This week, our Parshiyot HaShevua, Parshiyot Acharei Mos/Kedoshim is being sponsored by David and Julie Morris of Ramat Beit Shemesh Lilui Nishmas theYarhtzeit of Julie’s Mother’s Yahrtzeit Shulamit Devorah bat Rav Shimshon Raphael z”l, for the recent passing of Chaya bat Zalman and for Refuah Shlaima L’Cholei Yisrael. To the Morris family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
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Parshiyot Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are another of what we baseball fans refer to as a “doubleheader” parshat. But these two parshiyot, together, express a point — the Kohen as a paradigm of the middot and attributes for the Jews to emulate as Hashem’s chosen nation. And the Jew, in turn, should be expressive of a paradigm of the morality and character attributes which Hashem meant for the peoples of the world to emulate.
Torah devotes two entire perakim (Sefer Vayikra, chapters 17 and 18) to both discussing and distinguishing the kosher slaughter of consecrated (holy) animals for offerings and unconsecrated kosher slaughter of animals for food while disallowing ingestion of unslaughtered dead or mutilated animals, as well as reminding Am Yisrael that “a high level of moral conduct was expected” of them in order to remain Hashem’s “most favored” people. (Sefer “L’lmod U’lamed”, by Rabbi Mordechai Katz, page 114).
Shem Mishmuel (on Parshat Acharei Mos, English translation of parsha selections by Rabbi Zvi Belovski, pages 254-256) speaks at length about reasons for the distinction between the Kohen Godol’s white linen tunic and white linen tunic trousers worn when entering the Kodosh Kedoshim on Yom Kippur and his normal gold attire worn during his service at all other times of the year.
He first cites gemora Rosh HaShannah 26a:
Why does the Kohen Godol not enter the Holy of Holies wearing his gold vestments to perform the Divine service? Because an accuser cannot become an advocate.
Shem Mishmuel then indicates that this concept relates to the Eigel Zahav and writes:
The sin of the eigel has been with the Klal Yisrael throughout their history and is still with us today. The sin is so deeply etched into our national consciousness that we will not be entirely free of it until Messianic times.
Aharon’s… intentions in involving himself with the calf…. were considered good, for he wished to reunite the people and refocus them toward their correct goal…. Given that Aharon lost his two sons, at least partially in response to his involvement in the eigel episode, no trace of the sin remained within him. This means… that the principle “an accuser cannot become an advocate” should not have applied to him… for there was no remnant of the sin [in him] which could be recalled at this crucial time.
But this applied only to Aharon acting in a personal capacity; what about his role as emissary for atonement of the whole nation? In that capacity, the rule would pertain, for the people still had (and have) a remnant of the sin of the eigel in their national character which needed to be expunged. Thus Aharon experienced a dichotomy: as himself he could wear his usual gold garments, but as representative of the nation, he could only wear white.
So, based on the above principle, it seems that the white garments denote a state of morality and perfection as Shem Mishmuel goes on to explain:
…It is deemed inappropriate for the Kohen Gadol to remind Hashem of this sin (the golden calf) by dressing in gold when he goes into the inner sanctum of the Beit HaMikdash on Yom Kippur. Thus he wears special white-linen clothing which carry absolutely no hint of past sin.
Where a sin is still not entirely forgiven, the offending item, if used as an advocate, will remind us and Hashem of the time when it [the gold] was an accuser…. We can understand, therefore, why this principle particularly applies to the sin of the eigel…
Thus, we learn the Halacha that Aharon HaKohen Godol, and every subsequent Kohen Godol wore white vestments when serving in the Kodosh Kedoshim and atoning for the nation on Yom Kippur. And we learn that Aharon HaKohen Gadol was THE paradigm, the role model for every subsequent Kohen Gadol to emulate in order that the masses of Am Yisrael throughout the generations would follow suit, and l’chat chila (ideally) be moral and free of sin. Perhaps that explains, too, why observant Jewish married (or formerly married) men wear white kittles in shul on Yom Kippur.
Near the end of our parsha, Torah lists numerous forbidden, illicit relationships and practices in Sefer Vayikra Perek 18. Sefer “L’lmod U’lamed”, by Rabbi Mordechai Katz (page 114) further states on these perakim:
…Adultery and illicit marriages were outlawed. Other nations were destroyed because their members had exhibited immoral behavior, and the same fate would befall Bnei Yisrael if they acted likewise.
Along with listing various immoral, forbidden forms of familial and communal relationships and avodah zora (idolatry), Torah teaches (Sefer Vayikra, chapter 18, posukim 22-23):
“You shall not lie with a man as one lies with a woman, it is an abomination. Do not lie with any animal to be contaminated with it; a woman shall not stand before an animal for mating, it is a perversion.”
Rashi comments on the word “abomination” in the Artscroll Stone Chumash, Sefer Vayikra, chapter 18, posuk 22:
An abomination. None of the relationships given above [in Sefer Vayikra, chapter 18, posukim 6-20] are described with this term of disgust, because they involve normal activity, though with prohibited mates. Homosexuality [and bestiality], however is unnatural and therefore abominable.
The Artscroll Stone Chumash adds on posuk 22:
The chapter of immorality ends with two forms of sexual perversion: homosexuality and bestiality. The harshness with which Torah describes them testifies to the repugnance in which Hashem holds those who engage in these unnatural practices.
So the question could be asked: Why does the perek specifying immoral, illicit and abominable relationships (perek 18) immediately follow the perek which distinguishes consecrated animals (animals designated as offerings) from unconsecrated animals and the ingestion of kosher slaughtered animals from unkosher dead animals and animals slain by other means?
The answer could lie in the saying which is suggested in various places in Torah and by commentators: “You are what you eat.” R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l in the new Hirsch Chumash (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Rabbi Daniel Haberman) notes at the beginning of perek 18 in our parsha (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 18, page 563):
The(ir) purpose is to train man not to allow his essential nature to absorb animal nature; not to imitate the animal’s life of instincts and turn it into a human ideal. The most powerful of these instincts is sexual life. The moral control over this instinct is the cornerstone of all personal and national flowering. The purpose of the laws contained in the present chapter (perek 18) is to regulate sexual life according to Hashem’s command…
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) 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 which 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 youself.
Sadly, in our times, V’ohavta L’rei’acha Komochah often is lacking amongst B’nai Yisrael, supplanted by “Me”, “Mine”,“my convenience”, “Me first” on individual levels as well as on a national level. One might add to this list mindsets representative of disunity, division, polarization between sectors, senseless hatred, i.e. “my group and to heck with yours” or, as seen in recent times, “since You omitted us from your ruling coalition and now seek to integrate us into the national social/economic structure by legislative/judicial force , to heck with the Land — we’ll vote with the left.”
This disunity, division and polarization is not lost on the nations, and shatters the paradigm purity and character attributes of Am Yisrael which Hashem sought for the peoples of the world to view and emulate.
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 — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. 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 V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Good Shabbos! Chodesh Tov!
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.