Parsha Acharei Mos/Kedoshim 5769: The Kohen – Paradigm for Loving Care, Conduit for Unity


by Moshe Burt

Our twin Parshiyot; Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are what baseball fans refer to as another of the “doubleheader” parshas. And just as Parshiyot Tazria and Metzora are extensions of each other, visa vi Tumah and Ta’Hara regarding post-birth, regarding skin, hair, clothing or regarding one’s home or building; Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are extensions of each other regarding Kohanim, Yom Kippur, the Kohen’s Yom Kippur avodah in the Kadosh Kedoshim and the Kohanic model of Darchim, which the entire B’nai Yisrael ideally embraces and exhibits as a model for all mankind.

Parsha Acharei Mos opens with Hashem speaking with Moshe Rabbeinu explaining that he (Moshe) must inform Aaron HaKohen, in the context of the deaths of his sons Nadav and Avihu, that he can not enter Kadosh Kedoshim at all times. Therefore, we learn that the unauthorized offering, or paskening before their Rebbe were not the only possible reasons for for their deaths.

And so, Rabbi Artscroll explains that our Parsha connects this law with Yom Kippur in that it is the one and only time of the year where the Kohan Godol is permitted, required to enter the Kadosh Kedoshim to atone for himself, his household and for the nation.

The Artscroll Chumash (Parsha Acharei, 636), by way of a citing from the Yerushalmi Yoma 1.1, connects Yom Kippur’s atonement with atonement inherent in the death of the righteous, i.e. Aaron’s two sons Nadav and Avihu. And an explanation is brought from the Meshech Chochmah which says that:

Yom Kippur is… a time of favor, and thus an opportune time for atonement.

However, …this is crucial, both Yom Kippur and the deaths of the righteous bring atonement ONLY on one condition. Yom Kippur atones only for people who recognize it as a holy day and treat it as such; those to whom it is merely a day of refraining from food and work, but with out a spiritual dimension, do not find atonement on Yom Kippur. Similarly, those who do not honor the righteous in life, do not benefit from their ascent to Shemayim in death.

In Tazria and Metzora, we learn that it is the Kohen who is the only one Divinely invested with ruling as to Tumah or Ta’Hara regarding ones’ skin, hair, clothing or homes. So too, it is the Kohen who atones for the nation and is the conduit to bring about unity among, and Divine Brachot for B’nai Yisrael. He is the paradigm of both; kindness and loving care for his brethren and the conduit for unity.

One of the main themes underlying Parsha Kedoshim is the loving care
with which each Jew is to treat his Jewish brother. Indeed, we see
that the first posuk of our Parsha conveys that spirit, “Hashem spoke
to Moshe saying, “Speak to the entire assembly of B’nai Yisrael and
say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your G’d.”
(Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 1) Our Parsha then goes on to enumerate the Asseret HaDivrot, the Ten Commandments in depth.

But the spirit of our Parsha is best expressed by the principle
taught by Rabbi Hillel to the convert, on one foot, that the entire Torah can be summed up with this one key concept whch says “V’ohavtoh
L’rei’achoh Komochoh” — “… you shall love your fellow as yourself…” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 18); to want for your fellow Jew what you would want for yourself, to not do to your fellow Jew what you would not want to happen to yourself.

But sadly, in our times, V’ohavtoh L’rei’achoh Komochoh, more often than not, is lacking amongst B’nai Yisrael, supplanted by “Me”, “Mine”, “my convenience”, “Me first.” Long gone is a founding precept of modern-day Israel; what happens at your doorstep is like it happened at mine. Long gone is the unity which superseded and outweighed sectorial differences, prejudices and disagreements. Instead, there is disunity, division, senseless hate and misconception. And how quickly do the opportunistic political protexia class; the Olmerts, Baraks, Livnis, Ramons, etc., and yes, the Netanyahus too, who thrive only on our fractionalization and sectorial prejudices, step into cauldron to divide and conquer the Jewish masses through agitating sectors against each other while endangering our very existence on our land through giving away, or attempting to give over our Divine legacy and birthright — the Land of Israel to enemies whose sole desire is our decimation and elimination. .

There is a connection between this mido of loving kindness to our brethren and the role of the Kohen Gadol as a unifier and as a national emissary. The Kohen’s very essence is the paradigm of unity and of the concept of “V’ohavtoh L’reiachoh Komochoh” in which we all unify as one.

If the B’nai Yisrael were to only glean from the Kohen, and apply the unity of loving kindness to our brethren, as to ourselves, the Olmerts, Baraks, Livnis would cease to exist. And then we’ll zocha to fulfill our assigned mission, to serve as a light, a model to the nations of Hashem’s blueprint for creation.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem and that we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.