Parsha Acharei Mot - Kedoshim
May 6th, 2017
10th of Iyar 5777
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Sanctity is Achieved through Self-Sacrifice
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
“You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your G-d, am holy” (Vayikra 19:2)
There is a strong connection between the parashiyot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim. When my master, my father and teacher, Rabbi Moshe Aharon Pinto, zy”a, would hear someone disparaging his fellow who had already passed away, whether it was about his lack of Yirat Shamayim, or whether he was lax in fulfilling any mitzvah, he would immediately rebuke the speaker and say “Acharei Mot Kedoshim Emor” (lit. after one dies, talk [only] about his saintliness). In fact, there is a severe prohibition against speaking derogatorily about the deceased, as Maran, the Shulchan Aruch ruled (Orach Chaim 606:3). Our forefathers prohibited, and placed a “cherem” (excommunication) against defaming the deceased. The “Mishnah Berurah” writes, “Therefore, one must immediately do teshuvah if he transgressed this cherem.”
We can explain this further according to the continuation of the pasuk (Vayikra 19:17), “You shall surely rebuke your fellow, but you shall not bear a sin on his account.” Chazal elucidate (Baba Metzia 31a), “You shall surely rebuke” even a hundred times. The sefer “Zechut Avot” brings that even if the first or second time the words of rebuke fall on deaf ears and are not accepted by the sinner, nevertheless, one should not despair, but should rebuke his fellow again, of course in a pleasant and tolerant manner, because one does not know when his words will take effect and penetrate his heart. Even though at first his rebuke is rejected, it is possible that after a while, perhaps after many years, on the final days of his life, the rebuke will surface in his memory and will help him return in complete teshuvah. Thus, this man will leave the world in purity, clean from all sins and transgressions.
This is the reason for the juxtaposition of parshiyot “Acharei Mot” and “Kedoshim”, since by accepting the rebuke sooner or later, or even at the end of his life, he will ultimately repent over his evil ways and will return in complete teshuvah. Thus, at his death he will become sanctified, since he merited leaving this world as a holy Jew, and his soul will ascend above pure and clean of all sin.
We can also explain this according to the Gemara (Berachot 63b), “Whence do we learn that words of Torah are firmly held by one who kills himself for it? Because it says: This is the Torah, when a man shall die in the tent.” This implies that a person who wishes to merit the Crown of Torah must abstain from the follies of this world and give up its pleasures, devoting himself entirely to the holy Torah. But if he wishes to savor the pleasures of this world and seeks instant gratification, certainly the Torah will not dwell within him.
The Rambam states the following (Hilchot Talmud Torah 3:10), “The words of Torah are not retained by those who are slack about them, and not by those who study from amongst comfort and from amongst eating and drinking, but with those that kill themselves over it and afflict their body constantly, and do not allow their eyes to close in sleep and eyebrows to droop in rest.”
He also writes (Halachah 13): “Although it is a mitzvah to learn Torah by day and by night, a person acquires most of his wisdom by night. Therefore, whoever wishes to merit the Crown of Torah should be careful during all his nights not to lose even one of them in sleep and eating and drinking and conversation, but only spend them learning Torah and wisdom.” These are his words.
If a person truly merits acquiring Torah through hard labor and exhaustion, by minimum sleep, and minimum eating and other earthly pleasures, he becomes a pure and holy man, and regarding him it is written, “You shall be holy, for I, the Lord, your G-d, am holy,” since through his dedication to Torah he merits the virtue of holiness.
This then is the connection between the parshiyot Acharei Mot and Kedoshim. After a person kills himself in the “tent of Torah,” he will merit becoming “Kedoshim” – holy. Only if he will afflict his body for the sake of the Torah and dedicate himself entirely to it, and he will distance himself from the follies of this world, only in this way will he attain the virtue of holiness of “You shall be holy.”
Chazal say (Avot 2:4): “Treat His will as if it were your own will, so that He will treat your will as if it were His will.”
Walking in Their Ways
An Elevating Journey
Every year, during the month of Elul, the days of mercy and forgiveness, we conduct a trip for prayer and inspiration at the gravesites of the tzaddikim buried in Europe. People of all stripes and from all corners of the globe attend.
One year, a large group of wealthy individuals from chutz la’aretz joined us. Included was one of the richest men in the world.
The trip was fraught with difficult physical conditions. As the buses wended their way through various towns, we were jostled to and fro. Lacking modern conveniences and regular hours of sleep, we were a bedraggled lot. After all this, we made the arduous journey to Morocco, in order to celebrate the hilula of my grandfather, Rabbi Chaim Pinto, zy”a.
You can imagine my surprise when, after all of the tiring trips we took, my companions requested to join me for another two days of inspiration in the Holy Land.
I turned to them, and, addressing the wealthy Jew, who was the owner of approximately ten banks, asked, “Don’t you have various businesses to tend to? How can you just leave everything behind?”
The man replied, “My businesses are worth nothing in comparison to the special spiritual experience which I encountered on this trip. It will reach its climax as we reach holy shores.”
We arrived in Eretz Yisrael at daybreak. I was completely exhausted and went to catch some sleep. But the others were fired up with enthusiasm. They exhibited no signs of tiredness at all, in spite of the adventures of the previous week. Excitedly, they went directly to the Kotel, to pray Vatikin prayers there.
These precious Jews taught me the meaning of love for Eretz Yisrael. Despite physical fatigue, they would not relinquish a trip to the Holy Land. And once there, they could not be bothered to spend time on physical pursuits. They had come to soak up the kedushah in the air, and therefore, immediately made their way to the Kotel, the place where the Shechinah will never leave.
Words of Our Sages
“Veshilach beyad ish iti hamidbarah - and send it off to the desert with a timely man” (Vayikra 16:21)
The mission of the “ish iti – timely man” was to confess all the sins of the Jewish people. The question arises, how is it possible for one man to know all the sins of Klal Yisrael, without missing even a small sin?
This question was asked by the gaon Rabbi Meir Shapira of Lublin, zt”l, to a leading journalist from one of the major newspapers, who sat opposite him and asked to hear the Rabbi’s opinion about the ultra-Orthodox Jewry, while raising all the “crimes and transgressions” in the past attributed to the Orthodox sect.
While the Rabbi was sitting and listening to the series of “heavy” accusations he presented before him, the Rabbi suddenly asked, as if he did not understand:
“Does anyone know where the word “itona’i – journalist” first appears in the Torah?”
No one in the room knew the answer to that question. The Rabbi continued, exposing the source for this from the holy Torah. And so he said:
On Yom Kippur, at the height of the holy day for all Jews, at the time when the scapegoat was sent off the mountain, it was taken by an “ish iti.” Who is the “ish iti” mentioned in the Torah? This alludes to an “itona’i – journalist.” In fact one may ask: Why was this mission specifically assigned to a journalist? Could they not find anyone else with a different profession from the public to be appointed to send the goat to Azazel other than the journalist chosen for this mission? Why?
The Rabbi of Lublin continued pleasantly: The answer is as follows: Chazal teach us that it was obligatory to mention over the goat that was sent to a precipitous land, to Azazel, all the sins and iniquities of Klal Yisrael, since all the transgression that were not mentioned over the goat that was sent to Azazel, were not atoned for.
Only someone who is a journalist – only he is capable of knowing and remembering in detail every sin and misdeed of the Jewish people and can never forget them.
And the best thing would have been, the Rabbi of Lublin concluded, while looking straight at the journalist, to send there an article from a major newspaper –
Like your newspaper…
Guard Your Tongue
Not Good nor Bad
If a person wants to speak to his fellow about another person, and he suspects that his fellow is not on good terms with that person, and consequently he will end up speaking disparagingly, he is forbidden from speaking about him.
Conversely, if he relates at length his praises, even if it is not in front of his enemy, it is forbidden, because in this way he will naturally end up speaking condemningly, such as: Besides for this fault of his… or, the listeners may respond, “Why do you praise him so much? Don’t you know about this (negative) trait of his?
“And the word of the Lord came to me, saying, And you, son of man” (Yechezkiel 22)
The connection to the parashah: The Navi cries over the sins of Bnei Yisrael, which is similar to the parashah in which Bnei Yisrael are warned not to commit the abominations like the other nations.
In the Ashkenazi communities, the haftarah is “Behold, you are like the children of the Cushites to Me” (Amos 9), where it tells about the Kingdom of Israel that they will be exiled because of the sins of the generation, which is similar to what is mentioned in the parashah, “And let the land not vomit you out for having defiled it.”
Rabbi David Hanania Pinto
“That he should not come at all times into the Holy” (Vayikra 16:2)
The Torah commands Aharon HaCohen, “That he should not come at all times into the Holy,” and the Torah emphasizes that the command was given to him after the death of his two sons “after the death of Aaron's two sons.” Why does the Torah specifically mention now to Aharon the death of his two sons?
I would like to suggest, with the help of Hashem, the following. Chazal say that when a person is taken to his Final Judgment, he is asked, “Did you set fixed times to study Torah?” This means that every Jew is obligated to set fixed times when he frees himself of all other occupation and devote himself to the study of Torah each day, without exception.
This is the meaning of the pasuk, “That he should not come at all times into the Holy.” One should not study Torah whenever he pleases, without setting fixed times and without consistency, as in one day yes and the next day not, since most of man’s rise in spirituality comes through having a fixed schedule of Torah study, when he is meticulous not to cancel even one day of study which he fixed. Then also his spiritual ascension progresses steadily and he achieves great levels, going from strength to strength.
From all my acquaintances, I see that although they pray daily and observe mitzvot, unfortunately, they do not progress substantially in their spiritual growth, and they are not considered Bnei Aliya. Spiritually, it seems that they are devoid of vitality, and the reason for this is because they do not set fixed times to study Torah. When they have free time, they come to learn a little, but the Torah study is not done regularly and consistently, and they do not have a fixed time to implement their commitment to dedicate their time for Torah. We must be aware that this constitutes a great spiritual danger, even for their offspring. When the son sees that his father does not attach great importance to the Torah, and does not set fixed times for the study of Torah, then he too follows in his father’s ways and becomes a spiritually dead man.
Therefore, the Torah juxtaposed the pasuk “That he should not come at all times into the Holy” to the pasuk “After the death of Aaron's two sons,” because whoever comes at any time to the “Holy” and enters the Beit Midrash to learn whenever he pleases and whenever he has free time, and he does not engage in the study of Torah at fixed times consistently, he should be aware that in the end, the pasuk “After the death of Aaron's two sons” will be fulfilled about him, since ultimately his sons will die a spiritual death. However, if the father is meticulous in setting fixed times to study Torah and does not give up even one day of engaging in the study of the holy Torah, then his son learns from this and sees how important and precious the Torah is in the eyes of his father, and he, too, follows in his ways.
Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin decided never to recite a blessing when there was no one to answer Amen after it, and this is according to what is brought in the Zohar, that one who recited a blessing without having someone present to respond Amen, it is as if it was a letter that was never opened.
Once it happened that an hour after midnight he was very thirsty and wanted to take a drink, but everyone was already asleep and he did not want to wake anyone up. Thus, he sat parched with thirst.
Suddenly, someone knocked on the door; a student had come to ask him the meaning of a Gemara. Overjoyed, Rabbi Chaim told him to enter. Rabbi Chaim then recited the blessing of “Shehakol nihiye bidvaro” and drank thirstily. After quenching his thirst, he recited the blessing “Boreh nefashot.” Then he spoke with the young man in learning, and wished him good night.
Having his wish fulfilled gave Rabbi Chaim great joy. He was thus able to recite the blessing while someone else was present to answer Amen after his blessing. Of course, he made sure to thank the young man profusely for enabling him to quench his thirst and bless Hashem.
The next morning, when he entered the yeshiva, he approached the young man and thanked him once more for allowing him to recite the blessing in his presence so that he would answer Amen. But the young man looked blankly at his teacher in puzzlement: When did I come to the Rabbi in middle of the night? Where did I go? He did not know anything about the story… And it was a total mystery.
Nevertheless, Rabbi Chaim treated him with great respect, because if his figure was sent from Heaven to Rabbi Chaim, it indicated that he possessed outstanding virtues not found in the other students.
Food For Thought
In the parashah, we are warned of several matters between man and his fellow, and we are especially cautioned about giving good advice to our fellow and not causing him damage through bad advice.
Once someone proposed a match between two families, and each one came separately to consult with the Chazon Ish if they should act upon the suggestion.
When the young man’s father came to ask the Chazon Ish about it, he advised him to consider the match, since it was a good suggestion.
However, when the father of the girl asked the Chazon Ish about the match, he advised him in a manner that implied otherwise than what he had advised the young man.
The matchmaker hurried to the Chazon Ish and asked him for an explanation.
The Chazon Ish replied:
I give everyone the advice that is best for him.
I advised the father of the young man to go ahead with the match, since for him this is the best advice. However, for the father of the girl I gave different advice, since his daughter can find a better match.
Men of Faith
In Elul 1844 (5604), a year before Rabbi Chaim passed away, Mogador was ravaged by war between the Moroccans and the French. Many people were forced to escape from the city with their wives and children until the danger passed. They sought relief from the hunger and plagues that struck the city.
It is truly baffling. Why didn’t the tzaddik pray to Hashem that the war should not strike the city? After all, in the merit of his intense holiness, Rabbi Chaim could protect the entire world; certainly he could have ensured that the city of Mogador would not be destroyed.
However, we know that a harsh decree can be averted by suffering exile instead. Therefore, Rabbi Chaim preferred that people leave their homes and suffer exile, instead of, chas v’chalilah, risking their lives by remaining in the city.
Rabbi Chaim Hagadol joined some people leaving the city on foot, since all horses and wagons were reserved for the army. During his escape, a virulent anti-Semite attacked the Rav, lifting his hand to strike him. Miraculously, his hand became permanently paralyzed in mid-air.
At the time, the Rav was eighty-six years old, and the journey was extremely taxing for him. His son the tzaddik Rabbi Hadan, zy”a, lifted his father onto his shoulders. They journeyed an entire day in this manner, until they arrived at the city of Azgar. There they stayed in the house of the minister of the city, Chaz Abdallah, who was a righteous gentile. The minister Abdallah provided for the Rav and his family with dignity. He protected the family the entire period, saving them from starvation and harm.
After the war ended, Rabbi Chaim and his family parted from the minister. The Rav blessed him with much success in the merit of the kindness that he had shown him and his family (Shenot Chaim).