Parshiyot Acharei Mos/Kedoshim 5778: The Kohen Gadol and His White Garments on Yom Kippur

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshiyot HaShevua, Acharei Mos/Kedoshim is being sponsored by Dr. Edo and Atara Lavi and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh Lilui Nishmas for the Yahrtzeit of Atara’s Father Eliezer Chaim ben Shlomo Zalman. To the Lavi 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.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshiyot Acharei Mos/Kedoshim 5778: The Kohen Gadol and His White Garments on Yom Kippur

by Moshe Burt

Parshiyot Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are two parshiyot which together, express a point — that the Kohen is a paradigm of the middot and attributes for the Jews to emulate as Hashem’s chosen nation. And that 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.

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 Kodosh Kedoshim and the Kohanic model of Darchim, which ideally the entire B’nai Yisrael would embrace and exhibit as a paradigm, as model, as a light for all mankind.

In turn, Sefer Shem Mishmuel (by R’ Shmuel Bornstein, as translated by R’ Zvi Belovski, page 247-248) explains the spiritual attributes of the Kohen which make him the character and moral paradigm for Am Yisrael to follow:

His [the Kohen’s] focus in life is on the concealed, internal aspects of spiritual development. Although in comparison with the other nations of the world, Klal Yisrael is very much focused away from the external trappings of life and toward the private aspects of existence, the Kohanim are even more directed toward this mind-set. One could say that if Yisrael are world experts in this field, then the Kohanim are the experts among the experts.

….The essential difference between the Kohanim and the rest of Klal Yisrael was… that the focus of the Kohanim was more inward.

Torah devotes two entire perakim (Sefer Vayikra, Perachim 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).

Torah tells that Hashem spoke to Moshe in our Parshat Acharei Mos:

“Speak to Aaron, your brother — he shall not come at all times into the Sanctuary [Kadosh Kadoshim], within the Curtain, in front of the Cover that is upon the Ark [Aron HaKodesh], so that he shall not die; for in a cloud will I appear upon the Ark-cover [Perochet].” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posuk 2 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

Torah then teaches about the Kohen’s garb upon entering the Kadosh Kadoshim on Yom Kippur:

“He shall don a sacred linen Tunic: linen breeches shall be upon his flesh, he shall gird himself with a linen Sash, and cover his head with a linen Turban; they are sacred vestments — he shall immerse in water and then don them.” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posuk 4 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

The Artscroll Stone Chumash (page 637) provides commentary on these special vestments worn by the Kohen Godol in the Kadosh Kadoshim on Yom Kippur during special portions of the Kohen Gadol’s service:

The white vestments were worn only on Yom Kippur, and even then only for special portions of the service… e.g., the special incense service that is burned in the Kadosh Kadoshim and the service of his bull and the national he-goat-sin-offering.

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 usual eight vestments of gold linen garments worn during his service at all other times of the year and white linen garments worn when entering the Kodosh Kedoshim on Yom Kippur.

Shem Mishmuel 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 Godol was THE paradigm, the role model for every subsequent Kohen Godol 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.

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 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.

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.”

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’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 and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that 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 three and a half 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 prevent Chas V’Challila 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!!!

Chodesh Tov and 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.

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