Hadrash Ve-Haiyun Archives
There are two major holidays that have similar names; Purim and Yom Hakipurim. The literal translation of Yom Hakipurim is: "A day that is similar to Purim." A cursory glance at the two holidays seems to indicate the opposite. The two holidays have almost nothing in common. Yom Hakipurim is a day of fasting and prayer whereas Purim is day of lavish celebration. How then is Yom Hakipurim similar to Purim? Let us take a deeper look.
The highlight of Yom Kippur is the service of the kohen gadol (High Priest). It was on this day that the kohen gadol entered the holy of holies four times and performed an elaborate and complex service. Much of the holiday focuses on his service. Let us highlight some of the major points of his service.
- The Mishna, Gemara and commentaries (Yoma) describe in detail how seven days before Yom Kippur the kohen gadol was sequestered and prepared for his Yom Kippur service.
- Early Yom Kippur morning after the (sacrificial) offering of the tamid, ketores and the lighting of the menorah the kohen gadol would be presented with two identical he-goats. The Kohen gadol would then cast lots to determine which he-goat would have its blood sprinkled in the holy of holies and which one would go to Azazel. The one selected for Azazel would later be sent to its death by being thrown off a cliff.
- The kohen gadol enters the holy of holies for the first time and offers fragrant incense.
- The kohen gadol enters the holy of holies a second time and sprinkles the blood of his personal bull offering.
- The kohen gadol slaughters the he-goat that was selected by the lottery and enters the holy of holies a third time and sprinkles its blood.
- The kohen gadol confesses the sins of the Jewish people on the other he-goat that was chosen by lottery for Azazel and it is sent to its death by being thrown off a cliff.
- Later in the day, after the Kohen gadol finishes offering the musaffim he returns to the holy of holies for the fourth time and retrieves the spoon and shovel that were used to offer incense earlier that day.
- The following day the kohen gadol makes a great feast celebrating his survival and success in the performance of the service of Yom Kippur.
Let us now list some of the major events of the Megilah.
- The Megilah begins with an elaborate and detailed discussion as to how Esther was crowned the new queen of Achashveirosh.
- Haman plans to annihilate the Jewish people. In preparation, he cast lots as to determine the exact day to carry out his plan.
- Esther discovers Haman's plans and enters the inner chamber of the King for the first time. This was the first step of her plan to request the annulment of Haman's evil decree. She asks the King to come to a party later that day.
- Esther meets with the King for the second time at the party and requests that he attend another party the following day together with Haman.
- On the following day at the party, Esther meets with the King for the third time. She reveals her Jewish lineage and informs the King of Haman's evil plan.
- Haman is executed.
- Esther meets with the King for the fourth time and continues to plead that the evil decree be annulled.
- The following year the Jewish people celebrate the Purim miracle and declare it a permanent holiday for all time
When examining the sequence of events both in regard to the Yom Kippur service and the miracle of Purim we discover some similarities. If we contrast the two we may learn one from the other and gain deeper insight into both the service of Yom Kippur and the Purim miracle.
- Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us the Hashem (G-D) creates the antidote before the sickness. Chazal specifically illustrate this concept with the Purim story. Before Haman cast lots to destroy the Jewish people, Hashem already put Queen Esther in place so that she would be instrumental in saving the Jewish people. Likewise seven days before the Day of Judgment the kohen gadol was sequestered and prepared to serve as the agent of the Jewish people on the Day of Judgment and save them from harm.
- After the kohen gadol is in position and the daily service is performed the lots are cast for the he-goats. The casting of the lots may be interpreted as a symbolic representation and recognition of the Attribute of Justice. When the attribute of Justice prevails it appears as if everything happens by chance. When Hashem chooses to hide His Divine Presence we witness the suffering of the righteous and the prosperity of the wicked. It appears as if reward and punishment happen by chance. This is nothing other than the Attribute of Judgment. The kohen gadol is presented with two animals, one will be slaughtered for the holy service and the other at this point will remain alive. The selection seems to be pure chance. It seems not fair that the one selected for the holy service is slaughtered while the other one remains alive. Indeed, this concept of chance is the ideology of the wicked Haman. Haman did not believe in Divine Providence. In his opinion whatever happens in this world is a matter of pure chance. Haman used his power and relationship with the King to attempt to destroy the Jewish people. He felt that he was the lucky one. To express his beliefs he chose to carry out his plan by employing the use of a lottery, the tool of chance.
- After the kohen gadol has symbolically emphasized and recognized the attribute of justice through the lottery he begins the process of asking Hashem to forgive the Jewish people and replace the Attribute of Justice with the Attribute of Mercy. He enters the holy of holies, the place where the Divine Presence rests and offers fragrant incense. This is the kohen gadol's first personal audience with Hashem, similar to Esther's first audience with the King. When Esther entered the inner chamber of the King she chose not to make her request immediately but to gradually build up her relationship with the King. The kohen gadol acted in a similar manner. The kohen gadol enters and offers fragrant incense to find favor in the eyes of Hashem and leaves.
- The kohen gadol enters the holy of holies a second time with his personal bull offering. This corresponds to Esther's second meeting with the King. Just as Esther further developed her relationship with the King by inviting him to her personal party, likewise the kohen gadol further develops his personal relationship with Hashem by offering Hashem his personal bull.
- The kohen gadol enters a third time with the blood of the he-goat. The he-goat was selected by the lottery. This symbolically represents the fate of the Jewish people who seemingly have been chosen by chance to be harmed. The kohen gadol sprinkles this blood as a symbolic prayer that Hashem through his Divine Providence not allow the Jewish people to be subjected to what appears the fate of the Divine Justice. This corresponds to the third time Esther met with the King. At this party Esther revealed her Jewish roots and pleaded that the Jewish people should not be victims of the fate of Haman's lottery.
- The Kohen confesses all the sins of the Jewish people on the he-goat and it is taken out to be killed. This action is symbolic of our faith that Hashem has accepted the prayer of the kohen gadol that we not be abandoned to the fate of chance. The lottery has now turned in our favor. The other he-goat that was selected by the lottery will be destroyed along with all the sins of the Jewish people. This corresponds to Haman being taken to his execution.
- Later in the day after the musaffim are offered the kohen gadol returns to the holy of holies for the fourth time to retrieve the spoon. This corresponds to fourth time Esther meets the King and pleads that the evil decree of Haman be annulled. It is noteworthy that Esther pleaded that the evil thoughts of Haman be "taken back." Likewise the kohen gadol entered the holy of holies to "take back" the spoon. The spoon is in Hebrew is called a "kaf." When the guardian of Esav fought with Yaakov he touched the "kaf" of Yaakov. Esav our enemy has his hand on the "kaf." By removing the "kaf" we are symbolically asking Hashem that he "take back" the evil plans of our enemy.
- The following day the kohen gadol make a great feast to celebrate his survival. Chazal tell us that many times a kohen gadol did not survive the service of Yom Kippur. Many died in the holy of holies due to their not being spiritually fit to serve in such a capacity. This celebration corresponds to the year following the Purim miracle. At that point the Jewish people celebrated the miracle and declared it a holiday for all time.
The Gemara tells us that all the steps listed in connection with the service of Yom Kippur are written in chronological order with the exception of the removal of the kaf and shovel (7) (Yoma 71a). Although the Torah lists this immediately after the service of the bull and the he-goat, in truth it took place later in the day after the offering of the special Yom Kippur musaffim. The posuk (verse) does not list the service in chronological order. It first lists the removal of the kaf and shovel and then lists the musaffim and other things related to the Yom Kippur service.
Now that we have compared the events in the Megilah to the service of Yom Hakipurim we may suggest that the part of the Megilah (8:3-6) that corresponds to the removal of the spoon and shovel also did not take place at the time it was recorded but later. The Megilah could have omitted the additional request of Esther and we would have perhaps not even noticed. The Megilah has already recorded Esther's plea for the Jewish people at the second party. Why was it necessary for her to continue and plead again? Furthermore, why in this plea does Esther refer to the decree as the "thought" of Haman?
We may suggest that this segment of the Megilah homiletically alludes to prayer Esther made after the conclusion of Purim miracle to the Kings of Kings. She prayed that Hashem should prevent any new plans of the enemy come to fruition for all future generations.
The service of Yom Kippur was performed by one individual in a private setting. On the other hand the Purim story was public and directly affected the life of every Jew. The actions of both Esther and the kohen gadol were similar. Chazal tell us that we should never underestimate the power and effect of a mitzvah (commandment). We may perform a mitzvah in private; however, our action may be turning over worlds. The relationship between Yom Kippur and Purim is one example of how one man's symbolic actions parallel events throughout the world.
We may now understand the literal translation of Yom Hakipurim. It was a day that was like Purim.
The commentators note that the both Purim and Lag Ba’Omer fall on the same day of the week each year. The si’man (mnemonic) given for this phenomenon is the Hebrew word pelog, translated as “half.” The Hebrew word pelag has three letters pei, lammed and gimmel. Pei stands for Purim. Lammed and gimmel are the numeric equivalent of thirty-three thus referring to Lag Ba’Omer, the thirty-third day of the Omer. This siman is interpreted to mean that on which ever day of the week Purim falls will be the same day in the week in which Lag Ba’Omer will occur.
What is the symbolic significance of this relationship between Purim and Lag Ba’Omer?
On Lag Ba’Omer we commemorate the death of Rabban Shimon Ben Yochai. Rabban Shimon was the author of the Zohar, a collection of kabalistic writings on the Torah. On the day of his death he revealed the Zohar to his students. It is customary to go to his burial place in Maron and light fires in his honor.
Why do we commemorate Rabban Shimon bar Yochai more than any other Torah giant?
In the sefer (book) Aileh Haim Mo’ad’ai, Rav Eliyahu Schlessinger answers that Rabban Shimon’s greatness is that he gave the Jewish people a guarantee that Torah will never be forgotten by them.
The Gemarah (Shabbos 138b) relates that the Rabbis were once studying and taught that in the future Torah will be forgotten from the Jewish people. They derived this from a posuk (verse), “Behold days are coming says Hashem (G-D) and I will send famine into the land, not a famine for bread nor a thirst for water but to hear the word of Hashem. And they shall wander from sea to sea and from the north to the east they shall run to and fro to see the word of Hashem but they shall not find it” (Amos 8:11,12). The Gemarah then quotes Rabban Shimon bar Yochai who disagrees and says “chas vasholom,” i.e., G-d forbid, that Torah will be forgotten by the Jewish people for it says in the Torah “For it shall never be forgotten form the mouth of your children” (Devarim 31). Rabban Shimon proceeds to interpret the other posuk to mean only that the Torah will not be clearly understood, not that it will be forgotten entirely. The commentators explain that in order to prevent Torah from being forgotten by the Jewish people Rabban Shimon Ben Yochai revealed the secrets of the Torah in the Zohar. This gave them a powerful and important tool to guarantee that it never be forgotten.
Indeed, this is one of the reasons we light fires on Lag Ba’Omer. Forgetting Torah is associated with darkness. The Hebrew word for darkness is “choshech,” ches, shin and chaf. This word has the same letters as the word sh’ko’ach, shin, chaf and ches, which is translated as “to forget.” We light fires to removes darkness as a symbolic expression that the due to Rabban Shimon bar Yochai, Torah has not been forgotten by the Jewish people.
Thus on Lag Ba’Omer we celebrate that Torah was not forgotten by the Jewish people although at dark times in our history it may have seemed that it would.
During the era of the Purim miracle there was a decree for the complete annihilation of the Jewish people. It appeared as though Hashem had forgotten His people. The miracle of Purim revealed that no matter how intense the darkness, Hashem does not forget the Jewish people.
We now may understand the relation between the two holidays. Purim is holiday in which we celebrate that Hashem does not forget His People. Lag Ba’Omer is the holiday in which we celebrate that even in the darkest of times we will never forget Hashem’s Torah. Together both holidays represent the complete relationship between Hashem and the Jewish people. Each holiday is part of the whole. We thus refer to them with the word pelag.
Speak to the children of Israel and say to them: When a person from among you will bring an offering to Hashem: from the animals - from the cattle and from the flocks you shall bring your offering (Vayikrah 1:2).
In this week's parsha (Torah Reading) we learn about the laws of animal sacrifices.
The commentators discuss the reason we are commanded to bring animal sacrifices. The Rambam in moreh nevuchim writes that the purpose of animal sacrifice is to reject idolatry. In ancient times the Egyptians worshiped lambs. The Kasdiyim worshiped goats and the people of Hodo worshiped cattle. By sacrificing these animal gods we reject this type of idolatry.
The Ramban disagrees with this reason and explains that we bring animal sacrifices as a way to come close to Hashem (G-D). Furthermore, when we offer these sacrifices we provide Hashem with satisfaction that we have done His will.
The Meshech Chachmah suggests a compromise between the opinions of the Rambam and the Ramban. The sacrifices that were offered outside the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) on private altars, at times when such altars were permitted, were offered as a rejection of idolatry as in the opinion of the Rambam. However, the sacrifices that were offered in the Beis Hamikdash were for the purpose of giving Hashem satisfaction and served as a way for us to come close to Hashem as in the opinion of the Ramban.
The Gemara relates that every sacrifice service has four essential parts. They are: 1) the slaughtering of the animal, 2) receiving the blood from the neck of the animal in a holy utensil, 3) conveying the blood to the altar and 4) applying the blood to the altar. The Gemarah discusses at great length the laws of each one of these essential services as they relate to the various sacrifices.
It is noteworthy that the first service is significantly different from the other three. The slaughtering of the animal may be performed even by a non-kohen (priest) whereas the other three may only be performed by kohanim.
We may suggest a compromise between the Ramban and the Rambam by suggesting that the first service of slaughtering the animal serves as rejection of idolatry as in the opinion of the Rambam whereas the other three that relate to the blood are services that are done in order to come close to Hashem as explained by the Ramban.
We may prove this as follows: The Gemara (Chulin 30b) discusses the laws of slaughtering an animal. One important law is that the cut in the neck must be made by drawing the knife over the neck and not by the pressing it against the neck. When the knife is gently drawn over the neck, the animal is slaughtered due to the sharpness of knife. If the knife is pressed against the neck, even slightly, the slaughter is invalid because the animal has been killed through the pressure of the knife. The Gemara derives this law from the Hebrew word the Torah uses for slaughter "ve'shachat." The Gemarah says that the word "ve-shachat" is related to the word "mashach" with is translated as "draw." The Gemarah proves this by citing two posukim (verses) where the word "shachat" is translated as "drawn." They are "drawn out gold" (I kings 10:16) and "Their tong is like an arrow that was shot through the drawing of the bow" (Jeremiah 9:7).
At the time when Hashem redeemed the Jewish People from Egypt the posuk says "Moshe called to the elders of Israel and said to them, draw forth and take for you yourselves of the flock of you families and slaughter the pesach offering." The Hebrew word used here for "draw" is "mishchu," this word has the same root letters as the word mentioned above. Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) comment on the use of this unusual word here that Hashem commanded the Jewish people to "withdraw their hands from idolatry and instead offer a lamb to Hashem as a pesach offering."
In summary, we learn that the Hebrew word for slaughter, "shachat" is related to "mashach" which in turn is related to Hashem's command that we distance ourselves from idolatry.
This leads us to suggest that the first service of an animal sacrifice, namely the slaughter, serves as rejection of all forms of idolatry as the Ramban says. However, the other three services which are not found to be related to the rejection of idolatry are for the purpose of coming close to Hashem as explained by the Ramban.
We may now understand why the slaughter is permitted even by a non-kohen whereas the other three blood services may only be performed by kohanim. When it comes to the rejection of idolatry and all evil that it represents every individual, even non-kohanim are instructed to fulfill Hashem command and reject evil. However, when it comes to coming close to Hashem and our desire to give Hashem satisfaction we must seek the guidance of the kohanim who will teach us the correct way to do so.
You shall salt your every meal offering with salt. You may not discontinue the salt of your G-d's covenant from upon your meal offering. On all your offerings shall you offer salt. (Vayikra 2:13)
The above posuk (verse) teaches us that every meal offering and animal sacrifice requires the accompaniment of salt. The requirement of salt for the meal offering is stated explicitly. Rashi explains that the requirement of salt for the animal sacrifice is derived from the concluding words "on all your offerings shall you offer salt."
We may ask why is the instruction of salt emphasized only with regard to the meal offering. The emphasis is seen in the fact that the salt requirement for the meal offering is stated explicitly whereas the salt requirement for the animal sacrifices is only derived. Further, with regard to the meal offering the commandment is stated both in the positive and negative form whereas with regard to the animal sacrifice it is only stated in the positive. Further, only with regard to the meal offering does the posuk used a double expression "salt you shall salt."
Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that salt serves two purposes. It can be used to give flavor and may be used as a preservative. When salt is used to give flavor, only a very precise amount may be used. Too much may ruin the food and too little will not enhance the foods flavor. However, when salt is used as a preservative then a very large amount must be used and may not be removed during the preservation period.
There are two types of sacrificial offerings. One is the animal sacrifice and the second is the meal offering. The animal sacrifice is symbolic of serving Hashem (G-D) by giving up one's life. According to some commentators when one brings an animal sacrifice he is silently saying that he recognizes that it is he who deserves to die for his sins. However, Hashem, out of compassion allowed him to offer the animal instead.
The meal offering is symbolic of sanctifying Hashem name by living. Bread is the main staple of life. When one offers a meal offering he silently declares that he accepts to live his life according the Torah and thus sanctify Hashem by living.
With regard to the meal offering the posuk uses a double expression of salt. It then repeats the commandment in the negative form to warn us not to remove the salt. The Torah conveys that with regard to the meal offering the purpose of salt is preservation. The Torah conveys that the theme of the meal offering should be preserved. We are to sanctify Hashem by living.
However when offering an animal sacrifice, salt is just hinted to briefly. Here the purpose of salt is to provide flavor. If one is in a situation where he must give up his life for the name of Hashem it should not be done with complaint or bitterness rather with "flavor." This will fully maximize the sanctification of Hashem's name that will accompany his ultimate sacrifice. The contrast in the way the way the Torah describes the obligation of salt by the animal sacrifice to the meal offerings teaches us that this method is not the ideal way to serve Hashem. Hashem prefers that we "preserve" the method of sanctifying his name by living rather than dying.
The parsha (Torah reading) introduces us to the various types of sacrificial offerings. The offerings basically fall into two categories, the animal sacrifices and the meal offerings. The Gemarah teaches us that every animal sacrifice was accompanied by a meal offering. We may ask, what moral or ethical teaching is the Torah conveying by requiring us to bring these two types of offerings together.
The Midrash notes the contrast between the hands of a newborn baby and that of one who has just died. When a baby is born its hands are tightly clenched, whereas the hands of a corpse lay lifelessly wide open. The Midrash explains that a newborn fools himself into believing that he has the power to conquer the world. This is symbolized with his tightly clenched hands. It is as if he were saying that he will take hold and seize this world. However, when that individual dies, those same hands lay wide open in acknowledgement of the fact that he has taken absolutely nothing from this world.
We may borrow from the above the notion that an open hand is symbolic of death and a tightly clenched hand is symbolic of life.
When one brings an animal sacrifice, the fourth service performed is the application of blood. The Torah requires that the kohen (Priest) throw the blood on the altar. This is accomplished by the kohen flicking open his hands as he projects the blood forward. It is noteworthy that the movement of his hand goes from closed to open. The end result is an open hand, which is symbolic of death.
In contrast to an animal sacrifice the meal offering is just the opposite. Here the unique service is kemizah. The Kohen is required to clench his fists tightly around the flour in a unique way. Here his hands move from an open to a closed position. The end result is the closed position, which is symbolic of life.
The commentators explain that when we offer animal sacrifices, we acknowledge that in truth it is we who deserve to sacrifice ourselves as punishment of our sins. However, Hashem (G-D) allowed us to bring an animal in our place. We derive from this that an animal sacrifice is in place of death. It is therefore fitting that opening the hand, which is also symbolic of death, be the method in which the sacrifice's unique service be performed. In contrast to an animal sacrifice, a meal offering is brought from bread, which is the main staple of life. We convey with our meal offering that we wish to amend our evil ways and serve Hashem with the life He has given us here in this world. We may derive from this that the nature of the meal offering is life. It is therefore appropriate that we offer it with the movement of our hands from open to close, which is also symbolic of life.
We can now address our original question. What is the Torah trying to convey by requiring us to offer a meal offering together with every animal sacrifice? The answer is that we demonstrate that we are willing to serve Hashem in the most extreme situations. If need be, we are willing to give up our life as symbolized with the animal sacrifice and the opening of our hand.
More importantly with our meal offering and the closing of the hand we acknowledge that we are willing to serve Hashem with our life here in this world by performing the commandment that we are instructed.
Furthermore, we may note that there is also the category of the bird offering. Generally the one who bring such an offering is the poor man who cannot afford an animal. It is interesting that the application of the bird's blood is done through squeezing. Here we have the combination of the closing of the hand with the throwing of blood. The closing of the hand is symbolic of life. The throwing of blood is symbolic of death.
The Gemara tells us that a poor man is considered dead. Indeed, we see that here. Even the poor man's clenching of the fist, which is symbolic of his life, is performed only to bring about the loss of blood and life in the bird. Indeed the Gemara states that the offering of the poor man has extremely great value before Hashem due to his difficult situation in life. Perhaps, the Torah requires this unusual combination only so that the rich man observe and note the great symbolic difference between himself and the poor man and thus be inspired to alleviate the poor man's suffering.
But if his means are insufficient enough for sheep or goat then he shall bring as his guilt offering for that which he sinned two turtle doves or two young doves to Hashem one for a sin offering and one for an olah offering (Vayikra 5:7)
But if his means are insufficient for two turtle doves or for two young doves then he shall bring as his guilt offering for that which he sinned a tenth of an ephah of fine flour for a sin offering (Vayikra 5:14)
The aforementioned pesukim discuss a group of inadvertent transgressions where the Torah prescribes different types of karbonos for the individual depending upon his financial means. The preferred korban is a sheep or goat, however, if the individual does not have the financial means he may bring two birds instead. If he cannot afford even that, he may then bring a meal offering.
It is noteworthy that the criteria for offering two birds instead of a sheep or goat is that "his means are insufficient enough for a sheep or goat." Here the posuk adds a seemingly extra word dye (enough). However, with regard to the criteria for a meal offering the posuk reads simply "if his means are insufficient for two turtle doves." Here the word "enough" is omitted. This change in expression requires an explanation.
Let us preface our answer by reviewing the Ramban's explanation for why Hashem commanded us to bring Karbonos. The Ramban writes that the purpose of a korban was to humble the sinner who brought the korban. The inadvertent sinner is informed that Hashem's attribute of justice demands that he offer himself as a human sacrifice in order to achieve atonement for his sin. However Hashem in his great mercy allows him to substitute a korban. When offering an animal or bird the sinner would observe the slaughter and would realize that in truth it was he who deserved to be slaughtered. He would then witness the skinning, cutting, sprinkling of the blood and finally witness the consumption of the flesh upon the fire. The sinner would be traumatized as he realizes that all this should really have happened to his own flesh and blood. This experience humbles the sinner and brings him to remorse and repentance.
It is important to note that the full impact of what the korban is designed to accomplish can only be achieved when one offers a living creature to Hashem, i.e., an animal or bird. Only then does the owner identify with this creature since he and it shared the common feature of life. However when offering a mincha the full impact of a korban is not achieved. A meal offering does not inspire the sinner to the same degree as does a living creature since it lacks the most essential ingredient of life.
We asked above why does the extra word "enough" appear with regard to the criteria for the bird but not the meal offering. We may now suggest as follows. The difference in the qualitative effect between a sheep and a bird offering was not so great because they both were living creatures and the sinner attained almost the same impact when using either one of them. In this case the Torah did not want to overburden the sinner by requiring him to spend a large sum of money when it was difficult for him. Therefore the Torah stated "if his means are insufficient enough," with the emphasis on the word enough to convey that if it is hard for him to spend the money even though it is possible, he is not obligated to offer the more expensive sheep or goat but may offer the cheaper bird offering. On the other hand, when the choice is between a bird and meal offering where the difference in their qualitative effect is very great, the Torah chooses to omit the word "enough" to convey that the only time one may bring a meal offering is when he cannot afford the bird offering at all. However if he can afford the bird offering even with great difficulty, he is obligated to exert himself and do all that is possible to come up with the money to purchase a living creature in order to achieve the designed effect from the korban
The message here is that at times we realize that in order for us to attain a higher level of service of Hashem we need to sacrifice other things in our life. Each situation is different and at times we may not be obligated to make these sacrifices just as we are not obligated to purchase the sheep or goat when it is difficult to do so even though it is still possible. However, when the quality of our service will be a far cry from the ideal, as in the example where the choice is between the meal offering and bird offering, then we are obligated to make the sacrifice even though it comes with great expense and difficulty.
For I am Hashem your G-d - you are to sanctify yourselves and you shall become holy, for I am holy; and you shall not make your souls impure through any creeping thing that creeps on the earth. (Vayikra 11:44)
At first glance there seems to be a difficulty with this posuk. The posuk begins by admonishing us to be holy but then concludes by warning that we shall not make our souls impure. The posuk contrasts holiness to its opposite which it defines as impure. However, impure is not the opposite of holy. The correct opposite of holy is mundane (chulin). If we were to suggest that the emphasis of the posuk is found in its conclusion where it warns us not to be make our souls impure then the beginning of the posuk should admonish us to be pure not holy. How do we explain the relationship between holiness and purity?
Let us suggest as follows. Purity in its simplest meaning conveys that we follow the laws delineated with regard to tumah and taharah. Contact with the various types of tumah renders one impure and abstention from tumah allows the individual to maintain his status of purity. On the other hand the word holiness conveys that we behave in a refined manner with the aim to perfect our conduct and actions.
Considering theses concepts, we may interpret the posuk as follows. By admonishing us to be pure with the word holy the Torah teaches us that we should observe the laws of purity and match them with their counterparts in the realm of purity of character traits. With this in mind, let us suggest what the various forms of contamination symbolize in the realm of bad character traits.
The Torah delineates five different types of tumah. 1) Bodily emissions or afflictions like that of a zav or metzorah, 2) being present under the same roof as a corpse or olive size piece of human flesh, 3) direct contact with various forms of tumah, 4) carrying various types of tumah, 5) swallowing various types of tumah.
The first type referred to here as bodily emissions or afflictions symbolize the evil inborn character defects of a human being. As the posuk states (Bereishis 8:21) "The passions of the heart of man are evil from his youth." The second type of tumah referred to here as being under the same roof of a corpse or an olive size of human flesh is better know as the contamination of the "tent." This is symbolic of defects found in the upbringing of the children in our tent. We are indirectly warned to rid ourselves of evil traits due to an improper upbringing. We are also warned not to raise children with bad traits. The third type of tumah referred here as contact symbolizes the defects we have attained through contact or connection with evil associates and friends. The forth type of contamination referred to here as carrying symbolizes the evil and defects in our character that result from being overburdened with the problems of life, specifically with regard to behavior in the area of earning a livelihood. This idea is expressed explicitly in the posuk (Proverbs 28: 21) "On behalf of [the difficulty in seeking] bread does a man stumble to sin." This is also expressed in the gemara (Eruvin 41b) "Poverty is the cause of a person acting in ways that he is not accustomed to and in his rebellion against Hashem." Finally the last type of tumah referred to here as swallowing symbolizes our pursuit of satisfying our materialistic desires. The pursuit of materialism is referred to as swallowing as stated explicitly in the posuk (Job 20:15) "Wealth he swallowed but ultimately he will regurgitate it."
Thus by contrasting impurity with holiness the Torah impresses on us that the laws of tumah and tahara are timeless. Even today without a beis hamikdash where the scope of the actual laws is limited, the inner message is relevant more then ever. May it be the will of Hashem that through the fulfillment of the holiness of these laws we will merit to fulfill the purity aspect of these laws in our days.
The kohen shall look at the affliction on the skin of his flesh; if hair of the affliction on the skin has turned white and the affliction appearance is deeper than the skin of his flesh it is a tazaraas affliction; the Kohen shall look at it and make him impure (Vayikra 13:3).
In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the individual who has been afflicted with tzaraas. A telltale sign of tzaraas is the two white hairs that appear in afflicted skin. After the metzorah has been healed from his affliction the Torah requires a complex purification procedure. The last step of his purification occurs when the metzorah is brought to the entrance of the tent of meeting together with his three animal sacrifices, meal offering and a log measure of oil. The kohen slaughters the asham, the first of the offerings and applies its blood to his ear, thumb and large toe. The kohen then applies some oil on top of the blood and offers the remaining sacrifices and meal offering.
It is noteworthy that this metzorah was declared impure when two hairs turned white. The Hebrew word for hair is "sai'ar." The purification processes culminates when the metzorah is brought to "stand at the gate of the entrance of meeting" as the kohen offers his sacrifices and applies the blood and oil on his ear, thumb and large toe (Vayikra 14:11). Rashi notes that in the Beis Hamikdash the opening to the tent of meeting was replaced with the "gate of Nikinor." The Hebrew word for gate is sha'ar.
Both Hebrew words for "hair" and "gate" share the same letters, shin, ayin and reish. The only difference is the pronunciation. The fact that the two share the same letters indicates that they are related. Indeed the commentators explain that a hair is a gateway to the inside of the body.
Chazal commonly use a hair as a metaphor for something very small and insignificant. When we take this concept together with the aforementioned idea we may note that a hair represent the smallest gateway that can exist. On the other hand, the gateway to the Beis Hamikdash is the entrance to the most pure and holy place in the world. It is symbolic of the greatest gateway that exits.
We may note that the metzorah has gone from the smallest opening of two white hairs to the greatest opening when he came to the gate of the Beis Hamikdash to complete the process of his purification.
Chazal tell us that in the next world, Hashem will slaughter the evil indication in the presence of the righteous and the wicked. Both will weep. To the righteous the evil inclination will appear like a large mountain. They will wonder how they were able to overcome it. To the wicked it will appear like a hair. They will wonder cry they were unable to overcome it (Sukah 52). The commentators explain that there is no contradiction. When the Evil inclination appears for the first time it is small and insignificant like a hair. It is easy to overcome. The righteous reject it and it falls away. The evil inclination tries again and reappears like a hair and the righteous reject it once again. This process repeats itself many times. Eventually all the little hairs accumulate to the size of a large mountain.
On the other hand the wicked allow the evil inclination to enter the very first time. They reason, how bad could it be. It is small and harmless like a hair. However, once it enters it slowly persuades man to sin until it has made him into a full fledge sinner. It only needed to enter once, therefore it appears like a small hair.
The metzorah's problem began by letting the small insignificant evil inclination to enter for the first time. The evil inclination is compared to hair because a hair represents a tiny gateway into a person. That was all it needed. Soon, this individual discovered that he had been led astray by the evil inclination and was punished with tzaraas. Perhaps this is why the sign of tzaraas is hairs. The source of sin started with something insignificant as a hair only to later develop into something much worse. His only hope is a complex procedure of purification that culminates with coming to the greatest entrance in the world. It turns out that the little insignificant hair is not such a small gateway after all, it needs to matched with the gateway of the Beis Hamikdash
The kohen (priest) shall see and behold the affliction of tzaraas (translated as leprosy) has been healed from the person with tzaraas. (Vayikra 14:20)
In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the purification process of the metzorah (translated as leper). After the kohen declares the metzora tahor (ritually clear) he is required to prepare two birds. One bird is slaughtered. A piece of cedar, hyssop and wool are bound and dipped together with the living bird in the blood of the dead bird. The blood is sprinkled upon the metzorah and then the living bird is sent off to freedom in the field. At this point the metzora shaves all his hair and immerses in a mikvah. He is allowed to enter the camp but may not enter his tent. Seven days later he shaves, immerses in a mikvah (ritual bath), brings a set of karbanos (sacrifices) and then returns fully to society.
Rav Shimon Shwaab in his sefer Me'ain Beis Hash'o'ei'vah takes note of the unusual words in the posuk (verse). The posuk reads "and behold the affliction of tzaraas has been healed from the tzaruah." Rav Shwaab asks if the tzaraas has been healed why does the Torah continue to refer to him as the tzaruah. In answer to this question Rav Shwaab notes the following: In many instances in Tanach (Bible) and Chazal (teachings of our sages, of blessed memory), tzaraas appears to be a severely dangerous and contagious disease. Many suggest that is what we know today as leprosy. However, it is also clear form other sources in Tanach and Chazal that tzaraas is purely a spiritual disease. It is a sign form Hashem that one had sinned. This Divine disease only existed when the Jewish people were on a great spiritual level like at the time when the Torah was given through the era of the Beis Hamikdash (Temple).
In answer to this contradiction Rav Swaab suggests that in truth there are two types of tzaraas, a physical one and a spiritual one. It is certainly possible to contract the physical tzaraas without the spiritual one. This is the form of the disease that we know today. It may also be possible to contract the spiritual disease without the physical one. However it appears that it was normal that the spiritual form of the disease accompanies the physical one. The posuk here is discussing an individual who contracted both forms of the disease. However, at this time the kohen declares that the spiritual form of the disease has been healed although the physical one remains. Therefore, because the physical disease is still present the posuk continues to call him a tzaruah because he still suffers from the physical form of the disease. The posuk is thus interpreted as follows: Behold the spiritual disease has left the individual who is still afflicted with the physical disease.
Using this idea let us elaborate on the purification process of the metzorah. In the prayer that we recite on behalf of the sick we ask Hashem to send a healing to the nefesh (soul) and a healing to the body. What is the meaning of this double request? The commentators explain that every physical sickness is a reflection of a spiritual deficiency. Ideally a sick person should go to a prophet or great Torah scholar and seek the spiritual deficiency that is the root cause of his physical ailment. After correcting this spiritual deficiency the physical illness or disease will automatically depart. One need not focus at all on the physical aspect of the sickness for this is completely dependent on the spiritual deficiency. Obviously, in our times we are not on the spiritual level to adopt such an attitude. Indeed the halachah (Jewish law) is that we are obligated to seek the best doctors possible and focus on the physical illness. However, our prayers allude to the ideal attitude we must have. We request that Hashem send a healing to the soul and then to the body. We express our belief that if the spiritual ailment is cured automatically the physical body will be healed as well.
We may suggest that the metzorah teaches us exactly this concept. The individual discussed in the posuk is afflicted with two forms of the disease, the physical and the spiritual. The physical condition in of itself is dangerous. It requires quarantine and treatment so as not to infect others. However, the source of this sickness is the spiritual deficiencies, which are manifested in the spiritual form of the disease. In addition to his physical treatments this individual is excommunicated by the kohen as a means of awakening him to repent for his sins that are the true source of his physical suffering. The primary disease is the spiritual one. When this will be cured the physical leprosy will depart automatically.
After the kohen declares this individual tahor he must prepare two birds. Let us suggest that the first bird represents the spiritual sickness and the second represents the physical sickness. The first bird, which represents the spiritual sickness is slaughtered. This is symbolic of the fact that this individual has successfully eradicated his spiritual shortcomings. The living bird is symbolic of the physical sickness. The living bird is dipped it in the blood of the dead bird and then sent away. Symbolically this conveys that when the spiritual sickness departs, the physical sickness can depart on its own without any suffering at all. The Torah is emphasizing that ideally what one must focus on the spiritual sickness. The physical sickness will effortlessly fly away as a living bird, once the blood of spiritual sickness is eliminated.
The individual is now permitted to enter the camp but may not enter his tent. Once the spiritual sickness is eliminated, he no longer requires spiritual excommunication. However, as long as his physical sickness remains he must stay away from his tent so as not to spread his physical illness. After seven days he may cleanse himself, bring his karbanos and resume a normal life. The Torah here guarantees that after seven days of eliminating the spiritual sickness the physical sickness will depart. Chazal explain that seven days is symbolic of physical time. In this context the posuk conveys that after the being declared tahor by the kohen, the time of physical healing is guaranteed to commence. Soon after, he will return to normal life.
If a person will have in his flesh a s'eis or sapachas or a baheres and it will become a tzaraas affliction on the skin of his flesh; he shall be brought to Aaron the Kohen or to one of his sons the Kohanim (Vayikra 13:2)
The laws of the tzaraas are complex. Let us now focus on just the category of afflictions of the flesh. The Rambam (Tumas Tzaraas 1:5,9) explains that we may summarize the pesukim that deal with afflictions of the flesh with four cases of symptoms. The first is where the appearance of the affliction is deeper then the rest of the skin. The second is where a white hair appears within the affliction. The third is where healthy flesh appears within the affliction area and the final case deals with the instance where the affliction spreads to the rest of the flesh. Let us ask: What does the affliction of the flesh in general symbolize and to what specific points do the four types of symptoms represent?
Let us suggest that the tzaraas of the flesh represents sins that were done for physical pleasure. Flesh in many places in the Gemarah is symbolic of physical pleasure. Thus the affliction in the flesh is a message that the person has sinned for his own physical pleasure. However, the Torah does recognize that not every time a person sins in pursuit of pleasure is he declared a sinner. If a person has sinned all he need do is repent and follow the laws of repentance for that particular sin. However sometimes a person needs a rude awakening and the standard requirement of teshuvah does not suffice. This rude awakening is through tzaraas. The specific symptoms represent severe forms of a sin for physical enjoyment where the individual is required to go through a lengthy process of purity from tzaraas. Let us now explain what the four types of symptoms
The first type is where the affliction is deeper than the skin. This is symbolic of where the sin is deeply rooted within his soul. The individual as a result of his desire for physical pleasure had been transformed into a different type of a person. It is here where the individual needs a rude awakening through tzaraas. If however the affliction is not deeper than the skin then the person is still tahar because the sin has not taken root within his soul.
The white hair relates to the instance where the sinner is in a state of denial. White is the color of purity. Illustrating this is the posuk that states that Hashem will cleanse us like snow and white wool. Being in a state of denial is a serious transgression, even if the sin is not deeply rooted. Accordingly, the white hair makes the person tameh even if the affliction is not deeper than the surrounding flesh. While white represents purity, black represents sin. Accordingly, the case of the black hair in the center of the affliction speaks symbolically of the instance where the sinner acknowledges his foible and is therefore tahor because he recognizes his sin and is therefore on the path to repentance.
The center of flesh within the affliction is symbolic of the person who has sinned and is happy and comfortable with his sin. Because he looks upon his behavior as healthy he will do the sin again. His affliction is therefore declared tamei.
Finally the spreading of the affliction is symbolic of the instance where the sin has gone out of control. This person is either addicted to a particular sin or has adopted a lifestyle that is so corrupt that one sin leads to another. Because his path toward sin cannot be broken, his affliction must be declared tamei.
Then he shall sprinkle seven times upon the person being purified from the tzaraas; he shall purify him, and he shall set the live bird free upon the field (Vayikra 14:7).
In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the metzorah. After the metzorah has been healed from his tzaraas the Torah describes a lengthy purification process that he must undergo. The Kohen takes two living birds and slaughters one over an earthenware utensil filled with spring water. The Kohen then dips the living bird together with a piece of cedar wood, crimson wool and hyssop in the mixture of the blood and water. He then sprinkles the mixture upon the metzorah seven times and sends away the living bird upon the open field.
We may note that we find in the Torah one other situation where a person sends away a living bird, the mitzvah (commandment) of shiluach hakain. If one happens to come across a mother bird hovering over its young or eggs there is a mitzvah to send away the mother bird and take for himself the young or eggs. Is there any connection between these two instances that one sends away a living bird?
Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) tell us the tzaraas comes upon a person as a punishment for slander. Slander is grave sin and is considered nothing less then evil. Indeed, the Hebrew term used to describe slander is lashon harah which is literally translated as "evil speech." Furthermore, the Midrash writes that one who speaks slander has committed a crime that is akin to murder. It is as if he has killed three people, himself the listener and the subject of the slander. The posuk says "Death and life are in the hand of the tongue" (Proverbs 18:21). It is noteworthy that these same two concepts are found in connection to the mitzvah of shiluach hakain, however, in the opposite form. The Torah says that in reward of the fulfillment of the mitzvah of shiluach hakain "it will be good for you and you will prolong your days." (Devarim22:7).
The commentators explain that the reason we are required to send away the mother bird is out of compassion. The Torah does not want the mother bird to witness her young snatched away before her eyes. This will cause her enormous suffering. In our parsha it would appear that we deliberately cause the bird to suffer as we send it away. The Torah requires us to slaughter one bird and dip the second bird in its blood. Certainly, it is a traumatic experience for a bird to witness the slaughter of its fellow and then be dipped in its blood.
We may suggest that when the metzorah witnesses the enormous suffering that the bird undergoes, he will be reminded of the other kan tzippor bird that is sent away so that it should not suffer. He will then remember that if one performs this act the Torah uncharacteristically promises "good" and "long days." The metzorah reasons that if for the prevention of the birds suffering the Torah promises "good" and "long days" then causing the bird to suffer must bring punishment of the opposite nature, how much more so when one has sinned by speaking slander which by definition is evil and the opposite of the long days. The metzorah will certainly be humbled by such an experience and will repent, thus achieving the purpose of the purification process.
And behold the tzara'as affliction had been healed from the metzora (Vayikra 14:3)
The commentators note the posuk (verse) seemingly should have been written in reverse, i.e., "And behold the metzora had been healed from his tzara'as." By reversing the order the Torah attributes major importance to the affliction rather than the afflicted. Generally it is the individual with whom the Torah is concerned. We may thus ask, what is the Torah attempting to convey by reversing the order?
Chazal (Our sages) teach us that the spiritual affliction of tzara'as befalls a person primarily in punishment for the sin of slander. Indeed, the word metzora is an acronym for motzei shem rah which is translated as "one who speaks evil." We may suggest that by reversing the order the Torah is highlighting the severe nature of the sin of slander. Generally, when one commits a sin, his transgression is confined to himself and is confined to the moment of his sin. In contrast, the sin of slander has life of its own. Slander sets into motion a sequence of events that intensify in hatred and animosity. Perhaps this is why the atonement for tzara'as is unique with regard to the Torah's requirement that the metzora leave his community. Surely as a result of this public humiliation the community will reflect on the sin and reverse the ill effects that have been set into motion.
The Torah is teaching that with regard to the healing process of tzara'as, the primary healing is not for the sinner but for the affliction. The affliction is the ill feelings that have been generated by the slander. It is only when this has been rectified does Hashem allows the tzara'as to leave the individual who was its source.
Chazal teach us that a groom is forgiven for all his sins on the day of his wedding. Chazal also teach us that in the event the groom has what appears to be an outbreak of tzara'as, his examination is postponed until after the seven days of his wedding celebration. As mentioned above, tzara'as is purely a spiritual disease and unrelated to bodily illness. We may thus ask, if a groom is forgiven for all his sins, how is it ever possible for him to need to be examined?
We may answer that the rule that a groom is forgiven on the day of his wedding is only true for sins that are self-contained. However, the sin of tzara'as has a life of its own. It is not confined to the individual. Its ramifications are widespread in the community and as such cannot be forgiven, even during his wedding celebration. We therefore need a special teaching to permit the postponement of his examination after the wedding celebration.
It is noteworthy that after the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash (Temple) we no longer have the spiritual sickness of tzara'as. We may ask, what is special about tzara'as that the Torah has removed it from us?
The major difference between galus (exile) and the time of the Beis Hamikdash is the concept of community. In galus we live as individuals. We lack the unity, leadership and sanctity that the Jewish people enjoyed in the time of the Beis Hamikdash.
The true sickness of tzara'as is the affliction, which is symbolic of the ill feelings that result from slander. This affliction can only be rectified within the community and by the community. Today when we live as individuals, if one would contract tzara'as, it is unlikely that he would ever heal. This is because it is not specifically the individual who needs healing but rather the affliction, and without the power of a community, there can be no cure. Therefore, Hashem removed the potential for us to contract a visible form of what tzara'as represents.
May we merit to see the time of "And behold the tzara'as affliction had been healed."
Any man of the children of Israel and of the proselyte who dwells among them who will trap a catch of a beast or bird that may be eaten, he shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth (Vayikra 17:13).
In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the mitzvah of kisuy hadam. After performing ritual slaughter on a wild animal or bird the Torah requires us to cover the blood with earth. The Or HaChaim HaKadosh explains that the reason we only cover the blood of a wild animal and bird and not that of a domesticated animal is because the life force of these two creatures is found entirely in their blood. A domesticated animal however, has an additional life force not found in its blood. The Torah obligates us to cover the source of life of these two creatures as a form of burial so as to minimize their disgrace, similar to why we bury human beings. Furthermore, the Gemara derives that removing the disgrace of these creatures is a serious matter to the degree that we are not permitted to cover the blood disrespectfully by pushing earth over the blood with our feet. We must cover it with dignity and use our hands.
In the Gemara we learn that the mitzvah (commandment) has two parts. First, one is required to apply loose earth on the ground before the slaughter and second, cover the blood with more loose earth after the slaughter. Thus, there will be earth below and above. This law is derived from the fact that the posuk (verse) says "you shall cover it in earth" and not with earth.
There is much discussion in the commentators as exactly how to view the first application of earth before the slaughter. The question involves understating if this is actually part of the mitzvah or only a prerequisite for the mitzvah of covering the blood after the slaughter. Nevertheless all agree that it is essential.
We may ask, what is the purpose of applying loose earth before the slaughter? As long as the blood is eventually covered the disgrace will have been removed.
We may suggest the Torah is teaching us an important lesson in the area of sensitivity. If not for this law we would think that the first time we should concern ourselves with the disgrace of the dead bird or wild animal is after we have satisfied our own desire and have slaughter it in preparation for our consumption. We would then look with pity upon the blood of this creature and cover it so as to remove its disgrace. The Torah tells us that our concern for the disgrace of the bird and wild animal should begin not when it is dead but when it is alive, before the slaughter. We are required to be sensitive enough to realize now when it is alive that after the slaughter it will suffer disgrace. We are instructed to begin the process of its burial while it is alive by applying loose earth on the ground before we slaughter it.
From this law we may learn how far the Torah goes in areas that involve matters of disgrace and sensitivity. If even with regard to a bird and animal we must plan in advance to minimize its disgrace how much more so are we obligated to conduct ourselves with sensitivity and ensure that our fellow man not become disgraced in any way.
Aaron shall bring near the he-goat designated by the lot to Hashem (G-D) and he shall make it a sin offering. And the he-goat designated by the lot to Azazel shall be stood alive before Hashem to atone upon it, to send it to Azazel to the wilderness. (Vayikra 16:9,10)
In this weeks parsha (Torah reading) we are introduced to the two identical he-goats of the Yom Kippur Service.
The posuk (verse) teaches us that both are instrumental in bringing atonement for the Jewish people. The kohen gadol (high priest) would cast a lot to decide which he-goat would serve as a sin offering and which would be sent out to the desert.
It is noteworthy that the posuk clearly indicates that both serve as atonement for the Jewish people. We may ask what exactly does each one accomplish, or in other words what is the difference between the two?
Perhaps we may suggest as follows: There are two types of sins. The first type of sin is when we directly violate the commandments of the Torah. The second type of sin is where we fail to perform more mitzvos (commandments) or achieve a higher degree of spirituality.
Let us suggest that the first he-goat is offered to atone for the actual violation of the commandments. This explains why this he-goat is offered as an actual sin offering. The second he-goat is offered to atone for our failure to perform more mitzvos or achieve a greater degree of spirituality. This explains why it is not offered as a sin offering. In this case no actual violation or sin has occurred, but only our failure to accomplish more. Instead, the he-goat is sent to die in the desert.
We may bring a proof to this idea from the unusual expression the Torah uses to describe the he-goat that is sent away to the desert. The Torah says that the he-goat designated by the lot to Azazel shall "be stood alive" before Hashem to atone upon it. What is deeper meaning of the words "be stood alive." This question is strengthened by noting the omission of these words in regard to the first he-goat that serves as a sin offering.
The commentators explain that the main difference between man and angel is the ability to grow spiritually. There are many different types of angels, each have different degrees of holiness, however each group has no ability to grow spiritually. They permanently remain in the spiritual level that they were created for the duration of their existence. Man however was given the gift of growth. There is no limit to how high man can propel himself spiritually. To emphasize of this idea the commentators note that angels are consistently described and those "who stand," whereas man is describes and one who moves or travels. The posuk in recording Hashem's words regarding man relative to the angels says, "I will give you (man) the ability to move between these that stand (angels)."
The Torah instructs us to take the second he-goat and "have it stand alive before Hashem to atone upon it." This symbolic gesture conveys that this he-goat represents our failure to move ahead spiritually in life. We have failed to achieve our potential and are like the angels who stand still in their degree of spirituality.
Every man shall fear his mother and father and you shall observe my Shabbosim (Vayikra 19:3).
It is noteworthy that the posuk (verse) here mentions Shabbos in the plural. Elsewhere, the Torah mentions the mitzvah (commandment) of Shabbos in the singular. For example, in both sets of the Ten Commandments, Shabbos is mentioned in the singular. We may thus ask what is the Torah attempting to convey by changing from its usual style in mentioning Shabbos in the plural.
To answer to this question let us note that here the mitzvah of Shabbos immediately follows the mitzvah of fearing one's parents. Chazal (our sages of blessed memory) elaborate on this and explain that the Torah is teaching us that the mitzvah of honoring one's parents does not override the commandments of the Torah. One is not allowed to follow the instructions of one's parents when they are in conflict with the Torah. The Torah singles out Shabbos to serve as an example because all the commandments of the Torah are compared to it.
Alternatively, The Reisah Rav, Hagoen Rav Aaron Levine zt"l homiletically suggests that the mention of Shabbos here is not a commandment but rather a reward. The Torah states that if one fears his parents he will be rewarded with the opportunity to observe many Shabbosim. This reward is consistent with the reward the Torah grants for honoring one's parents. The Torah states that one who honors his parents will be blessed with longevity (Shemos 20:12). Likewise, here the Torah declares that one who fears his parents will be blessed with the observance of many Shabbosim, which can only result with the gift of time.
Let us note the contrast between the reward for honoring one's parents and the reward for fearing one's parents. The reward for honoring one's parents is longevity in its simplest form, whereas with regard to fearing one's parents the Torah grants longevity in the form of Shabbos observance. What is the significance of this difference?
The commentators explain that the reason why the Torah rewards one with longevity for honoring one's parents is because generally this mitzvah requires one to give up time. The difficulty of honoring one's parents is that one must sacrifice time that he would spend otherwise for himself. To reward the sacrificing of time, the Torah guarantees that this individual will be more than compensated.
It may be suggested that the expression of fear stands at a higher level than the expression of honor. Honor is manifested by actions and does not necessarily express the true feeling of the individual. Fear however, is an emotion that relates to a person's inner feelings and not his actions.
When the Torah grants an individual longevity it does not mention the quality of his time. It goes without saying that any amount of time in this world is a blessing regardless its quality. Chazal teach us that one moment in this world of Torah and good deeds is better than all the bliss of the world to come. Nonetheless, the time in this world may be difficult. A person may merit to live a long life yet may suffer during that period. When an individual sacrifices his time to honor his parents he is rewarded with time. However, just as an expression of honor does not reveal the inner feelings of the individual, likewise the reward of time does not include a guarantee as to its quality. However, one who also fears his parents is granted longevity that includes the observance of many Shabbosim. Shabbos is a time of rest, a time of enjoyment. Chazal teach us that on Shabbos we are to feel as if we have accomplished all that we have set out to do. Homiletically, the Torah informs us that one who fears his parents is not just granted "longevity" but "longevity of quality," years of fulfillment and satisfaction.
Every man shall revere his father and his mother and you shall observe My Shabbosos, I am Hashem your G-d. (Vayikra 19:3)
Rashi, commenting on the juxtaposition of revering ones parents to the observance of Shabbos, comments as follows: One might think that if a parent commands his or her child to desecrate the Shabbos, the child is required to oblige. In response to such a thought the posuk (verse) replies that he should not listen but must observe the Shabbos, for both he and his parents are commanded to do so. We may now also derive likewise for all other mitzvos (commandments).
We may ask, why did the Torah teach us this lesson specifically with regard to the observance of Shabbos instead of any other mitzvah. What is special about Shabbos that it was selected to serve as the prototype for all other commandments? Let us suggest that if this concept were taught with respect to any mitzvah other than Shabbos we would not assume that the rule applies to Shabbos as well. We would assume that Shabbos is unique in that one is only liable for desecrating the Shabbos if he performs a prohibited labor for its own sake. This concept is known as meleches machsheves. Therefore, one would assume that if one's parent commanded him to desecrate the Shabbos, he would be required to do so since he is not truly desecrating the Shabbos because he is not doing the labor for its own sake but only to satisfy his parent. Therefore, the Torah commands us that this is not so. Even with regard to Shabbos where there would be no blatant violation of the law it is still forbidden to desecrate the Shabbos for the wish of a parent. Now, once the Torah taught us this with regard to Shabbos, all the more so for all other commandments where there is no such rule as meleches machsheves, where one is responsible for his actions regardless of his intentions.
Let us now go a step further. By the Torah juxtaposing the law of Shabbos to fearing one's parents we may also understand the true nature of the mitzvah of fearing and honoring one's parents. First let us note that our observance of Shabbos is a sign that separates us from the nations of the world as stated explicitly in the posuk (Shemos 31:17). Next let us note that the gentiles also observe the mitzvah of honoring and fearing their parents. Most notably Eisav and Dama Ben Nisina are recorded as honoring their fathers. By juxtaposing the two, the Torah is instructing us that just as our Shabbos separates us from the gentiles likewise our observance of this mitzvah of fearing and honoring our parents should also be distinguish us from the way the gentiles fulfill this mitzvah.
The commentators note that although we find that Eisav honored his father, it was not fulfilled for its own true sake but rather for ulterior motives. Rabbi Dr. Aaron Levine, the grandson of the Reisah Rav, explains that the gentiles fulfill the mitzvah of honoring and fearing their parent so that one day their own children will honor and fear then as well. It is good for society that the younger folk respect their elders. Such a practice will provide assistance and help for the elderly. Honoring ones parent is then just an investment for the future for when one will need to be the recipient of the same kindness from their own children.
To summarize, many of the gentiles fulfill this mitzvah not for its own sake but out of selfish motives. Their fulfillment of this mitzvah lacks meleches machsheves. The Torah thus juxtaposed this mitzvah to Shabbos to teach that just as the laws of Shabbos only applies if there is meleches machsehves so to the mitzvah of honoring and fearing one's parents only apply is there is true meleches machsheves, i.e., when one honors and fears their parents out of recognizing the true worth of the parents and out of awareness that ones own existence only came about due to his parents. Only with such a true fulfillment will we follow in the sign of Shabbos and separate ourselves from the gentile world even in the single commandment that they attempt to fulfill.
May it be Hashem's will that through the true fulfillment of this mitzvah of honoring and fearing one's parents we merit the promised reward of longevity with both quality and quantity.
On the pure Menorah shall he arrange the lamps before Hashem continually (Varikra 24:4). You shall place them in two stacks, six in each stack, upon the pure Table before Hashem (Ibid, 6).
In this week's parsha we learn about the lighting of the Menorah and the arrangement of the showbread upon the Shulchan. It is noteworthy that the mitzvah of lighting the Menorah was to be preformed daily whereas the arrangement of the showbread was preformed weekly. The Gemara says, if one wants to become wise he should face north during prayer. If one wants to become wealthy he should face south during prayer. The mnemonic for this is: the Menorah is in the south and the Shulchan in the north (Bava Basra 25b). The Menorah is symbolic of wisdom, i.e., the study of Torah. The Shulchan is symbolic of wealth. In the mishkan the Menorah was located toward the south and the Shulchan toward the north. One should face the direction of the object that is symbolic of what he would like to attain.
We may suggest that there is a deeper meaning here. The Menorah was lit daily. When seeking wisdom one must keep in mind that success can only be achieved through diligent daily study. To obtain wealth however, one should focus on the Shulchan. The Shulchan was arranged weekly. In contrast to the Menorah the mitzvah cycle was long term. Success in wealth is generally contingent upon long term investments. What has little value now may be of great value in the future.
With regard to the Menorah, the Gemara relates that a miracle occurred every single day. The western lamp would be filled with a measure of oil equal to the other lamps. There was just enough oil for the lamp to remain lit until morning, yet the western lamp remained lit until the following evening. chazal state that this miracle served as testimony that the Divine Presence rested upon the Jewish People (Shabbos 22).
With regard to the showbread, we also find that chazal call it a "great miracle." Although the bread remained on the table the entire week, it remained fresh and even exuded steam. When the Jewish people came to visit the Beis Hamikdash three times a year, the kohanim would lift the table and display the fresh bread and steam. They would say "See how much love Hashem has for the Jewish People" (Chagigah 26).
We may note that that term chazal use to describe the miracle of the Menorah is "testimony" and the term used in connection with the miracle of the showbread is "love." Testimony is related to truth and fact. Witnesses testify to establish the facts of a case. The miracle of the Menorah testified the true fact that Hashem's Presence rested upon the Jewish People. The showbread miracle is described as "love." True love can only be verified with the test of time. This may explain why the cycle of the miracle was relatively long in contrast to the cycle of its counterpart, the Menorah.
We may now suggest that two miracles complemented one another. Not every reality of life do we love and not everything we love is real. The two miracles together represent the reality that Hashem rests his Presence upon the Jewish people as an expression of His love for them.
Between Pesach and Shavuos, we have a mitzvah to count the Omer. The counting concludes with the holiday of Shavuos, the day when the Jewish people received the Torah on Mount Sinai. The counting of the Omer is viewed as a yearning and anticipation of the day when we received the Torah. The mitzvah is divided into two separate parts. There is mitzvah to count days and a mitzvah to count weeks. We may suggest that the two parts of the mitzvah correspond to the two ideas mentioned above. The counting of the days serves as "testimony" that the Torah is the essence of the Jewish people. The counting of the "weeks" expresses the love we have for the Torah. Both elements together express the fact that the Torah is the love and reality of the Jewish people.
The Mechaber (Orach Chaim 128) notes that Lag Ba'omer always falls out on the same weekday as Purim. Further, he notes that the word palag, translated "part" serves a mnemonic for this phenomena. This Hebrew word is comprised of three letters pei, lamed and gimmel. The mnemonic is interpreted to mean that the weekday of pei which represents Purim will be the same for lamed-gimmel which stands for thirty-three or Lag Ba'omer as we know it.
We may ask what symbolic relationship is there between Purim and Lag Ba'omer in that they both share the same day of the week.
When studying the commentaries we discover that many important events occurred on Lag Ba'omer. Let us present two such events. The first is the mabul (the Flood). The posuk (verse) records that "on the seventeenth day of the second month all the fountains of the great depth were opened and the windows of the heaven were opened. There was rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights" (Bereishis 7:11,12). Rashi here notes that the forty days of rain do not include the first day. This is because the rainfall of the first day was incomplete due to the fact that it did not rain the prior evening. Thus, according to Rashi although the windows of the heaven along with the fountains of the great depths were opened on the seventeenth, the mabul did not begin until the eighteenth day of the second month. The seventieth day of the month was just the warm up period. There is a dispute in the gemara if the months of the Torah are calculated from Tishrei or from Nisan. If we follow the opinion that they are calculated from Nisan, it emerges that the mabul stared on the eighteenth day of Iyar, which is the same day as Lag Ba'omer.
The commentators explain that this is one reason for the custom that children play with bows and arrows on Lag Ba'omer. The Hebrew word for bow is "keshes." This is the same word used for rainbow. The rainbow was designated by Hashem to serve as a sign that He would never again bring a mabul to the world. We remind ourselves of this sign on the anniversary of the mabul.
The Chasam Sofer notes that Lag Ba'omer was also the day that the ma'an began to fall from heaven. The Torah records that the Jewish people came to rest in the desert of Sin on the fifteenth day of the second month. On the sixteenth day of the month the Jewish people complained to Moshe that they had nothing to eat. The next day on the seventeenth of the month, Hashem told Moshe that on the following day, the eighteenth, the ma'an would begin to fall (Shemos 16). As mentioned above, the eighteenth day of the second month is Lag Ba'omer.
Both of the above events share the characteristic that the heavens miraculously opened. However there is a major difference between the two. The first event was the beginning of forty days of complete destruction whereas the second event was the beginning of forty years of great blessing.
We may derive that the eighteenth day of Iyur is an auspicious time for Hashem's (G-D's) revelation. However, this revelation may come in the form of blessing or punishment. In preparation of this day it is incumbent upon us in to pray and repent so that Hashem's revelation manifest itself in the form of blessing and not destruction.
We find this also to be true of Purim. Purim day was originally designated for the annihilation of the Jewish people. However, due to the prayer and repentance of the Jewish People this day was transformed to one of great joy and salvation for all time.
On both Purim and Lag Ba'omer the stakes are high. Hashem will make Himself known in one way or another. We must prepare ourselves so that we deserve that this revelation come in the form of blessing.
Alternatively, we may note that Lag Ba'omer is the day that Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai revealed the secret kabalistic teaching of the Torah. Indeed, many have the custom to celebrate this day by visiting his grave in Maron.
Both Purim and Lag Ba'Omer represent the revelation of what is hidden. The miracle of Purim enabled us to discover in retrospect Hashem's hidden guidance of the world. Similarly, Lag Ba'omer is the time when we discovered the hidden secrets of the Torah. Both Purim and Lag Ba'omer are associated with great rejoicing for there is great enjoyment in the revelation of what is hidden.
In parshas Emor the Torah lists all the Biblical holidays. The commentators note that the rabbinic holidays are alluded to as well. For example, after Torah concludes the laws of Shemini Atzeres it proceeds to discuss the Menorah. This section alludes to the holiday of Chanukah when we celebrate the miraculous lighting of the menorah that occurred in the time of the Chashmanoyim. The next section in the Torah is the Shulchan and Lechem Hapanin. This alludes to the holiday of Purim. Purim is time of great celebration and demands a lavish feast. This is symbolic of the Shulchan, which also represents festivity.
We may now ask where do we find a hint of the holiday of Lag Ba'omer in the list of festivals?
With the above idea in mind we may suggest that Lag Ba'omer is part of Purim and include in Shulchan and Lechem Hapanim. We may further suggest that this is why the showbread of the Shulchan was divided into two parts with six breads in each arrangement. The holiday of revelation is divided into two parts. The first part is celebrated as the holiday of Purim and the second part as the holiday of Lag Ba'omer. Indeed the mnemonic mentioned above is "palag" which is translated as "part." This indicated that each holiday is one part of a whole.
We may further note that there are exactly sixty-four days between Purim and Lag Ba'omer. Sixty-four days is equivalent to eight multiplied by eight.
Between Pesach and Shavuos we are obligated to count seven times seven. Seven represents the physical world, which was created in seven days. The multiplication of seven by seven represents the totality of the physical world. In the days between Pesach and Shavuos we master our ability to infuse the physical world with spirituality.
Similarly we may suggest that there is another counting of eight multiplied by eight. The number eight represents the spiritual world. The multiplication of eight by eight represents the totality of the spiritual world. As mentioned above Purim and Lag Ba'omer are one holiday that is broken up into two parts. The holiness of this single holiday begins on Purim. On this day Hashem reveals his hidden guidance of this world. We then spiritually refine ourselves in sequences of eight until we reach the eighth of the eighth, which is Lag Ba'Omer. We then merit to discover the secrets of Torah. The period between Purim and Lag Ba'omer is the time we master our spiritual understanding of Hashem and his Torah.
A husband may not contaminate (become ritually impure by contact/the presence of a dead person) himself among his people, through whom he becomes profaned (Vayikra 21:4).
The baalei tosofos homiletically interpret this posuk (verse) as saying that an ordinary kohen may not contaminate himself for the honor of the kohen gadol (High priest). The posuk would thus read One may not contaminate himself - even for the master of the people, i.e. the kohen gadol.
This halachah (law) needs explanation. It is certainly not self-evident. Consider that the kohen gadol is the leader of the kohanim. Should the kohanim not be permitted, and yes, even be obligated to show respect for their leader and contaminate themselves for him when he dies? Moreover, in defining the kohen gadol, the Torah refers to him as the "kohen who is greatest from his brethren." (Vayikra 21:10) What this tells us, in chazal's (our sages of blessed memory) understanding, is that the sanctity of the kohen gadol derives from the will and acceptance of the ordinary kohanim. Further, chazal teach us that one must respect and fear his teacher just as he respects and fears his parents, for his parents have brought him into this world, whereas his teacher brings him into the world to come. Yet, despite the above the Torah does teach us that an ordinary Kohen may not contaminate himself for the sake of the kohen gadal.
Let us now make the following observation. It is a severe sin for any kohen to contaminate himself, yet for an ordinary relative one is obligated to do so. This is true even if others can attend to his or her needs. However, a kohen is forbidden to contaminate himself for the sake of the kohen gadal, who is the spiritual leader of the Jewish people. Why are the kohanim forbidden to contaminate themselves for the sake of their leader?
The answer begins with the recognition that the kohen gadol is not just a leader among men, but rather is the quintessence of spiritual leadership. In contrast to the King who is entrusted with the Jewish people's material needs, the kohen gadal's role is to look after the Jewish peoples spiritual needs. Effective leadership is challenging. On one hand the leader must empathize with the people on a personal level, but on the other hand must also keep a distance. Without maintaining a distance from the people the kohen gadol cannot expect to command respect and to wield power. The difficult job of any Jewish leader is how to balance the two. There will be times when a leader wishes to enact decrees that are unpopular among his constituents but are desperately needed for their ultimate good. If a leader is too close with his people he may be prevented from enacting what is in the interest of their ultimate good. The Torah was aware of this danger and wished to convey that the kohen gadal, the spiritual leader of the Jewish people is indeed separate and apart. If an ordinary kohen would be required to contaminate himself for the sake of the kohen gadol this would convey that the kohen gadal is like any other ordinary relative. This may take away from the aura of the kohen gadal. Respect requires distance. By teaching that the kohen gadal is not to be treated as a relative but rather as a non-relative the Torah conveys that he is not "one of the boys," but rather stands apart as a powerful leader who can guide his people by using his judgment to decide what Hashem's (G-D's) Will is.
The kohen who is exalted above his brethren, upon whose head the anointment oil has been poured or has been inaugurated to don the vestments, shall not allow the hair on his head to grow long and shall not rend his garments. He shall not come to any souls of the dead, etc. He shall not leave the sanctuary and he will not defile the Sanctuary of his God; for a crown - the oil of his anointment - is upon him. I am Hashem (Vayikra 21:10-12)
When the posuk (verse) here discusses the kohen gadol (high priest), it lists four admonitions. (1) he shall not let his hair grow long; (2) he shall not rend his garments; (3) he shall not contaminate his soul for the dead; and (4) he shall not leave the sanctuary. In addition to the posuk's simple meaning and interpretation let us suggest a homiletic one as well.
The kohen gadol is the prototype of a Jewish leader. By admonishing the kohen gadol with these four admonitions the posuk is also admonishing all Jewish leaders in whatever capacity they serve also to follow these four guidelines for the benefit of their own success as well as for their constituents.
The first admonition is that a Jewish leader should not let his hair grow long. This is symbolic warning to the Jewish leader to guard his ideologies and policies from foreign non-Torah influences. It is important for a leader to constantly weigh and judge any ideology or new policy and determine if they truly meet Torah standards. Let us elaborate on this idea with a maamor chazal (saying from our sages). The posuk (verse) says (Melachim I 5:9) Hashem granted wisdom to Shlomo etc. like the sand on the seashore. Chazal, commenting on the analogy of sand of the seashore to the wisdom of Shlomo say the following: Just as sand fences in the sea from exceeding its limits, likewise, the wisdom of Shlomo was guarded from expanding beyond its limits. The explanation is that the highest form of wisdom is one that is intellectually honest. This occurs when one constantly scrutinizes and examines his theories and ideas to be sure that they have not exceeded the limits of integrity and honesty. The admonition of not allowing a Jewish leader to let his hair grow long emphasizes precisely this point. The growth of hair stemming form the head, the seat of thought, symbolizes the expansion of creative and innovative thought into unfamiliar territory. The admonition to a Jewish leader is that he be careful that the creative expansive thoughts of his mind are always checked and bounded to conform to the ways of Torah.
The second admonition is that a Jewish leader should not rend his clothing. We find in many places that clothing is symbolic of character traits. For example the posuk says (Koheles 9:8) At all times your clothing shall be white. The commentators explain that this is to be interpreted to mean that a person should strive to maintain a perfect character at all times. The posuk here teaches us that it is certainly ideal that all individuals attain perfect character, however for a Jewish leader it is not an ideal but an absolute must. A Jewish leader must take extra special care to improve his character as he serves his people.
The third admonition is not to become contaminated by coming into contact with the dead. This is a symbolic message for the Jewish leader not to mingle among the wicked und unscrupulous folk. The posuk refers to the wicked ones as dead as the Gemarah (Berachos 18a) says that the wicked are considered dead even in their lifetimes. A Jewish leader is in high demand; he is called upon to serve in many capacities. It is he who is constantly in contact with many people and thus more vulnerable to the enslavements of the evil plans and influences of the unscrupulous. It is the Jewish leader who needs this extra admonition.
Finally, the fourth admonition is for the Jewish leader not to leave the sanctuary. This is a symbolic way of saying that there is no such thing as taking a vacation from leadership. One who accepts upon himself the mantle of leadership must live his life in the sanctuary. Everything he does must be perfect and pure. All his actions are constantly watched and scrutinized. Every deed, even one that seems private, must be performed as if it were on behalf of the community. The message here is that there is no such thing as an escape for a Jewish leader. It involves full time responsibility, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. As the posuk says from the sanctuary you shall not leave. This is the lot of a Jewish leader.
By studying and fulfilling the ideals of the Jewish leader may we merit the blessing recited on behalf of those who serve in this capacity. And all those who are involved faithfully in the needs of the community may the Holy One Blessed is He, pay their reward and remove from them every affliction, heal their entire body and forgive their every iniquity and send blessing and success to all their handiwork along with all Yisroel their brethren. (Yekum Purkan - Shacharis for Shabbos)
If you will say what will we eat in the seventh year? Behold we will not sow and we will not gather our crop! I will ordain My blessing for you in the sixth year and it will yield a crop sufficient for the three years. (Vayikra 25:20-21)
In this week's parsha (Torah reading) we learn about the law of sh'mitah. In the year of sh'mitah we are not permitted to sow or work the land in any way whatsoever. The Torah promises us that crop of the previous year will carry us through the sh'mitah year and beyond until we produce new grain. Through the law of sh'mitah the Torah teaches us the concept of faith.
The commentators note that the Torah here uncharacteristically goes out of its way to mention that we will question Hashem (G-D) as to how we can fulfill this mitzvah (commandment) when it will result in our not being able to produce food. This question of how can we survive if we fulfill the mitzvah may be asked with regard to many mitzvos, specifically those that make it difficult to earn a livelihood or derive benefit from what the world has to offer. What unique lesson of faith is found in sh'mitah that the Torah chose to emphasize the lesson of faith by even mentioning the question?
The commentators (see Windows to the Soul by Rabbi Dr. Bernstein) ask a simple question, when exactly will a person ask the question "what will we eat in the seventh year." It would seem that it will be asked in the beginning of the seventh year. One will say, if I do not plant in the beginning of this year, I will have nothing to eat at the end of the year. However, this seems difficult in light of the fact that the Torah has promised that the crop of the sixth year will be enough to carry us through three years. If the blessing has already been fulfilled in the sixth year then what is this individual worried about. At the beginning of the seventh year he still has two years of food in stock. He will be allowed to resume planting crops one whole year before his food runs out. We must therefore suggest that this question will be asked in the first six years of the sh'mitah cycle, before the blessing has been fulfilled. However, this would seem to be even more difficult. At this time he has what to eat and is even allowed to work the land. Why is he worrying about what will be in a few years from now?
We may suggest that this is exactly why the Torah chose to emphasize the concept of faith specifically with regard to shi'mitah. Typically, we assume that the test of faith occurs when we go through hard and difficult times. During good times when there is nothing to worry about we don't think much about faith. The Torah here teaches us that weakness in faith can be detected even in good times. During the first six years when there is plenty of food and we are permitted to produce more, we are already questioning Hashem as to what will be years later. From sh'mitah we learn that the lessons of faith are to be learned in the good times of plenty. When the hard times come it will be difficult to overcome the test of faith if we are not prepared.
Speak to the children of Yisroel and say to them: When you come into the land that I give you, the land shall observe a Shabbos rest for Hashem (G-D). For six years you may sow your field, for six years you may prune your vineyard and you may gather in its crop. But on the seventh year a complete rest, shall be for the land, Shabbos for Hashem; your field you shall not sow and your vineyard you may not prune. The aftergrowth of your harvest you shall not reap and the grapes of your keeping away you shall not pick; it shall be a year of rest for the land. (Vayikra 25:2-5).
The above posukim (verses) introduce us to the commandment of shmitah. A literal reading of the posukim seem to indicate that there are two shmitah's, one before the six years of cultivation and one after. This is derived from the fact that the posukim mention shmitah twice. The Torah first commands us first to observe shmitah immediately upon entering the land and once again at the conclusion of six years of cultivation. We are aware that the shmitah year is part of a seven-year cycle. In truth every shmitah is both before and after six years of cultivation. It would seem then that the Torah should have described the cycle in such a way that would not include the repetition of shmitah both before and after the six years of cultivation. We may therefore ask, why did the Torah describe shmitah in this way?
The Gemara (Shabbos 118) teaches us that if all of the Jewish people were to observe two Shabbosim, the redemption would immediate arrive. The commentators are perplexed as to why the Gemara specifically chose to mention two Shabbosim and not one. They answer that Shabbos serves two functions. On the one hand Shabbos is the conclusion and climax of the week. It symbolically represents that our weekday labor is directed toward a holy purpose. On the other hand, Shabbos also gives sanctity to the following week. It is only after we experience the Shabbos and are infused with its holiness that we have the ability to go about our activities during the following six days. When the Gemara says that we must observe two Shabbosim it means that we must observe both aspects of the Shabbos. A Shabbos before the six days of the week and a Shabbos after the six days of the week. We must look forward to the coming Shabbos as the climax of the week but we must also preserve the experience of the past Shabbos as well.
The commentators provide us with a more precise definition of the influence that Shabbos casts on the both the past and following week. The week is made up six workdays. The first three days are an extension of the past Shabbos. During these days the holiness and influence of the past Shabbos are still felt. The last three workdays of the week are a preparation for the following Shabbos. During these three days the rays of holiness from the upcoming Shabbos can be felt.
Indeed, this idea has ramifications in Halacha (Jewish law) as well. If one forgot or was unable to recite havdalah at the conclusion of Shabbos he is permitted to recite havdalah until Tuesday. This is because the influence of the past Shabbos remains until the Tuesday of the following week. Likewise, if one is planning to travel a great distance and his travel arrangements conflict with Shabbos, if he begins his trip more then three day before Shabbos he need not be concerned. When Shabbos arrives he will work out his situation the best he can. However if he plans to set out within three days of Shabbos he must be sure to arrange his trip so that there will no conflict with Shabbos whatsoever. This is because within three days of Shabbos one is obligated to prepare for Shabbos.
We may suggest that the same is true with regard to shmitah. In every shmitah cycle there are six years when the cultivation of the land is permitted. The first of these three years are influenced by the past shmitah, whereas the last three years are under the influence of the following shmitah. This may be seen in our parsha where the Torah deliberately chose to describe shmitah as both before and after the six years of cultivation. During the six years of cultivation we must look forward to the coming shmitah but must also preserve the sanctity of the past shmitah.
The Mishna in Bava Basra (28a) teaches that if a person occupies a home or a parcel of land for at least three uncontested years he is believed to claim he purchased or received it as a gift from the previous owner without proof. The Gemara seeks the source for the time of three years. After an elaborate discussion the Gemara concludes that Chazal (our sages of blessed memory) evaluated that after a person occupies a home or parcel of land for three uncontested years he feels secure of his ownership to the degree that he decides that he no longer needs to guard his deed. Therefore, after three years one is believed to claim that he lost his deed. We may still ask, why is it that precisely after three years a person feels confident enough to neglect his deed.
Shmitah is the year when all landowners are forced to reflect that they do not have complete ownership of the land. During this year landowners practically abandon the land. Indeed the posuk says with regard to shmitah that it a Shabbos for Hashem. However, during the other six years a person does exercise his authority over the land. The attitude of ownership and authority during the six years is surely influenced by the lack of ownership of the shmitah year. Further, from the above idea we derive that the seven-year cycle of shmitah it divided into two segments of three. During the three years before the onset of shmitah a person is influenced by the upcoming shmitah. During these years he reflects and prepares for the upcoming shmitah. Likewise, during the first three years, the experience and holiness of the last shmitah lingers on. We may thus derive that three years is a complete unit of time that a person occupies land with an attitude of ownership under the influence of either the past or following shmitah. Perhaps it is for this reason that once this complete unit of time has passed a person feels comfortable enough with his degree of ownership that he decides that he no longer needs to guard his deed.
And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom in the land for of its inhabitants. It shall be for you a jubilee and each man shall return to his ancestral land and each man shall return to his family (Vayikra 25:10).
The commentators note that the posukim (verses) prior to these with regard to the laws of shemitah (the sabbatical year) speaks in the singular, whereas here with regard to the laws of yovel (the jubilee year) the Torah speaks in the plural. Why is the Torah changing its syntax from singular to plural? Why are only the laws of yovel expressed in plural?
The commentators explain the first yovel in our history occurred during the first five days of creation. (see Sefer Nachals Binyamin, Mitzvah 85, Recorded in Hadrash Ve-Haiyun Parshas Behar 266). Chazal (Our sages of blessed memory) teach us that the world was created on the twenty-fifth day of Elul. Six days later on the first day of Tishrei a new year began. On this day man was created and a new yovel cycle commenced. If the first day of Tishrei was the beginning of a new cycle then the previous five days of the past year must have been yovel, for a new cycle commences only after the yovel year. It is noteworthy that after the first five days of creation, the world was complete with the exception of man. The commentators teach us that any first time occurrence of any particular event in the Torah is significant because by analyzing the matter in that location we can discover its essence. Thus, we may suggest that if the first yovel was a time where the world existed without man, then yovel is symbolic of "a world without man."
The posuk relates that man's years on this earth are seventy (Tehilim 90). What is the significance of seventy years? Likewise, the Torah says with regard to man "His days shall be one hundred and twenty" (Bereishis 6:3)." What is the significance of a life of exactly one hundred and twenty years?
By changing its expression from singular to plural, the Torah may be conveying the notion that there are two different types of yovel. The first yovel is the standard yovel that is counted for the land in conjunction with the shemitah years. This count is the same for the entire world. However, there is also a private yovel count. Each individual must count the years of his life. The climax of the count is year fifty when the individual reaches his private yovel. Yovel is symbolic of a world without man. When the individual reaches his personal yovel he must contemplate a world that exists and goes on without him. In other words, at this juncture man must contemplate the possibility of his own demise. Yovel is written in plural, for there is no single count that is the same for all. Each individual counts the years of his own life, which varies from individual to individual.
The Torah is teaching us how to live our lives. We must keep in mind where we are heading. Every year of our life must be productive and counted toward the yovel year when we prepare to return to our eternal existence.
The posuk says that in yovel "a man shall return to his achuza." Homiletically, we may interpret this as, man must be prepared to return to the world from where he came and receive his true portion in the world to come. The posuk also says "each man shall return to his family." This may be interpreted to mean that, man will be reunited with his forefathers who have since passed from this world.
We may ask, when does this counting begin? Chazal teach us that an individual is not held accountable for his actions until the age of twenty. Although one is obligated to perform mitzvos (commandments) at the age of thirteen, nonetheless one is not held responsible until twenty. We derive from this that adult life begins at age twenty. Thus we may suggest that the count for one's personal yovel begins at age twenty. We may now understand the aforementioned posuk that specifies seventy years as the minimum lifespan one can expect. This is exactly one personal yovel after the time man reaches full adulthood.
Chazal relate that if only all Jews would observe two shabbosim we would be redeemed immediately. The commentators emphasize that one shabbos is not enough. The simple interpretation is that after one shabbos we have only have gained experience but still need another shabbos to gain the full benefit of what shabbos has to offer.
The Torah describes shemitah as a "shabbos of rest" (Vayikra 24:4). Yovel, which is the climax of seven "shabbosos of rest" can certainly be referred to as the ultimate shabbos. Physically it is a time when the earth rests. Personally, is the time that one prepares to rest in the eternal world. Ideally, we need two shabbosim. Perhaps this is why the Torah says that the ideal number of years of human existence is one hundred and twenty. This number allows for exactly two yovels after reaching full adulthood.
There is a dispute among the authorities if it is proper for one to celebrate a birthday. Chazal teach us that with regard to the counting yovel cycle there is a mitzvah for the beis din (Jewish court) to count each year of the yovel cycle just as we count each day between pesach (Passover) and shavuos. We may suggest that the celebration of a birthday is a fulfillment of the personal counting of yovel. Just as beis din has a mitzvah to count each year of the land yovel, likewise we fulfill this concept with regard to our personal yovel by celebrating a birthday and focusing on the fact that the past year as well as the next is counted in preparation for our ultimate return.
The commentators teach us that the blowing of the shofar is symbolic of the creation of man. Hashem (G-D) created man by blowing breath into his nostrils. The Targum explains us that the uniqueness of man lies in his ability to speak. We reenact man's creation by blowing breath into an object that produces sound. The blowing of the breath corresponds to Hashem's blowing and the sound that is produced corresponds to man who has the power of speech. Rosh Hashanah is the anniversary of man's creation; it is therefore appropriate that we reenact mans creation with the blowing of the shofar. However, do we blow shofar at the onset of yovel? Also, the literal translation of yovel is horn. Why is the concept of yovel capsulated in a word which carries the connotation of blowing a horn?
Perhaps, the answer is that Yovel is the day when we acknowledge that the world will one day exist without our presence. We recognize that we are only here temporarily, and that we live our lives in preparation for the ultimate return. Yovel is the day when we commemorate the complete fulfillment of human life not just its beginning. It is thus very appropriate that the shofar is blown and that its name is synonymous with this concept.
May we merit to hear the shofar of our second yovel.
For six years you shall plant your field and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and you shall harvest its produce. And in the seventh year there shall be a Shabbos of rest for the land, a Shabbos for Hashem. You shall not plant your field and you shall not prune your vineyard. (Vayikra 25:3-4)
In this week's parsha we learn about the mitzvah of shemittah. Every seventh year we are forbidden to work the land. The land must remain fallow and rest.
In the sefer Tosefes Berachah, Rav Baruch Epstein tz"l provides a homiletic explanation as to why the shemittah cycle is exactly every seven years. The Gemara (Berachos 34b) relates how Rava would tell his students. "I beg of you, in the months of Nissan and Tishrei do not appear before me in the study hall so that you will not lack sustenance for the entire year. The commentators explain that in the time of Chazal it was customary to work the land two months a year, Nissan and Tishrei. These were the harvest and gathering seasons of the fields and vineyards. The remaining ten months of the year were devoted to the study of Torah. Rava admonished his students to work the land these two months and not attend the study hall at all. If they failed to listen, they risk not having what to eat and with what to support themselves for the remainder of the year.
Rav Epstein notes that after six years the students would have worked in the field for exactly twelve months. Being that a year is twelve months, Hashem declared the seventh year shemittah so that the student could study Torah the entire year to compensate for the twelve months they were unable to study the previous six years.
There appears to be an obvious difficulty. Even if the seventh year was not a shemittah year, the students would not work more then two months anyhow. How does a shemittah year compensate for twelve months? Rav Epstein appears to answer that the shemittah year involves absolutely no work whatsoever in contrast to the ten months of a regular year which do involve some minimal work, albeit not as intense as Nissan and Tishrei.
Let us suggest another answer. The Gemarah (Kesubos 62b) relates how Rebbi Akivah left his wife to study Torah for twelve years. Upon his return he overheard an old man torment her by telling her how foolish she was for marrying Rebbi Akivah who had abandoned her for twelve years. He said to her, "How long will you conduct yourself like a living widow." She replied "If only he would listen to me, I would permit him to study Torah for another twelve years." Upon hearing this Rebbi Akivah said, "I have received permission" and immediately retuned to the study hall for another twelve years. The commentators ask, why didn't Rebbi Akivah at least stop in to say hello and spend some time with his wife and family before returning to the study hall? The answer is, there is no comparison between the study of Torah in two sets of twelve years and the study of Torah for twenty-four consecutive years. Twelve plus twelve does not equal twenty-four. Twenty-four consecutive years of Torah study is a qualitatively different experience then two sets of twelve years.
In connection with this idea there is fascinating story found in the introduction of the sefer Shevet Hakihasi. The Chazon Ish zt"l once came across two students who were idling away during a study session. He rebuked them for wasting their time and explained that it is impossible to enjoy the study of Torah unless one is uninterrupted for at least three-four hours. He compared Torah study to cooking food. If one would cook a dish, remove it from the fire before it was completed and then return it to the fire for completion, it would produce a dish that is qualitatively inferior to a similar dish that was cooked without interruption. He then went on to describe in detail the experience of each additional hour of uninterrupted study from five to eleven hours.
With this idea, we may answer our question. Although in the year of shemittah one technically works only two months less work than in a regular year, there is a major qualitative difference. In the year of shemittah there is no interruption. The lack of interruption completely transforms the quality of the other ten months to a degree that elevates them to a new experience. This was the blessing of the shemittah year. There were indeed twelve new quality months of Torah study to compensate for the twelve months of work in the last six years.
If you go in My statutes and observe my commandments and perform them (Vayikra 26:3). I will turn to you I will make you fruitful and increase you and I will establish my covenant with you (Ibid 26, 9).
Our parsha (Torah reading) opens by informing us that if we observe the statutes and mitzvos (commandments) of the Torah we will merit great blessing. Rashi explains that the word "statutes" cannot refer to the commandments of the Torah for this is stated explicitly in the posuk (verse). It must refer to something else, that being, "toil in Torah study."
The commentators note that Torah study here is expressed with the unusual verb, "toil." This interpretation is derived from the fact that the Torah connects the word "statutes" to the expression "you will go." This phrase has the connotation of an intensified striving which can be properly expressed in connection to Torah study with the word "toil."
It is noteworthy that Rabainu Bachya provides a different interpretation of the word "statutes." He says that it refers to the previous parsha, specifically to the laws of sh'me'tah and yovel (Sabbatical year and Jubilee). The posuk is interpreted as saying, if you observe the aforementioned laws of sh'me'tah and yovel as well as all the other Torah commandments you will merit great blessing.
It emerges that the word "statutes" may refers to either "toil in Torah study" or the observance of the laws of sh'me'tah and yovel. We may ask what do sh'me'tah, yovel and toil in Torah study have in common? Seemingly they are contradictory. Toil in Torah involves great effort and exertion whereas observance of sh'me'tah and yovel involve rest.
We may answer by suggesting that the Torah here is defining exactly what it means to toil in Torah study. There are two ways one can study Torah. One can study Torah while being preoccupied with other worldly pursuits or one can study Torah in an environment removed from all distractions. Surely the superior quality of Torah study of the latter kind does not compare to the former. To qualify as "Toil" in Torah study, one must actively remove all distractions and desist from the mundane activities of life as one does in the years of sh'me'tah and yovel.
We may now understand a posuk later in this chapter. The posuk says that as a reward for our observance of the statutes, "I (Hashem) will turn to you, will make you fruitful and increase you." Rashi comments that this is interpreted to means that Hashem will turn away from all His concerns in order to pay our reward. Hence, we derive from Rashi that there are two types of blessings. One is when Hashem bestows what appears to be a less intense blessing. From our perspective, it may appear as if Hashem is preoccupied with other matters when He grants our reward. The other type of blessing is an intensified blessing. From our perspective it appears that Hashem turns away from His other concerns and fully concentrates in bestowing our reward.
In our parsha, Hashem is promising the second type of blessing. This is precisely measure for measure. Just as toil in Torah study involves blocking out all distractions and concerns to focus on the study of Torah, likewise Hashem rewards us in a similar fashion. His blessing is intensified to the degree where it appears as if He entirely focuses on us.
The valuation of a male shall be: for someone twenty years of age to sixty years, the valuation shall be fifty silver shekels, of the holy shekel (Vayikra 27:3)
We may ask, why did the Torah set the valuation of a man at the precise value of fifty coins? Perhaps we may answer by combining the following three ideas.
The first idea comes from the commentary of the Rav on a mishna in mesechtah ahalos (2:5). The Rav there asks why is it that the minimum amount of human flesh needed to convey tumah (ritual ineligibility) is set at precisely the volume of an olive? Likewise why is the minimum amount of blood needed to convey tumah set precisely at the volume of a reviyus? The Rav answers that this amount of flesh and this amount of blood is what a human being possesses in its mother's womb when it first develops into a living creature. Since this measurement is the smallest size of flesh and blood needed to bring about new life it also attains importance for the rules of contamination that occur when life is no more.
The second point comes from tosofos in mesechtah shabbos. Tosofos there writes that the measurement of an olive amount of flesh is the same as a measurement of a reviyus volume of blood. This is so because when blood congeals it shrinks to the size of an olive.
The third point comes from a tosofos in mesechtah sotah (5). Tosofos there writes that the weight of a reviyos of human blood is exactly twenty-five coins.
If we take all these three ideas together we can derive as follows: Since the weight a reviyus of blood is exactly twenty five coins and the amount of an olive of flesh is the same as a measurement of blood, then together they weigh exactly fifty coins. Furthermore, since the bare minimum of life is an olive of flesh and a reviyus of blood, which weigh fifty coins as explained, this then can serve as the value of man in his prime from twenty to sixty. When man is in his youth or in his advanced years his value will be adjusted from this amount.
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