Parshat Acharei Mos 5779: Finding Clarity in Distinguishing Kosher from Treif, Moral from Immoral, Tov from Abominable

Shalom Friends;

This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parshat Acharei Mos is dedicated Lilui Nishmas for My Mother: Chaya bat Zalman who was niferet on 22 Nissan 5775.

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 be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.

Best Regards,

Moshe Burt
skype: mark.burt3

Parshat Acharei Mos 5779: Finding Clarity in Distinguishing Kosher from Treif, Moral from Immoral, Tov from Abominable

by Moshe Burt

Parshiyot Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are normally what baseball fans refer to as another of the “doubleheader” parshiyot. But this is one of those years of both Adar and Adar II, so the parshiyot each have their own Shabbos and leyning.

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.

Our Parshat opens with Torah describing the service of the Kohen Godol on Yom Kippur:

“Hashem spoke to Moshe after the deaths of Aaron’s two sons, when they approached before Hashem and they died. And Hashem said to Moshe; ‘Speak to Aaron, your brother — he shall not come at all times into the Sanctuary, within the curtain, in front of the Cover that is upon the Aron[HaKodesh] so that he should not die… With this shall Aaron come to into the Sanctuary: with a young bull for for a sin-offering and and a ram for an elevation-offering.'” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posukim 1-3 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash)

Torah then details the two sets of the Kohen Gadol’s vestments (the Bigdei Kahunah) — the eight garments: four which contained gold and the four white vestments which were worn on Yom Kippur, but only for special parts of the Yom Kippur service, particularly in the Kedosh Kadoshim (the Holy of Holies).

Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein z”l, the Sochaczever Rebbe, comments on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posukim 1-3 in his sefer “Shem Mishmuel” (Rendered into English by Rabi Zvi Belovski, page 257):

The verses continue by detailing all of the procedures that the Kohen Godol must execute on that great day. The surprising thing is the verses give us no indication as to which day they are referring. Rashi tells us:

“With this” [referring to Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posuk 3 as rendered to English in the Artscroll Stone Chumash] — even this cannot be done on any day except for Yom Kippur, as it is explicit at the end of the [Perek]: “…In the seventh month, on the tenth day…” (Sefer “Shem Mishmuel” citing Sefer Vayikra, Perek 16, posuk 29)

Near the end of our parsha, 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).

Here, 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 this perek:

…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…

Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, in his sefer “Growth Through Torah” (pages 266-267) cites Rashi as we return to discussing the opening posuk of our Parsha; “Hashem spoke to Moshe after the deaths of Aaron’s two sons” in explaining the effectiveness of not merely citing a fact, but providing examples to illustrate the fact cited:

Rashi cites… Rabbi Eliezer ben Azariya… [about] an ill person who is visited by a physician. The doctor said to him, “Do not eat such and such foods, and do not sleep in a damp place.” Then another physician came to him and said, “Do not eat such and such foods, and do not sleep in a damp place in order that you should not die like this certain person.” The second doctor will have a much stronger effect than the first doctor. Therefore, Torah emphasizes that Hashem spoke to Moshe after the death of the two sons of Aaron.

From this Rashi we see an important lesson lesson in how to make… communications more effective. It is not sufficient to convey to others abstract… and general warnings. Rather, we must add practical illustrations… provides the following synonym for “illustration”:

The act of clarifying or explaining; elucidation.

This attribute of providing illustrations and examples, of providing clarity regarding facts or issues applies to more than only behaviors, as described in a full reading of the cited pages of R’ Pliskin’s “Growth Through Torah.” And mere so-called “facts” alone, conveyed through unknowing, jaundiced or prejudicial words can be wrong or inaccurate.

I hearken back to Aaron’s question which brought clarity, after Moshe’s chiding of he and Elazar and Ithamar, regarding their not having eaten of he-goat of the sin-offering after the deaths of Nadav and Avihu due to their unauthorized service.

“Aaron spoke to Moshe; ‘… Now that such things befell me — were I to eat this day’s sin-offering, would Hashem approve?’ Moshe heard and he approved. (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 10, posukim 19-20, translation rendered in the Artscroll Stone Edition Chumash, page 597)

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 twice 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 four plus 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!!!

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.