provides the following explanation.

For most of the Jewish people, the sin of the golden calf was a misguided effort to set up a vehicle through which they could serve G-D. The intent had merit but the act had none, for the golden calf was unauthorized.

We find the reverse by the sale of Yosef. The act of his brothers eventually put Yosef in a position of power and gave him the ability to prepare the Jewish people for their ultimate redemption. There, the intentions were misguided but the act provided a great merit. (Genesis 50:20).

The Be'er Yosef says that the sanctuary served as a vehicle through which we served G-D, only unlike the golden calf, it was authorized.

To become eligible for the sanctuary we needed to fully atone for the golden calf. We needed to either provide a defense for what we did or we would need to fully address the deficiency. Our only defense would have been that the intent justified the act. However, in doing so we would re-open the case of Yosef's sale, where the defense was to focus on the act rather that on the intention. So we needed to atone for both.

We find a parallel in the Purim story.

The Talmud provides two reasons for the decree against the Jewish people. (Megilah 12a).

One was that they complied with King Nebuchadnezer's edict and bowed down to his image. The act was questionable but their intent was to save their lives, not to worship idolatry.

The second reason was that they derived pleasure from King Achashverosh's meal.

The Be'er Yosef suggests that the lavish folk meal caused some people to feel comfortable with the idea of settling permanently in Persia and not returning to their homeland.

Here, the act was permissible, as their dietary needs were accommodated and the food they were served was strictly Kosher. However, the intent during the festivities was problematic.

May we all feel a readiness for redemption as we approach the annual festival of redemption. May we achieve this readiness through an appreciation of our destiny.


9:5 And they took what Moshe (Moses) commanded (and brought it) to the front of the Tent of Meeting. And the entire congregation came near and they stood before G-D.

The dimensions of the courtyard that contained the Tent of Meeting were fifty cubits by one-hundred cubits (Exodus 3:9-12). Within this courtyard, we can assume that "before G-D" was the area in front of the Tent of Meeting's doorway. That area measured fifty by fifty cubits, or twenty-five-hundred square cubits.

The altar and the laver were placed before the doorway, also (Exodus 40:29-30).

A cubit is roughly the distance between a person's elbow and the end of his middle finger.

We know that the entire congregation consisted of no less than six-hundred-thousand males between the ages of twenty and sixty (Exodus 38:26).

Not counting the altar, laver, and whatever else was in the plaza before the doorway, the fact that six-hundred-thousand people fit into twenty-five-hundred square cubits means that every square cubit needed to contain no less than two-hundred-forty people, which is remarkable.

But even more remarkable events like this routinely occurred in temple. We have a tradition that everyone on Yom Kippur fit into the area that was "before G-D" and everybody had private space around them when they bowed down on the ground.

The Mishna (Avos 5:5) cites this as one of many demonstrations that the Divine Presence was there and with us.


9:6 And Moshe (Moses) said, "This is what G-D commanded to do (so that) the honor of G-D will appear to you.

9:23 And Moshe and Aharon (Aaron) came into the Tent of Meeting and they came out and they blessed the people. And the honor of G-D appeared to the people.

The appearance of G-D occurred after a long and suspenseful period that began right after Moshe descended Mt. Sinai with the second tablets, bringing with him a message of forgiveness for the Golden Calf. Afterwards, the Jewish people constructed the Sanctuary. They completed the construction in the month of Kislev and they then waited for G-D's demonstration that they were fully forgiven, which occurred on the first day of the month of Nisan. Until then, the people waited anxiously over three months for G-D's response.

Rashi of the above verse teaches that Moshe and Aharon entered the Tent to pray for G-D's appearance. Upon their exit they recited verse 17 of Tehilim (Psalms), "May the pleasantness of G-D be upon us .." May it be His will that He rests His Divine Presence on the work of your hands.

G-D's presence appeared immediately after their blessing.

This is the second reference in the Torah of Moshe's blessing the people. The first is in Exodus 39:43. Moshe blessed the people when they completed the construction and the craftsmen brought the components to him for review.

From the Rashi commentary of Exodus 39:43, it appears that Moshe cited the same verse of Tehilim and he gave them the same blessing.

Apparently, those prayers and blessings were not sufficient. Why did those same prayers and blessings need to be repeated? Why did they work now and not three months before?

The following came to mind.

In the month of Kislev, Moshe was presented with a complete and perfect set of parts. He was able to see how the wood, gold, silver, copper, ropes, and curtains would all fit together to make a beautiful and glorious sanctuary for G-D.

But, perhaps there was something missing and because of this, , G-D waited until every component for the service of His sanctuary was together for Moshe's prayer and blessing to have an effect.

Perhaps this missing component is in the following verse

9:5 And they took to the front of the Tent of Meeting that which Moshe commanded and all of the congregation came near and stood before G-D.

To make the greatest demonstration of forgiveness of His people, G-D waited until the most important component was included, the people themselves.


9:7 And Moshe (Moses) said to Aharon (Aaron), "Come near towards the altar and do your sin offering and your olah offering and atone for yourself and for the people. And do the sacrifice of the people and atone for them, just like G-D commanded."

Aharon had his own sin offering, as stated in 9:2 "And he said to Aharon, 'Take for yourself a calf of cattle for a sin offering and a perfect ram for an olah offering, and bring (them) near before G-D.'"

The Jewish people had their own sin offering, as stated in 9:3 "And you shall speak to the Children of Israel saying, 'Take a goat for a sin offering, and a perfect one year-old calf and sheep for an olah offering.

9:7 seems to be saying that the Jewish people will receive atonement from two sacrifices, from Aharon's sin offering and from their own sin offering. Why two atonements? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

Perhaps this a lesson to show the extent we are held responsible for each other.

The Jewish people were partially responsible for Aharon needing atonement for the Golden Calf in the first place. Therefore, Aharon's bringing the sin offering itself caused the need for atonement.


9:9 And the sons of Aharon (Aaron) brought the (sacrificial) blood to him and he dipped his finger in the blood and he put it on the corners of the altar. And he poured the blood at the base of the altar.

Up until now, the first-born had been servicing the sacrifices of the Jewish people. Now that the sanctuary was built and installed, Aharon and his sons assumed the role of priesthood and were the only ones who could do sacrificial services. (Talmud Zevachim 115b)

The Levites were also installed. They were given auxiliary roles in the sanctuary. We are taught that the first-born males would have assumed these roles, had they not been involved with the sin of the golden calf.

Although they were replaced by the Levites, the first-born still have some sanctity and must be redeemed (Exodus 13:1).

Also, they must fast every Passover eve. This is in commemoration of their being spared during the last plague in Egypt (Tur Shulchan Aruch 429).

The Be'er Yosef commentary questions why their being spared calls for a fast instead of a celebration.

The following is how I understand his explanation.

During their enslavement, some of the Jewish people succumbed to Egyptian culture and worshipped idols (Yechezkel - Ezekiel 20). If we assume that this worship was led by the first-born, then we can see that they were very worried about being killed together with the Egyptians during the last plague.

They repented and were spared. This was a cause of great celebration but it was short-lived because some of the first-born were involved in the worship of the golden calf. This disqualified the entire group and they were replaced by the Levites. No Levite worshipped the golden calf. Every member of that tribe sided with Moshe (Moses). They earned this role in this merit.

The fast of Passover eve commemorates this tragedy. The Tur cites their being spared during the last plague. Perhaps he chose to not enumerate the negativity associated with their need to be spared.

I propose the following explanation for the disqualification.

The emergence of the Jewish people and their role in humanity was not the "Plan-A" of Creation. Mankind initially consisted of a set of individuals. However, much of the populace consistently failed to prioritize G-D's will over their own and this led to mass destruction, such as the Great Flood.

"Plan-B" called for a nation to be founded by people whose great merit would enable both their descendents and the rest of mankind to survive history and eventually achieve perfection. It relied on relationships. It would enable many to succeed who would have otherwise failed. Success in the merit of others was of reduced quality but was safer for mankind.

For mankind, the system that was based on the merit of others replaced the system that was based on the ability of the individual manage their will within the context of G-D's.

Now, the first output of any process is special to its owner. Therefore, it was customary in the ancient world for a parent to express their gratitude to G-D by designating their first-born to lead the family in worship. Understandably, the first-born did not assume this role out of their merit. Rather, the assignment reflected the will of their parent.

We note that idolatry is the one of the worst manifestations of mankind's failure to prioritize G-D's will.

We also note the following: Being a first-born reflects personal history. It has nothing to do with personal merit. We also note that the initial designation of the Levites was due to personal merit and that their descendents inherit the benefits of this merit.

Perhaps the initial designation of the first-born reflected "Plan-A," which emphasized opportunity through mastery of personal will. The replacement of the Levites and their descendents reflects "Plan-B," success through merit.

The Jewish people repented and were forgiven. We restored our relationship with G-D but we need to be purged through the painful process of Jewish history.

Throughout the generations, the role of the noble Levites remains unchanged. Throughout the generations, Passover eve is a fast day for the first-born.

But note that the first-born who were responsible for the tragedy are long gone.

And also note that the tragedy belongs to the entire Jewish people, not just to the first-born. We could therefore view the first-born of every generation as representatives of the entire Jewish people who need to fast on that day.

So perhaps we can view their fast as a form of service for the entire Jewish people, a service that is continuous throughout history, whether there is a temple or not. Perhaps the fast is then a reduced form of their restoration.


9:23 And Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron) went to the Tent of Encounter and they came out and blessed the people. And the glory of G-D appeared to all of the people.

9:24 And a fire emerged from before G-D and consumed the Olah offering and the fats that were on the altar. And all the people saw this and they praised and fell on their faces.

Rashi explains that Moshe and Aharon went into the tent to pray for the Divine presence to descend upon the people. Rashi also writes that the people felt ashamed until this occurred. This is because they wanted G-D to demonstrate that He forgave them for the sin of the Golden Calf.

Rabbi Zev Hoberman of blessed memory notes that Rashi on Deuteronomy 9:18 writes that G-D had already forgiven the Jewish people for the sin of the Golden Calf and accepted us back with joy on Yom Kippur, almost six months prior to this event.

If Moshe told them that G-D forgave them then why were they still anxious?

The following is my understanding of his answer.

The Mechilta commentary on Exodus says that the Jewish people requested a direct sensory experience from G-D when we received the Torah. "Hearing from the pedagogue cannot compare to hearing from the Master. We want to 'see' our King (Exodus 19:9).

Similarly, reasons Rabbi Hoberman, although we were told by Moshe (Moses) that G-D forgave us, we wanted a sensory experience directly from G-D.

Clearly, we believed in Moshe and didn't need a Divine demonstration to confirm the truth of his word that G-D forgave us. And we didn't need the huge demonstration at Mount Sinai to confirm that it was authentic, for there is no reality that we know of that can be compared to a prophetic encounter, which we all experienced.

I suspect that there was more behind this than mere personal preference.

The following came to mind.

As we look back at almost 3,325 years since we stood at Mount Sinai, we can appreciate the depth of responsibility that our ancestors must have felt to ensure that the story of that very important encounter would survive Jewish history.

As deep as that reality was, as convinced as they were that it was really happening, the sensory experience enhanced the excitement they felt and showed when they told it to their children and grandchildren.

Perhaps that was what why having the demonstration at Mount Sinai was so important to them.

And as important as it is for Jewish survival to preserve the truth of our receiving the Torah from G-D, so is it important to preserve the truth that G-D did not reject us, despite our great failings.

So perhaps this is why they wanted the sensory demonstration of the fire that emerged from G-D.


9:23 And Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron) went to the Tent of Encounter and they came out and blessed the people. And the glory of G-D appeared to all of the people.

Rashi explains that they went into the tent to pray for the Divine presence to descend upon the people.

Aharon thought that the delay was because G-D was showing displeasure over his role in the Golden Calf. Upon confiding this with his brother, Moshe immediately went together with him to pray.

Rabbi Yerucham Levovitz of blessed memory notes that a person of lesser status than Aharon could have shifted the blame to the Jewish people, for it was they who forced Aharon to make the calf.


10:1 And Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon (Aaron), each took his fire pan. And they placed fire in them and they put incense on it, and they brought near to G-d a foreign fire that He did not command them.

10:2 And a fire went out from before G-d and it consumed them [Aharon / Aaron's sons], and they died before G-d.

10:3 And Moshe (Moses) told Aharon, 'This is what G-d said (to me) saying, 'With My close ones I will be sanctified and before the people I will be honored.'' And Aharon was silent.

Rashi's commentary suggests that the close ones who will sanctify G-D's name were Aharon's two sons. That is, their perishing over their infraction was a sanctification of G-D's name.

The Rashbam's commentary reads that the sanctification that comes from those who are close to G-D refers to Aharon himself, high priest of the Jewish people and one who represents the greatest degree of closeness to G-D.

A state of mourning relieves the conventional priest from serving in the temple but not the high priest.

According to the Rashbam, Aharon's continuation of service despite the tragic loss of his two sons was the sanctification of G-D's name that verse 10:3 refers to. Aharon was G-D's close one who was charged to serve in the temple despite a state of mourning and his doing so would be a sanctification of G-D's name.

Why should Aharon's temple service during his period of mourning be any more of a sanctification of G-D's name than when he served without being a mourner?

The following came to mind.

Reality is perceived from many vantage points.

From the perspective of our current physical vantage point, a person who dies appears to cease living. However, from the perspective of one who is in the spiritual realm, when G-D decrees that someone should die, the person is actually freed from the limitations of their body and transitions into an intense and significantly less restrictive form of existence. It is actually a step towards more life. While death is the cessation of opportunity to further change one's destiny, for the righteous it is a step into a better life.

Yet, we don't celebrate when a righteous person passes away. First of all, we mourn for our own loss. Second of all, we are expected to live within the context of the existence that we currently reside in, which provides the appearance that the deceased has suffered a loss.

As the high priest is the person who is closest to the spiritual perspective, perhaps the suspension of his mourning for temple service is an opportunity for one person in this world to represent reality in the truest sense, that death is a means for G-D to give a person more life. Perhaps this is the sanctification of G-D's name that 10:3 references, according to the Rashbam.


10:1 And Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon (Aaron), each took his fire pan. And they placed fire in them and they put incense on it, and they brought near to G-d a foreign fire that He did not command them.

10:2 And a fire went out from before G-d and it consumed them, and they died before G-d.

10:3 And Moshe (Moses) told Aharon, 'This is what G-d said (to me) saying, 'With My close ones I shall be sanctified and before the people I will be honored.'' And Aharon was silent.

Rashi provides the following comment on 'And Aharon was silent'

He was rewarded for his silence. His reward was that the Divine Word was directed towards him alone (when G-d gave the commandment for priests not being allowed) to drink wine (prior to performing their duties).

The commandment against drinking reads as follows:

10:8 And G-d spoke to Aharon, saying.

10:9 (You may not have) wine and (intoxicating) drink, you and your sons with you, when you come to the Tent of Meeting [The Sanctuary], (so that) you will not die. This is an everlasting decree, for all of your generations.

10:10 And to separate between the holy and the secular, between that which is ritually clean [tahor] and that which is not ritually clean [tameh].

10:11 And to teach the Children of Israel all of the decrees that G-d spoke to them, through the hand of Moshe.

One can understand the penalty of drinking and performing the Temple service in a light that it is disrespectful to the office of priesthood and to the holy service when the worship is performed by a drunkard.

There is an opinion in the Talmud that Nadav and Avihu had something to drink prior to the fatal encounter and this a reason why this particular law was commanded to Aharon immediately after the incident.

There is no reason to say that Nadav and Avihu were noticeably intoxicated. The Torah has a very high sobriety level, as the Oral Torah tells us that as little as a half-glass of wine can make a priest unfit for duty.

Rashi explains how most of 10:10 and 10:11 fit into the flow of events.

10:10 'And to separate between the holy and the secular' In order to separate between holy service and that which is secular. This teaches us that if a priest (performed his duties while intoxicated then) the service is invalid.

10:11 'And to teach:' This teaches us that an intoxicated person may not make determinations that pertain to Jewish law and practice..

Rashi does not provide explanation for 10:10 'And to separate .. between that which is ritually clean [tahor] and that which is not ritually clean [tameh].

Let's try to do explain its relevance to the topic and the flow of events.

Let's also address the need to explain the flow of topics and events for the next several chapters.

Immediately after this section, the Torah records the incident of the burned sin offering. Moshe presses Aharon's two remaining sons to defend their decision not to eat the offering. He becomes angry at them because they did not follow his instructions. They respond with respectful silence and Aharon himself provides the explanation. They acted with his authorization.

There is a view in the Oral Torah that Nadav and Avihu died because they acted on their own when they brought the fire offering. This was considered disrespectful towards Moshe and Aharon, whom they should have first consulted with.

In contrast, the two surviving sons remained silent and acted with full respect towards Moshe. They took lesson from the silence of their father.

The section that follows begins with:

11:1 And G-d spoke to Moshe and to Aharon to speak to them.

11:2 Speak to the Children of Israel .

Rashi in 11:2 provides the following comment:

'To speak to them' (G-d) said that he should speak to Eliezer and Isamar [Aharon's surviving sons] ..

We thus see that G-d is providing Aharon, Eliezer, and Isamar with a special distinction. They are all charged to teach the Children of Israel the laws that follow.

Perhaps they are being rewarded for their respectful silence.

We can now see a flow of events for all of chapter 10, except for that portion in 10:10.

Let us now briefly jump to chapter 16.

16:1 And G-d spoke to Moshe after the death of the two sons of Aharon, when they came near before G-d and died.

We see that the flow of events picks up with chapter 16. What remains for us is to see a connection between the laws that are enumerated in chapters eleven through fifteen, plus that phrase in 10:10.

On the surface, this seems to be a formidable task.

I believe that the Ib'n Ezra on 10:10 gives us a clue.

He notes that the following topics are discussed in the five succeeding chapters and he associates them with our phrase, 'to separate .. between that which is ritually clean [tahor] and that which is not ritually clean [tameh]'

Here are the topics.

  • Kosher and non-kosher animals, birds, and insects.
  • Ritual defilement.
  • Laws of childbirth.
  • Laws of the tzoraas affliction as it pertains to people, clothing, and buildings.
  • Laws of ritual purity as they pertain to men and to women.

We note the following phrase in 11:47 'And to separate between that which is ritually clean [tahor] and that which is not ritually clean [tameh]' This phrase is identical to the phrase in 10:10, which is the phrase that Rashi left for us to explain!

One final question. How can we relate to that which Aharon's sons did and that which happened to them? Why did they die?

The following came to mind.

We notice a pattern that runs through these five chapters. The Torah uses the word 'tahor' when referring that which is permitted or ritually clean. The Torah uses the word 'tameh' when referring to that which is not permitted or which is ritually defiled. Furthermore, these words appear in almost every section throughout these five chapters!

The Torah doesn't say that a pig is not kosher. Rather, the Torah says that the pig is 'tameh.' We may not eat pig meat, or camel meat. Their meat is 'Tameh.'

The Torah says that person who touches certain dead insects becomes 'tameh.' This person may not enter the sanctuary or eat sacrificial foods without ritual purification.

After childbirth, a woman is 'tameh' for a short period of time and she may not eat enter sanctuary until she waits the specified time and undergoes ritual purification.

A person with the tzoraas affliction is also 'tameh' and he/she may not enter the camp without ritual purification, once the affliction disappears. A contaminated building ritually defiles its contents and a person who is inside may not enter the sanctuary or eat sacrificial foods without prior ritual purification.

Men and women have their respective ways of becoming 'tameh' and 'tahor.'

What does it mean when something is 'tameh' and 'tahor', when a man or a woman is 'tameh' or 'tahor.'

Obviously, these do not refer to states of physical hygiene, because the Torah calls a pig 'tameh' regardless of how much soap we scrub it with and the Torah calls a cow 'tahor' no matter how dirty it makes itself. Also, it is obvious that the words, 'tameh' and 'tahor' do not refer to good and evil. A very righteous woman can give birth to a child and she is 'tameh' for a brief time. A very evil man can take a ritual bath that makes him 'tahor.' He may subsequently enter the Temple area and he may partake of sacrificial foods.

Let us pause to review.

  • Aharon's sons died because they did 'that which G-d did not command.'
  • Subsequently, the Torah talks about separating between that which is 'tahor' and that which is 'tameh.'
  • Then, the Torah has five chapters about many different types of things that are 'tahor' and 'tameh.'
  • We would like to understand how these all interrelate, as well as how we can understand the words, 'tameh' and 'tahor.'
  • Finally, we would like to better understand the death of Aharon's sons.

You know, pig meat may very well be just as nourishing and as healthy as cow meat. I'm sure that a good cook can make a delicious camel burger.

There is really nothing physically or morally wrong with a man or a woman that is 'tameh.'

'Tameh' and 'tahor' have no physical or moral implications or direct relevance.

Rather, the descriptions or states of 'tameh' and 'tahor' are only of relevance within a system that is defined by the word of G-d.

The pig is 'tameh' because G-d said it is 'tameh,' not because its meat is unhealthy. The state of 'tameh' that a woman enters when she has a certain flow of blood exists only because G-d said that it exists, not because she is dirty or bad.

Aharon and his sons were chosen to be our priests.

From that time and on, a righteous person is unfit to perform the temple service and a morally deficient descendant of Aharon may very well be fit for this duty. The rejection of the righteous person for Temple service can only be understood within a system that is defined by the commandment of G-d, alone.

Unless we define and recognize a reality in terms of G-d's command, we have no basis to separate between that which is 'tameh' and that which is 'tahor.'

Thus, there is good reason for Torah scholars to pay very close attention to every word in the Torah, because they are our clues to that which G-d commanded.

We can now see relevance in all of the words in 10:10

10:1 And Nadav and Avihu, the sons of Aharon (Aaron), each took his fire pan. And they placed fire in them and they put incense on it, and they brought near to G-d a foreign fire that He did not command them.

10:10 And to separate between the holy and the secular, between that which is ritually clean [tahor] and that which is not ritually clean [tameh].

The incident of Aharon's sons is of such significance that the Torah leaves us with five entire chapters of things that are 'tameh' and 'tahor' in its wake.

Perhaps we can now see that the words in 10:10 that we originally did not understand are in reality a introduction to a major section of the Torah.

With this, we can perhaps better understand something else.

Look at the end of Exodus, chapters 28 and 29. It's truly amazing that the Torah keeps on repeating the phrase, 'just as G-d commanded Moshe.'

It's now not so amazing.

With this, we can also better understand something else.

The Hebrew word, 'lehavdil' mean to separate and this is in our verse of 10:10.

We have a 'havdala' ceremony after Shabbos and most Jewish holidays. With havdala, we formally separate from our holy day.

We also say 'havdala' in the post-Shabbos and holiday evening prayer.

Our sages placed the 'havdala' in the fourth blessing, which is a prayer for knowledge.

It begins with 'You (Oh G-d) favored Man (Adam) with knowledge ..' and it ends with 'Blessed are you, Oh G-d, who favors (with) knowledge.'

Our sages thus associate 'havdala,' the ability to differentiate, with human knowledge and with Mankind itself.

An animal can also differentiate. A rooster knows when it's light. A dog knows what makes for good food and what food is bad.

An animal will only use physical criteria when making a differentiation.

However, it is only Man (Adam) that can see and accept that which is beyond the physical realm and who can use conformance to the command of G-d as a criteria for defining that which is good and that which is bad.

Koheles 12:13 (Ecclesiastics) 'The end of all matter, (it) is all heard, it is (he who) fears G-d, and who guards His commandments, for this is all of Man (Adam).

By definition, Man is a being that can differentiate by using very special criteria.

Adam did that which G-d commanded not to do and he died. It was a defect of his essential being.

The sons of Aharon did that what G-d did not command and they died, too.

We try to do that which G-d commands. We sometimes fail. In His mercy, G-d gives us opportunity to repent, to repair.

The sons of Aharon were great people. They acted in a critical moment for the Jewish people, in a time and in a public manner that brought great scrutiny and instant reaction to their misdeed.

10:3 And Moshe (Moses) told Aharon, 'This is what G-d said (to me) saying, 'With My close ones I shall be sanctified and before the people I will be honored.'' And Aharon was silent.

May their memory serve to inspire us to pay more attention to that 'which G-d commanded Moshe.'

Hopefully, we can now better understand:

  • Aharon's sons died because they did 'that which G-d did not command.'
  • After their death, the Torah talks about separating between that which is 'tahor' and that which is 'tameh.'
  • The Torah follows with five chapters about many different types of things that are 'tahor' and 'tameh.'
  • An understanding of the words, 'tameh' and 'tahor.'
  • An understanding of havdala and its relevance to Man and our special knowledge.
  • The severity of the act that Aharon's sons did.

9:23 And Moshe and Aharon (Moses and Aaron) went into the Meeting Tent and they came out and blessed the people. And the glory of G-D appeared to the people.

Rashi says that Moshe and Aharon prayed inside the tent for G-D's glory to appear to the people.

A commentary asked why G-D made the appearance be seen by the people after Moshe and Aharon left the tent. If G-D answered Moshe and Aharon's prayers then why didn't He do so immediately, while they were still in the tent?

The following came to mind.

The sanctuary and G-D's appearance were means that G-D employed to demonstrate the Jewish people's reconciliation with G-D, that He fully forgave them for their sin of the golden calf.

Therefore, it was only fitting that Moshe and Aharon's prayer be answered when they left the tent and were back among the people, showing that it was the people for which G-D was showing His response, not just for Moshe and Aharon's prayers.


10:17 (Sons of Aharon,) why didn't you eat (from) the sin offering ..

10:18 .. (you should have) eaten it .

10:19 .. would it have been good in G-d's eyes if I had eaten it?

11:1 And Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon to say to them.

11:2 Speak to the Children of Israel saying, this is the creature from which may eat from all of the animals that are on the earth.

Both chapters share the common theme of eating. Chapter 10 deals with Aharon eating the sin offering. Chapter 11 specifies kosher animals. What is the Torah trying to tell us by placing them together?

The following came to mind.

The Kohen (priest) eating the sacrifice wasn't simply a perk for personal benefit. The Kohen does a service when he eats from a sacrifice. It provides atonement for the one who brought it (Talmud Pesachim 59b).

Similarly, we are charged to elevate our everyday meals into an act of service. We can do this when we eat with the intention of providing energy to serve G-d, when we eat to live.

Judaism teaches that the most mundane act can be sanctified.


This section begins with the events that happened on the day the Sanctuary was dedicated. It includes a Divine revelation, the death of Aharon's two children, and a subsequent interaction between Moshe and Aharon which references this tragedy. Specifically, Moshe expected Aharon and his sons to eat from one of the offerings but instead it was destroyed by fire. Aharon explained that he authorized the destruction of the offering because of the tragedy that happened earlier that day.

The rest of the section deals with kosher food and ritual defilement.

We can see the connection between kosher food and ritual defilement, because eating non-kosher food is a form of internal ritual defilement - you are what you eat (Lev 11: 43-44).

What is the connection between the death of the sons of Aharon and eating kosher food?

The following thought came to mind.

The Divine revelation provided a great sanctification of G-d's name. 'A fire came forth from G-d and consumed' (Lev 9:24) the offering, indicating G-d's presence and His appreciation of both the Sanctuary and the Jewish people. The Hebrew word used to describe the offering being consumed is vatochal. The root of this word is achal, which means to eat.

Aharon's sons acted out of step. They brought a fire without being instructed by their elders to do so. 'A fire came forth from G-d and consumed' (Lev 10:2) them. The same words are used.

We then have the interaction between Moshe and Aharon regarding the need to eat one of the offerings. The offering was destroyed because Aharon was in mourning, a result of the death of his sons.

Immediately afterwards the Torah discusses the types of food that one may and may not eat.

We can now see a common theme throughout the Parsha.

A mature and competent person can chose to use self control with regard to what he eats. Such a person eats to live. He does not live to eat. The food which he consumes is transformed into energy or into a body which is used for reaching a higher form of life, that of spirituality.

A mature and competent person who does not exercise self control and merely lives to eat will use food as a means to fall into an animalistic, lower form of life. Not only does this person consume food, this person is consumed by food.

Besides an actual spiritual and internal defilement from eating non-kosher food, the lowering of a human being towards the level of an animal is in of itself a form of defilement.

Conversely, the person who eats and lives properly is sanctifying not only himself, but the food he eats.

With the discussion of kosher food at the end of this Parsha, we thus have two forms of consumption, one constructive and the other destructive.

We also have two forms of consumption at the beginning of the Parsha, one constructive and the other destructive.

The two sons of Aharon sought to sanctify the name of G-d. They succeeded in doing so, but in a negative manner. They were destroyed as a object lesson.

Every person has a role and mission in sanctifying the name of G-d. If a person exercises proper judgment and control then he will achieve his goal in a positive and self-constructive manner. He and his environment will be raised to a higher level. Conversely, if a person fails, then the sanctification will be achieved in a manner that is self-destructive. He will fall and so will his environment. This happened with Adam and we see it happening to the sons of Aharon.


11:42 'All that goes (crawls) on its stomach .. you may not eat them ..'

In the Torah, the Hebrew letter vav of the word gachon - stomach is enlarged. We have a tradition that this letter is at the center of the Torah, counting letters.

Rashi says that the reptile referred to is the nachash, the type of creature which enticed Adam and Chava to eat from the forbidden fruit. In Medrashic literature this creature is often equated with the evil inclination, which is also the Satan and the Angel of Death.

Why is this creature given the distinction of being placed in the exact center of the Torah?

The following thoughts came to mind.

First, there have been (non-Jewish) beliefs which viewed evil as being something outside G-d's direct sphere of influence or management. Judaism, on the other hand, views evil as being one of the many tools that G-d uses to manage His world. Evil is thus well contained by G-d and perhaps this is reflected by positioning it in the middle of the Torah.

Second, Judaism teaches that a person can not escape evil by merely avoiding physicality. We must deal with evil, not run away from it.

G-d gave us a most powerful weapon against the powers of evil. This weapon is also a shield and an antidote. It is the Torah, itself.

'It was taught in the House of Yishmael: If the lowly one (the evil inclination) encounters you then pull him into the house of Torah study. If he is made of stone then he will melt and if he is made of iron then he will shatter.' (Succa 52b)

Perhaps this advice for Mankind is reflected here, where we find the nachash completely surrounded by the Torah.


'Do not make yourselves abominable by means of {eating} any sheretz. Do not contaminate yourselves (sitam'u) through them lest you become contaminated (nitmeysem) through them.(11:43)' The Gemara (Yuma 39a) cites the house of R' Yishmael: the word nitmeysem is written chaser, missing an aleph (i.e. it's usually spelled nun-tes-mem-aleph-saf-mem). Thus, it can be read nitamtem, meaning dulled. The consumption of non-kosher foods dulls one to spiritual growth, making him insensitive to spiritual opportunities.

In this aliyah, we read about the tragic death of two of Aaron's sons, Nadav and Avihu. The gemara (Eruvin 63a) states that they dies because they made halachic decisions (shehoru halacha) without consulting Moshe, their teacher. We see from here the importance of the teacher-student relationship. Elsewhere (Bava Kamma 92b), the Gemara asks from where does the following popular expression originate: 'Though the wine belongs to the owner, thanks are given to the waiter.' The Torah provides two sources, both of which show Moshe giving smicha to Yehoshua, thus filling him with wisdom. Rashi explains that although the Wisdom belongs, or originated from G-d, Moshe is thanked, that is, the Torah reads as if Moshe gave Yehoshua his greatness. R' Chaim Shmulevitz (1901-1979) goes further in saying that the wisdom of the Torah is G-d's, but no one can partake of it without a rebbe to serve it to him. No one can ordain himself, as bright as he might be.

Perhaps we can say, then, that the relationship between these two seemingly distinct episodes in the sedra is as follows: eating non-kosher food makes one insensitive to his/her soul's spiritual strivings. Nadav and Avihu made an error in judgement: they paskened without consulting with the Gadol Hador, their uncle Moshe Rabeinu. As such, they demonstrated a lack of spiritual sensitivity.

  • Received from Manny Saltiel, saltiel@ix.netcom.com.

Parshas Tazria (Lev. 12-13)

12:1 And G-D spoke to Moshe, saying.

12:2 When a woman conceives and gives birth …

The Torah requires the mother to bring both an olah and a sin offering forty days from giving birth to a boy and eighty days for a girl. She may not enter the temple area or eat sacrificial meat until the offerings are brought (12:4-6).

What is the purpose of her sin offering? Did she do anything wrong?

Why the long delay? And why is it double for a baby girl?

The Talmud says that a woman brings a sin offering because the pangs of childbirth cause her to swear that she will cease having relations with her husband (Nidah 31b). We know that this does not always occur. So why must every mother bring a sin offering because some people do this?

A nazarite brings a sin offering, also. He is one who voluntarily accepted a period of abstention from certain things, such as wine. Despite the fact that the Torah describes him/her as "holy to G-D," the person brings a sin offering because he brought the stress of abstinence from wine upon himself (Nazir 19a). This too is a puzzle.

We would expect sin offerings to be brought for sins. There are several classes of offerings.

One class is for when someone was not careful and accidently violated a commandment. For example, there were two pieces of fat on the table, one permissible and the other forbidden, and the person mistakenly ate the forbidden piece. The person achieves atonement by offering a female goat or sheep (Leviticus 4:27-35).

Another class is for specific violations. The offering depends upon the sinner's financial ability. If the person can not afford a female goat or sheep then he brings a pair of birds, one for a sin offering and the other for an olah offering. The sin offering is always brought first because it is not proper to offer what appears to be a gift to G-D (the olah offering) before first achieving atonement. If the person can not afford birds then atonement can be achieved by bringing a meal offering (Leviticus 5:1-12).

A third class is for accidently transgressing the prohibition of idolatry. The offering is a male goat (Numbers 15:27).

The sin offering of a mother is always a bird, regardless of her financial ability. And unlike those who bring birds for accidently transgressing the Torah, her olah offering is brought first (Leviticus 12 6-8).

This appears to be an indication that there is absolutely no negativity is associated with her sin offering.

How do we understand all this?

The following came to mind.

A common denominator among all sin offerings is weakness.

A violation suggests a weakness in a person's attitude. A sin offering atones for this weakness.

The nazarite employs abstinence to manage his weakness.

We understand that G-D derives pleasure in giving pleasure to his creations.

Some of the people I know may be held accountable for going a bit overboard in partaking pleasures or for not partaking in them within the appropriate context and sincerity.

In contrast, the nazarite is held accountable for not partaking in the pleasure of drinking wine. For the nazarite, these were missed opportunities to deepen his relationship with G-D. The greatness that the nazarite achieves brings with it a higher standard.

But do not think that it is wrong to be a nazarite.

The Talmud says that the first of our pious wanted to do every commandment in the Torah and were frustrated that they could not bring a sin offering. So they took upon themselves the vows of a nazarite in order to fulfill that commandment (Nedarim 10a).

The sinner is a victim of his/her own weakness and brings a sin offering because of his weakness. The nazarite employs abstinence to manage an existing weakness and brings a sin offering because he chose to manage it with abstinence. What about the mother?

Perhaps the link has to do with selfishness.

Selfishness is a potential source of weakness. Now, it's definitely OK to have it as long as we grow out of it at an appropriate pace. As a matter of fact, we all would have probably died shortly after birth without it.

A mother's life begins with a state of extreme selfishness (Actually, non-mothers too.) Then she discovers that there is another self in the universe, her mommy. Father comes soon afterwards, together with siblings who are sometimes friends, other times competitors, and other times tormentors. She develops social skills when her ME discovers that it sometimes can get more of what it wants by settling for less. She begins to give, mostly because it's another way to feel good. She gets older and develops an awareness of her body, its beauty, and attractive powers.

We skip a few steps, stages, and bumps along the road and then she becomes someone's fiancιe. The center of her self begins the noble journey away from her own self, big-time.

The energy of having a husband and dealing with him launches her upward and away from the gravitational pull of her self. But this energy pales in significance to what her newborn will do for her.

And it doesn't end with additional children and grand children, together with all the responsibilities that she assumes along the way.

The life-long transformation from selfishness towards selflessness is all in preparation for a growing awareness, relationship, encounter, and bond with the Great Source of all selfs.

A child develops from within the body of its mother. It's a mother's self that becomes another self. Also a mother has many more opportunities to interact with the self of her child than a father. This suggests that it is by G-D's design that she has more of a role and responsibility to help the child develop away from its own self.

Deciding to become a mother in the first place is rarely a purely selfless act. There is nothing wrong about having a bit of self-interest in having a child. This is how G-D made us. There would probably be a lot less people in the world without it.

And becoming a mother usually happens at some place in the middle of her journey towards perfection.

So we have a wonderful woman who G-D blessed with a child. She must help it develop away from its selfishness while doing the same with her self, only she is a quite a bit more ahead of her newborn.

Perhaps her sin offering is to help make her aware of the great role that G-D assigned her, to help her child manage and grow out of his/her weakness, all the while that the child is helping her grow out of it her own.

The mother did absolutely nothing 'wrong.' The sin offering is all about all the 'right' that lays ahead of her for the rest of her life.

The olah is brought first, because of the focus that her new job is a great gift from G-D.

A violator is expected to make atonement and bring a sin offering as soon as possible. Here, the Torah injects a delay into the mother's sin offering because she violated nothing, she did nothing wrong. The delay gives her a chance to recover and to take to heart her new role in a world that now has an additional person.

Her sin offering is always a bird, a living being that is low key in comparison to a sheep.

The delay is doubled for a baby girl, for she will grow up and follow in her mother's footsteps, her mother being a mentor.


12:1 And G-D spoke to Moshe, saying.

12:2 When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male then she shall become "tomay" for seven days, just like the days of her menstruate infirmity she shall be in the state of being "tomay."

A person who becomes "tomay" is ritually ineligible for many things that pertain to the sanctuary or priesthood. For example, the person may not enter designated areas and the person may not eat sacrificial meat. A priest who becomes "tomay" may not eat certain priestly allotments.

Here are some more facts about the state of "tumah."

Human beings are on a higher order of priority within the creation than animals. And yet, animals are less susceptible to becoming "tomay" than people. In fact, the Torah lists a number of ways that a living person can become "tomay" while no living animal can become "tomay."

We can thus infer that susceptibility to "tumah" suggests a higher order of priority within the creation.

Also, a corpse generates one of the most intense forms of "tumah." It can radiate on something that shares a common overhang and it can require a purification rite that takes seven days. It is said that this deeper level of "tumah" comes from the vacuum that results when the body no longer has a soul.

From the above, perhaps the additional opportunity that women have to take on the state of "tumah" because of childbirth is an indication of their unique greatness. It also may have to do with the vacuum that results when the wonderful living soul that they carried for nine months finally separates.


12:1 And G-D spoke to Moshe, saying.

12:2 When a woman conceives and gives birth to a male then she shall become "tomay" for seven days, just like the days of her menstruate infirmity she shall be in the state of being "tomay."

We have a state of being "tomay." We also have the inverse state, of being "tahor."

A person who becomes "tomay" is ritually ineligible for many things that pertain to the sanctuary or priesthood. For example, the person may not enter designated areas and the person may not eat sacrificial meat. A priest who becomes "tomay" may not eat certain priestly allotments.

The ineligibility of the new mother is followed by the laws of one who is afflicted by "tzoraas."

The Talmud (Arachin 16a) lists seven character and behavioral deficiencies for which heaven decrees that a person will be afflicted by "tzoraas." They are: Slander, murder, frivolous oaths, incest, arrogance, theft, and stinginess.

Laws for the noble and courageous role of motherhood are written adjacent to laws of a person who is afflicted by heaven because of misbehavior, indecency, and character defects. And yet both types of people share the same fate in that they are ritually ineligible for certain matters that pertain to the sanctuary or priesthood.

The adjacency of these two types of people suggests to me that these states have nothing to do with our state of spiritual accomplishments or status. Neither do they pertain to a person's state of physical cleanliness.

Rather, their focus is on the supremacy of G-D's will, that He decreed that there shall be certain states of eligibility for people and that those states have an effect on what a person may or may not do.


11:47 And to differentiate between that which is ritually unclean and that which is ritually clean, and between the beast that may be eaten and the beast that may not be eaten.

12:1 And G-D spoke to Moshe (Moses), saying.

12:2 Speak to the children of Israel saying, "When a woman conceives and bears a son she shall be ritually unclean for seven days …"

Verse 11:47 is the final verse of the previous Torah reading.

Rashi provides the following commentary for that verse:

"To differentiate:" Not only must one study, but one must know, recognize, and be an expert (in the difference).

"Between that which is ritually unclean and that which is ritually clean:" It is unnecessary to say (that one needs to be able to differentiate) between a donkey and a cow, for not they already distinct? Rather, we must differentiate between that which is ritually not acceptable to us and that which is ritually acceptable. For example, between an animal that was ritually slaughtered except that only half of the windpipe was severed versus another animal that had most of its windpipe severed. (As most of the windpipe must be severed, meat from only the latter animal is Kosher, even though the difference between exactly one half and a majority can be a hair-breadth.)

The Torah is charging us to become expert in the subtle technicalities that can affect the ritual or Kashrus status of an animal.

It is interesting that the laws of childbirth follow this verse. The following thought came to mind.

While parents have a natural compulsion to give to their children, parents must allow intellect to evaluate every such opportunity.

The difference between whether something is indeed good for a child or otherwise, can very well be only a hairbreadth wide.


Rashi provides the following observation from the Medrash, in the name of Rabbi Simlai:

In the story of creation that is recorded in the Book of Genesis we find that Man was created after every animal, beast, and bird. Here in the Book of Leviticus, we find the laws that pertain to Man's ritual ineligibility are also written after the laws that pertain to animals, beasts, and birds.

We are taught that being last can indicate inferiority and it can also indicate superiority. As an example of the latter, it is the President of the United States who enters last into the press conference. This is because the President is its focus. The press and conference staff must wait for the President and not the reverse.

We note that the state of ritual ineligibility occurs in two contexts.

Ineligibility can occur as a result of a person's negative behavior. For example, we are taught that the state of Tzoraas is indicative of a person's carelessness with slanderous talk against his/her fellow.

Also, ineligibility can also occur as a result of the natural process of life. This is how we view the states that occur from the act of conception (Leviticus 15:16) or from childbirth (Leviticus 12:2). These types of ineligibility have absolutely no negative stigma or context. They do not indicate negative behavior.

If we use this to extend Rav Simlai's observation, we note the following:

The laws pertaining to animals are recorded first (Leviticus 11). Then come the laws that pertain to childbirth, which is a form of natural ineligibility (Leviticus 12). They follow with laws that pertain to ineligibility from negative behavior (Leviticus 13-14). They conclude with a return to the laws of natural ineligibility (Leviticus 15).

Thus, the laws that pertain to childbirth seem to be out of sequence. They also separate the laws that pertain to the animal world with those that pertain to a person's negative behavior.

This brought the following to mind.

There are means and there are ends. For example, eating is a means and living is an end. One should eat to live and not the reverse. It is a corruption when a means trades significance with an end.

Similarly, the act of conception is a means towards parenthood. It is a corruption and animalistic for parenthood to become viewed as an accidental byproduct.

Perhaps, to indicate Man's potential for nobility, the Torah uses parenthood to separate the laws pertaining to the animal to those that pertain to humanity. This is to remind us that in order to maintain our prestige over the animal world, we must constantly maintain a proper focus on that which is the true end over that which is only a means.

This would then provide meaning for the laws of childbirth to be written prior to the laws that pertain to the act of conception. It would also help explain why they are placed so as to separate the laws that pertain to man to those that pertain to animals.


11:46 This is the Torah (of ritual purity) for domestic animals, birds, all living creatures that creep in the water, and all living creatures that crawl on the ground.'

12:2, 5, 7: Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, 'When a woman conceives and gives birth to a boy, she is (in a state) of ritual impurity for seven days .And if she gives birth to a girl . This is the Torah for a woman who gives birth to a boy or to a girl'

Rashi for 12:2 provides the following commentary from the Medrash

Rabbi Simlaie said, 'The formation of Man occurred within the Creation process after (the formation of) every animal, beast, and bird. In a similar manner, his (Man's) Torah is delineated after the Torah of the animals, beasts, and birds.'

Now, this is not the first time we find the word, 'Torah' in the Scriptures. It is found many times in the Torah prior to the citations of 11:46 and 12:17.

  • Exodus 12:49 'You shall have one Torah for the citizen and for he convert..'
  • Exodus 13:9 '.. so that the Torah of G-d shall be in your mouth ..'
  • Exodus 16:4 '.. so that I can test them (and see) whether they will walk in My Torah or not.'
  • Exodus 16:28 '.. to guard My commandments and Torahs.'
  • Exodus 18:16 '.. the decrees of G-d and His Torahs'
  • Exodus 18:20 'And you shall exhort them (regarding) the decrees and the Torahs..'
  • Exodus 24:12 '.. And I (G-d) shall give you (Moshe - Moses) the stone tablets, the Torah, and the commandment that I wrote to teach them.'
  • Leviticus 6:2 '..this is the Torah of the Olah offering..'
  • Leviticus 6:7 'And this is the Torah of the Mincha offerring..'
  • Leviticus 6:18 '..this is the Torah of the Chatas offering..'
  • Leviticus 7:1 'And this is the Torah of the Asham offerring..'
  • Leviticus 7:7 'Like the sin offering and the guilt offering, they shall have one Torah..'
  • Leviticus 7:11 'And this is the Torah of the Zevach .'
  • Leviticus 7:37 'This is the Torah for the Olah offering ..'

Apparently, the Torah of Man is indeed delineated prior to the Torah of animals, beasts, and birds. How do we understand Rabbi Simlaie's statement? What is he trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

In the references that we listed, the word 'Torah' refers to that which we are charged to do and study.

11:46 uses the word 'Torah' to refer to that which an animal is. An animal is either ritually pure or impure.

12: 7 uses the word 'Torah' in a similar manner. A woman is ritually impure for the first seven days after the birth of a son. Subsequently she can become ritually pure.

What message can we take from this? Perhaps the following.

The Hebrew word for ritual purity is 'taharah' and impurity is 'tumah.' A person can become 'tahor' or 'tamay.'

In their common usage, taharah and tumah do not connote physical hygiene. Nor is there anything wrong with a person who is tamay. A person becomes tamay by circumstance. In this state, a person is precluded from doing certain things, like entering the Temple area or eating sacrificial food. To become tahor, a person needs to go to a ritual bath or participate in a special ceremony.

(We today do not have the means to attain a state of taharah. The Jewish people are therefore precluded from ascending the Temple Mount, unless there is a life-threatening situation that requires it.)

In their common usage, tahara and tumah do not imply fault or blame. However, these words are sometimes used to describe the consequences of an act of free-will. When a person chooses to act righteously, he/she enhances the purity of his/her soul. Conversely, when a person chooses to act inappropriately, he/she defiles the purity of his soul.

Nobody is perfect and from time to time we forget ourselves. Sometimes we are spiritually tahor and sometimes we are not.

Now, an animal's status of tumah is quite different than that of a person. Of significance to our discussion, an animal's state of tahara and tumah never changes. A camel is tomay because it is a camel. It remains always a camel, always tomay. While an animal can do nothing to change its state, a person can.

Let us take a lesson from this difference.

Let no one think that their behavior has caused their soul to be defiled beyond repair. In His mercy, G-d gave humanity the ability to repent for their mistakes and to mend their ways.

In the Medrash, Rabbi Simlaie's statement is preceded by a discussion of a verse in T'hilim (Psalms) 139:5

You formed me last and first

According to the great scholar Resh Lakish, this refers to two events of Creation.

The second verse in Genesis reads:

'.. and the spirit of G-d hovered over the great depths.'

According to Resh Lakish, this refers to the soul of a spiritually great individual. This occurred on the first day of Creation. Living creatures were created on the fifth and sixth days. Adam was created afterwards, on the sixth day.

Thus, a part of humanity was created prior to animal life and a part was created afterwards. Man was created both first and last, with respect to other living creatures.

Resh Lakish understands that the verse in T'hilim is providing the following message.

If a Man achieves merit then he is told that he preceded the entire creation. However, if a person fails to achieve merit then he is told that the gnat preceded him in the creation process.

Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we fail. Perhaps Rabbi Simlaie is reminding us that despite the failings, a person doesn't have to become a failure.


12:6 And when she [the mother of the newborn] completes her days of purification then she shall take a year-old sheep for an olah offering and a dove or pigeon for a sin offering (and bring them) to the opening of the Meeting Tent, to the priest.

12:8 And if she can not afford a sheep (offering then) she should take two pigeons or two doves, one for an olah offering and one for a sin offering. And the priest shall atone for her and she shall become pure.

The Talmud explains that a sin offering is required because the stress of childbirth may have caused her to make an oath to separate from her husband.

Rav Moshe Feinstein of blessed memory explains that the Torah requires every woman to bring a sin offering, regardless of whether she uttered an oath or not, because the thought of separation may have crossed her mind.

The Baal Haturim notes that verse six mentions the dove before the pigeon, which is not the typical order in the Torah. Indeed, verse eight mentions the pigeon first. Noting also that a single bird is required in verse six, the Baal Haturim explains that the pigeon is more sensitive to the loss of its mate, hence the preference to use a dove.

Parenting is a joint effort and the Torah is reminding us that children need both parents to share in their problem-solving.


12:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, 'When a woman conceives and gives birth to a boy then she will be in a state of tumah [ritual ineligibility] for seven days. She will be in the state of tumah just like her days of niddah.'

12:4 And for thirty-three days (afterwards) she will remain in the state of taharah [ritual eligibility] (for) her bleeding. She may not come near anything of kodesh [sacrificial nature] and she may not enter the Temple until she completes her days of taharah.

12:6 And when her days of taharah are completed for (giving birth to) a son or a daughter then she must bring . [sacrifices].

12:7 And (the kohen) shall offer it before G-d and he shall make a purging for her. And she attain a state of taharah from the sources of her bleedings. This is the Torah of the woman who gives birth to a boy or to a girl.

A woman's state of tumah from childbirth is associated with the bleeding that usually occurs during childbirth.

The Torah delineates two stages of tumah.

If she gives birth to a boy, the first stage lasts seven days and the second lasts for thirty-three days. For a girl, it's fourteen days and then sixty-six days.

She must separate from the sanctuary and from her husband during the first stage, as she does for the monthly niddah period. During the second stage, she remains apart from the sanctuary but she may be with her husband. During Biblical times, she was permitted to be with her husband during the second stage despite any bleeding.

On verse 12:7, the Targum Yonoson Ben Uziel adds in his translation, '.. and she shall attain a state of taharah from the sources of her two bleedings.'

This appears to be a reference to her two types of separation, that from her husband and that from the Temple.

For those who follow the Torah's guidelines for marriage, it is common knowledge that the mandated niddah separation between husband and wife serves to strengthen their marriage. It reduces the risk of affection becoming common and taken for granted. It institutionalizes within marriage a periodic refreshment and revitalization of the relationship.

Perhaps this concept can be applied to the stages of childbirth. The following came to mind.

Childbirth and child care can be very demanding. Between the needs for own recovery and the needs of the newborn, the subtle signals of affection that a wife gives her husband can become suppressed. Just like the niddah period, the mandated separation of the first stage can serve to refresh the relationship, helping the new mother re-focus on her marriage.

The demands of the newborn may very well have distracted the mother from her Temple visitations. G-d chooses to wait until the next stage, as repair to the marriage relation is first priority. Afterwards, the imposed separation of the second stage serves to refresh the relationship the mother has with her spiritual sources. The imposed absence from the Temple helps the new mother re-focus on her relation with G-d.

G-d wants her back, too.


12:8 And if her [the new mother's] hand does not find enough (funds - i.e. she can not afford the money) for a lamb (for her offering) then she shall take two pigeons or two young doves, one for an olah offering and one for a sin offering. And the priest shall atone for her and she will become tahor (ritually eligible).

14:21 And if he (the metzorah) is poor and his hand does not reach (i.e. he can not afford to provide the required three sheep( then he shall take one sheep for an asham offering) to wave it in order to achieve atonement, and a tenth (of a measure) of fine flour (that is) mixed with oil for a mincha offering and a log (measure) of oil.

14:32 This is the Torah for one who has the affliction of tzoraas (and) whose hand does not reach (i.e. he can not afford the funds) for his becoming tahor [ritually eligible].

The Torah selects special words to denote a person's ability and a person's lack of ability to purchase something.

When we can afford something the Torah writes that our hands can reach it. When a person can not afford something, the Torah writes that he can't reach it or that his hands do not find it.

This brings to mind the Torah teaching that G-D determines and controls what a person has and what a person can accomplish.

Success is not the product of accident. Neither is it determined by a person's brain, brawn, or connections. The only way a person can affect G-D's decision to grant or withhold success is his/her demonstrating that G-D's will is paramount. G-D's will is that we take action towards achieving success. Once we do our part, achieving the success reflects G-D's decision.

This brings to mind a conversation that a person once had with his Rebbe. He bemoaned that he prayed strongly for something but G-D answered with nothing. ("Ehr enferht nisht.") The Rebbe responded that G-D did answer. G-D heard his prayers, G-D did answer him, and G-D answered with nothing. That is, G-D answered, 'Nothing.' ("Ehr enferht, 'Nisht.'")

And so, when a person can afford something it's as if he found it, for it was G-D who put it there for him to merely extend himself and find. And when person can not afford something then either G-D put it there but out of his reach or G-D did not put it there and so he can not find it no matter how hard he extends himself.


13:2 Should a man see in the skin of his flesh … an affliction of tzoraas then he should be brought to Aharon (Aaron) the priest or to one of his sons who are priests.

We have been taught that the Torah is not speaking about an affliction that can be managed with medical science. Rather, its presence and disappearance is miraculous.

Tzoraas is inflicted by Heaven as a message that the person has a character or behavioral deficiency which must be addressed.

The Talmud (Arachin 16a) lists seven defects: Slander, murder, frivolous oaths, incest, arrogance, theft, and stinginess

This is why the Torah says that the person is brought to a priest, not to a physician, as the person needs help defining values and behaving consistently with them.

Torah says that the person is brought to the priest, not that he goes to the priest. This wording implies that the person must go for help, even if he doesn't want to go.

The Rinas Yitzchak commentary cites a source that it is the responsibility of the court system to ensure that the person seeks help. They must compel him to do so if he does not go voluntarily.

The Even HaEzer commentary assign the responsibility to society in general, meaning everybody. This is echoed by the Zohar.

Scholars discuss if, the degree to which, and the means of which an individual is obligated to compel another to comply with law. There may be differences between whether the issue at hand is regarding one who is not doing a positive commandment or whether the person is violating a negative commandment.

In explaining the Even HaEzer and Zohar, the Rinas Yitzchak commentary suggests that the case of tzoraas may be unique. If one appears to be afflicted with tzoraas and refuses to seek the help of the priest, then everyone is obligated to become involved and get him/her moving in the right direction, even if it means using pressure.

Perhaps this responsibility belongs to everybody and not just the court system because society is better equipped than the court system to ensure and propagate a deeper level of appropriate values.


13:14 And he shall be (declared) ‘tomay’ [doomed as a metzorah] on the day that healthy flesh appears on him.

The Torah could have written that he shall be ‘tomay’ when healthy flesh appears.

By referring to the day that healthy flesh appears, Rashi cites a teaching from the Toras Cohanm that there are days that we do not condemn a person. For example, we delay showing the affliction of a chasan (groom) to a priest until after his first week of celebration.

The Talmud teaches that heaven brings this affliction on a person for any of these reasons: Slander, murder, false oaths, incest, haughtiness, theft, and being stingy.'' (Arachin16).

There is a custom that a chasan fasts on the day of his wedding because his sins are forgiven and this is comparable to Yom Kippur.

But, asks the Gereh Rebbe, if a chasan’s sins are forgiven then why would heaven bring this affliction upon him?

He answers the purpose of this affliction is to get a person to change his attitude and behavior.

While prior offenses are forgiven and the chasan begins his new life with a clean slate, the root causes may very well remain.

In this case, he still needs to experience tzoraas to get him to change and become a better person.


13:43 And the priest shall see him and behold, there is a whitish / reddish affliction in his frontal or posterior bald area, just like the appearance of the tzoraas skin (condition).

13:44 He is a man that has tzoraas, he is tameh [ritually disqualified]. The priest shall (declare) him tameh, his affliction is in his head.

13:45 And the tzoraas afflicted, who has the affliction, his clothes shall be torn and he shall let his hair grow, and he shall cover himself up to his moustache, and he shall proclaim (I am) tameh.

13:46 He shall be tameh all the days that he has the affliction, he is tameh. He shall live alone, his living area shall be outside the camp.

These verses are preceded with many verses that discuss many appearances and conditions of the tzoraas affliction.

The dire consequence for a person who has this affliction is written by this particular variety, that of tzoraas that appears on a person's head.

This brought the following thought to mind.

The Talmud (Arachin 16a) lists seven character and behavioral deficiencies for which heaven decrees that a person will be afflicted by tzoraas. They are: Slander, murder, frivolous oaths, incest, arrogance, theft, and stinginess.

We are taught that afflictions and sufferings are intended to be corrective. They are typically not expressions of heavenly vengeance or outrage.

People who fall in the above list will be insensitive to the wrong and harm that they are doing to themselves and others. Their conscience will bother them and they will be under stress. They will rationalize in order to block and counteract the signals of their conscience, thereby relieving themselves of this stress.

Perhaps the Torah is hinting to this by preceding the consequences with the statement, "his affliction is in his head," perhaps referring to the reaction of rationalization that enables a person to continue with their distortions.

It is incumbent on a person who is afflicted to give focus to his/her sensitivities and pay attention to their conscience.

Instead of blocking conscience with rationalizations, a person must always be in touch with his/her conscience, for it provides the person with motivation and energy to follow through with correction and self-improvement.


13:45 And the clothing of one with Tzoraas that has the affliction shall be torn, (the hair of) his head shall be uncut, and he shall cover himself up to his moustache. He is to call out, "Impure, impure."

13:46 All of the days that the affliction is upon him he shall be impure, he is impure. He shall live in isolation, his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

The affliction of Tzoraas brings misfortune, not just inconvenience. The Oral Torah teaches that this affliction befalls a person of deficient character. The Oral Torah lists several causal offenses, chief of which is slandering.

We are taught that this affliction is sent by heaven to bring the offender to correct his/her ways.

Rashi cites the following insight: Why is this person different from other spiritually impure people that he must live in isolation? He must separate from people because he separated couples and/or other fellows with his slander.

The Torah lists two other types of tzoraas, that of clothing and that of a building. If the tzoraas does not respond to treatment then the clothing must be burned (13:57) and the building must be demolished (14:45).

Perhaps the fate of disintegration for clothing and buildings suggests that those who speak slander are not just social nuisances. Rather, their acts can cause a breakdown of society.


13:45 And the clothing of one with Tzoraas that has the affliction shall be torn, (the hair of) his head shall be uncut, and he shall cover himself up to his moustache. He is to call out, "Impure, impure."

13:46 All of the days that the affliction is upon him he shall be impure, he is impure. He shall live in isolation, his dwelling shall be outside the camp.

The affliction of Tzoraas brings misfortune, not just inconvenience. The Oral Torah teaches that this affliction befalls a person of deficient character. The Oral Torah lists several causal offenses, chief of which is slandering.

We are taught that this affliction is sent by heaven to bring the offender to correct his/her ways.

It is noteworthy that the Written Torah does not openly expose the underlying causes of Tzoraas. Also, this section is preceded and is followed by laws that deal with impurity from natural life, childbirth and body fluids. This can be viewed as a restraint from publicly exposing the offender's flaws.

This brings to mind the need to correct deficiencies in others in a manner that does not humiliate them.


This reading and the next (Metzora) deals with laws of tzoraas, popularly mistranslated as being a form of leprosy.

The Jewish tradition deals with tzoraas as being a state within which a person, a garment, or a building may be in. The Torah provides indicators for being in this state, tests for this state, consequences, and a process for coming out of its effects.

Tzoraas is not related to any medical illness. It is particularly awkward to consider this as a form of leprosy since this state is clearly relevant in the Torah to clothing and buildings.

We see a pattern in the tests and treatments for tzoraas and it varies with what we are testing and treating.

When a building is being tested and treated, we find the Torah telling us to completely remove the area which was affected. When a garment is under consideration we find the Torah telling us to initially wash it. This is a lighter form of removal which may or may not be successful. When a person is under consideration, we find the Torah forbidding any tampering with the affected area. (Dt. 24:8)

Why are there different things to which tzoraas is applicable? Of what significance is this treatment pattern?

The following thought came to mind.

We first need to know the cause of tzoraas. 'Rav Shmuel Bar Nachmeini said in the name of Rav Yochanan: 'Tzoraas is caused by seven things: Slander, murder, false oaths, incest, haughtiness, theft, and being stingy.'' (Arachin 16).

Tzoraas is thus a method by which G-d communicates to a person that he or she is not behaving properly.

The Torah instructs one who is affected by tzoraas to use the services of a Kohen, a teacher, and not a doctor. He or she needs instruction and guidance, not medicine.

We can now better understand the need for several forms of tzoraas, as G-d's message to the person and its directness can now vary with degree and nature of fault.

It may suffice for a person who is slightly off-mark to receive the tzoraas of the building. People with greater failures of responsibility may need to be afflicted with the tzoraas of a garment, an item that is closer to the body. Those who are most at fault may need to be afflicted with tzoraas of the body, the most personal form of the condition.

In this light we can now understand why the most personal form of tzoraas may not be tampered with. It is G-d's most direct form of communication and it is therefore not proper to assign to its treatment any form of dilution. It must be fully confronted and dealt with as it.

The decreasing forms of directness are reflected in the forms of treatment, so it is proper to initially wash the garment and one may even initially remove the tzoraas from the building.


Parshas Metzorah (Lev. 14-15)

14:2 This is the law of the metzorah (one who is afflicted with tzoraas) on the day that he becomes ritually clean. He shall be brought to the priest.

14:3 And the priest shall go outside the camp. And the priest shall look and behold, the affliction of tzoraas is healed …

The previous Torah reading speaks about the appearance of the affliction. Here it speaks about its disappearance. The previous Torah reading says that the afflicted one goes to the priest. Here it says that he is brought to the priest and that the priest even comes to him. The Chasam Sofer provides the following as an explanation.

We are taught that the affliction is supernatural. Heaven decrees it on someone as a wake-up call that he has a character defect, typically an inflated ego.

The cure is therefore a very humbling experience. And indeed it is for the metzorah is forced to live apart from society. Furthermore, his very presence can emit spiritual uncleanliness on others.

Heaven removes the affliction once the person repents.

Initially, the person with the inflated ego must go to the priest. Once the healing process helps bring his ego to an acceptable level, Heaven helps him do a complete repentance and he is brought to the priest and the priest even comes to him.


This Torah reading describes a prolonged and involved restoration process for one who was afflicted with Tzoraas and is now healed.

The previous reading lists harsh consequences for one who gets the affliction such as being banished from walled cities, living apart, tearing his clothing, and telling all who come near that he can make them ritually defiled.

In contrast, the accidental murderer is exiled to a city of refuge. But he can live there in comfort with other people and he is released as soon as the high priest passes away.

How could it be that the consequences of having Tzoraas are more severe than killing another human being by accident?

Perhaps this can be understood by knowing the reason that Heaven decrees Tzoraas upon a person. The first reason listed by the Talmud (Arachin 16a) is Lashon Hara, which is speaking to others in a slanted way that puts someone else in a negative light.

The Medrash Tanchuma says that speaking Lashon Hara is as harsh as committing murder, for that kills only one person whereas Lashon Hara kills three: The one who says it, the one who receives it, and the victim.

It may not be fashionable in some circles to say this but it is frankly possible for Lashon Hara to cause more harm and long-term suffering to others than killing them outright.

Think about it.


One who is healed of the tzoraas affliction must undergo purification ceremonies.

The ceremonies include:

Slaughtering a bird, dipping another bird in its blood and then letting it fly away.

Placing sacrificial blood on the person's ear lobe, thumb, and large toe and later covering it with oil.

The following symbolisms came to mind.

We are taught that heaven visits this affliction on people who slander others.

We are taught that slander harms three people: The person who slanders, the person who is slandered, and those who hear it.

It's almost impossible to recall a bird once it is set free. Similarly, one can not recall evil speech once it is uttered. It is usually impossible to repair the damage.

Blood is placed on the body. It's later covered but not cleaned. The blood remains somewhat visible beneath the oil. Similarly, a person rarely recovers the esteem that he loses from slander. It can be partially compensated, at best.

The thumb is set apart from the other fingers and the large toe is set apart from the other toes. Similarly, slander breaks relationships and isolates people.

The slanderer may take his healing as a sign from heaven that he has learned his lesson and will control his lips. But he must still feel responsibility for his listeners, for he has caused them to sin with their ears.


We are taught that the Metzorah's affliction is due to his/her disregard of the Torah's guidelines on verbal abuse.

In the previous portion, Tazriah, the Torah specifies the consequence of the diagnosis as follows:

13:45 And the one with Tzoraas in whom there is an affliction (must undergo the following): His clothing shall be torn, and (the hair of) his head shall (remain) uncut, and he shall cloak himself (up to) his mustache. He shall call out, "Ritual impurity!" "Ritual impurity!"

13:46 Each day that he has the affliction he shall be ritually impure, he is ritually impure. He shall live outside the camp, alone.

Rashi teaches that this harsh ordeal is meant to be instructive. He says:

"Our teachers said, 'Why is this treated differently than all the other cases of ritual impurity, in that the Metzorah must live in isolation? Since he spoke negatively (about others and) made couples and friends break apart, now he must (live) set apart (from society).'"

It is the Torah's intent that this person learn the value of human companionship. Thus, the isolation helps repair his defect.

This Torah portion, called Metzorah, begins with instruction for purifying the Metzroah once the affliction clears up. TheTorah prescribes a purification ceremony.

Since the affliction was brought on by a spiritual defect, we should assume that the disappearance of Tzoraas is an indication that the spiritual defect was repaired.

However, Rashi references the Oral Torah that seems to say that otherwise.

14:4 The Kohen shall command (that) for the person being purified there shall be taken two live and kosher birds, cedarwood, a red tongue of wool, and hyssop.

Rashi: Since these afflictions occur because of malicious talk, verbal clatter, he therefore needs birds for purification, creatures that constantly make clattering. (He needs) cedarwood (because such) afflictions come on from a person's haughtiness (and the cedar is a stately tree). Similar lessons are provided from the use of the red tongue of wool (-tolaas shani and tolaas also means a lowly worm) and from the use of a branch from the (lowly) hyssop tree.

We see the Torah's intent to bring a focus on the need for the Metzorah to be humble, that his downfall was the result of his haughtiness.

Since the affliction came about because of a defect, if the Metzorah is still defective then why did the affliction clear up?

The following came to mind.

The Metzorah's destructive acts were the result of several defects. One is a lack of awareness in the seriousness of slander. Another is haughtiness.

In His mercy, G-D removes the affliction even though the Metzorah is still deficient in the character trait of humility. The Torah removes his handicap of isolation which may distract the Metzorah from giving a proper focus on repairing his lack of humility.

The Torah is just as much for people with defects as it is for people who are perfect. The Torah is also for people who are on the road to perfection. G-D is understanding.


It is fortunate when we can discern that G-d is treating us 'Measure for measure.' We can sometimes discern this principle within the laws of the Torah.

Tzoraas comes about for a reason. 'Rav Shmuel Bar Nachmeini said in the name of Rav Yochanan: 'Tzoraas is caused by seven things: Slander, murder, false oaths, incest, haughtiness, theft, and being stingy.'' (Arachin 16).

The metzora has a very difficult life. Can we see 'Measure for measure?'

The restoration back from tzoraas is quite involved. Can we see any relation to the cause of this affliction?

The following came to mind:

Looking at the causes for tzoraas we see that one who is afflicted with the condition is insensitive to the basic requirements for social harmony.

We see that not only has the metzora failed to live up to the behavioral requirements of a Jew, he/she has failed as a person. The Jewish people are living humans who are also Jewish, who are a 'Kingdom of priests and a holy (sanctified) nation.' (Exodus 19:6)

Death is the greatest absence of humanity. As a failed person, the metzora is assigned the attributes of a type of ritual defilement, a lack of sanctification, which is similar to that of a dead person.

Furthermore, the metzora must live as an outcast to the extent that he/she can not have marriage relations with his/her spouse. It's almost as if a metzora is not part of the Jewish people.

Make no mistake about this, though. A metzora is a living person in every respect. One must save his/her life, even if it means breaking the Shabbos. One may not kill a metzora. Furthermore, the metzora is Jewish in every respect and must keep every commandment. He/she is entitled to every right as a Jew, within the context of his/her condition.

If we can view the tzoraas as providing the sinner with a reflection of a lack of life as both a human and a Jew, then this can perhaps shed a light on many of the laws of the restoration from this affliction.

The restoration has two stages, reflecting perhaps the return to humanity and then to sanctification as a Jew.

For the first stage, the Torah prescribes a ceremony which utilizes a stick of cedar, a scarlet string, and a hyssop branch. Vibrant waters contained within an earthenware vessel must be used. The water is sprinkled on the metzora seven times.

A stick of cedar, a scarlet string, and a hyssop branch are also used for the Parah Aduma (red heifer). The ashes of the Para Aduma are used to purify a person whose ritual defilement was related to death. The ashes must be sprinkled onto vibrant waters that are in a vessel and then the resulting mixture must be sprinkled onto the ritually defiled person during a seven-day purification process. (Numbers 19)

The metzora immerses into purification water, washes his/her clothing, and removes all hair. The metzora has made a full break with the past. Two birds are used for the metzora. One is killed and one is let loose. The metzora passes through the boundary between death and life.

Yet, the restoration is not over, for while the metzora has symbolically entered the world of the living, he/she requires a sanctification process. The metzora still may not come near his/her spouse for seven days.

We find several places in the Torah where sanctification requires a seven-day wait. The most recent examples are the sanctification of Aharon and his children (Lev 8:35), and, perhaps, the seven-day wait before one can circumcise a baby boy. In this light, it is noteworthy that the latter requirement is stated immediately prior to the portions which deal with the affliction of tzoraas.

The metzora must shave again. We find a requirement for shaving when the Levites were sanctified. (Numbers 7:7).

On the eighth day the metzora must offer special sacrifices. A 'waiving before G-d' is required. We find the waving as a requirement for both the sanctification of the Levites and of the priests.

Olive oil is used for both the metzora and for the sanctification ceremony of the priests. It is placed on the body in the same places. The oil is afterwards placed on the head of both the new priests and the metzora.

The metzora now has a new chance on life, both as a person and as a Jew.


14:11 And the priest who officiates the purification shall set up both the one who is being purified and them [the sacrificial animal(s) etc.] before G-D, (in) the doorway of the Tent of Meeting.

This is speaking about the Metzorah, a person who repented his ways and is about to be fully restored to his former status.

It is a bit unusual to make a penitent person stand out like this.

The Mishnah says that the receipts for those who purchased Metzorah sacrifices were marked "Sinner" (Shekalim 5:3), again a bit unusual.

But we must bear in mind that this is a supernatural affliction and it is in response to someone who speaks with slanted speech against others. The root cause is haughtiness and a disregard for the dignity and privacy of others.

In this light, we are dealing with the final stages of helping the Metzorah adjust his personality.

It also comes to mind that the Torah now wants to publicize that the Metzorah is now fully restored so that others will no longer avoid his company.


14:11 And the priest who officiates the purification shall set up both the one who is being purified and them [the sacrificial animal(s) etc.] before G-D, (in) the doorway of the Tent of Meeting.

This is speaking about the Metzorah, a person who has repented his ways and is about to be fully restored to his former status.

Until recently, the affliction of tzoraas caused this person to be banished from society and from entering the temple area.

We are taught tzoraas is decreed by heaven upon a person who is not careful with the way he speaks about other people - Lashon Horah (Arachin 16a).

As this is a consequence of inappropriate speech, we assume that the affliction clears after the person repents.

After completing the introductory purification ceremony, the Metzorah can enter the temple area up to the main doorway. Standing there enables the ceremonial blood and oil to be placed on parts of his body. This must be performed inside the temple area, not the doorway. This is accomplished by partial entry for just those parts.

In fact, the main doorway of the temple was not fully sanctified to enable the Metzorah to stand there and complete his purification (Pesachim 85b).

It would seem that the Torah has him standing in the doorway to enable him to complete the restoration in a manner that complies with his restrictions.

However, Rabbi Sorotzkin derives from the halachic literature that the requirement for him and his sacrificial animal(s) to stand in the doorway of the sanctuary is not simply for logistics. Rather, it's a separate halachic requirement (Rinas Yitzchak).

It came to mind that in part, this may be because the Torah wants to emphasize to both the Metzorah and to society that he is now fully restored and welcomed. Therefore, it wants both him and his instruments of his purification to be in full view.


14:34 When you come to the land of Canaan that I am giving you and I place an affliction of tzoraas in a house of your possession.

The Talmud teaches that the affliction is decreed by heaven against a homeowner who is stingy with other people. (Arachin 16a)

The Rashi commentary gives an example of a homeowner who does not lend his utensils to his neighbors.

Verse 37 states that the kohen (priest) will ask him to remove the utensils from the house.

This would expose his character, had he been telling his neighbors all along that he had no utensils to lend.

The Rinas Yitzchak provides the example of a homeowner that does not let charity collectors into his home.

When the home is demolished, he will no longer have the walls he used to shut out those in need of comfort and brief shelter.


14:34 When you come to the land of Canaan that I am giving you and I place an affliction of tzoraas in a house of your possession.

The form that this verse is written in is similar to that of announcement for something good. Indeed, the Oral Torah notes that this 'affliction' frequently gave wealth to the homeowner, because it revealed areas where treasures were hidden within the walls of their homes.

The Daas Zekenim commentary emphasizes a non-monetary aspect that is positive.

At times, G-D gives affliction to motivate a person towards self-improvement. It reflects well on a person when G-D presents such afflictions in stages, from less harsh to more harsh, as they are presented here. That is, a person's home can first be afflicted (Leviticus 14:34). If he/she does not take it this heart then G-D will bring affliction to his/her clothing (Leviticus 13:47). If the person continues to remain fixed in his/her ways then G-D will finally afflict the body (Leviticus 13).

The commentary contrasts this with how G-D afflicted the Pharaoh of Genesis who kidnapped Sarah, "And G-D afflicted Pharaoh with great afflictions and his house because of Sarah, wife of Avraham (12:17)." We note that Pharaoh was afflicted first and his house was afflicted last.

Perhaps we view both models as emanating from G-D's loving kindness and both reflect motivation in stages, from less harsh to more harsh.

A righteous person places emphasis on what he/she is over what he/she has. The corrupted person does the reverse, valuing what he/she has over what he/she is.

Therefore, the righteous person who is not yet perfect may very well still value being over having. G-D will therefore first bring affliction on what he/she has and will only afflict the person's body as a last resort.

However, the corrupt person values more what he/she has, so G-D brings affliction to his/her property last, again as a last resort.

Our free will directs not only whether we need corrective procedures, but also their type and approach.


15:19 And when a woman becomes a Zavah, her flow from her flesh will be blood. For seven days she shall be in her separation (from her husband and from certain ritual acts). Whoever touches her shall become ritually ineligible (for certain things) until the evening (after immersion).

The Sefurno provides the following commentary:

Here we are taught the laws of Nidah. The Torah requires the Zavah to bring a sin offering and an Olah offering. This is only applicable to Jewish women. This is to direct their attention, in act and in mind, towards Chava's (Eve's) ancient rebellion, when G-D gave great punishments for her wrong acts and thoughts as it is said, (Genesis 3:16) 'I will significantly increase your sorrow.' It is therefore fitting that women (today) count seven clean days until they have feelings of repentance and purity. It is then that they immerse themselves and achieve atonement with a sin offering for the evil that they did and on the inappropriate thoughts that they had.

This commentary brings a number of questions to mind.

Why should women endure restrictions because of what Chava did almost six-thousand years ago?

The Torah seems to assume that women are sinners and this is why the sin offering is brought. (Men have a corresponding ritual ineligibility called Zav and must also bring a sin offering. So we are all in the same boat). Why?

What if a woman has no sins? What if she comes to the Temple right after Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement? What if she just became a Bas Mitzvah and was never held accountable for acts? Can she bring a sin offering if she has no sins? A sin offering requires a basis. That is, the person must have done a sin in order to bring this offering. It is a sin, in and of itself, to bring a sin offering without a basis.

Similarly, questions come to mind from the following teaching in the Talmud (Nidah 31b). Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai's students asked him why a woman who gave birth is required to bring a sin offering (Leviticus 12:6 and 12:8). He responded that during (the pangs of) childbirth she blurts out an oath that she will never return to her husband (and become pregnant). Rabbi Yosef asks several questions about this teaching but no answer is provided. The Ran's commentary on the Talmud (Nedarim 4a) says that the main focus of her sin offering is not on the sin of making this oath because she is required to bring it even if she didn't make the oath. But if she made no oath then there is no basis for the sin offering and it would be a sin for her to bring it. Also, why is this oath always a sin? What if her husband had previously released her from fulfilling her obligations?

The following came to mind.

Let's first ask another question. Why do athletes endure restrictions, deprivation, and hardship during their training and work-outs? The answer is that the realm of athletics demands them. Their benefits outweigh the costs.

The same can be said for being a human being, unless a person's growth is G-D forbid retarded.

G-D did not put us on this earth to be spiritual couch-potatoes. The course of life is one great big Work-Out-World. We are each born with a unique combination of assets and handicaps.

Sorry to have to tell you this but this phase of human history was not designed for vacationing and fun. Rather life is one really great obstacle course. And, G-D is committed to insure that each and every one of us has ample opportunity to run the hurdles and to succeed so that we can later feel comfortable when we are give credit for the good that we did, so that we can maximize the eternal greatness that is in store for those who take this to heart.

The Torah teaches that we are born to be tested. The Torah defines the tests, for we are all expected to meet its behavioral expectations.

A person's behavior affects the person and it affects others.

I've been taught that the degree to which a person's behavior can affect others has varied throughout history, according to G-D's will. One person who lived during a pivotal period was Chava.

Chava paid a great price for her misbehavior. (She will also be greatly rewarded because she repented and became a great woman). Nevertheless, she happened to live during a phase of history when G-D decreed that her behavior would be very definitive. That is, her acts defined how her future offspring would live. Specifically, her acts had a significant effect on how the obstacle course for all women would be defined.

The restrictions of Nidah are not a punishment on women. Rather, they became the guidelines within which women can achieve greatness. Had Chava not sinned then perhaps women would have been given other restrictions to achieve their greatness.

There is currently a rage on learning about good parenting (thank G-D for that). Many senior parents now realize that they never knew what they were doing to their kids in their younger years and are now frantically trying make on-course corrections.

It's not all their fault that they may have bent some of their kids out of shape a bit (and we pray daily to G-D for insight and correction). After all, they were only twenty or thirty when they became mom and dad. What does a 20-30 year-old know? After all, it really takes a good few centuries to get on top of the sciences that are necessary to master in order to be a good parent. And this includes some time for character refinement, but actually not enough. You really need a good few thousand years under your belt to get your act together and become the master person that you want to be.

But G-D gives us only a handful or two of decades to run the course and then time's up.

And so, some sinning in life seems almost inevitable. The Talmud records a handful of people who died without sin.

By no means does this provide a justification to sin on purpose or to slack off in our efforts to avoid sin. Every sin requires atonement. No excuses!

It therefore seems very fitting for G-D, in His great mercy, to provide us with several imbedded mechanisms to get us to think about self-improvement and repentance to address the shortcomings that we acquire as a result of our natural stumbles throughout this great and wonderful obstacle course that we have defined as human life.

So we have a Yom Kippur every year for atonement. Yom Kippur is for everyone because we are all prone to sin. In fact, the Torah assumes this as it is written in Koheles (Ecclesiastics) 7:20, "There is no righteous person on this earth who does not do good and sin (at the same time).

Perhaps then, the sin offerings of the Zavah, Zav, and new mother as well as the Nidah cycle are also opportunities for people to simply stop and think a bit about where they came from and where they are headed. The sin offerings mentioned above are on the house; G-D does not require you to sin in order to take advantage of them.

And so, perhaps Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai did not mean that the oath of the woman in labor was the reason for her sin-offering. Rather, it was a behavioral sample. That is, it serves as an example of the behaviors that a person would do and which would need atonement for. Each person has their own unique package that needs repair.

Please take this to heart. If you do then you will have peace in your life. And you will have a lot of fun in life, too.


The concluding sections of this portion deal with Tumah (ritual impurity) that results from natural events in human life.

A person who is ritually impure may not eat sacred food and may not enter sacred places. Some ritual impurities require a person to bring a sin offering.

The very next Torah reading deals with the service that the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) performs during Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year.

No food is eaten during this day. Access to the most sacred place is tightly restricted. A sin offering is brought with no pre-condition of prior sin.

This parallels the previous laws of ritual impurity.

The following came to mind.

Some give Tumah from natural events a connotation of filth and shame. This is a mistake and a misrepresentation.

A human is noble, in the 'image of G-d,' with the capability to rise to great levels of intimacy with G-d. Tumah is merely a state that affects what the person may and may not do.

Misconduct causes shame, not natural life.

Furthermore, while a person who is in a state of Tumah is curtailed from physical objects that are sacred, he/she can and must cleave to spiritual thoughts and behavior even during this state.

Perhaps these thoughts are reflected by the adjacency of the Yom Kippur service to the laws of ritual impurity.


Parshas Acharei Mos (Lev. 16-18)

16:1 And G-D spoke to Moshe (Moses) after the death of the two sons of Aharon (Aaron), when they came close (to the place that was designated to be) before G-D and they died.

16:2 And G-D said to Moshe, "Speak to Aharon your brother so that he will not come into the holy at any time, (the place that is) inside the curtain, before the covering that is on the Ark so that he will not die. For I will (make it appear as though I can) be seen within a cloud over the covering.

This seems to be a continuation of Leviticus 10, the account of how Aharon's sons lost their lives.

The Torah writes about many things between Leviticus 10 and 16. Do they provide any continuity or is Leviticus 16 just a flash-back.

Here is the list of topics, beginning with Leviticus 11, and that which follows is what came to mind from this list.

  • Kosher meat (animals, birds, fish, insects)
  • Details of ritual impurities that can come from animals and insects and restoration from them.
  • Circumcision. (The covenant between G-D and the descendents of Avraham -Abraham).
  • Ritual impurities that come from childbirth and restoration from them.
  • Severe impurities that come from the ritual leprosy of a person and restoration from them.
  • Other types of ritual leprosy and restoration / consequences.
  • Impurities that come from natural human life.

To me, this list expresses the superiority of man over animal and insect, in the Torah's eyes.

Although man has animalistic qualities, he is not a product of evolution from them. At least in the formal sense, animals are a part of his food-chain and not the reverse.

Of all living beings, it is only man who can become ritually impure during his life for it is his greatness that provides the widest range in the degree of ritual impurity that can be taken on.

It is only with man that G-D entered a covenant for Man is the focus of creation.

However, man's greatness has its bound and perhaps this is reflected in 16:2. Aharon may not enter the holiest place at any time to have an encounter with G-D.

Aharon's sons did on their own that which they saw fit to do in their own eyes and they perished for doing so.

Besides being proper, humility is necessary for survival.


16:1 And G-d spoke to Moshe (Moses) after the death of the two sons of Aharon (Aaron), when they came near to G-d and died.

The Torah proceeds to restrict entry to the innermost chamber of the sanctuary. Only the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) may enter this most holy area, and only for the service of Yom Kippur.

Rashi provides the following commentary from the Toras Kohanim:

What does this come to teach us? (That is, why is the death of the sons of Aharon mentioned in this verse?)

Rabbi Elazar Ben Azariah compared this to the following:

A doctor told one patient to not eat cold food or sleep on damp grass. He told another patient to not eat cold food or sleep on damp grass so that he would not die like someone else did.

The directive that was given to the second patient was more effective.

This is why it says (here) 'after the death of the two sons of Aharon.' (In doing so, the Torah provided additional emphasis for the commandment that follows.)

The Torah does not provide such a deep warning by any other commandment. Why is it needed here? Why is this particular commandment so special?

The following came to mind, which I once saw in a commentary for either this verse or for another verse.

We are placed on this Earth to achieve spiritual greatness.

We are sometimes tested to see whether we achieve our greatness in a manner that is consistent with the Torah's guidelines. At times, our evil inclination tries to package a transgression in a manner that makes it look like a virtuous deed. This provides a most difficult test, because it can harness the energy of our good inclination, leaving us with almost no choice but to follow along.

Entrance into innermost sanctuary can be made to appear as a great spiritual opportunity. As a counterbalance, the Torah therefore provides a deep warning when restricting access to this most holy place.

Another reason comes to mind.

Physical accomplishment provides real, near-term, and easy pleasure. It is easy to appreciate accomplishment in the physical realm. The popular media is full of examples and role models.

However, not everyone is familiar with the pleasure that is associated with spiritual accomplishment. For many people, myself included, part of our test may be to begin tasting success in the spiritual realm. Frequently, those who pass the taste test come to realize that spiritual accomplishment provides a much better and enjoyable focus for their life. Their physical world becomes a means for spiritual accomplishment. When done in the proper manner, they continue to relate with their fellow man and with their physical world in a positive manner, in a Torah context. They become great citizens of both this world and the next.

The Torah teaches that we are designed for spiritual greatness. It follows that this can provide a higher degree of pleasure than physical greatness does.

The Torah therefore needs to provide an additional warning when it restricts spiritual resources such as the innermost area of the sanctuary. The level of warning that it uses for commandments that curtail physical pleasure is not sufficient.

We are taught by our sages that there is no reward for us in this life for our following the Torah's commandments. The commentaries explain this to mean that in our current life, our bodies and emotions are not designed to receive and process spiritual reward in its raw state. Out of necessity, whatever pleasure we feel from spiritual accomplishment is dulled. It is only when we return in the afterlife that G-d will provide us with the capability to exist and function with the great degree of happiness that spiritual achievement provides.

'Taste and see that G-d is good.'

Let me know if you want to experience just one Shabbos in a Torah community.


16:2 And G-D said to Moshe, "Speak to Aharon your brother so that he will not come into the holy at any time, (the place that is) inside the curtain, before the covering that is on the Ark so that he will not die. For I will (make it appear as though I can) be seen within a cloud over the covering.

The Ark was a large wooden box that was covered with gold, both inside and out. There were poles on each side for carrying the Ark. It had a cover made out of gold. Two massive cheruvim stood with outstretched wings on top of this cover and were part of the same piece of gold.

Verse 16:2 says that a cloud hovered over this covering and it represented a Divine appearance.

Being over the covering, this cloud was also over the Ark, which contained the precious tablets. Eventually the Ark contained the Torah scroll that Moshe wrote. This cloud was also between the two massive cheruvim.

It is noteworthy that the Torah associates the cloud with the Ark's covering and not with the seemingly more impressive aspects of the Ark, mainly the Ark itself or its cheruvim.

The following came to mind.

The Ark covering was used as a demarcation for atonement service of the Yom Kippur ritual, as specified later in this Torah reading in verses 14 and 15. Also, the Hebrew word for the Ark covering is kapores and this is related to the Hebrew word, kippur which means atonement.

For everything in the Creation there are two aspects. One is how it is viewed by other creations and the other is how it is viewed by the Creator.

I would venture to say that to us as creations, a covering for the Ark would not be as significant as the Ark itself, which contains the greatest treasures that Mankind could ever hope to have.

We are taught that the purpose of creation is for Mankind's eternal benefit and the purpose of the current phase of existence is for Mankind to refine itself through effort and test so that it can earn these great benefits. It thereby stands to reason that from G-D's perspective, anything that serves to refine Mankind is of the greatest significance.

Therefore, although Mankind may view the Ark itself as having the greatest significance, G-D may place a greater significance on the covering, for it provides the opportunity of atonement for Mankind.

It is perhaps for this reason that the Torah associates this special cloud with the Ark covering and not with the Ark itself.


16:2 And G-D said to Moshe (Moses), "Speak to Aharon (Aaron) your brother (so that) he will not come at any time (in) to the (chamber of) holy (of holies), inward of the curtain, before the Kapores (Ark covering) (so that) he will not die, for I will be viewed (as a / with a / inside of) cloud over the Kapores (Ark covering)."

This is a very difficult verse to discuss.

It is a fundamental principle of Judaism that G-D is not a physical being, that He can not be seen. How does one understand this cloud?

The Targum Yonoson Ben Uzial clarifies the reference to G-D's viewing by translating the verse in the following manner:: ".. for with My cloud it can be said that My Presence appears above the Kapores."

That is, G-D will provide a cloud that can be seen, it will hover above the Ark, and the Torah legitimizes some association between that cloud and His Presence, which itself can not be seen.

Make no mistake. G-D is not a cloud. G-D is infinite and it is incomprehensible for Him to be inside a finite cloud.

Still, for Mankind this was most meaningful expression of G-D's presence in this world. For there were many miracles in the Temple that indicated G-D's existence. However, they indicated G-D's presence by virtue of what G-D did, which were the miracles. In contrast, the cloud was used to take a step towards representing in a limited and finite manner, and so to speak, what G-D is, even though He is infinite and beyond physicality.

Make no mistake. We have no symbols for G-D. We are forbidden to make or draw a cloud and symbolize it as G-D.

I believe that we can take lesson from the Torah's association of the Kapores with the Ark covering.

The Ark consisted of several components.

It had a pair of ornate gold cherubim. They symbolized the relationship between G-D and the Jewish people. It contained both sets of tablets and the Torah scroll that Moshe wrote. According to R' Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, the poles that could not be removed symbolize a requirement for us to be ready to transplant Torah observance to any land that G-D sends us.

Yet, G-D associates this special cloud with the covering, a plate of gold for which the Torah doesn't specify its thickness.

The following came to mind.

These verses speak about the Yom Kippur ceremony. Yom Kippur is our Day of Atonement. The word Kapores, which we translate as an Ark covering, has the same root as the Hebrew word Kippur, atonement.

To me, it is most significant that G-D chooses to relate His cloud, that which He permits the greatest association to His existence, with His role in correcting and clearing the damage that His creations made when they disregarded the instructions that He provided for their benefit.


16:2 And G-d said to Moshe (Moses), "Speak to Aharon (Aaron) your brother and he shall not come at just any moment to the holy (of holy area in the Temple), [from] inside the (area of the partition) curtain, before the covering that is over the Ark. (Have him not enter this area) and die, for I will appear in a cloud over the covering.

The Temple was a place where the existence of G-d was relatively more obvious than elsewhere. This is the concept of Shechina, the Divine presence, as explained to me.

The tradition teaches that a number of miracles occurred within the Temple. They are grouped. They occurred in different areas of the Temple. We can designate three areas: The Holy of Holies, the Temple chamber outside of the Holy of Holies, and the rest of the Jerusalem. The Ark was in the Holy of Holies. The outside chamber contained the Menorah, the Table, and the Golden Altar.

Access to these three areas was progressively restricted. Only priests entered the outer chamber. Only the high priest entered the holy of holies and only on Yom Kippur.

The Mishna (Avos 5:7) teaches that ten miracles commonly occurred in the Temple. This list appears to be for the third and most external area.

  • A woman never miscarried from the sent of the sacrificial meat.
  • The sacrificial meat never became putrid.
  • No fly was ever seen in the slaughtering area.
  • The High Priest never became disqualified during Yom Kippur because of Keri.
  • The fire on the altar's wood pile was never extinguished by rain.
  • The winds never had any effect on the outside altar's column of smoke.
  • No disqualifying defect was ever found in the Omer offering, the two loaves for Shavuous, and the Table's weekly bread.
  • During Yom Kippur, the people stood packed together but yet they found ample room to prostrate themselves and privately make their confessions.
  • A snake or scorpion never hurt anybody in Jerusalem.
  • Nobody ever complained that their lodging area in Jerusalem was confining.

Other miracles were associated with the outer chamber.

  • The Menorah's western lamp burned throughout the night and for most of the day. Some say that it never went out.
  • The Table's bread was changed weekly. Throughout the entire week, it remained steaming hot, just like it was when it came out of the oven.

One distinctive miracle occurred in the holy of holies. It's objects took no space. For example, the ark was two and a half cubits wide and the width of the holy of holies was twenty cubits. Yet, the distance from each side of the ark to the corresponding wall of the holy of holies measured ten cubits.

Perhaps we can derive a lesson from these groupings.

The ten miracles, which occurred in the most accessible areas, strongly suggested G-d's existence. However, they could not provide absolute proof because a non-believer was able to attribute their occurrence to natural phenomena if he/she so desired.

This reflects life as we experience it today. G-d conceals Himself within nature to the degree that a person has free-will choice to judge whether G-d exists and whether He actively manages the affairs of Mankind.

The miracles of the outer chamber provided compelling evidence of G-d's existence and management. They occurred in an area of restricted access, so as not to interfere with the average person's ability to have free-will choice. Those who witnessed these miracles lived on a relatively high level of spirituality. They did not need a miracle to convince them of G-d's existence and management. The miracles had no effect on their free-will choices.

Also, the miracles of the outer chamber suggested the ability of spirituality to transcend the limitations of physical laws. The flames continued on; The bread's heat did not dissipate.

Correspondingly, the more a person commits him/herself to Torah observance, the more priority the person places on spirituality over his/her physicality. Measure for measure, G-d can and has provided people with extra energy and resources to overcome that which previously had seemed physically impossible. Furthermore, the person may come to merit a temporary suspension of physical laws on their behalf. Such people are rare, reflecting the additional restriction of access in this special area of the Temple.

The miracles of the holy of holies reflect the transformation of the physical into the spiritual, for the spiritual realm is not bounded by space and location. It was witnessed on Yom Kippur, a time of the year when we are the most distant from physicality.

Its great restriction of access reflects that this is not the norm for Mankind.

Transformation into spirituality is far from the focus of our service of G-d. Rather, we are charged to serve G-d from within the physical realm. As we continue serving G-d over time, as a by-product we become sanctified and to some degree we experience a transformation at least in attitude and devotion.

Judaism focuses on service. In contrast, only a cult would focus on transformation.


16:21 And Aharon (Aaron) shall support his two hands on the head of the live goat and confess upon it all of the iniquities ("Avon") of the Children of Israel and all of their transgressions ("Pesha") for all of their sins ("Chet"). And he shall place them upon the head of the goat and send (it) with an appointed person to the desert.

The Talmud (Yoma 36:2) explains the difference between the three types of sins mentioned in this verse.

An "Avon" is one that was done on purpose. A "Pesha" is something that was done to show spite. Finally, a "Chet" is a sin that was done unintentionally.

The Talmud cites a difference of opinion regarding the confessional order in which the High Priest mentions these three types.

Rabbi Meir says that they are mentioned in the order stated in this verse, first confessions for sins done on purpose, then for sins done in spite, and finally for sins done unintentionally.

Scholars of his time questioned this order. As Rashi explains it, once we receive forgiveness for the most serious of infractions, why would we afterwards need to seek forgiveness for those done by accident?

Therefore, they propose that the order for seeking forgiveness be done by seriousness of infraction, confessing first for those done by accident, then for those done on purpose, and finally for sins done in spite.

The text appears to support Rabbi Meir's position. How do the scholars understand the ordering that is stated in our verse.

The following came to mind.

We first note Rashi's assumption, that G-D grants forgiveness for these types instantaneously, as the High Priest mentions each one. So the forgives that G-D grants for sins done on purpose will also help for those done accidentally, hence the scholars question the need to mention all three types.

The fact that forgiveness is granted as the High Priest speaks suggests G-D's eagerness to forgive, that He doesn't want us to be tainted any longer, even for the moments it takes the High Priest to finish his sentence.

Perhaps the difference of opinion revolves around whether it is appropriate for us to suggest this noble teaching on Yom Kippur itself, when we come to seek forgiveness from the King of kings. Perhaps it is more appropriate to suggest our being ashamed for what we are done, which would support the ordering of least to most severity.

Or perhaps, following the prescribed order of the scriptures, Rabbi Meir's approach, is most appropriate at this very sensitive moment.

Upon further thought, I noted that the ordering is prescribed in the scriptures reflects both approaches, for sins done in spite are mentioned second. Furthermore, mentioning the least significant last is a greater expression of remorse on our part. Finally, mentioning first a higher level of severity when seeking forgiveness from G-D can be viewed as suggesting that the loss that is suffered from a sin is ours, not His. These would all lend support to Rabbi Meir's approach.


16:29 And this (Yom Kippur service) shall be an everlasting statue for you. On the tenth day of the seventh month you shall afflict yourselves (by not eating, drinking, etc.) and do no manner of work, the citizen and the convert among you.

We find an apparent contradiction in Leviticus 23:32.

23:32 It [Yom Kippur] is a ceasing of cessation for you. And you shall afflict yourselves on the ninth of the month in the evening. You shall observe your cessation from evening to evening.

16:29 says that Yom Kippur is on the tenth of the month and 23:32 says that it occurs on the ninth.

The Oral Torah explains that 23:32 is instructing us to spread some of the sanctity of the holiday into the previous day. In America, many communities therefore strive to begin Yom Kippur at least eighteen minutes before sundown.

The Oral Torah also uses the words at the end of 23:32 to derive a commandment to overlap sanctity into the adjoining days for the weekly Shabbos and for all of the other holidays.

Yom Kippur is not a typical holiday and yet the Torah selects Yom Kippur to give reference to this aspect of celebration, that of increasing the holiday periods. Why? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

Also, the Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel provides the following translation for the 23:32.

It is a cessation and resting for you. And you shall afflict yourselves. And you shall begin to fast on the ninth of the month at the time of evening. From that evening until the next evening you shall keep your fast and observe your cessation and observe your holidays with joy.

What is the Targum trying to tell us in the last phrase, observe your holidays with joy?

The following came to mind.

Let's look at a verse in Deuteronomy.

16:15 You shall celebrate to Hashem your G-d (the holiday of Succos) for seven days in the place that Hashem will choose. For Hashem your G-d will bless you with all your crops and with all the works of your hands. And you shall be only happy.

How can one observe the last directive, 'And you shall be only happy?'

The Maggid of Dubno explains that a person's source of celebration can come from physicality or from spirituality.

The human body has limitations but the soul does not. So, if the focus of a person's celebration is on physicality, such as eating, drinking, and partying, then his/her celebration has limits. Not everyone is tooled to be able to sustain a happiness in this manner for seven full days. However, if a person focuses on significance and spiritual satisfaction, then this is quite achievable for seven days and beyond.

Perhaps we can apply this concept to our verses.

If a person's focus is on physicality, then Yom Kippur is a day of dread, not of joy. Such a person would postpone the holiday to the very last minute.

Achieving true inner joy during Yom Kippur is a sign of spiritual achievement. We strive towards this level by adding a touch of Yom Kippur to the day before, by seeking to re-focus our source of satisfaction. This is our great opportunity to prepare for celebrating all of the holidays in the greatest possible manner.

It is therefore most appropriate to make references by Yom Kippur for all of the holidays. By adding to Yom Kippur, we will hopefully be able to observe the holidays with joy, as stated in the Targum.


The Torah reading begins with detailed instructions for the Yom Kippur service. During this holiest day of the year the High Priest enters the most sacred place in the Temple and atones for the people.

The Torah reading ends with an admonition against adopting the perverted lifestyles of the Canaanite inhabitants of the land, who are being expelled because of their behavior.

Can you see a relationship between the beginning of the Torah reading and the end?

The following came to mind:

Man consists of a body, composed of lowly earth, and a soul which contains a 'spark' of G-d Himself.

Man has free will to orient his entire being towards either an earthly level of existence or towards G-d's level of existence. One who inclines himself towards the earth will contaminate even his soul. One who elevates himself towards the spiritual realm will sanctify even his body.

The two ends of the physical/spiritual spectrum are reflected in the beginning and end of this Torah reading.

The High Priest succeeds in purifying his earthly body to the extent that he is able to enter the holiest place on earth and obtain atonement for himself and the entire nation.

The Canaanite nations have so corrupted themselves that even the earth of Israel can no longer tolerate their existence.

The reading ends with a warning that we, too, are subject to being expelled from the land if we imitate the Canaanite ways.


17:5 So that the Children of Israel will bring their sacrifices that they offer on the fields, and they will bring them to the door of the Meeting Tent, to the priest. And they will offer them as peace offerings to G-D.

The requirement to bring offerings in the temple and the associated prohibition of making offerings in any other place is written adjacent to the laws of Yom Kippur.

The restriction from entry to the Holy of Holies chamber to all but the high priest is recorded by Yom Kippur. There, the Torah is saying, "Keep Out."

It brought to mind that by requiring offerings to be only brought in the sanctuary here, the Torah is saying in contrast, "Keep In.".

G-D wants us and our relationship. The Torah's restrictions serve to only define and enhance the relationship.


17:3-4 Any man from the House of Israel who slaughters inside the encampment or outside the encampment an ox or a sheep or a goat (that was consecrated as a sacrifice) and he does not bring it to the doorway of the Meeting Tent to offer it as a sacrifice to G-D before the Sanctuary of G-D, then this shall be considered for that man as blood, he spilled blood, and that man shall be cut off from amidst his nation.

The Ramban provides the following commentary:

A person may kill any manner of life for food except for another person, which is murder (Genesis 9). However, slaughtering an animal outside the sanctuary as a sacrifice is considered murder.

I understand the Ramban as follows.

Most of Mankind was destroyed by the Great Flood because of their animalistic behavior. In permitting animals as food to those who survived the destruction and their descendents, G-D was telling Mankind that he expects us to live on a higher level by living in accordance with His will as it is reflected in the Torah's guidelines.

By living on this higher level, we elevate that which we eat or use to our level, which to G-D is on a higher level of existence.

That is, by eating meat, we transform animal life into a higher level of existence.

An animal sacrifice is a means for a person to elevate himself in that we bring our offering and thereby ourselves to G-D's sanctuary, a realm that was consecrated by Him.

As a sacrifice may only be brought inside the sanctuary, one who slaughters a sacrifice outside is violating the concept of worshiping in a sanctuary that is consecrated by G-D for His worship. While it may appear as an elevation of the place where this person worships, it is a demotion of G-D's sanctuary for this place is unauthorized.

It is therefore impossible for a consecrated animal that was slaughtered outside the Temple to achieve any elevation whatsoever.

This is it why is considered murder.

Today we have people running around and claiming that killing animals for food is murder.

If they don't live in accordance with G-D's will then they probably shouldn't be eating meat.

But rather than trying to interfere with those who try to live in accordance with G-D's will, maybe they should spend their time and efforts to change the way they live.

By not doing so and trying to stop other people from eating meat, they are promoting the notion that Mankind is on the same level as animal life. And if we are only animals then we may as well live like them.

Let those people get wet.

Bottom line for the rest of us: Eat more burgers. Do more Mitzvos.


18:4 You shall observe My laws and guard my statutes to walk in them, I am Hashem your G-D.

18:5 You shall guard My statutes and laws (so) that a person will do them and live through them, I am Hashem.

Laws are commandments that appear to have a reason, such as acts of charity. Statutes are commandments that have no apparent reason, such as many of our dietary guidelines.

The Shaar Bas Rabim commentary notes that laws are mentioned before statutes in verse four while verse five mentions them in the reverse order.

Also, what is meant by "so that a person will do them and live through them?"

He begins by explaining the following teaching, based on his understanding of the Talmud (Krisus 6b): "A public prayer that has no sinners as participants is not a prayer."

This certainly does not mean that minyan recruiters and synagogue membership committees must be on the look-out to fill some quota for sinners.

Rather, it is a wake-up call to pray with such sincerity, commitment, respect, and inspiration that it would move even the coldest of sinners to lose themselves in shul and be swept in by the fervor.

My take is that we're not there yet if there are people in shul who can whip out a blackberry in the middle of davening and even get offended if someone else protests.

At any rate, it is well known that we grow in stages, both physically and spiritually.

Regarding the latter, most (probably all) of us are initially driven by cost and benefit. That is, by a belief that we will gain enormously by observing the Torah and we will suffer immensely by flaunting observance.

Many stay at this level for much of their lives and they (we?) will merit great happiness in the next world.

After a good many years (decades?), through continual, careful, and thoughtful observance, and through introspection and study, we may find ourselves on a new level. Our service is enhanced with a feeling of awe towards G-D, due to a realization of His majesty and greatness.

This is very significant, for this signifies a shift in focus from internal to external, from self to G-D, from having to being.

The next level that I know about (I imagine there are others) is to serve G-D out of appreciation and love. You no longer run away from Judaism or grimace when the going gets a bit tough. Rather, you feel extremely privileged to be Jewish and have the opportunity to do yet another commandment. You come to observe the Torah with happiness and joy. Grins replace grunts. You come to realize and value your relationship with G-D and this carries you though everything. The bumps of life don't bother you as much. In level-one pragmatic observance, one favors laws over statutes because they make sense and we can relate to them. This fits, because the contribution of the 'self' is very significant.

This is signified by the first verse, which mentions laws before statutes.

For those on level-three, laws and statutes have equal significance, as both are privileges to express how we value our relationship with G-D. In fact, they may even favor statutes over laws because they are opportunities so show our faith that they must be the best thing for us.

This is signified by the second verse that mentions statutes before laws.

And the lives of level-three people are permeated with happiness, peace, and joy.

Happiness, peace, and joy are contagious. They pull others into Torah observance by the way they observe the Torah, themselves.

We can now read the second verse as follows: … guard My statutes and laws so that a (level-three) person will do them and (others will become inspired and realize that they can) live through them.


18:6 Each and every man shall not come near his close relative to uncover nakedness, I am G-D.

This section is written near the verses that describe the Yom Kippur service. It is also read during the afternoon prayers of Yom Kippur.

It serves to remind us of the range of potential that mankind has.

A person can elevate himself to a level of sanctity that is appropriate for having a private encounter with G-D in the Holy of Holies.

And on the other hand, a person can let his behavior sink into bestiality.

G-D provides us with this range of freedom and it is our responsibility to make the right choices.


18:6 Each man shall not come near his close relative to uncover nakedness, I am G-D.

18:21 Do not give your descendents over to be passed through the molech (idol ceremony) and do not profane the name of your G-D, I am G-D.

20:2 Tell the Children of Israel, 'Each man from the Children of Israel and from the convert who lives in Israel who gives from his descendents molech shall die. The people of the land shall stone him.

20:9 For each man who curses his father and his mother shall die. His blood is upon him (for) he cursed his father and mother.

20:10 And (for) a man who has incest with a married woman, who has incest with the wife of his neighbor, the adulterer and adulteress shall die.

Chapter 18 places incest before idolatry. The order in chapter 20 is the reverse, first idolatry, then cursing a parent, and then incest.

The difference in ordering brought the following thought to mind.

Perhaps chapter 18 is focusing on the irresponsible parent and chapter 20 is focusing on the unfortunate victim of incest, the child.

A Judaicaly aware person who comes from a proper family background does not naturally gravitate towards idolatry unless he is pushed by someone else. This is precisely what occurred in the Book of Numbers (Chapter 25) when the population was ensnared by the daughters of Midian.

So perhaps chapter 18 is providing a warning that besides incest being in and of itself evil, it is a potential cause for further downfall.

However, the unfortunate product of incest may very well have been deeply shaken about his/her roots, having initially taken it for granted that a certain person was 'Daddy' and then finding out later otherwise. This can (but does not have to) lead to emotional instability and it can also lead to spiritual instability. The latter can occur if the person allows the disconnection from the former father relationship to effect his/her connection with the G-D of his/her father. That is, the more a can person doubt who 'Daddy' is, the harder it can become for the person to combat doubt over his/her relationship with G-D.

Perhaps chapter 20 reflects this danger by first warning against idolatry, for victims of incest are closer to idolatry than those who are not. It would follow that such a person would also be closer to cursing their natural father, so it is mentioned next.

In this manner, the Torah would be providing a dual warning against incest, that perpetrators stand to destroy not only themselves but also their illegitimate offspring.


Parshas Kedoshim (Lev. 19-20)

19:2 Speak to the entire congregation of the Children of Israel and say to them, "You shall be kadosh ('holy', not committed to or swayed by physical passion), for I, Hashem your G-d, am kadosh."

Chapter 18 lists forbidden marriages, such as a brother with a sister.

Chapter 20 specifies consequences for the forbidden marriages.

What message is the Torah trying to tell us by separating the prohibitions from the consequences? Why are they separated by chapter 19?

The following came to mind.

We are charged to rise to the highest level of observance that we can. Levels can differ by quantity of observance and by quality of observance.

A person can obey prohibitions out of a fear for the consequences. We are taught that this is praiseworthy.

A higher level is to obey prohibitions out of self-achieved greatness. After years of effort and discipline, a person comes closer to becoming a kadosh. Decisions become less and less affected by passion.

By placing the prohibitions adjacent to the charge to be holy, and by separating the prohibitions from the consequences, perhaps the Torah is suggesting that we must always maintain the ambition to serve G-d on the highest level that we can attain.


The parsha begins with the following commandment: 'You must be holy because I, your G-d, am holy (19:2).'

Holiness is an attribute or an aspect of how we perceive G-d. It is a characteristic.

What does it mean to be holy? How can a person, a physical being, become holy in a manner that G-d is holy?

The following came to mind:

In explaining this verse, the Ramban associates holiness with being separate, apart, detached.

We also see this association at the end of the parsha (20:25) where it discusses the need to separate between the ritually clean and the unclean and then it immediately repeats the admonition to be holy.

What are we to separate from? In what manner are we to separate?

Over the course of history there have been sects which have made separation from physicality an ideal, assuming that G-d expects Mankind to abstain from pleasures. The Oral Torah provides us with guidance to the contrary. The Nazir needs atonement because of the self-inflicted stress caused by voluntarily abstaining from wine (Nedarim 10a). We therefore need to apply separation in another manner.

I suspect that this is best applied to the way one makes decisions. In this context, a person who is detached is impartial and that which would impair judgment has no significance. The Torah is then expecting us to attain a level whereby physicality plays no significance on our ability to make the correct decision and act properly, according to the design by which a person was created, maximizing well-being and happiness and also making the best fit into society.

Consider the following analogy. The infant acts solely upon impulse. It feels like sucking a bottle and does so. Without this impulse which G-d provided, the baby would die of starvation. Impulses can bring to great benefit. However they can be misapplied. As the child grows and discovers peers, the child needs to appreciate the advantages of sharing. Acting upon impulse, the child may grab a toy from another child's hands and then suffer the consequences. The child eventually learns how to handle this impulse. The impulse is not suppressed or denied, it's just handled. The child learns to weigh pros and cons, of having toys upon demand versus the disadvantages of getting into a fight and then getting punished. The child is on the way to mastery, to greatness, but needs refinement.

At this point, the child's center of interest is the self. We take the child to the park and give it a candy. The child will remove the wrapper and may throw down, especially if we're not looking, despite previous instruction that trash belongs in the trash can. What happened is that the child simply did not feel like interrupting life to walk over to the trash can. As the child grows and learns about society and the need for cooperation, the child will become a good citizen stop being a litter bug. Eventually, cooperation will become an ideal and the child will achieve a degree of civility.

Not everyone succeeds in becoming civil. Impulses are tools for living, a means. Frequently, those who fail to become civil have made impulses, a means, into an end.

Throughout our analogy, the child's decisions are becoming less affected by impulse. Their significance, is counterbalanced or replaced by higher concepts. The child moves into higher realms of existence.

The highest realm of existence is G-d, Himself, a level that a finite creation can not attain. G-d demonstrated His ability to create something which can raise him/herself towards G-dliness. This creation is Mankind.

There are many attributes of G-d which a person can rise toward, such as kindliness and mercy. One of them is holiness, the focus of this commandment.

G-d is above physicality. Physicality has no effect on G-d's ability to make decisions. Mankind can grow in this respect to rise above physicality, too. Eventually, Man's center of interest and focus can and will become G-d, Himself. No greater counterbalance exists and this is the source of Man's true greatness and happiness, to be fully experienced in the next world.

There are no quick and easy ways to achieve holiness. There are prescribed methods for Mankind to grow towards this lofty realm. They involve the study and practice of the Torah. We are taught that these are the only methods for which Mankind was designed. The Torah preceded Mankind, not the reverse.

Yet, even within the guidelines of the Torah, a person can sink into physicality. A person can turn means into ends. One can become a glutton, eating only Glatt-Kosher food.

It is precisely this point that the Ramban applies to the verse and this is how he explains the commandment to become holy. The Torah expects a person to keep a lifestyle that would not impede growth towards the greatness that he/she was designed to attain.


19:10 Do not pick (grapes) from the scrawny twigs of your vineyard; and you shall not gather the grapes of your vineyard that fall during harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and the convert; I am Hashem your G-D.

19:20 Do not steal; and do not falsely deny monetary obligations; And do not lie to one another.

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary notes that verse 19 speaks about giving charity and verse 20 speaks about acting dishonestly in business matters.

As big charity donors are sometimes aggressive and shrewd businessmen, a lesson we should be taking from the Torah writing the two laws adjacent to each other is that giving charity does not justify dishonesty.


19:16 'Stand not (idly) by the blood of your fellow (if there is something that you can do to save his life), I am G-d.'

In his commentary on the words 'I am G-d', Rashi says: I (G-d) can be relied upon to give reward or punishment.

The belief in reward and punishment is one of the Thirteen Principles of Faith. However, why is Rashi referencing it here. Of what relevance is this principle to this verse?

The following came to mind.

Actually, the question is on Rashi's reference to punishment.

The typical case of standing idly by is a person who walks by a river and notices someone drowning. It may cross his mind not to get involved, not to put himself out, perhaps expose himself to discomfort, danger, or financial loss. So the Torah says 'I am G-d', I will reward you for your efforts to save another person.

The Targum Yonasan Ben Uziel provides another case, where a person is in a position to say something in court which would save an accused person from the death penalty.

Now, what type of human being is typically brought up for a capital offense. More often than not, he/she belongs to society's lowest element. It may cross a person's mind to remain silent in court and not intefere with the procedings, for by allowing the court to condemn the crimal to death, society will be better off. So the Torah says, 'I am G-d', I am in charge of punishment. If you can speak up to save him/her, do so. If this person is worthy of death, let Me take care of it My own way. You do your job, let me do Mine.


19:17 Do not hate your brother in your heart. Admonish him thoroughly but do not bear sin upon yourself because of it.

19:18 Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge against those of your nation. And you shall love your fellow as yourself, I am G-D.

These verses charge us to not hate other people.

However, the following verse in Exodus 23:5 assumes that there are people that we hate, which is puzzling:

You may see a donkey belonging to the one that you hate (and it is) crouching under its burden. (Should you be inclined to) not help him (unload and re-load the donkey, do not react like this. Rather,) you shall surely assist him.

Furthermore, there are verses in Deuteronomy (13 7-9) that speak about people we may not even have any pity on:

Should your brother … entice you in privacy saying, "Let us go and worship other gods …"

You shall not accede to him. You shall not listen to him, have pity, or mercy on him. You shall not give him cover.

The following is my understanding of the clarification that Rabbi Hoberman of blessed memory provides.

There are three categories of people.

The first is for people that are hopefully like you and I. We have ups and downs. We may sometimes lose ourselves and act or speak wrongly. But we regret it afterwards and seek repair.

The second is for people that lose themselves, act wrongly when they should have known better, and stubbornly remain fixed in their ways.

The third is for people that are spiritually destructive.

Our verses in Leviticus speak to those in the first category.

For the second category, the Talmud speaks about an adult who committed incest. We tried to get him to mend his ways, but he refuses to repent or change. If left unchecked, others may follow his example.

The Rambam speaks in terms of verse 19:18 applying partially to such people. We want to bring them back and avoid future damage to both them and their victims.

We therefore treat them like social outcasts and afford them no kindness. And we also want them to live so that they will hopefully repent someday.

The Rambam writes as follows (Rotzeach 13:12):

… the example given by sages is when one sees his fellow transgress a commandment, warns him, but the fellow does not change his behavior. It is a commandment to hate him until he repents and comes back from his wickedness. Even so, if he has yet to repent but you find him upset over (the potential loss of belongings / merchandise in) his (donkey's) burden, it is a commandment to unload and reload (the donkey) with him. You may not leave him in a dangerous situation, as he may insist on remaining and it can become life-threatening. .. 'Say to them: "As I live," says Hashem / G-D, "would I want the wicked to die? Rather, (I want) his return from (evil) ways and (his becoming) alive (Yechezkel 18:23).'"

However, the Torah has a red line and this is for trying to pry someone away from Judaism. The verses in Deuteronomy apply to such people.


19:17 Do not hate your brother in your heart. Admonish him thoroughly but do not bear sin upon yourself because of it.

The Torah states in Exodus 23:5, "When you see the donkey that is collapsed because of its (heavy) burdon that belongs to a person that you hate, shall you not come to his asistance? (Rather, ) you shall give him every assistance."

How can this verse in Exodus assume that there is someone who is hated if our verse in Leviticus forbids us to hate our brother?

Now, the Talmud (Pesachim 113b) says that in Exodus 23:5 is talking about a person who committed an incestual act and it was witnessed by another Jew. If the transgressor has not repented then the person who witnessed the immorality is permitted to hate him/her. The Talmud cites a view that the witness has a mitzvah (commandment) to feel hatred towards that individual.

There is another Talmudic teaching in Bava Metzia 32b that poses the case of a person coming upon two donkey owners who are in distress. One is a hated person and he/she has a donkey that needs to be re-loaded. The other is not a hated person and he/she has a donkey that collapsed because of its burden and urgently needs to be unloaded. The Talmud says that it is a mitzvah to assist the hated person because doing so will curb one's inclination.

The Tosfos commentary questions the benefit of this curbing because the Talmud in Pesachim says that it could be even a mitzvah to hate the sinner. Tosfos answers that it is likely that the hatred of the witness against the sinner will evoke the hatred of the sinner against the witness. This reaction can bring the witness to feel a complete hatred against the sinner and this is what needs to be curbed.

How do we understand these teachings? How do we understand the mitzvah to hate the sinner?

Obviously, a sinner must assume responsibility for any damage that is caused by his/her actions.

The Be'er Yosef commentary explains that immorality is naturally repulsive to a human being. The sight of another person's indecent behavior serves to desensitize these feelings and increases the observer's vulnerability. The Torah either permits or mandates the observer to feel hatred towards the sinner so that he/she can restore the natural resistance that was damaged.

But in actuality, the real target of the hatred is the sin, not the sinner. Only, since it is hard to separate the sin from the sinner, we are permitted or even commanded to feel hatred and the sinner must endure this.

Therefore, when there is an opportunity to come to the sinner's assistance, we are encouraged to do so, because it will help us focus on hating evil, not people who do evil. Tosfos is saying that if the sinner takes the hatred personally then the witness will come to do the same, which must be avoided.


19:18 Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge against those of your nation. And you shall love your fellow as yourself, I am G-D.

19:34 The stranger who lives with you shall be like a citizen amongst you. And you shall love him as yourself because you were strangers in the land of Egypt, I am Hashem your G-D.

Rashi provides the following commentary for 19:34:

I am your G-D and I am his G-D.

It is noteworthy that Rashi does not provide this commentary for verse 19:18, which is written earlier.

The following came to mind.

On the surface, it appears that 19:18 addresses the relationship between fellow citizens. The Ramban commentary enhances our understanding of this verse. In writing with the relationship between two people who naturally view themselves as equals, the Torah is warning to not be overtaken by jealousy and allow it to drive us to achieve superiority over our fellow.

In contrast, 19:34 addresses the relationship between a citizen and a stranger, where there is a natural tendency for the citizen to feel superior. It is therefore most fitting here that the Torah reminds us of our real source of greatness, that which is beyond all human relationships and affiliations, that of the relationship of G-D with His creations.


19:33 And if a foreigner (i.e. a convert) lives among you in your land then do not oppress him.

19:34 The foreigner (i.e. convert) who lives with you shall be like the citizen. And you shall love him. For you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. I am Hashem your G-D.

Rashi elaborates upon the logic in 19:34. Both we and the convert have the same defect, presumably of being foreigners. It is not proper to make an issue of someone else's defect if you have the same defect. In America we say that people who live in glass houses do not throw stones.

The Torah charges us several times against mistreating a convert. See Exodus 22:20 and 23:9)

Rashi in Exodus 22:20 defines the word "foreigner" as someone who was not born in the land.

This is puzzling.

The generation who entered Egypt with Yaakov (Jacob) were indeed foreigners, for they were not born in Egypt. However, the Torah is speaking to the generation who left Egypt. They were born in Egypt and did not have this defect. So how do we understand Rashi's logic in our verse, 19:34?

The Ohr Hachayim commentary in Exodus offers another dimension to the defect of being a foreigner in our verses. He says that prior to the Exodus process, both the Jewish people and the Egyptians were entrapped by and committed to physicality. I take this to mean that we were both foreigners with respect to spirituality.

The following came to mind.

Those who are born into Judaism are charged to continually better themselves spiritually. It is not enough to simply follow the crowd.

That a convert made it to Judaism testifies that he is well into spiritual self-improvement.

I suspect that this is the heart of the matter and perhaps this is why the Torah admonishes us several times against mistreating the convert.

It is easier to look down at the convert than to become inspired by the journey that he took and move ourselves further upward.

The defect the Torah is talking about is being stuck in a rut. The convert was stuck before he began his journey and some of those who Jewish by birth have been there for quite some time already.

So the Torah demands that we love the convert. If we can bring ourselves to do this then we will be open to change and improvement, well along the road to holiness and detachment from physicality, which is the theme of this week's Torah reading.


Parshas Emor (Lev. 21-24)

This is dedicated in loving memory of my father R' Yosef Ben Zelig of blessed memory who passed away this past Friday.

I am in a period of personal mourning. We all are in a period of mourning for many who were lost.

I would like to share some observations and thoughts on our recent loss of more than six-million martyrs who were murdered because they were Jewish.

Some survivors became stronger from it. Others left the fold.

Where was G-D? Why didn't it matter whether you were righteous or not?

Our souls yearn for meaning.

G-D is just. His loving-kindness is infinite.

Our lives have purpose. Our Creator who actively manages the affairs of Mankind down to the minutest detail of each person is infinitely aware and capable.

He has an agenda. He set goals for us. We live within a structure that He designed to match the agenda and goals. He revealed His will and plans one time to us all some thirty-three centuries ago. It is up to us to preserve it, to transmit it to the next generation without any corruption.

The Torah has structure. Nature has structure. His Management has structure. The structures are so complicated, so huge. We are taught that they are also interrelated in a manner that is too profound for our intellect to fully grasp.

We are taught that one attribute of Management is correspondence. For example, if we forgive others than G-D will be more forgiving towards us. And if we give more attention and significance to G-D's will then He will take what we want more into consideration when He is making decisions.

Structure requires tough decisions.

Say you have plenty of money and you have a son. You want him to be well off but also financially responsible. You give him some money and tell him to manage it, to live within his means. He blows his bank account. You rescue him and deposit more money into his account. He blows it again. You rescue him again, maybe. But you know that if you keep on doing this then you will ruin him with your kindness and care. So sometimes you need to let him fall, even though it's hard, even though he gets hurt.

People far greater than me have offered to provide some answers to what happened last century. I know of two schools of thought, both based on history and on traditional Jewish thought.

One school of thought is that we deserved it because a huge percentage of us were running away from Judaism and authentic Jewish practice. And this was happening in an unprecedented manner.

This notion evoked outrage in some circles.

We have no prophets of G-D to either confirm or disprove this theory.

The other school of thought that I know of is that the Jewish people must undergo stress for refinement, either though means that they choose or through means that are painfully imposed. We were stressed and refined some thirty-three centuries ago and became worthy of the Exodus and of receiving the Torah. By the Messianic period we will understand the process and how it was applied throughout our sometimes very painful history to make us even greater. Until then we have no solid answers.

My dad, of blessed memory, fought some tough battles with infections towards the end of his 97 years.

We all must fight infection. In fact, we are constantly at risk from numerous hostile and microscopic invaders that can and do kill. Our defenses must be strong and on constant alert to remain alive.

The scriptures talk about G-D 'hiding his face' when we become unworthy.

We are also taught that the Jewish people are continually at risk of being destroyed by enemies, for we represent G-D's sovereignty. It is only with G-D's continual protection that we have been able to survive Jewish history to date.

The tragedies that we suffer come from our enemies. They are able to hurt us only because G-D 'hides his face.' That is, He stops rescuing us, or reduces the intensity of His protection.

This is somewhat like becoming overcome by infection, where some parts of the body remain healthy and strong. Only, the weaker parts or the overall system are unable to cope with destructive organisms and the person gets hurt.

Unlike infection, we will never die for Torah teaches that G-D will never hide his face enough to allow the Jewish people to be completely destroyed.

Besides running away from the Torah, the period leading up to the holocaust is marked by a lack of harmony. There was much internal strife and divisiveness.

Applying correspondence, as we ran away from G-D, so did He move away from us and our immunity was down. He did not rescue us and we were decimated by enemies.

And we could have rescued ourselves had we respected each other more, for when one person is weak in one area, another is strong and can provide mentorship. But we were not in a state that allowed us to listen to each other.

I suggest that the degree of our running away from G-D and our divisiveness significantly contributed to allow the unprecedented tragedy to occur.

Thank G-D, today many of us are running back and harmony appears to be better. It's not great but it's better.

I suspect that the redemption we yearn for would have occurred already if weren't for slanted speech that we are sometimes guilty of. And on the macro level, I suspect that significant interference is being generated from journalism that vilifies adherents of the Torah for commercial gain or to manipulate for the personal gains and agendas of individuals.

But the redemption will occur some day, may it happen quickly. And we are taught that the righteous will come back to life to witness it.

"Death is swallowed up forever. And G-D All-mighty will erase the tears from every face."


21:2 Only for his close relative, for his mother and father, for his son, daughter, and brother.

Many question the benefit of prolonging the life of one who is seriously ill and seems unable to interact or function with family and society any longer.

The issue is sharpened when it appears that the withholding or termination of life-support would relieve the invalid from the burden of suffering.

I recently sought strength as I stood a final vigil by my mother's bedside, may she rest in peace.

We had already committed ourselves to follow and implement the Torah's guidelines for those who are on the threshold of transition to the next world. I was thus comforted in being relieved from the awesome responsibility of deciding my mother's fate. By accepting these guidelines, I had no fear of later justifying a personal decision to myself and to our loved ones for the rest of my life.

Having made this commitment and with a seemingly indefinite time to contemplate, my mind was clear to seek meaning in our maintaining human life in all forms.

The following Torah teachings and personal observations came to mind.

First, I was taught that intensity of joy and pleasure that one receives in the next world is far beyond the ability of a human being to imagine. In that existence, which lasts for eternity, the intensity of happiness that a person experiences in one moment is greater than the collection of happiness that of all Mankind ever received from the time of creation to the present.

I was also taught that a person is compensated for every act of free-will choice, no matter how minor it may appear to be. A story is told of two women who shared the administration and management of a charity project, with all of the headaches that this entails. For some reason they made a pact that whoever dies first will come back to the other and describe the reward that she received. One died and eventually appeared to the survivor in a dream. She said that she was incapable of describing the intensity and degree of their reward but there was one thing that her friend could relate to. Numerous realms were open to them both but there was one that only her friend had the privilege to enter. This was because there was one time when a letter for the organization needed to be mailed and she was the one who put the envelope in the mailbox.

To the above I added the following observation.

With sufficient motivation, the average person can be made to accept some degree of discomfort. For example, athletes willingly strain and restrict themselves to insure that their body is properly tuned to win. Consider also the following strange example. Imagine an eccentric multi-billionaire who amused himself by offering huge sums of money to people who were willing to amputate one of their toes for him. Say you get approached and he asks you to name your price. You would probably be initially shocked and insulted. But he offers you fifteen million. You refuse. He ups it to twenty-five million. Then fifty-million, then more. If you are like most people, you will eventually become curious as to whether you can select the toe.

From the above, we now begin to see that a person is designed to accept and can eventually even become grateful for the opportunity of enduring discomfort in this world if he or she is sufficiently compensated for it in the next world, which we know to be true.

Finally, I was taught that besides receiving reward for performing commandments, G-D rewards those who enable others to perform commandments.

For example, when the driver of a car one pulls over and offers someone a ride, the driver is rewarded for performing a kindness and the passenger is rewarded for providing the driver with this opportunity.

The same can be said for visiting and caring for the sick.

Even though the invalid may be unaware of the visit or care, he or she will be generously rewarded by G-d for providing the visitor with the opportunity to do kindness.

And so, as difficult as it was when the doctors told me that it would be a matter of hours, the above gave me comfort and strength. Every moment was a merit for my mother as I stood vigil to insure that my she mother would have a loved one at her bedside when she passed away.

I'll never know in my lifetime whether she even experienced any discomfort during those final days and hours. But as a believing Jew, I know that she is now well cared for and with great peace and happiness.

Being with my mother brought home to me the fact that I may very well share the same fate someday.

The above gave me strength to accept what had happened and to better cope with the future.

In memory of Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh.
June 9th 1925 - April 16th 2003


21:2 (A cohen - priest may attend the funeral /become ritually unclean) for only his 'she'ehr' that is close to him. And for his mother, and for his father, and for his son, and for his daughter, and for his brother.

21:3 And for his sister ..

What is a 'she'ehr'? Rashi provides the following commentary from the Toras Kohanim, a part of our Oral Torah:

His 'she'ehr' can only be his wife.

So, the Torah is teaching us that a priest may attend his wife's funeral. Understood? Ready to proceed to the next verse?

Let's not proceed yet. Perhaps we can learn something by taking a look at the Toras Kohanim, Rashi's source.

Toras Kohanim:

For only his 'she'ehr' that is close to him: His 'she'ehr' can only be his wife, as it says '.. she is the 'she'ehr' of your father .(Leviticus 18:12)

That is close to him: But not a woman (that the priest) divorced. [That is, a priest may not attend the funeral of his ex-wife.]

So, 'she'ehr' means a wife. Understood? Ready to proceed to the next verse?

Let's not proceed yet. Perhaps we can learn something by taking a look at the verse that the Toras Kohanim references. When studying Torah, we can't afford to leave any stone unturned.

18:12 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister, she is the 'she'ehr' of your father.

We've found something!

The Toras Kohanim learns that 'she'ehr' means a wife from a verse that talks about a sister. How can it do that? What is the Toras Kohanim trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

The Malbim's commentary provides an analysis of the word, 'she'ehr.'

Elsewhere in the Bible, this word refers to flesh. It also refers to food, which becomes transformed into flesh when digested.

Now, we find that the Bible uses the word, 'flesh' when referring to a close relative. So, in our verse we could translate 'she'ehr' to mean a relative. However, the term, 'relative' is literally relative, as some relatives are more closely related than others. What type of family relation is the Torah referring to in this verse?

The Malbim suggests that we measure relations between two people by the degree that they need an intermediary to be related to each other. He also suggests that we analyze the other six people that a Kohen must become ritually unclean for. Again, they are a mother, a father, a son, a daughter, a brother, and a sister. The Malbim notes that these six relations do not rely on an intermediary to the degree that other relations do, such as a father's sister.

Remember now the Toras Kohanim's source, 18:12 'You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's sister, she is the 'she'ehr' of your father.' Note that the Torah calls an aunt, you father's 'she'ehr.' She is not your 'she'ehr.'

We can now see that this verse is not being used by the Toras Kohanim to directly translate the word 'she'ehr.' Rather, the Toras Kohanim is using the verse to exclude a relative that relies significantly on an intermediary, such as an aunt. The word 'she'ehr' in our verse thus refers to a woman who is very closely related to the Kohen. If she is not one of the six women that are enumerated in this verse, then who could this be? The Toras Kohanim concludes that this must be the Kohen's wife.

Let's take a second look at the order in which the Torah enumerates these six women.

A mother is number one. The Kohen was once part of his mother's body, her actual and physical flesh. The relationship is absolute and unchanging.

A father is number two. A son is a physical product of his father, also, but to much less of a degree than he is from his mother.

A son and a daughter are three and four. They are the Kohen's 'flesh' through his wife. They are related to the Kohen in less of a physical-flesh manner.

A brother and a sister are five and six. These final relationships require an intermediary to a small degree, through the Kohen's parents.

In noting the order of relationships, we see that the 'she'ehr' is listed even before parents the Kohen's parents.

Perhaps the Torah, through the Toras Kohanim, is reminding us that a marriage can grow to become the greatest possible relationship between two human beings. It eventually transcends the relationship of parents, the highest relationship of flesh in the physical sense.

This brings to mind the verse in Genesis 2:24

'Therefore a Man leaves his father and mother and he becomes attached to his wife. And (says, G-d) they shall become one flesh.'

Let us take a second look at the second part of the Toras Kohanim that we referenced:

(His 'she'ehr') that is close to him: But not a woman (that the priest) divorced. [That is, a priest may not attend the funeral of his ex-wife.]

Without this special teaching, one could think that the bond of marriage transcends even a divorce, to the degree that a Kohen can attend the funeral of his ex-wife.

How great is a marriage.


21:9 And if the daughter of a man who is a priest profanes herself through an immoral act then she is profaning her father, she is to be burned in fire.

The Oral Torah (Sanhedrin 51a) teaches that the verse is dealing with adultery, a capital offence. It prescribes the appropriate means of execution for woman whose father is a priest. The Oral Torah adds the context that we are dealing with a married woman that intentionally commits adultery immediately after being warned by two witnesses and she does this in their presence and after verbally accepting the consequences of this act, which is that a court will sentence her sentenced to death for doing it.

The manner of execution for this flagrant act of wickedness would not have been through fire, had she not been the daughter of a priest.

The verse is clearly not discussing the punishment of a promiscuous unmarried woman, although this is also a quite serious matter.

The Targum Unkelus provides the following reading: "And if the daughter of a man who is a priest profanes herself through an immoral act then she is profaning herself from the sanctity of her father …"

The Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel provides this reading: "And if the daughter of a man who is a priest who is betrothed and willingly does an immoral act while still in her father's home then she is profaning herself …"

These readings appear to reflect the Talmudic discussion over whether the verse is only discussing a woman who was betrothed and is still in her father's home, whether it is about a woman who married and left the home, or perhaps both.

The Hebrew reads, "Ess Avihah He Mischalleles," which we initially translated, "she is profaning her father". According to Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel, the word "Ess" is to be translated as "with," which is sometimes done for this word. That is, the woman receives the prescribed penalty when she commits adultery while she is still living within her father's home, during the betrothal period.

While neither reading directs any profanity against the father, perhaps we can take a message from the surface reading, which is that she is indeed profaning the father.

We note the following difficulties with the above verse:

Why does the Torah write, "And if the daughter of a man who is a priest…" instead of "And if the daughter of a priest?"

Why does the Torah write, "she is profaning her father" instead of "she is profaning him?"

In other words, why didn't the Torah write, "And if the daughter of a priest profanes herself through an immoral act then she is profaning him ….?" What message can we derive from the extra words?

From the Biblical perspective, we note that a man marry more than one woman but a woman can not have more than one husband.

We also note that the prohibition for a priest to defile himself through contact or exposure from a corpse is only for males. The wife and daughter of a priest may indeed attend funerals like anybody else.

Now, the first five of the Ten Commandments were on one tablet and the second five were on another.

Rabbi Shimshon Pinkus, of blessed memory discussed the correspondence between the first and second commandment of each tablet. That is, "I am Hashem your G-D" corresponds to "You shall not kill" and "You shall have no other gods before Me" corresponds to "You shall not commit adultery."

He notes that "I am Hashem" is a statement of Divine existence and murder is the destruction of a human existence. Not having other gods speaks of the uniqueness of G-D while adultery is the negation of the uniqueness of a woman's marriage relationship.

Perhaps we can view the two as reflecting a distinction between man and woman, that man is more of a proponent of G-D's existence and woman is more of a proponent of G-D's uniqueness.

In such a light we can view the priestly restrictions of defilement from contact with a dead person as being more appropriate for men, as death is an absence of existence.

By remaining loyal to her husband, a woman promotes the notion of uniqueness of relationship between one person and another. In the role of a loyal wife, a woman serves as a role model for our loyalty to G-D.

Perhaps then, the father of our verse who is profaned is not merely the parent of the adulteress, but also her Father in heaven.

If true then we can better understand the contributions of the seemingly extra words of this verse. And if the daughter of a man (i.e. a human being) who is a priest profanes herself through an immoral act then she is profaning her Father (in heaven by not promoting within mankind the significance of the uniqueness of certain relationships) …..

In this light, the severe penalty in the above verse serves to highlight the great significance and contribution that the loyal housewife provides society with.


21:17 Speak to Aharon (Aaron) saying, "For all generations, any man from your descendents that has a physical defect shall not come near to bring a sacrifice to his G-D."

Here the Torah presents the disqualification of priests with physical defects. Later in this reading, in chapter 22, the Torah discusses the disqualification of animals with physical defects.

Thus, the laws that pertain to humans precede those which pertain to animals, which is a natural order of precedence.

However we find the reverse in earlier Torah readings that discuss spiritual disqualifications and ineligibilities, laws of 'tum-ah' and 'tahara.'

Rashi in Leviticus 12 provides the following observation from the Medrash, in the name of Rabbi Simlai:

"In the story of creation that is recorded in the Book of Genesis we find that Man was created after every animal, beast, and bird. Here in the Book of Leviticus, we find the laws that pertain to Man's ritual ineligibility are also written after the laws that pertain to animals, beasts, and birds."

What message can we take from the precedence of Man by laws that pertain ineligibility that results from physical defects versus the precedence of animals in laws that pertain to ineligibility that comes from a spiritually-related state?

The following came to mind.

I was taught to take notice of a pattern that exists in spiritually-related ineligibilities. Everything in the physical creation can be classified into groups that increase in status. At the bottom are inanimate objects, followed by non-human life, followed by humanity. We also note that the degree of spiritual ineligibility increases as we move up the scale.

It was explained to me that the state of ritual ineligibility is related to the degree of absence of spiritual ineligibility. That is, the potential for spiritual greatness is such that when opportunity for greatness is removed, the vacuum that results will draw a more intense state of ineligibility. Therefore we find that the most intense degree of ineligibility comes from a corpse, for it reflects the vacuum that occurred when a soul left a human body.

As humans are aware of their status, they are also most prone to imbalance of attitude, that can come from an awareness of prestige.

Perhaps, the precedence of animal to mankind in these laws can serve to remind us of the importance to always maintain our balance and humility.

However, when it comes to physical defects, the human subject has already been humbled by his condition so the Torah writes the laws in the natural order of precedence.


22:3 Say to them, "Any man throughout your generations from all of your descendents who is ritually impure and (yet) comes near the consecrated items that the Jewish people will consecrate to G-D, that soul will be cut off before me, I am G-D."

22:8 They shall not eat (from) a carcass or ripped (apart) animal to become ritually impure from it, I am G-D.

22:20 You may not offer (as a sacrifice) any (animal) that has a significant physical defect, for it will not be desirable (to G-D) for you.

The above verses discuss physical defects and ritual impurity. We observe that the guidelines that deal with to man come before those that deal with animals.

Earlier in the Torah we find the reverse.

Leviticus 11 provides the consumer with guidelines for kosher and non-kosher animals and insects. It also discusses ritual impurity that comes from animals.

Leviticus 12 through 15 discuses ritual impurity that comes from humans.

Rashi 12:2 cites the following teaching from the Medrash: "Says Rabbi Simlai, 'Just as the formation of man occurred during Creation after every animal beast and bird, so is his Torah specified after the Torah of the animal, beast, and bird.

In our Torah section, that laws for people come before those of the animals. This appears to be a counter example.

The following came to mind.

Leviticus 12 through fifteen speaks about every people in every level of society, including the sinner who is punished with the affliction of Tzoraas. Leviticus 22 addresses the priest, a class of people who one expects to be spiritually elevated.

From the viewpoint of externality, man is last. This suggests that he is less significant than the animal. Indeed, from a purely physical perspective the animal is superior. However, if we take G-D's intent into consideration, then man was first. The world was created for the purpose of giving mankind the opportunity of achieving greatness. Man's late entrance into the world is an indication of great stature, for G-D waited to introduce man into a complete world.

Consider this example. A person builds a house for his family from the ground up. Plumbing fixtures are brought into the construction site. Upon receipt of the certificate of occupancy he moves in the household goods and then his family. There is no question that the family is far more important to the owner than the plumbing, even though they came later. We know that the intent of the builder was that the home is for the family, not the reverse.

It is therefore befitting that in the section which focuses on spiritually elevated people that their Torah should precede that of the animal. Since we expect the priest to live and teach G-D's intent, and since G-D's intent to create man preceded the need to create animals, it is befitting for such a person's Torah to precede that of the animal.


22:6 They (the Cohen - priest) must be holy to their G-d and they must not profane the name of their G-d, for they bring the offering of G-d, (so) they must be holy.

21:7 (The Cohen) may not marry (a woman who is) a harlot or a chalalah, and he may not marry a woman who was divorced from her husband, for he is holy to his G-d.

What message can we take from the prohibition against a priest marrying a divorced woman? What may the Torah be trying to tell us?

Also, what does this prohibition have to do with their being 'holy to their G-d?' Could it be that marrying a divorcee compromise on a person's holiness?

The following came to mind, just one possibility out of many.

Aharon (Aaron), the founding ancestor of all priests, earned this office for himself and his future generations because of the great efforts he expended in making peace, between G-d and man, between man and man, and between husband and wife. The medrash notes that thousands of couples named their child Aharon because of the help he gave them in maintaining their domestic harmony.

One is tempted to say that a divorcee represents domestic strife and this is incongruent with Aharon's legacy. However, this does not appear to be appropriate.

First, some divorced women are victims and should not be penalized from marrying a priest just because their husband was abusive.

Secondly, some divorces are performed on the grounds of compassionate circumstances.

For example, supposed a dying man is married, had no children, but has one younger brother who is an infant. After the death of her husband, to become eligible for remarriage outside the family, the surviving wife would have to wait until the brother comes of age to perform either the yibum or chalitzah ceremony.

In this case, the divorce has absolutely nothing to do with a lack of domestic harmony. Rather, the husband's divorce is done out of love, out of consideration for the fate of his wife. Yet, the divorce renders the woman ineligible to marry a priest.

The Oral Torah teaches that the combat soldiers of King Dovid's (David) army would routinely divorce prior to battle so that their wives would not be held in limbo in case they were missing in action. This too is a divorce out of love, not strife. (PS: They remarried after the battle.)

I guess one could also throw in modern-day divorces that are done to make a spouse eligible for Medicaid.

So, what message can we take from the commandment that a Cohen not marry a divorcee? Also, how does this interfere with their being 'holy to his G-d?'

Perhaps one can say the following.

The Cohen serves as an intermediary, primarily between G-d and the Jewish people. In some sense he represents the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people.

Throughout history, some detractors have claimed that the Jewish people no longer enjoy a special relationship with G-d, that we were cast off, divorced.

Perhaps for this reason, the Torah forbids the Cohen, one who represents the relationship between the Jewish people and G-d, to be associated with divorce in any way.

With this in mind, we can compare the phrase 'he is holy to his G-d' with the following verse in Yirmiyahu (Jeremiah 2:3): Yisroel (Israel) is holy to G-d, the first of His grain, all those who consume them will become desolate. Evil will befall them (the enemies of Israel), says G-d.

So, these verses assign no stigma to a divorcee. A Cohen may not marry a divorcee because of his office and because there is something very special about the relationship the Jewish people have with G-d.

With this, perhaps we can view the prohibition against the harlot and the chalalah in another light. (The latter is a woman of tainted origin or a woman that had relations with a person who she may not marry or a woman that had relations with a priest of tainted origin.)

The harlot, the chalalah, and the divorcee appear to be categorized together. They are therefore completely dissociated from the relationship the Jewish people have with G-d. Our origin is pure. Our weak moments do not represent our essence, which is one of deep loyalty and faith to G-d. The bond is everlasting, unbreakable.


22:29 And when you slaughter a thanksgiving offering then you shall slaughter it to gain favor for yourselves.

22:30 It shall be eaten on that day. Do not leave it over until the next morning, I am G-D.

We find a similar set of verses earlier.

19:5 And when you slaughter a peace offering then you shall slaughter it to gain favor for yourselves.

19:6 It shall be eaten during the day of your offering and on the morrow. And that which remains until the third day shall be burned in fire.

19:7 And should it be eaten on the third day then it is Pigul ("rejected"), it will not be accepted.

19:8 And one who eats of it will bear its iniquity, for that which was sanctified to G-D was made common. And that soul shall be cut off from its nation.

The Oral Torah teaches that sacrificial meat becomes Pigul when certain services are performed with improper intentions. Specifically, it becomes Pigul when the person intends to eat or to offer the sacrifice outside of its specified time or location.

For example, the thanksgiving offering must be eaten during the day it was offered or during the night that follows. A peace offering must be eaten by the end of the next day.

Should the one who slaughters the offering think that it will be eaten later then the offering is invalidated and classified as Pigul.

The Oral Torah connects the above verses with Pigul. Rashi on 22:30 cites the following reading: "You shall slaughter it with the intention to eat it during the timeframe that the Torah previously specified."

19:8 tells us that it is a very serious offense to eat the meat when the intention is to eat or process the offering outside its specified time. The severity of eating it is remarkable and begs explanation.

The timeframe for eating the thanksgiving offering is especially short. It was once explained that this forces its owner to publicize his/her need for volunteers to ensure that it gets eaten up in time. This enhances the thanksgiving because more people now know why he/she is grateful to G-D.

Then again, one could argue that a longer timeframe would increase the quality of thanksgiving or offering because there would be more time to talk about its background.

While there is a good case for shortening the timeframe and also for extending it, there is no room for further discussion because the Torah already set the timeframes.

A sacrifice is an expression of recognition that G-D's will is supreme. And it is a distinctive privilege to both offer a sacrifice and also to eat its meat.

One who eats Pigul is saying that he wants to serve G-D on his terms, not G-D's. Therefore, perhaps this is a reason that the penalty for eating Pigul is so severe.


23:22 And when you cut the harvest of your land you shall not completely harvest the corner of your field. And you shall not gather the stalks that drop from your harvesting. You shall leave them for the poor and the convert; I am Hashem your G-D.

Rashi cites a teaching of Rabbi Avdimi son of Rabbi Yosef who says that the Torah placed this verse between the pilgrimage holidays, the "Regalim." He notes that Passover and Shavuos are on one side and that Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Succcos are on the other.

It is remarkable that Rabbi Avdimi includes Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur among the pilgrimage festivals, as the Torah implies in several places that there are only three "Regalim:" Passover, Shavuous, and Succos.

Exodus 23:14 states, "You shall celebrate three "Regalim" every year." It goes on to list only Passover, Shavuous, and Succos and requires every male to be seen in the Temple during these holidays.

There are references to three "Regalim" later in the Torah (Numbers 22), by the dialog that the wicked Bilam had with both his donkey and an angel of G-D.

His donkey asked him: Why did you hit me three "Regalim" (times)? Rashi reads this as a sarcastic remark. Besides complaining on being hit, the donkey was rebuking Bilam for seeking to curse a nation that celebrates the three "Regalim?"

Three "Regalim" is repeated when the Angel of G-D revealed himself to Bilam and continued the rebuke.

How could Rabbi Avdimi add Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur to the list of the "Regalim?" How could he say that there are five "Regalim" when the Torah appears to recognize only three?

Furthermore, there is a sixth Torah holiday, Shemini Atzeres. It occurs immediately after Succos. It is mentioned in Numbers 29 but not here. The Oral Torah recognizes Shemini Atzeres as a distinct "Regel" unto itself. This is puzzling. And why doesn't Rav Avdimi include it in his count?

The following came to mind.

The Hebrew word "Regel" means a leg. It is used to denote a pilgrimage holiday when many travelled to the Temple by foot.

By saying "You shall celebrate three "Regalim" every year," the Torah does not necessarily imply that there are only three "Regalim." Rather, the verses in Exodus 23 can be read to be saying that out of all the Torah's holidays, there are three for which we are required to travel to the Temple and be seen there. The three are Passover, Shavuous, and Succos. The list merely excludes the other "Regalim" from requiring travel to the Temple.

But if there is no requirement for travel to celebrate Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur, and Shemini Atzeres, why are they called "Regalim?"

Perhaps we can understand Shemini Atzeres being called a "Regel" because occurs immediately after Succos, so the trip to the Temple for Succos is also for Shemini Atzeres.

But what about Rosh Hashana, which occurs on the first of Tishrei and is fifteen days before Succos? What about Yom Kippur, which occurs on the tenth of Tishrei?

Obviously, by requiring our presence in the Temple for Succos, the Torah is not saying that we are not allowed to arrive five days earlier and be there to also celebrate Yom Kippur. And if we arrive fifteen days earlier then we are welcome to get Rosh Hashana in, also.

Our verse that we began with, where Rashi injects Rav Avdimi's teaching, reminds us that the period between Shavuous and Succos is a time for harvesting and storing our crops. It is a window of opportunity, as it typically rains shortly after Succos.

In the good old days, if a farmer ran out of food in the winter there may have been no market for him to go to and get food to feed his family. His silo was his supermarket.

The farmer's trip to the Temple for Succos was made with some personal sacrifice and great faith in G-D's role as the supplier of all his needs.

And certainly, not all farmers in the Land of Milk and Honey lived from hand to mouth. To the contrary, the land overflowed with G-D's blessing and abundance. When Moshe (Moses) sent spies to check out the land it took eight people to carry back a single grape vine.

Breaking away to make the trip for Succos meant saying goodbye to bigger profits, to having more, to having more money.

In those days the economy was driven by agriculture. We had no high-tech industries or gas wells.

So a Jew could be fully compliant with every Torah obligation by celebrating Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in a local synagogue near his farm.

He'd still be able to call himself "Frum." He'd have more time on the farm and therefore HAVE MORE MONEY which he would surely intend use to enhance the way he performs Torah commandments. And he may have already been in the Temple many times in his life for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.

Despite temptation, to the great credit and praise of the Jewish people, the Temple was packed for the holidays. They came, on foot and by "Regel" not just for Succos. Many came for Yom Kippur and many broke away for Rosh Hashana, too. They knew full well that having less meant having more, that being more is what really counts, that one more opportunity to experience an out-of-the-box encounter to feel that G-D is really here and with us is worth more than having another silo of barley.

Bilam's words exhibited a huge appetite for money and he was a deep Anti-Semite. It was natural for him to not believe that the Jewish people celebrated more than three "Regalim," even if he heard this from an angel of G-D, even if it came from the mouth of a talking donkey.


22:32 Do not cause My Holy Name to become unhallowed. And I shall be sanctified within the Children of Israel, I am G-d who sanctifies you.

This verse charges us to be ready to give up everything to sanctify G-d's name.

In most situations, the commandments must be waived when their performance presents danger to a person's life. However, one may spare no cost, including his/her own life, to keep from performing an act of adultery, dolatry, or murder. There are other specific and more narrow circumstances when one must spare no cost to demonstrate loyalty to Torah observance.

The opening verse in this section discusses the minimum age for sacrificial animals. Verse 28 is a prohibition against slaughtering a mother cow and its offspring on the same day. Verse 30 discusses the requirement to perform sacrificial service with intentions to meet the scheduling requirements. One may therefore not slaughter a sacrifice with the intention to eat its meat beyond the allotted time period.

What do these verses have in common? Why are they in the same section? What is the Torah trying to tell us?

The following came to mind.

A person can be presented with a situation in which he/she must make the ultimate sacrifice. Such a person must know that G-d is actively managing the world for his/her best interest. If the person must accept death, then this is not a tragedy. Rather, in His infinite wisdom, G-d has determined that it is this person's moment to achieve everlasting greatness and happiness.

Prior to this moment, the person was not ready. Perhaps this is the message of the opening verse that declares an animal of less than seven days old to be unfit for sacrifice.

Afterwards, a person stands to lose his/her mission of the moment, that of sanctifying G-d's name. Perhaps this is the message of verse 30. The moment is now, not later.

The person may have concerns for the family he/she leaves behind. Perhaps this is the message of verse 28, that G-d is also concerned about family. Even so, the best for all involved is to follow the instructions of the Torah.

Perhaps we can now derive meaning from the section which follows, that which describes the Jewish holidays.

When the circumstances of a person leaving this world involve a heroic sanctification of G-d's name, that person pays a relatively small price for an eternity of greatness, a holiday that lasts forever.


23:22 And when you cut the harvest of your land, do not complete the corner of your field in your harvesting. And do not gather up the (dropped) gatherings. Leave them for the poor and the convert. I am Hashem your G-D.

These commandments are written in the middle of the section that deals with how we celebrate the holidays in the Temple.

Rashi cites the following teaching for this verse:

Rabbi Avdimi son of Rabbi Yossi said, "Why did the scripture place these (commandments of charity) in the middle of the verses that deal with the holidays, with Pesach and Shavuos on one side and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on the other? This is to teach you that the scripture considers one who gives the gatherings, forgotten bundles, and the corner properly is considered (by the Torah) as if he built the Temple and made sacrifices in it.

Rabbi Avdimi's teaching is puzzling.

The commandment to leave over forgotten bundles is mentioned in Deuteronomy 24:19, not here. Why does Rav Avdimi include it? This exaggerates the list of commandments. And, the commandment of the forgotten bundles is a bit different from leaving over the corner and not picking up droppings because that commandment is triggered by a lapse of consciousness.

The words of commandments are to leave over the corner and the gatherings for the poor, not to actively give them anything. This is contrast to the commandment of giving a tithe to the poor, mentioned elsewhere. There, you give something. Here, you just let them help themselves. Yet, Rabbi Avdimi speaks about the land owner giving things to poor people. Again, this appears to be an exaggeration.

These commandments are written in the middle of a section that discusses holiday sacrifices. The neighboring verses do not mention anything about building the Temple. It would have been sufficient for Rabbi Avdimi to say that the Torah credits those who fulfill these commandments as if they offered sacrifices in the Temple. Equating one who fulfills these commandments with both offering sacrifices and building the 'House of G-D appears to be an exaggeration.

And, it is a bit remarkable that this verse discusses harvesting and it within a section that discusses two Temple services that involve harvesting, which is disconnecting things that grow from the ground, the Omer offering of Passover, and the special bread offering of Shavuos.

Rabbi Avdimi says that one is credited as if he offered sacrifices. He doesn't identify which sacrifices they are. They could be animal sacrifices, bird offerings, or bread offerings.

It is up to us to understand his deep words.

The following came to mind.

Animals and birds eat things that are connected to the ground. They bring their mouths and bodies down to eat from what grows from the ground. So to speak, their eating connects them to the ground.

Human beings disconnect their food from the ground before they eat. They bring their food up to their mouths. And they typically bring their food into a residence before they eat. In comparison to animals and birds, our typical eating involves a disconnection from the ground where the food grew.

Maturity, especially when enhanced with a life of Torah observance, brings with it a reduction of bias towards physicality, in the direction of a disconnection from physicality. Over time, responsible living elevates a person above the animal.

And this is fitting because we are endowed by G-D with an intellect, a soul, personal missions, and His constant attention. We were created in His image. We reflect this in some very small way and it is up to us to only strengthen it.

Indeed, the Omer offering of Passover consists of mere barley, fit for animal. And seven weeks later we hopefully experience growth and the offering consists of bread.

Our supremacy is a great gift but comes with some risk. Our intellect is bundled with imagination and a bias towards physicality and self-gain. This is ingrained in both our consciousness and sub-consciousness.

Our physical eyes paint a picture of a world that we build through human power and might, a world that reflects "My strength and the power of my hands made this wealth." It is a world that has little place for charity, for those who have yet to grow may feel that they deserve what they have because they made it happen.

It takes some learning, growth, insight, and humility to realize that this is totally false, a distortion of true reality, a gross exaggeration.

And the magnitude of reward we receive in the next world has so little to do with the magnitude of effort we expend that it can also be viewed as a gross exaggeration. But this is G-D's will, in His great benevolence.


23:22 And when you cut the harvest of your land, do not complete the corner of your field in your harvesting. And do not gather up the (dropped) gatherings. Leave them for the poor and the convert. I am Hashem your G-D.

These commandments are written in the middle of the section that deals with how we celebrate the holidays in the Temple.

Rashi cites the following teaching for this verse:

Rabbi Avdimi son of Rabbi Yossi said, "Why did the scripture place these (commandments of charity) in the middle of the verses that deal with the holidays, with Pesach and Shavuos on one side and Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur on the other? This is to teach you that the scripture considers one who fulfills the commandment of leaving gatherings, leaving forgotten bundles, or leaving over the corner as if he built the Temple and made sacrifices in it."

The Torah wants us to leave them for the poor, not to give them. Rashi cites a teaching that the owner of the field should not help any one specific gatherer.

The Shiras David commentary views this as a reminder that giving charity is part of serving G-D, not something that one does to make himself feel good or to relieve guilt.

Just like G-D gave the property and good fortune to the land-owner, it is G-D who is giving the food to the impoverished.

Fortune runs in cycles that are beyond our control. Today's poor can be tomorrow's wealthy, and visa-versa.

We can take the above a bit further and say that we are happier when we use what we own to make a celebration, versus using a hand-out. Both the land-owner and the poor celebrate equally, both with what G-D gave them.


23:22 And when you cut the harvest of your land, do not complete the corner of your field in your harvesting. And do not gather up the (dropped) gatherings. Leave them for the poor and the convert. I am Hashem your G-D.

These commandments are written in the middle of the section that deals with the Temple services during the holidays.

The Malbim commentary explains that this one of the Torah's many reminders that one of the themes of the holidays is to sustain the priests (Levites) who perform the Temple services and that we must support them together with those who are economically disadvantaged.

Here are several similar references from Deuteronomy:

16:11 And you shall rejoice before Hashem your G-D, you and your son and your daughter, and your servant and your maid, and the Levite that is in your gates, and the convert, and the orphan, and the widow that is in your midst, in the place that Hashem your G-D will select to have His name rest in.

16:14 And you shall rejoice during your holiday, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your servant, and your maid, and the Levite, and the convert, and the orphan, and the widow who are in your gates.

26:11 And you shall rejoice with all the good that Hashem gave you and your families, you, the Levite, and the convert that is in your midst.

Unlike other verses in the Torah, our verse in Leviticus talks about working our fields and leaving allotments to the poor. The connection to the holidays is by inference and is not openly stated.

I suggest that we can take the following message from it.

The joyous holiday period gives the landowner a respite from his hard work in the fields. And the surrounding verses delineate the work that the Levite / priest must do in the Temple during the holidays. But the other classes of people are not portrayed as doing any work at all, other than collecting agricultural welfare.

Perhaps the Torah is telling us not to penalize them or put them to shame. Their lack of work may be the result of their misfortune, be it circumstances, ill health, age, or emotional difficulties.

Those who work for the resources that they have must be thankful that G-D gave them the opportunity and ability to earn them.


23:22 And when you cut the harvest of your land, do not complete the corner of your field in your harvesting. And do not gather up the (dropped) gatherings. Leave them for the poor and the convert. I am Hashem your G-D.

These commandments are written in the middle of the section that deals with how we celebrate the holidays in the Temple.

Rashi cites the following teaching for this verse:

Rabbi Avdimi son of Rabbi Yosi said, "Why did the scripture place these (commandments of charity) in the middle of the verses that deal with the holidays, with Pesach and Shavuos on one side and Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur on the other? This is to teach you that the scripture considers one who fulfills the commandment of either leaving gatherings, leaving forgotten bundles, or leaving over the corner as if he built the Temple and made sacrifices in it."

Rabbi Avdimi mentions three commandments but only two are listed here, the gatherings and the corner. The commandment about the forgotten bundles is in Deuteronomy 24:19.

These three commandments are closely related. They are frequently referenced as a unit in the Talmud.

What is the Torah trying to tell us by not placing the commandment of forgotten bundles here, together with the other two commandments?

The following came to mind.

Since this section deals with celebrating the holidays, perhaps the Torah is hinting that there is no place for forgetfulness when we celebrate. That is we must celebrate the holidays in a manner that can not cause us to forget the needs of the poor.

21:17 Speak to Aharon (Aaron) saying, "(Any) man from your descendents (throughout) their generations that has a (significant physical) defect may not come near (the altar) to offer the bread of his G-D."


23:22 And when you cut the harvest of your land, do not complete the corner of your field in your harvesting. And do not gather up the (dropped) gatherings. Leave them for the poor and the convert. I am Hashem your G-D.

We find the phrase "I am Hashem" mentioned numerous times in this Torah reading alone. Rashi here tells us that it conveys G-D's commitment to reward us for our good deeds. However, Rashi says the same thing for verse 22:23. What additional lesson can we take from here?

The following came to mind.

The Torah tells us to leave the portions of the field that we are to allot for the impoverished. Rashi provides the following commentary: Leave it before them and they will gather it. You should not assist any one of them.

The Oral Torah discusses whether the owner can collect the produce on behalf of a specific person. Rashi's words suggest that the owner should have nothing to do with the gathering whatsoever.

Sharing another's burden must be done carefully so as to avoid shame to the recipient. Perhaps this is why the Torah tells us to leave the portion, as the impoverished may feel embarrassed in the presence of the owner.

Elsewhere, the Torah reminds us to rely on G-D to compensate us for what we do. Perhaps here the Torah is reminding us that at times we are rewarded for what we do not do.


23:27 However, Yom Kippur shall be on the tenth of this seventh month. It shall be for you a holy convocation and you shall afflict your souls (with prescribed abstinences). And you shall make a fire offering to G-D.

23:32 It is for you a Sabbath of cessation and you shall afflict your souls (with prescribed abstinences). (You shall do this) from the ninth of the month, from evening to evening you shall have your cessation.

In the Jewish calendar, a day begins at nightfall, not at midnight. The Oral Torah (Rosh Hashana 9a) notes that verse 32 appears to be saying that Yom Kippur commences on both the ninth of the month and the tenth of the month. That is, since the ninth of the month ends right before evening and the verse says that the holiday commences "from the ninth of the month," Yom Kippur should begin at some time during the ninth day. Yet the same verse says that the holiday lasts "from evening to evening. Since verse 23 says that Yom Kippur occurs on the tenth of the month, this part of verse 32 implies that it begins on the evening that begins the tenth day, not on some time during the ninth day.

The Talmud says that both readings are correct and derives a requirement for every Sabbath and holiday from this verse. Every special day officially commences at nightfall. However, this verse charges us to increase the period of celebration by adding some time from the days that are adjacent to them. That is, we are charged to begin the fast of Yom Kippur on the ninth of the month. Indeed, many synagogues schedule the solemn Kol Nidre prayer of Yom Kippur some eighteen minutes before sunset. Also, many communities publish the holiday candle lighting times to be eighteen minutes prior to the sunset of all Sabbaths and holidays.

The Torah lists three holidays before Yom Kippur and one after Yom Kippur. It is noteworthy that the Torah writes this requirement by the holiday of Yom Kippur and not by the holidays that precede it or that follow it.

It is also noteworthy that the Targum Yonosan Ben Uziel translation / commentary adds the following phrase to verse 32: "And you shall make your appointed (holiday) times with happiness." Why does he write this by Yom Kippur and not by the other holidays, particularly Succos where the Torah writes, "and you shall only be happy (Deuteronomy 16:15)."

The following came to mind.

Verse 32:40 states, "and you shall be happy before Hashem your G-D for seven days." The Dubno Maggid notes that it is very difficult for a human being to remain in a state of happiness for seven consecutive days if his/her sole source of happiness is from providing physical pleasures and sensations. Therefore, part of fulfilling this commandment involves a person's re-focus on that which can provide sustained happiness over a very long period of time, which is spiritual assets and accomplishments.

Taking this a step further, it would seem that the holiday of the accomplished celebrator that should provide the greatest level of happiness is Yom Kippur, a day where the distractions of physical pleasures are kept to a minimum. Perhaps then, this is why the Targum singles out Yom Kippur for happiness.

In line with this reasoning, perhaps the Torah itself is suggesting this by writing the commandment to increase holiday periods by Yom Kippur. As G-D only wants mankind to experience the highest types of pleasure, increasing the time for this very special day is very good news for those who have their sights on the highest type of celebration.


The reading begins with several commandments which specify what the Cohen (Priest) may not do, such as the prohibition against ritual defilement. The Torah appears to provide a reason for these guidelines, that they are forbidden because the Cohen brings the offerings of G-d in the Temple, and he must therefore be holy. (21:6)

Then the Torah specifies marriages which are forbidden to the Cohen and provides what appears to be another reason for this prohibition, which is 'Because he is holy to G-d' (21:7)

Afterwards, the Torah tells us 'You shall sanctify him because he brings the offering of your G-d; he should be holy to you because I, who make you holy, am holy (21:8). This appears to be somewhat similar to the first reason, but it includes the aspect of G-d's holiness.

What does the grouping of both the commandments and their reasons signify?

The following came to mind.

A Cohen can be considered holy because of what he does and also because of what he is.

The first grouping deals with what the Cohen may not do. The reason for the prohibitions, that the Cohen brings offerings, therefore relates to something that the Cohen does.

The next grouping deals with forbidden marriages. Relative to the first group, the prohibition against certain marriages is on the level of what the Cohen is, for marriage is very much associated with a person's identity. Also, the passion for forbidden marriages requires a more forceful motivation to overcome. Therefore the Torah provides a reason which speaks on the level of what the Cohen is, that he is holy, rather than speaking on the level of what the Cohen does.

Those who are not Priests must treat the Cohen with respect and see to it that the Cohen remains holy.

The source of all holiness is G-d and relative to G-d, nothing is holy unless it is associated with G-d. So, we consider the Cohen holy because of what he does, not because of what he is, unless we include the aspect of G-d's holiness and associate the Cohen's holiness with G-d.

Nevertheless, when providing the Cohen a supporting argument in his struggle against the passion of forbidden marriages, G-d's holiness is not mentioned. We assume that the person who is struggling with a passion to do something forbidden is also not taking G-d's existence into full account. The Torah therefore speaks directly to the Cohen's ego, and says that the Cohen is himself holy. The Torah seeks to help the potential sinner by directing his self-esteem against his passion.


23:42 You shall live in Succos [a type of temporary dwelling] for seven days. Every citizen among (the Children of) Israel shall live in succos.

Non-Jews are obligated to observe seven commandments and Jews must keep six-hundred-thirteen, which include these seven.

The commandment to live in a Succa for seven days is not one of the seven commandments that Non-Jews are required to keep. It is obligatory only for Jews.

One could therefore ask why the Torah added the phrase, "among Israel" in the above verse, as we already know that this commandment is obligatory for just the Jewish people.

Rashi cites the Medrash Torahs Kohanim that derives the following teaching from this phrase: "Among Israel" - this comes to include converts.

The Medrash is telling us that without this phrase I would think that a convert is not required to live in a Succa during the holiday of Succos. The Torah therefore adds this phrase to teach us otherwise.

This is very puzzling.

We have a general rule that converts are full-fledged Jews and must keep every commandment. We find no inclusionary clauses in the Scripture for each of the other six-hundred-five commandments. What is the Torah trying to tell us by writing this clause for this particular commandment?

Rabbi Sternbuch provides the following answer.

The holiday of Succos follows the High-Holiday period, during which we are afforded the opportunity to change and reach higher levels of awareness, perfection, and commitment.

Hopefully, we have changed as a result of the High Holidays.

Human nature being what it is, we are vulnerable to backsliding.

To remind us of the need to maintain our new levels and not regress backwards, we are afterwards commanded to change our environment and celebrate; to leave the familiarity of our homes and move into a Succa.

The commitment of the convert is life-long. By virtue of remaining Torah-observant, this person has already demonstrated an ability to master change and maintain a new level of spirituality.

Therefore, I would think that a convert would not need the message of living in a Succa because he/she has already mastered this art.

The Torah therefore felt the need to write that a convert is included in this obligation.

The convert made a great leap upwards. Regardless of how many leaps we make during our lifetimes, we must all keep progressing upwards.


Parshas B'har (Lev. 25-26)

24:32 And Moshe (Moses) spoke to the Children of Israel and they removed the person who cursed (G-D) from the camp and they stoned him (to death with a) stone. And the Children of Israel did what G-D commanded Moshe.

25:1 And G-D spoke to Moshe on Mt. Sinai, saying.

25:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them (that) when you come to the land that I give to you (that) the land shall rest a Shabbos for G-D.

Our sages of blessed memory encourage us to seek meaning from adjacencies in the Torah. What message could the Torah be trying to tell us by placing 24:32 adjacent to. 25:1?

The following came to mind.

The Torah associates Shabbos with Creation. Shabbos observance testifies that we believe that G-D created the world in six days and ceased to create on the seventh (Exodus 20:11).

The Torah in Genesis chapter one writes that G-D exclusively used His power of speech to create the entire world and all of its contents.

G-D gave the precious power of speech to Man, the focal point of creation.

If used properly , speech can build worlds, together with the speaker. If misused, speech can destroy worlds, together with the speaker.

Perhaps this is one of the messages that the Torah is trying to tell us by placing a Shabbos-related law adjacent to the destruction of someone who lost his life by misusing his power of speech.


25:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, "When you come to the land that I am giving to you then the land shall have a cessation (of cultivation) for G-D."

25:3 Sow your field for six years, prune your vineyard for six years, and gather its produce.

25:4 But on the seventh year there shall be a total cessation for the land, a Shabbos for G-D. You may not sow your field nor may you prune your vineyard (during this year.)

The Kli Yakar commentary notes that some have implied that a major benefit for imposing the fallow period is to insure that we would not exhaust the land.

He writes that this does not appear to be consistent with tradition, for the commentaries explain 26:34 (Then will the land seek its Shabboses during its years of desolation when you will be in the land of your enemies ..) as a warning that if we do not properly observe this Shabbos that the we will be exiled for as many years as were unobserved so that the land will obtain the rest that it lost. The Kli Yakar reasons that our exile should not give the land any respite because the commandment to have the land lay fallow was not given to the new inhabitants who would settle there in our absence.

Additionally, if the agricultural is of significant benefit then why does the Torah say in 25:4 that it is a Shabbos for G-D?

He proposes that the main benefit is to instill and grow a relationship of dependency and trust towards G-D.

The Jewish people were about to enter a land of plenty. Over time, this could have caused them to lose sight of the true source of their abundance, which was G-D and not the land. Therefore, the Torah imposed a special seven-year agricultural cycle.

Typically, fields are worked for two years and are laid fallow afterwards for one. However here, the fields were to be worked for six consecutive years, notwithstanding the risk of wearing out the field. Furthermore, G-D promises that the sixth year's crop will yield enough produce to last several years, even though the land was at its weakest.

Had we all properly kept this commandment then the land would have become a vehicle for demonstrating G-D's providence and His relationship with us.

As some of us failed, the land lost this opportunity. It was therefore fitting for the land to eject its inhabitants so that they could see that they were being sustained by G-D and not the land.

Rashi in 26:34 explains that the duration of the Babylonian exile corresponds to number of years during which the Sabbatical year was not fully observed, which is seventy.

From the Kli Yakar's approach, it seems that the Land of Israel is the Jewish people's default residency. They are partially or fully displaced from the land only when there is a spiritual reason for this to happen.


The parsha (Lev. 25) begins with the following verses.

25:1 And G-d spoke to Moshe on the Mountain of Sinai, saying.

25:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, 'When you come to the land that I give you then the land should rest (lay fallow) a Sabbath of G-d'

25:3 'You shall sow your field for six years and you shall prune your vinyard for six years and you shall gather its produce.'

25:4 'And on the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of rest for the land, a Sabbath of G-d, you may not sow your field and you may not prune your vinyard.'

The parsha presents the mitzva (commandment) of the seventh year in the second verse, discusses the other six years in the third verse, and then goes back to the seventh year in the fourth verse. Why does it jump back and forth?

From the wording of the third verse it would seem that there is a commandment to work the field during the first six years. However, we find no requirement in the Oral Torah for a Jew to do farming. One can be a fully observant Jew by working in the Temple, being a professional, and of course being a full-time Torah scholar.

The following came to mind.

Especially during ancient times, cessation from farming created a lot of free time for the farmer.

A Jew is commanded to use his every free moment for study and growth. It is therefore expected that the farmer would use most/all of the extra time for Torah study, not for unnecessary leisure and entertainment. During the six years, a person is motivated out of necessity to be productive and work hard.

On the seventh year, one who uses the time properly will maintain his level of productivity through study. However, one who squanders his time and takes a laid back attitude during this year-long period will not be in any mood or shape to jump back into the grind when it's all over. It may take months or years for him to recover from the vacation.

So the parsha introduces the laws of the seventh year with a reference to that year and then the six years of work. By doing so, the Torah is telling the farmer a very important lesson about his year off. The seventh year must be observed in a manner so that the farmer will have six years of full productivity afterwards.

The fourth verse and on provides further detail about this seventh year.


25:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them, "When you come to the land that I give to you (that) the land shall rest a Shabbos for G-D (Hashem)."

Rashi provided the following commentary: [You shall rest a Shabbos] for the name of G-D (Hashem), just like it says by the Shabbos of creation.

Those who read the Torah in Hebrew know that several different names are used to reference G-D.

These names enable us to understand and discuss a set of related activities that G-D does.

One of these names is "E-lokim." It represents the natural world with its apparently unbending rules of nature. The human mind is dazzled by the complexity of the gigantic number of its components and their interrelationships. Ancient philosophers refused to recognize that it was the design and handiwork of G-D. Instead, they promoted the idea that the natural world was always there. It had no beginning and has no end.

Another name begins with the Hebrew letter "Yud" and has three other letters. It represents that which is closest to the core of our understanding G-D. It represents G-D as a dynamic and continual source of all existence. It signifies that G-D is not bound by any rule, including those of nature. Nature is no more than habit, subject to change at G-D's will.

Out of respect to its holiness we do not pronounce this name as it is written. In this text we use the word "Hashem".

The above verse, Leviticus 25:2 refers to G-D as Hashem. Rashi says that it's the same as that which is in the Torah by the Shabbos of creation.

However, the account of the Shabbos of creation is in Genesis 2. There, Torah uses the word "E-lokim," not Hashem.

Why is Rashi trying to tell us by associating both names with the laws of the Sabbatical year?

The Chamudei Tzvi commentary provides the following explanation.

The Torah is speaking to a nation that left Egypt in a manner that did not conform to the laws of nature. Their daily sustenance and comforts came to them in ways that were above nature. They lived in two worlds, in that of nature and in that which is above nature, reflected by both names of G-D.

They were about to enter the Land of Israel. It will soon appear to them that the lakes and rain clouds are their source of water, not a miraculous travelling well. Their bread will no longer drop from the sky every morning. Rather, it will appear to come from that which grows from the ground and after much toil.

G-D as "E-lokim" will appear to be everywhere. They will have to look much harder to see that G-D as Hashem is still there, as always, even within our natural lives.

The Torah therefore gave us the laws of Sabbatical year to remind us that G-D as Hashem is with us, as always, and that when He wills it we are not bound by nature.

Agricultural science discusses two-year crop rotation, three-year crop rotation, and four-years. Nobody recommends planting for six straight years because that practice could deplete the soil of its nutrients over time.

Yet, the Torah in 25:3 enjoins us to sow for six consecutive years and to not be concerned about exhausting the fields. And the Torah proclaims in 25:21 that on the sixth year, when the nutrients should be at their lowest level, the land will produce enough food to last for three years.


25:4 And on the seventh year the land shall have a complete Shabbos (Sabbath), a Shabbos for G-D. You may not seed your field and you may not prune your vineyard.

The next Torah reading tells us that the Jewish people can be exiled from their land if they disregard the sabbatical year.

26:24 Then will the land be appeased for its sabbaticals for all the years of its desolation. And you will be in the land of your enemy. Then shall the land rest and be appeased for its sabbaticals.

Why is exile a fitting reaction to disregarding the sabbatical year?

The following explanation is provided by the commentary Yaalas Chain and is cited by Rabbi Bick, of blessed memory.

Rashi introduces the Torah with the following commentary:

Rabbi Yitzchak said, "G-d needed only to begin the Torah with the verse, 'This month (of Nisan) shall be for you the head [i.e. first] of all months" (Exodus 12:2), for this was the very first commandment that the Jewish people were charged with. Why then did He open (the Torah) with 'In the beginning (G-d created the heaven and the Earth)?' This is because of the verse, "He informed His nation the power of his acts in order to give them the estate of nations (Psalms 111:6)." In case the nations of the world call the Jewish people thieves for conquering the lands of the seven nations (of Cannan), the Jewish people will (now be able to) respond that all of the Earth belongs to G-d. He created it and gave it to whoever was proper in His eyes. He intentionally gave (the land) to them and He intentionally took it from them and gave it to us.

We see that it is nothing new for our claim on our land to be challenged by critics. We also see that our claim is based on the sincerity that we have and that we demonstrate that G-D is the Creator of heaven and earth. For if He is the creator then he owns everything and can therefore give it to whomever He desires.

Shabbos observance demonstrates our belief that G-D is the creator (Exodus 20:11). The sabbatical years are described in 25:4 as a "Shabbos for G-D."

So if we disregard the sabbatical year then our behavior is inconsistent with our belief that G-D is the creator.

This weakens our claim that we have a right to live on the land.

This is why the Torah associates exile with disregarding the sabbatical laws.

I would not take this as a license to perpetrate outrages against the Jewish people who live in Israel or anywhere else. The continual and aggressive beatings of the outsiders and their ancestors have weakened us. And who do you think will be blamed by Heaven for that?

At the same time, we can not afford to do less than our utmost to strengthen our observance and beliefs.


25:14 And when you sell something to your fellow or (when) you purchase something from the hand of your fellow, no person shall cheat his brother.

25:17 And no man shall cheat his fellow, and you shall have fear from your G-d. I am Hashem your G-d.

The Oral Torah focuses verse 14 on cases of misrepresenting commercial values. A transaction can be nullified or a refund is due if the price is not within a sixth of actual market value.

The Oral Torah teaches that verse 17 is a prohibition against verbal abuse.

While verbal abuse is a social weakness, it is significant that the Torah addresses it in the same language and section as that of cheating in business transactions. Perhaps the Torah is trying to bring our attention on how it views the essence of verbal cruelty.

Culture has a popular saying, 'Sticks and stones can break my bones but names can never hurt me.'

This may provide a victim with energy to withstand an onslaught but it does not discourage the perpetrator.

Perhaps the Torah is trying to tell us that every person has a natural self-worth. Verbal abuse is an act of devaluation. It cheats the victim from the esteem that he/she is entitled to.

Let's take this opportunity to review the laws of verbal abuse, as coded by the Rambam (Yad Hachazaka) in the section entitled, 'Laws of Sales' (Chapter 14).

12: Just as there is cheating in business, so is this possible to do this with words, as it says, 'And no man may cheat his fellow, and you shall have fear from your G-d. I am Hashem your G-d.' This is a reference to verbal abuse.

13: What is verbal abuse: If a person is a baal teshuvah (he has acted improperly and afterwards repented), one may not say to him: 'Remember how you used to act.' If he is the son of a convert, one may not say to him: 'Remember how your father used to act.' If a convert comes to study Torah, one may not say to him, 'How can a mouth that once eat forbidden foods now come and learn (speak in) words of Torah, that which was given from the mouth of G-d?' If (G-d forbid) sickness or suffering comes upon someone, or if one (G-d forbid) was burying his children, one may not speak to him in the manner that Iyov (Job's) friends spoke .. (i.e. You must have deserved this misfortune because of the way that you acted.)

14: If donkey drivers are looking for food to feed their animals, do not direct them to a person who you know has never sold any food. If a question is posed and it requires subject matter expertise, do not turn to someone who does not have this expertise and request his opinion. And so it is in similar cases.

18: Verbal cheating is more serious than cheating in business. The latter can be refunded but not the former. The latter is done with one's money but the former is done with one's body. About verbal abuse, the Torah writes, 'And you shall have fear from your G-d.' This is because abuse may be dependent on a person's intent, and the Torah addresses matters that deal with thought with the phrase, 'And you shall have fear from your G-d.' Finally, anyone who cries out of pain from verbal abuse will be answered (by G-d) immediately, as it states, 'For I am G-d.'

I leave the statistical correlation between cheating in business and verbal abuse to the behavioral scientist.


25:10 And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year, and you shall proclaim freedom in the land (of Israel) for all of its inhabitants. This shall be a Yovel for you. Each person shall return to his ancestral inheritance and his family

25:11 It is Yovel, the fiftieth year shall be to you. Do not plant. Do not harvest .

25:12 For it is Yovel. It shall be sanctified for you. You shall eat the produce from the field.

25:13 Each person shall return to his ancestral inheritance on the fiftieth year.

Every fifty years, ancestral lands in Israel return to the seller or to his family.

25:23 And the land may not be permanently sold, because the land is Mine (G-d's), for you are sojourners and settlers with Me.

Yovel also terminates the service of Jewish servants.

25:10 associates freedom with the return of ancestral inheritances. How is this to be understood?

The Torah writes that we return to our ancestral inheritances, instead of writing that our ancestral inheritances return to us. What is the Torah trying to tell us?

Yovel affects ancestral inheritances, terms of servitude, and agriculture.

25:10 addresses how Yovel affects ancestral inheritances and terms of servitude. 25:11-12 addresses agriculture. 25:13 only mentions ancestral inheritance. Why does 25:10 group ancestral inheritance and terms of servitude together? Why does 25:13 only mention ancestral inheritance?

The following came to mind.

A person who lacks proper direction and self control is a slave in the deepest sense of the word. Such a person's life can become confused with that of a creature.

The Jewish heritage provides guidelines and direction. It is our greatest resource. The Torah defines human behavior and existence in a manner enables us to rise above the animal world, towards greatness and an immortality with joy.

As the land returns to us every fifty years, we have a fresh opportunity to internalize the ties with our ancestors, they who provided us with our way of life and our destiny.

Thus, Yovel gives us an opportunity to return to our ancestral inheritance in a higher sense. Perhaps this is why the Torah writes in 25:10 that we return to the inheritance instead of writing that the inheritance returns to us.

Thus, the return to ancestral inheritance and the exit from servitude have a common theme. Perhaps this is why they are grouped together in verse 25:10.

Perhaps 25:13 mentions only the return to ancestral inheritance to provide a prime focus for the Yovel, a resource for us to return to our roots.


25:20 Should you say, "What will we eat on the seventh year? Behold we will not sow and we will not gather up our produce."

25:21 And I will authorize My blessing for you on the sixth (Sabbatical) year and the grain will produce for the three years.

25:22 And you shall sow on the eighth year and you shall eat from the old grain. You shall eat (from the) old grain until the ninth year, until its grain comes (in).

How did the three years of produce and the extension into the ninth year work with the observance of the seventh year and the availability of food?

Crops are planted in the winter and harvested in the spring.

The calendar year begins in Tishrei, in the fall. The sabbatical year begins in Tishrei of the seventh year and ends right before the Tishrei of the eighth.

As there is no planting in the winter of the seventh year, the harvest of the sixth year must last through the end of the sixth year, through Tishrei of the seventh, through the spring of that seventh year when the winter crop would have been available, through the winter planting and growing season of the next year, until spring when eighth year's crop is harvested.

Thus, we have the produce of the sixth year being available for the second half of that year, all of the seventh, and the first half of the eighth year, about twenty-four months that span three calendar years.

This is how we understand verse 21, "the grain will produce for the three years."

Rashi says that the spring harvest was placed in storage in the summer and gathered into the houses before winter.

The Mizrachi commentary explains that the abundance that G-D bestowed upon the Jewish people and the land caused that we always had enough from crop of the previous year to last not just up to the harvest of the next year but through the end of that year as well.

For example, when we planted during the winter of the fifth year, it was harvested and available in the spring. This crop was also available while the next crop grew during the winter of the sixth year. G-D's blessing was such that when the sixth year's crop was available in the spring of that year, we had plenty left over from the fifth year's produce, into the fall of the next year, the seventh.

Had there been no sabbatical year, the same would have happened to the crop of the sixth year and it would have lasted through the beginning of eighth year, into the fall.

The observance and special blessing of the sabbatical year extended this another year, to fall of the ninth year. Hence "You shall eat (from the) old grain until the ninth year."


25:23 And the land [in Israel] may never be permanently sold for the land is Mine, for you are strangers an sojourners with Me.

If the land belongs to G-D and not us, then how can we sell it for even less than fifty years?

How can we understand the concept that we are strangers and sojourners with G-D?

The prohibition to permanently sell the land is observed when the Yovel (Jubalee) year is observed which is when most of the Jewish people are living in the Land of Israel. What message can we take from this association?

The Torah rarely provides reasons for its commandments. Why does the Torah provide a reason for this particular commandment?

The following came to mind.

It is natural for human beings to need reminders that our tenure on this earth is temporary. The more one is able to accept and deal with not assigning permanence to life in this world, the less a person is likely to become committed to physicality.

Rav Levi in the Talmud teaches that while the earth and its fullness belongs to G-D (Tehilim / Psalms 24:1), He assigns us ownership (115:16) once we inject spirituality into our partaking of physicality. At a minimum, we do this by reciting a blessing for that which He gives (Brachos 35a).

The land is ours to sell, as G-D gives us the land once we sell it in a compliant manner. Selling the land on permanent terms suggests dedication to physicality and can thus be viewed as contradictory to G-D's ownership.

In the next world, the reality of G-D's existence will be no less obvious to us as our being able to see the noses in front of our face. The physical world is presented to us in a manner that G-D's presence is not obvious. In a figurative sense, perhaps one can read this in by the Torah saying that G-D is, so to speak, a stranger and sojourner in this world.

As one comes to actualize the Torah into his/her life, the more one is able to deal properly with viewing the afterlife being the destination of a temporary 120-year journey through life in this world.

In a small and limited way, those who strive towards the Torah's spirituality share the concept of being a stranger and sojourner with G-D.

Our being solidly planted in the Land of Israel with the majority of the Jewish people living there gives need to additional reminders of our being temporary residents on this earth. When we are dispersed and at greater risk of mistreatment by our neighbors, this unfortunate situation provides ample opportunities to remind us of our frailty.

Given that this law helps provide a context for our very existence on this earth, perhaps this is why its reasons were enumerated.


25:23 And the land may not be sold permanently, for the earth is Mine, for you are sojourners and residents with Me.

Rashi provides the following commentary for the phrase, "for the earth is Mine:"

(The prohibition of selling the land) should not upset you because (the land) does not belong to you (in the first place).

How do we understand the last phrase, "for you are sojourners and residents with Me?" What does this have to do with not being able to permanently sell the land? Also, the verse seems to be saying that G-d is a sojourner and a resident in the land. How do we understand this?

The following came to mind.

In Genesis 23:4 Avraham (Abraham) called himself a sojourner and a resident in the Land of Canaan. Referencing a Medrash, Rashi in Genesis notes that these words are contradictory. A sojourner is not a resident and visa versa.

Avraham used these terms to obtain a burial plot for Sarah. Although G-d promised him the land, he was content to take the role of a sojourner as long as the current residents in the Land of Canaan would extend the courtesy of selling him a burial plot. However, should they refuse to sell him a plot, then Avraham was ready to assume his rightful role of a resident and he would assert his the right to have a burial plot for his wife.

In our portion, the Torah is saying that we are sojourners and residents with G-d.

Perhaps we can understand the resident with G-d as a person who is frequently conscious of G-d's existence and presence. Perhaps the sojourner with G-d is a person who is less conscious of G-d's existence and presence. He believes in G-d but he has not yet worked on bringing his belief into his personal operative reality, as compared to the resident.

If this is correct, then we need not read the verse to imply that G-d is a sojourner or a resident.

The restoration of ancestral property serves to strengthen the identification that we have with our ancestors. Our ancestors are our greatest role models of a life of faith. By remembering then, we elevate G-d's presence within our consciousness.

Since a good number of us are sojourners, the Torah restricts the sale of ancestral lands to insure that as many people as possible will have this opportunity to actualize their faith.


25:4 But on the seventh year there shall be a total cessation for the land, a Shabbos for G-D. You may not sow your field nor may you prune your vineyard (during this year.)

25:11 The fiftieth year shall be for you a Yovel (Jubilee). Do not sow and do not cut its after-growth and do not harvest its grapes that were set aside.

25:15 You should purchase (fields) from your fellow citizen according to the number of years after the Yovel. He should sell you the number of years according to the number of crop years.

25:16 The purchase price shall increase for a greater number of years (before the Yovel) and the purchase prices shall decrease for a lesser number of years. This is because he is selling you the number of crop years.

25:17 One may not cheat his fellow. You shall fear G-D for I am Hashem your G-D.

25:20 Should you say, "What will we eat on the seventh year? Behold we will not sow and we will not gather up our produce."

25:21 And I will authorize My blessing for you on the sixth (Sabbatical) year and the grain will produce for the three years.

25:22 And you shall sow on the eighth year and you shall eat from the old grain. You shall eat (from the) old grain until the ninth year, until its grain comes (in).

Verse 15 appears to be charging both the purchaser and the seller. Why does a purchaser need to hear this charge? Furthermore, anybody who can read verse 15 should have been able to read the preceding verses and should know on his own that since the field will return back to the owner, the price should vary in accordance with the years remaining to Yovel. Only a fool would think otherwise. Why is there a need for this verse?

What time frame does verse 20 address? It would seem that the Torah is talking to someone in the planting season of seventh year and who is wondering how he is going to feed his family if he does not sow his crops. But if so, since verses 21-22 promises an abundance from the crops of the sixth year then why would a person worry on the seventh year if his stores are filled with overflow?

The following came to mind, based on what I was taught.

If you look carefully, the Torah does not promise abundance on the sixth year. Rather, the Torah promises that the produce of that one year will be sufficient for three.

Actually, this is what a blessing is all about.

The Talmud (Yoman 39a) records that the blessing that G-D assigned to the show-bread in the Temple was such that a portion the size of an olive would satisfy the priests who ate it. Indeed, some priests could not eat even that much and less than the size of an olive was sufficient.

Therefore, it was conceivable that at the beginning of the winter of the seventh year, the farmer's storehouses would be half-full, as the produce of the sixth year could have been half-consumed from the time it was harvested in the summer. The Torah is therefore telling the farmer that the half-year supply will last another two and a half years.

Indeed, the power of the sabbatical cycle lies not in its ability demonstrate how G-D can make enough food to fill up our bellies. Rather, the power comes from experiencing G-D's demonstration that we can make do with less.

The crops of the sixth year are the vehicle by which G-D makes this demonstration.

With this in mind, perhaps we can answer the question that was posed for verse 15.

Given G-D's promise that the crops of the sixth year will last for multiple years, a land owner may feel he has a case to increase the price for the crops of the final year in the Yovel cycle.

In particular, the crops of the forty-eighth year were especially significant because they are destined to last an additional fourth year due to the planting prohibitions of the Yovel year (Rashi 25:22).

The Torah has to therefore tell both the seller and the purchaser to not allow the miracle of the forty-eighth year's crops to have any bearing on the price.

This is because the miracle is only guaranteed for the person who owns both the crop of the forty-eighth year and the land during the sabbatical and Jubilee years, for it is only he who relies on the land for meeting his needs throughout these critical periods. The only person for whom this applies is a person who does not sell his land. That is, if the land owner sells all the crops prior to the Jubilee then he lacks the vehicle by which G-D can provide him with this demonstration. The purchaser has no guarantee either, as he has no reason to rely on the land that will go back to the original owner during the Yovel.

We can answer another question with this approach.

Verses 21-22 encourage compliance by guaranteeing that the crops will last three years. Given that the miracle will need to be extended an additional year for the crop of the forty-eighth year (Rashi), why doesn't the Torah use the forty-eighth year as its example?

With our approach we can now say that the Torah wants this message to serve two purposes. One is to strengthen the land owner who does not sell his land and the other is to clarify the extent of the miracle for cases when the land owner does sell his land. Since the miracle of the forty-eighth year has no application in the latter case, the Torah does not use it as an example.


25:21 And I will authorize My blessing for you on the sixth (Sabbatical) year and the grain will produce for the three years.

25:22 And you shall sow on the eighth year and you shall eat from the old grain. You shall eat (from the) old grain until the ninth year, until its grain comes (in).

The verses appear to be saying that the grain of the sixth year will be needed for three years but that people will eat from it into the fourth year.

The following appears to be the timetable according to Rashi:

Year six, Passover: Sixth year crop is available and begins to be eaten. The crop of the fifth year is either not strong or abundant enough and people begin to eat from the sixth year's crop, which has yet to be left in the fields to dry out. The crop of this year will be used for three years and will be eaten through the time that crops are gathered in on the ninth year, the holiday of Succos.

Year seven, Rosh Hashana: Beginning of the Sabbatical Year. This is the second year during which the crop of the sixth year is being used. It will be used only for food throughout this year, as planting is forbidden.

Year seven, Succos: The crop of the sixth year has been sufficiently dried in the fields and is brought into the storehouses.

Year eight, Rosh Hashana: Beginning of the eighth year. This is the third year during which the blessed crop of the sixth year is being used. It will be used for food and also for planting.

Year eight, month two (Cheshvan): Planting with grain from the sixth year's crop.

Year eight, Passover: Eighth year crop is available. Blessed grain of the sixth year is still being eaten and the entire crop of the eighth year is left to dry in the fields. This is unlike the sixth year, where people felt the need or desire to eat from that year's crop.

Year nine, Succos: The blessed crop of the sixth year was so strong and abundant that until then, people had no need or preference for tapping into the eighth year's crop. The crop of the eighth year is fully dried.

So, the sixth year produced a crop that was needed for three years, which is verse 25:21.

Verse 25:22 clarifies that the blessing will be such that people will prefer to use it for the entire third year and into the fourth, when a full crop of the eight year of similar quality becomes available.

The Torah promises that this will occur every seven years except for Yovel (Jubilee), when the blessing extends an additional year to compensate for the additional year during which work may not be done in the fields.

Our economy was based on agriculture. The expectation that we all rely on a cyclical miracle of this nature is one of the many proofs that the Torah came from G-D.


25:53 He [the Jew who sold himself into the service of a non-Jew] shall be (treated by his master) like a yearly hired hand. He [the master] shall not work him before you with might.

Rabbenu Yona reads this verse to be a commandment against exploiting our fellow, regardless of whether the aggressor is Jewish or not.

The dignity of our fellow is to be held in such esteem that it is a violation of this commandment to ask someone to do something if that person would be doing it out of fear or embarrassment. (Shaarei Teshuva 3:60)


From Talmudic sources, Rashi (26:1) provides meaning to the sequence of verses in this parsha.

The Torah first provides guidelines for the Sabatical Year. Then it discusses the sale of intangible property, then the sale of real-estate, then the sale of a house, then lending money with interest, then a person who sells himself to be a slave to another Jew, and finally a person who sells himself to be a slave to a non-Jew.

The Torah actually is presenting a cause and effect relationship.

A Jew must refrain from commercializing with the fruits of the Sabatical Year. If a person craves for money and becomes suspected of business dealings with these fruits, he will come to sell his intangible property. If he does not learn his lesson, he will come to sell his real-estate. If he still does not learn, he will sell his house, until he sells himself into slavery, and to a Gentile, unless he stops the process by repenting.

One can assume that the sin of dishonest business dealings is much more prevalent because it can happen on any year and it is not dependent on the Sabatical Year. Given the need to encourage control for money craving, why did the Torah link the cause and effect relationship with the Sabatical Year and not with the prohibition against dishonesty?

Also, if the sin is caused from money craving and it results in the person selling his things and then himself, he will wind up with more money from the sales. Is it really a punishment for him? He wanted money and he gets more money. Wouldn't it be more fitting for the to lose money, instead?

Finally, let's look at the final links in this chain of events. The Torah commands the family to redeem him from slavery. In case this fails, the enslavement is to end by the Yovel year. Why does the Torah have mercy on a person who disregarded so many warnings?

The following came to mind.

Dishonesty may come out of perceived necessity, when a person fears that he will starve unless he cuts corners.

The Torah guarantees (25:19) that there will be sufficient food during the Sabatical Year. Thus, if a person engages in forbidden commerce during this year, it is more probable that it is caused by money craving, not out of necessity and it is for this reason that the Torah selects the Sabatical Year to illustrate this chain of events.

Humans, subject to the frustrations from weakness and subject to anger when frustrated, sometimes punish in a destructive manner. On the other hand, G-d, who is all-powerful and who dearly loves every person always punishes in a constructive manner. His punishments are always therapeutic. Our subject is then G-d's patient. Aren't we all?

G-d, in His greatness, works with a person where he is at. 'Heaven guides the person in the way that he wants to walk.' 'Train a youth according to his manner.'

So, this person craves money and G-d gives him money. However, each time the person gets money, it hurts a bit more because the person needs to give up things of increasing value. Perhaps he will stop to correct his flaw before he runs out of things to sell.

Wealth is the greatest medicine for money craving. Our greatest wealth is our freedom, our own selves. Our person failed to see this wealth and, if not caught in time, the person loses himself into slavery.

The Torah seeks to have the person learn from the acts of his family, who spare no funds to redeem him, demonstrating the relative insignificance of money. If this fails, the person must live as a slave and learn the value of freedom, to appreciate the wealth he once had.

He eventually goes free. If he learned his lesson then he is cured, for he can now enjoy and be protected by the wealth of his freedom. If not, since life-time slavery will not provide additional benefit, he is freed.


26:1 You shall not make idols for yourselves and you shall not erect for yourselves a statue or an offering stone. And you shall not place in your land a stone slab to prostrate (yourselves) upon it, for I am Hashem your G-D.

Rashi writes that verses fourteen through forty-seven of the previous chapter suggest a story of someone whose spiritual shortfall prompted Heaven to make him experience a series of financial calamities, each worse than the one before it.

Specifically, he will first need to sell personal items (25:14). If he does not repent then he will come to sell his ancestral land (25:15). If he does not mend his ways he will feel the need to sell his home (25:29). If he still does not repent then he will come to borrow with interest (25:36). And if he still does not change then he will sell himself into bondage (25:39), to a Jew and then to a non-Jew (25:37).

Rashi identifies the spiritual shortfall that triggered these misfortunes. He says that the person coveted wealth and became suspected as one who was not keeping the laws of the Sabbatical Year.

Note that the person was only suspected by his peers as not observing the Sabbatical Year. This raises the bar for how we are expected to behave, a nation that experiences the miracle of surviving and even thriving through the Sabbatical Years.

It is interesting that Rashi adds the flaw of coveting money. At first glance this does not appear to be connected to anything in our weekly Torah reading.

The following came to mind.

The cessation of farming for the entire Sabbatical Year is a test of one's confidence in G-D that He will provide for ones needs and those of his family. For those who have not developed this confidence it can be likened to living on the edge for an extended period. But one who has a substantial cash reserve is typically insulated. He can come to feel secure and in control of his fate.

Coveting and accumulating money can indicate a lack of confidence in G-D's promise to care for us during the Sabbatical Year. And if others see a person accumulate wealth around this period then the enthusiasm that they will need to survive and thrive may cool off.

Therefore, if the person continues to accumulate wealth despite his falling into ill fortune a number of times then Heaven lets him slide into bondage, where all will see that his fate is under the control of another person.


Parshas Bechukosai (Lev. 26-27)

26:3 If you walk in My statutes, guard My commandments, and you will do them.

Following this verse, the Torah lists what appears to be many wonderful consequences if we are in compliance.

However, this does not seem to match another teaching, "Reward for fulfilling the commandments is (optimally) not given in this world Talmud Kedushin 39b).

There are numerous ways to resolve the contradiction. One that I recently saw is that while the actual reward is reserved for the world to come, one can receive supplementary reward in this world for the enthusiasm that he/she adds when fulfilling the commandment.

A fully observant person can initially be so much into himself that he views the commandments as a burden. This is an unfortunate and hopefully temporary state. However, it is still praiseworthy because the person is compliant, albeit out of fear. At times this can lead to inconsistent behavior and even nervousness, while the person struggles with what he/she wants versus what G-D expects.

However, as one works to understand the significance of the commandments, who he is, and his relationship with G-D, his values begin to change and he begins to serve G-D out of love, instead of fear. He comes to view fulfilling the commandments as a privilege, not as a chore.

Since he worked to change his values in this world, it is only fitting that Heaven should recognize this accomplishment and reward him here with wonderful things that he values.


26:3 If you walk in My statutes, guard My commandments, and you will do them.

26:4 And I will give your rain in their (proper) time. And the land shall give its produce. And the tree of the field shall give its fruit.

…

The utopian blessings described in verses 26:4-12 have eluded us.

Rabbi Sorotzkin in his book Rinas Yitzchak provides the following insight.

The Rambam writes that there will be no hunger or war during the Messianic Era. There will be no jealousy or quarreling. There will be bountiful goodness in the world and all of the delicacies will be as available to us as the earth itself is. And humanity will focus exclusively on knowing G-D. (Kings 12:5)

Rabbi D Soloveitchik notes that this appears to contradict what the Rambam himself wrote in the beginning of this very same section.

"Let it not enter your heart that the natural order of the world will be altered during the Messianic Era or that there will be anything new within the realm of Genesis. Rather, the world will continue on as usual (Kings 12:1)."

A world without war and quarreling and having delicacies being equally available as earth is a very different from what we are used to. I would think that it would need a massive change in natural order to make it happen.

And humanity will focus exclusively on knowing G-D. This means that we won't focus anymore on sports, entertainment, hobbies, work, dominating, manipulating, etc. Are we speaking about the same planet?

The answer lies in a profound rework on how we view our role and significance on this earth.

G-D designed nature to be in perfect harmony with mankind's desires and needs. But He linked this to the degree that mankind's behavior is in harmony with the Torah's expectations.

Life won't be great until we are great, which appears right now to be pretty impossible, unless we get some great push from Above.

It could take as little as less than a day for that to work out.


26:3 If you walk in My statutes, guard My commandments, and you will do them.

Chapter 26 is telling us that if we properly observe the commandments then we will have an easy life and if not then we will have a hard life.

On the surface the difference relates to the quality of a person's material life. The Oral Torah adds that there is an afterlife and that conformance makes a very big difference in our eternal destiny. The Seforno commentary adds yet another dimension.

Like Rashi's commentary, guarding the commandments means studying them. One must know exactly how the Torah expects us to observe each commandment and one must have an idea of the intentions and benefits behind every commandment. By paying attention to the details as they were commanded through Moshe and by focusing on the intention of the commandments, we will fulfill G-D's intention that we be in His image and likeness.

The Sefurno reads the last phrase, "and you will do them' in a very unique manner. The Torah is not simply adding another condition, that we must actually observe the commandments. Rather, the Torah is promising that if a person guards the commandments then he will come to do them because he will want to do them. It is the Torah observance itself that will come easy.


26:5-6 … And you shall eat your bread to satisfaction and you shall dwell in security in the land. And I shall make it peaceful in the land and you shall lie down to sleep and not be frightened …

If we will dwell in security and if it will be peaceful, then one can assume that we will be not be stirred when we go to sleep.

The Be'er Moshe commentary offers the following explanation from the Chasam Sofer's commentary on a verse in Koheles (Ecclesiastics).

The sleep of the worker is sweet, whether he eats a little or a lot. But the satiation of the rich does not allow him to sleep.

The Chasam Sofer says that it's not the rich person who can't sleep. Rather, the verse is saying that the satiation of the rich does not allow the poor worker to sleep, because he is unhappy with his lot.

Similarly says the Be'er Moshe, the Torah is promising those who walk in the ways of the Torah that they will be satisfied with their life and not feel anxious because others have more than they.


26:10 And you shall eat the very old (produce - that which is two years old), and the old (produce - that which is last year's crop) you will take out (export - S'forno) because of the new (crop that comes in and you won't have any place to store it).

The section that contains this verse provides G-d's promise of abundance and happiness if the Jewish people are careful to study and keep the Torah.

Why will be eating the very old produce?

Rashi explains that while today, most foods get spoiled with age, during the period of abundance G-d will reverse the process and food will improve with age.

If so, in the above scenario that we will have room to store only two crops, why would we remove last year's crop to make room for the new crop? Since last year's is older it tastes better. We should keep it for ourselves and export the new crop, instead. If this is the very reason for exporting the year-old crop, which would bring in more profit due to its age, then why wouldn't we export the two-year-old crop, which has an even greater value?

The following came to mind.

We are speaking about a G-d fearing and G-d loving generation. Harvesting the new crop and bringing it into our storehouse will provide a greater opportunity to feel grateful and close towards G-d than if it would be diverted for export. The better taste of year-old crop is comparatively insignificant.


This parsha can be seen to have three sub-sections. The first two focus on the significance of our acts, specifying the consequences of our deeds, both good and bad. The last sub-section deals with laws of valuations and consecrations for the Temple.

How does the third section relate to the first two?

The following came to mind.

The second section describes in great detail the calamity which can occur if the Jewish people are not sufficiently careful to observe the Torah. In fact, we have a tradition that these dire events became a reality with the destruction of the First Temple.

It is natural for a people who have failed and who must endure suffering for their failure to become discouraged. Perhaps the selection of laws to immediately follow can be understood to reduce the risk of further failings which can result from discouragement.

For example, the laws of valulation assign equal value to people of the same age and sex regardless of whether they are healthy or sick, complete or disfigured, functional or maimed. Thus, a person in the lowest state of physical existence has intrinsic self-value. This can serve to encourage the Jewish people to carry on with Torah observance even after the devastating experience of destruction. The laws of valulation conclude with by stating that a donor who is impoverished is obligated to give only that which he or she can afford. The amount which the Cohen determines is within the person's means is sufficient for G-d. The law does not descriminate between a person who became impovershed out of misfortune or out of neglegence.

The destruction of the First Temple greatly reduced the resources and ability of the Jewish people to serve G-d in the same manner as they had been doing for the past thousand years. We became like the impovershed Jew who was obligated to donate a sum of money but who could not afford to. Perhaps G-d is telling us to continue our Torah observance to the best of our ability, even though we are not able to accomplish as much as we had in the past.

The next laws deal with exchanges. One may not and can not exchange an animal that is consecrated for a sacrifice.

The Jewish people are consecrated to G-d. We are His 'Kingdom of priests and holy nation.' In spite of the greatest tragedy that G-d may direct against the Jewish people, we are assured that He will never choose another nation in their stead.

The laws of land valulation follow in verse 16. Ancestral lands have equal valulations, regardless of their market value or utility. Our link to our forefathers thus transcend physical considerations. We must therefore transcend the burdens of our exile and derive strength from the links to our glorious sources.

Many of the other laws in the last section of this parsha can be viewed and understood to relate to this theme.


26:14 And if you will not listen to me and will not do all of these commandments.

26:15 And if you will detest my statutes and if your souls loath my laws to cease from performing all of my commandments to rescind my covenant (with you).

Rashi notes that these verses reflect seven levels of spiritual backsliding, in successive degrees of seriousness. He writes that each downfall leads to the next. They are as follows:

  1. Not applying and exerting ourselves to understand the Torah and its associated Medrash of our scholars.
  2. Not observing the commandments.
  3. Detesting other people who observe the commandments.
  4. Hating Torah scholars.
  5. Preventing others from observing the commandments.
  6. Denying the authenticity of the commandments.
  7. Denying the existence of G-D.

In the previous Torah reading, Rashi notes that the laws of chapter 25 reflect several levels of material backsliding, in successive degrees of seriousness. He notes that they are consequences of improper behavior. He says that the succession continues until the person either repents or he reaches the bottom.

The misdeed is a person who desires financial gain and is suspected of dealing illegally with produce that was grown during the Sabbatical year.

  1. This will bring him to feel a need to sell some of his own belongings. (25:14)
  2. If he does not repent then he will come to feel a need to sell his ancestral real estate. (25:25).
  3. If he does not repent then he will feel a need to sell his home. (25:29)
  4. If he does not repent then he will feel a need to take a loan with interest. (25:37)
  5. If he does not repent then he will come to sell himself into slavery, and not to a fellow Jew but to a non-Jew. (25:47)

It is interesting to note differences and take lessons from the two different descriptions of backsliding.

In our reading, Rashi writes as if the downward spiral is assumed. In the previous chapter, at each step along the way the downslide occurs only if the person does not repent.

An explanation for this that came to mind is that the downfall is triggered by a lack of appreciation of the value and significance of the Torah and its teachings. At best, it is a flaw in a person's attitude. The person does not realize that the Torah reflects G-D's will and that we are charged to preserve its record so that it will not be forgotten for the rest of history. At worst, it reflects the person's disinterest in the idea that there is a G-D who has a will that dominates his life and that of all Mankind.

The downward steps of the preceding reading reflect a person's weakness, not a flaw in his attitude. He believes and is willing to subjugate to G-D's will. He is just struggling to make his actions consistent with his beliefs. Rashi therefore assumes more of a chance that the person will repent at one of the steps along the way.


26:14 And if you do not listen to me and don't do all of these commandments.

26:15 And if you despise my statutes and your soul detests my laws to not do all of my commandments, to revoke my covenant.

Rashi notes that the verses depict a succession of seven spiritual downfalls. "We have seven sins, each causing the next until the seventh. They are: Not learning, (then) not observing, (then) despising others who observe them, (then) hating (Torah) scholars, (then) preventing others (from keeping the commandments), (then) denying the commandments, (which finally brings one to) deny (the existence and role of) G-d.

This brings the following to mind.

It stands to reason that the Baal Teshuvah, one who has repented, should have taken the steps in the reverse order. Indeed, many people today are indeed on such an upwards path.

Due to a lack of an adequate Jewish background, the Baal Teshuvah of our generation will frequently start out on the seventh level. He or she may initially be a self-proclaimed atheist or an agnostic.

Life experience brings many people to realize that there is a G-d in the world who actively manages Mankind. The person now believes in a G-d but not in the Torah and its commandments.

Next, the person learns to recognize and appreciate the instructions for living that G-d gave us through Moshe (Moses). However, he/she is not yet ready to accept the implications of being commanded by a Torah. This surfaces as an irritation when they see others who obey commandments. So, while they now believe in G-d and His Torah, they initially obstruct others who keep it.

After a while, they begin to learn how to deal with this stress and they stop obstructing others. As they give more thought to Judaism and become more familiar with it, they realize that the Torah scholars represent and display the greatest examples of observance. The stress now surfaces as a hatred towards them.

Over time, the Baal Teshuvah comes in personal contact with Torah scholars and begins to appreciate their greatness. The hatred towards them melts and the frustration takes hold on the Baal Teshuvah's peers.

While they despise those who observe the Torah, the Baal Teshuvah notes that these sentiments are not reciprocal. Rather, the Torah community shows patience and love towards the struggling Baal Teshuvah.

Eventually, the Baal Teshuvah begins to follow the example of his/her peers and observes the commandments, bit by bit. He/she is cured of stress.

Finally, the Baal Teshuvah becomes motivated to study them, to know how to observe the commandments and to appreciate them. He/she has done Teshuval, repentance.


26:42 And I shall remember My covenant with Yaakov (Jacob) and even My covenant with Yitzchak (Isaac) and even My covenant with Avraham (Abraham), and I will remember the land.

Rashi notes that Yaakov's name is usually spelled with four Hebrew letters: Yud ('Y'), Ayin (the second 'a'), Kuf ('K'), and Vais ('V').

The Scriptures inject here and in four other places the letter Vav between the Kuf and the Vais.

And there are five places where the letter Vav is missing from Eliyahu (Elijah) the prophet's name.

We have a tradition that Eliyahu is charged to announce the future redemption, may it occur speedily in our days. (See Malachi 3:23).

Rashi writes that Yaakov took the five letter Vavs from Eliyahu's name and is holding them to ensure that Eliyahu will do his job.

I don't understand this but it sound interesting.

Jewish history has made us anxious to know when the final and complete redemption will occur. Far too many people have given predictions and so many of them are in the past.

We're tired of hearing predictions and just want it to happen already. From what I've read, I don't believe that we can ever know the date of Eliyahu's coming in advance.

I learned the following from Rav Hoberman's work, Ze'ev Yitrof:

The transformation that occurred from the period of our Egyptian exile occurred in two stages: (1) The end of slavery and suffering. (2) The completion of the redemption, which occurred when they entered the Promised Land.

Both were foretold to Avraham (Abraham). But we note from the following that he was only given a time limit for the suffering, not the completion of the redemption.

And He said to Avraham, "You shall surely know that your seed will be a stranger in a land that is not theirs. And they will serve them [their tormentors] and they will torment them for four-hundred years. … And the fourth generation shall return here …" Genesis 15:13 and 16.

For any exile, while the end of suffering can have a time limit, the completion of redemption cannot, for that depends on the merits of the generation, not on time.

Perhaps this is because G-D wants the generation that experiences the completion to feel a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment in that they made it happen on their own.

Perhaps we can understand this in another light, as illustrated by the following parable.

It was Rachala's birthday and Mommy wanted her to have a special birthday cake.

Mommy has made so many cakes for her growing family that she can predict to the minute how long each step takes and when the cake will be ready for decorating.

But she cannot tell us how long the decorating will take, for this is her special Rachala and Mommy wants her to have a beautiful cake. So she'll put a petal here and another smidgen of frosting there, until she feels that it's just right. Mommy can't be rushed and she'll tell you when it's done.

And so it will be with the final redemption.

The significance of this event will tower over anything that the mankind has seen and experienced for thousands of years.

Once it occurs, a vast segment of opportunity to earn spiritual accomplishment through our free-will choices shall cease, forever.

Only G-D knows when we are ripe.


26:44: And even so, when they are in the land of their enemies I did not abhor or detest them to destroy them to wave My covenant with them for I am Hashem their G-D.

26:45 And I will remember the covenant with those who were first, who I took out of Egypt before the eyes of the nations to be to them a G-D, I am G-D.

These verses follow an ominous list of misfortunes that can occur if we do not keep the Torah. Should the worst occur and we are exiled from the Land of Israel then these verses provide us with the consolation that G-D will never reject us and we will ultimately be restored.

Which covenant does verse 26:45 refer to?

Rashi provides the following from the Toras Kohanim: The (covenant with the) tribes.

The Book of Genesis (15:18) records a covenant that G-D made with our ancestor Avraham (Abraham). And we later find a covenant of circumcision. Where do we find a reference to a covenant that was made with the twelve tribes, Avraham's great-grandchildren?

Perhaps this refers to a tradition that no tribe will ever become extinct. That is, there will always be descendents among us from each of the twelve tribes.

So verse 26:45 would be telling us that not only will the Jewish people as a whole survive history, but so will every tribe..

Alternately, perhaps there is something else.

G-D appeared to our great ancestor Yaakov (Jacob) as he was leaving the Land of Israel to begin what became a two-hundred-ten year exile in Egypt.

The following was said in Genesis 46:

I am the G-D, G-D of your fathers. Fear not of going down to Egypt for I will make you a great nation there. I shall go down with you to Egypt and I shall bring you up, also up. And Yosef (Joseph) will place his hand over your eyes (when you pass away.)

G-D promised Yaakov in these verses that there will be a return back to the land of Israel

This was fulfilled in several ways for not only were the Jewish people restored back to their land after the Exodus, but Yaakov himself was brought back to Israel for burial (Genesis 50).

Furthermore, not only was Yaakov interred in Israel but so were the remains of his twelve sons, the tribes.

The great responsibility that is invested in the Jewish people and G-D's love together demand that they be provided a consolation in conjunction with the ominous warnings that are listed in this Torah reading.

In consoling a nation that may become exiled and decimated, the Torah makes reference to the covenant with the sons of Yaakov and is perhaps saying that just like they were restored to their ancestral homeland, so will their descendents also be restored someday.


26:44: And even so, when they are in the land of their enemies I did not abhor or detest them to destroy them to wave My covenant with them for I am Hashem their G-D.

26:45 And I will remember the covenant with those who were first , who I took out of Egypt before the eyes of the nations to be to them a G-D, I am G-D.

Dire consequences that result from not listening to what G-D expects of us are recorded here in Leviticus 26 and in Deuteronomy 28.

Leviticus 26-27 provide closure and consolation for the calamities enumerated in the previous verses. The calamities described in Deuteronomy 28 do not end with consolation and closure.

This is particularly concerning because we have a tradition that Leviticus 26 reflects the events resulting from the destruction of the first temple and Deuteronomy reflects those that followed the destruction of the second temple, which is the historical period that we live in.

The following provides clarification and comfort.

Rabbi Yonoson Eibeschutz (Yaari Im Divshi 3:3) teaches that the second exile was not an entirely different entity from the first. Rather, it was a continuation.

He writes that the refinement process that the Jewish people and the world needed to achieve the objective perfection was too much for them to bear at the time of the first destruction. He notes that much of the common folk were ignorant of basic Judaic principles and Torah knowledge. For example, in their weakened state many did not know about Shabbos, which is the fourth Commandment. Also, the intermarriage that is recorded in the scriptures was done largely because the common people did not know that it was prohibited.

Rabbi Eibeschuts says that the second temple period served to reconnect the Jewish people with their identity and destiny to enable them to complete the course of refinement that the first destruction started, if this continued to remain their only option due to their free-will choices.

Therefore, the verses of consolation and closure in our Torah reading are written for us as well, for we are on the same course of refinement.


27:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, "If a man expresses (in) a vow (the will to consecrate a sum of money) to G-D (equal to) your value of a (human) life."

27:3 Your value for a man from twenty years-old until sixty years, your value shall be fifty sacred shekel of silver.

The topic of valuations is written right after a most terrifying portion, where the Torah specifies what will happen if the Jewish people do not meet their responsibility to guard and observe the Torah.

What is the Torah trying to tell us by doing this?

The following came to mind.

In 27:3, the Torah teaches that if a person says: "I consecrate the value of this (thirty year-old) man to the Temple" that he must donate silver fifty shekels.

We all know that human life is priceless, that we can put no value on it. In the truest sense, if a person pledges to the Temple the value of any human life then the person should give up all of his assets and he should also spend the rest of his/her life raising additional funds for the Temple.

However, here we see that the Torah limits liability.

The dire predictions of the previous portion are directed toward a flawed generation. In the truest sense, they and their posterity would deserve to be destroyed because of the destructive acts that they are responsible for.

Yet, at the very end of the prediction the Torah states the following:

26:44 And still when they are in the land of their enemies I will not detest them [the Jewish people], neither will I abhor them to destroy them, to renounce My covenant with them, for I am Hashem their G-D.

26:45 And I will bring to mind for them the covenant of the first (generation of Jews), who I brought them from the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations (of the world) to be to them a G-D, I am Hashem.

Here to, we see that the Torah limits liability.

We are taught that the painful path that Jewish history has turned out to be is a tax that we have been paying for many years. Some day it will be all paid up.


25:2 Speak to the Children of Israel and tell them, "When you come to the land that I give to you (that) the land shall rest a Shabbos for G-D (Hashem)."

27:25 And all of the valuations that you make shall be with shekels of kodesh. The shekel shall be twenty gera (coins).

There were several types of shekels. One was called the shekel of kodesh, which means holiness.

The simple meaning of this verse is that all valuation donations shall be paid with shekels that had a value of twenty gera coins.

For example, if a person made a vow to donate the value of a seventy year old man then the fifteen shekels he is required to give would have a value of three-hundred gera coins.

At a deeper level, Rav Sternbuch suggests that the Torah is hinting at the following lesson.

The word shekel is also used to mean a weight or weighing.

We frequently seem to find enough money to acquire the things we want to have, such as a nice car or home furnishings.

Human nature being what it is, we frequently seem to have difficulty in seeing that we can afford to donate to holy / worthwhile causes.

The Torah in this verse is challenging us to be more consistent in our values.

We should therefore use no less than equal weights when we consider donating to charity as when we consider purchasing items for personal comfort.


27:32 And every tenth of the herd and flock, all that passes under the rod, the tenth shall be holy to G-D.

27:33 Do not seek out either the good or bad and do not exchange (that which you already consecrated). And if you should exchange it then it and its exchange shall be holy, it may not be redeemed.

27:34 These are the commandments that G-D commanded Moshe (Moses) on Mount Sinai for the Children of Israel.

These verses conclude chapter 27 and the entire Book of Leviticus.

Chapter 27 is preceded by chapter 26, a terrifying section that delineates awesome consequences that can occur as a result of non-conformance to the Torah's standards for behavior. I believe that we can say that on a superficial level that chapter 26 captures the reader's attention more than anything that follows.

Chapter 27 discusses laws of valuation, the first-born animal, consecration and redemption and it concludes with the above three verses.

We are taught that we can take lesson from the adjacency of verses to each other. For now we will focus on verse 33 and ask what message we can derive from it being written adjacent to chapter 26

The following came to mind.

Verse 26:44 reads as follows: And even so, when they are in the land of their enemy I (G-D) will not detest them or abhor them to destroy them to waive away my covenant with them, for I am Hashem their G-D.

The Orach Chaim commentary explains that the covenant that is referenced in this verse is that G-D will never exchange the Jewish people for another nation.

Perhaps then, verse 27:33 both reflects and reinforces this concept by stating that we are commanded by G-D to never exchange an animal for one that was consecrated, even if the exchange is for the better. Furthermore, once an animal is exchanged it may never lose its consecrated status through exchange.

So, if G-D expects us to never exchange that which is consecrated, given that the Jewish people have been consecrated to G-D then we can expect G-D to act accordingly.

Furthermore, verse 27:33 states that the consecration of the tithe must be random, that we may not do anything to insure that a certain type of animal either becomes consecrated or never becomes consecrated.

To me this is saying that both the choice of the herd and those that are on the other extreme are all acceptable to G-D.

We can reflect this concept back onto ourselves to remember that no matter how great or lowly a person is, everyone is of great value in G-D's eyes for He created us all and provided each and every one of us with a unique mission.

Perhaps we can take it further and say that it is not within our domain to know the true value of each person. Someone who we may hold in esteem may indeed be working so much below his/her potential that the person may rank low in G-D's eyes. And the reverse can also be said. A person who we may rank low may be held in great esteem in G-D's eyes for this person is either working far beyond his/her potential or the person has yet to be provided ample opportunity and circumstance to bring out the potential that G-D has implanted in him/her.


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In Loving Memory Of Our Mother, Mrs. Norma Black (Nechama Bas Tzvi Hirsh) O"H
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