This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Kedoshim is being sponsored by David and Julie Morris and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh Lilui Nishmas for the Yahrtzeit of Julie’s Mother Shulamit Devorah bat Rav Shimshon Raphael z”l. To the Morris family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Parshat Kedoshim, which in a regular year (with one Chodesh Adar) is leyned together with Parshat Acharei Mos, is read on its own in this year of two Adars.
One of the main themes underlying Parsha Kedoshim is the loving care with which each Jew l’chatchila 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)
Torah 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 — “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 youself.
Sadly, in our times, V’ohavta L’rei’acha Komochah, more often than not, is lacking amongst B’nai Yisrael, supplanted by “Me”, “Mine”,“my convenience”, “Me first”. One might add to this list mindsets representative of disunity, division, senseless hatred, i.e. “my group and to heck with yours and, since You omitted us from your ruling coalition and now seek to integrate us into the national social/economic structure, to heck with the Land — we’ll vote with the left.” And the government, in its indecisiveness and equivocation regarding our Divine right to sovereignty in OUR Eretz Yisrael, seems to have omitted loving one’s fellow Jew as one’s self from its lexicon and mindset. This author has recounted various and myriad examples in previous Parsha vorts and won’t repeat them, yet again, here.
This author found these comments from R’ Shimson Rafael Hirsch z’l in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman) regarding Nadav and Avihu and their unauthorized fire service:
From the very wording of scripture [Sefer Vayikra, Perek 10, posuk 1] we learned that Aaron’s sons behaved arrogantly…. They… did not consult with their father before acting. Or precisely because they were sons of Aaron they felt that they were under no obligation to seek advice from anyone else…. Perhaps they had an exaggerated sense of self-worth, and so relied on their own reasoning…. Each of them acted solely on their own initiative. They did not even consult with each other.
…Their intention [Nadav and Avihu] was praiseworthy, for even after their sin they were called [close ones, those near]…. The fact is, however, that when the entire nation was privileged to witness a revelation of Hashem’s closeness, Nadav and Avihu felt the need to make a separate offering of their own. This shows that they were not moved by the true spirit of the priesthood. For in Judaism the priests are completely identified with the nation. They have no standing in their own right. The whole essence of the Kohanim [the priesthood] is that they stand in the midst of the people, and this accounts for their standing before Hashem.
…In their very “drawing near,” Nadav and Avihu were at fault. Their offering per se was illegal in every respect.
One who brings an offering seeks… closeness to Hashem, but this can be attained through obedience to Hashem and acceptance of His Commandments. This is precisely the point which separates Judaism from paganism. The pagan, through his offering, seeks to make his deity subserviant to his will, while the Jew, through his offering, places himself in the service of Hashem and accepts upon himself the yoke of His Commandments… Offerings of one’s own devising would… glorify personal caprice instead of obedience to Hashem and acceptance of His Commandments.
Now we understand the death of Aaron’s sons. Their death at the… first dedication of the Sanctuary is a warning to all future Kohanim. It bars all arbitrariness, all personal caprice, from the… Sanctuary, whose whole purpose is to be a Sanctuary for the Torah! In Judaism the priest’s function is not to introduce innovations in the service, but to carry out Hashem’s Command.
This last sentence of our cited comments from R’ Hirsch z’l seems to deliver a paradigm message not only to the Kohanim, and pertinent in our times:
In Judaism the priest’s function is not to introduce innovations in the service, but to carry out Hashem’s Command.
The Kohen’s function; carrying out Hashem’s commands is butressed by his innate attribute of bringing about unity amongst B’nei Yisrael.
If certain sectors of observant Jewry anoint themselves as “closest to Hashem” than any other sector, then by dint of their own self-designation, are they not thus compelled to themselves meet a higher, more elevated, Kohanic-like paradigm? Are they not to be held to a standard related to by R’ Zelig Pliskin in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (Parsha Kedoshim, page 274), i.e., “Only rebuke others with a sincere concern for their welfare”? Are they not to held to a standard of chinuch, of outreach toward other Jews rather than the disdain and insult of sinat chinom (causeless hatred)? Are these self-designated self-anointed, in truth, perhaps of mindset of unknowingly emulating the arrogance of Nadav and Avihu in standing apart from, rather than amidst the nation?
R’ Zelig Pliskin in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (Parsha Kedoshim, page 274) cites Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler from his sefer Michtav MaiEliyahu (Volume 3, page 139):
When someone tries to criticize or rebuke another person, it is obligatory for those words to come from the depths of his heart. The Sages have said that only those words that come from the heart will enter the heart of the other person. Therefore, if… words of correction are not an expression of …[one’s] inner feelings of care and concern for the welfare of the other person, they will not have a positive influence on the person… But there is another aspect here. If… rebuke does not come from a sincere caring for the other person, then… [there are] personal reasons for that rebuke and… [one’s] motives are not entirely pure. If that is the case, you are guilty of slighting the honor of another person and of causing him pain with words for… personal pleasure. This is a very serious offense.
Don’t we learn from Torah’s account of the offerings upon the inauguration of the Mishkan, and from designation of the individual degalim (flags) designated for each shavet (tribe) that diversity and intent within halachic confines is encouraged?
If the various sectors of B’nei Yisrael were to only glean from the example of the Kohen, and apply the unity of loving kindness to our brethren — both individually and on local and national levels, as to ourselves, the Bibis, the Bennetts, the Livnis, the Lapids, Olmerts, Baraks, Ramons, etc. — who seize on divisiveness and polarization to divide and conquer — would eventually 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’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of nearly 1 3/4 years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May 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; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
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.