This week, our Parshiyot HaShevua for Acharei Mot-Kedoshim is being sponsored by Dov and Lauren Greenberg and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of their son Tzvi’s upcoming marriage to Ariella Kelaty. To the Greenberg 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.
As this Parshat HaShavua Acharei Mos-Kedoshim is being written, Israel is under nearly full lockdown due to the spread of the Chinese Coronavirus. Being four weeks ahead in developing these Parshat vorts, this is the first mentioning of the pandemic.
Parshiyot Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are normally what baseball fans refer to as another of the “doubleheader” parshiyot. But this year, due to “social distancing, it may be nearly Shavuot before Major League Baseball actually commences. In this time of crisis, every bit of levity helps.
But 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’nei 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 Godol’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 [entering the Kadosh Kedoshim] 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 Vayikra, Perek 16, posuk 29)
Torah records the opening posukim of Parshat Kedoshim:
“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, posukim 1-2 as rendered to English in the Sapirstein Edition “The Torah with Rashi’s Commentary”)
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin writes context on these opening posukim in his sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra, pages 143-144):
The Rabbis note a surprising departure from the norm in the introductory sentence of Parshat Kedoshim: “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, ‘Speak to the entire assembly of B’nei Yisrael and say to them…'”
This phrase clearly contrasts with the usual formula used to introduce countless passages of Torah text: “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying: ‘Speak to the B’nei Yisrael and say to them…'”
The variation leads the Midrash to conclude that, at Hashem’s command, Parshat Kedoshim was taught to the B’nai Yisrael in an exceptional way.
Here, Rabbi Goldin notes that the Rabbis explain that, normally Torah was given over to the Am Yisrael in a hierarchical manner; that Moshe learned directly from Hashem, and then recited the lesson to Aaron. Then Moshe recited the lesson to the sons of Aaron. Then the Elders entered and Moshe gave over the lesson to them. Then, with Aaron, his sons and the Elders assembled together, all the people entered and Moshe recited the lesson to them.
Rabbi Goldin notes that:
This way, the people heard [the lesson] once, the Elders twice, Aaron’s sons three times and Aaron four times. (“Unlocking the Torah Text”, Sefer Vayikra, page 143 citing Rashi on Shemot Perek 34, posuk 32, based on Talmud Bavli Eruvin 54b)
Rabbi Goldin continues:
The phrase “Speak to the entire assembly of B’nei Yisrael and say to them…” however indicates that, in the case of Parshat Kedoshim, the method of transmission changed. Parshat Kedoshim is of such singular importance, the Rabbis maintain, that it is taught b’hakhel, “in full assembly,” to the entire nation at once.
At Hashem’s command, all of Am Yisrael [all of the people] heard this portion of the law together, directly from Moshe because “most of the fundamental teachings of the Torah are derived therefrom.” (ibid, Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Vayikra Perek 19, posuk 2, based on Torat Kohanim, Kedoshim 1:1)
Torah then elaborates on the Asseret HaDivrot, the Ten Commandments in depth.
Rabbi Goldin brings out questions and some understandings concerning the mode of transmission regarding Parshat Kedoshim vs the normal transmission of Torah (ibid, Sefer Vayikra, pages 144-148):
The Rabbinic claim concerning the transmission of Parshat Kedoshim seems counter-intuitive.
If… the hierarchical method of Torah transmission is the most effective, this method should have been employed in communication of Parshat Kedoshim, one of the most important sections of Torah law.
If, on the other hand, full assembly is the most effective form of Torah transmission, why was this method not employed in the
communication of the entire Torah?
By commanding Moshe to assemble the entire nation together for the transmission of one particular section of the law, Hashem automatically alerts Am Yisrael to the significance of that section. I am changing the way things are done, He effectively says, because, this time, something is different.
The usual method of Torah transmission, as efficient as it may be, is suspended this one time so that people will never forget the Parsha from which “most of the fundamental teachings of the Torah are derived.”
Numerous scholars, however, are not content to leave matters at that level.
Rabbi Eliyahu Mizrachi… maintains that Hashem gathers the nation in full assembly in order to minimize potential misunderstanding and dispute concerning this pivotal section of… law…. By insisting that all of Am Yisrael hear these pivotal edicts together, Hashem insures uniformity in the transmission of the law and greatly minimizes the possibility of variation. (Rabbi Goldin citing Mizrachi on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 1)
Rabbi Aharon Ibn Chaim, a medieval commentary on the Midrash, says Torah edicts are generally designed to be understood on different levels by different people, each according to his ability and training…. The concrete regulations of Parshat Kedoshim, however, are unique. Meant to be understood equally by all, they were transmitted to the entire nation on the same level, at once. (Rabbi Goldin citing Korban Aharon, on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 2)
The eighteenth-century Chassidic scholar Rabbi Kalonymous Kalman Halevi Epstein perceives within the requirement for full assembly a reflection of the critical concept of communal affiliation…. True sanctity can only be achieved through re-connection with a Torah community, through shared experience with others who are also seeking to serve Hashem.
[In] Parshat Kedoshim, Hashem reminds each individual within the nation that his personal search for sanctity will ultimately require full participation with those around him. (Rabbi Goldin citing Maor Va’shemesh on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 2)
Perhaps, however, the boldest suggestion concerning the transmission of Parshat Kedoshim is introduced by the sixteenth-century scholar Rabbi Moshe Alshich. The Alshich maintains that this Parsha is taught in full assembly in order to convey to all those present their equal ability to achieve a life of holiness… (Rabbi Goldin citing Torat Moshe on Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 2)
Hashem Commands Moshe… to set aside the divisions that normally characterize his teaching of Torah text. This time, the nation will stand together as equals, when they hear the command “Kedoshim tihiyu,” “Holy shall you be…” (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 2)
Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, Sefer Vayikra, page 148):
At the moment of transmission of Parshat Kedoshim, Hashem commands Moshe to eschew [to abstain or keep away from; shun; avoid] the communal hierarchy and to gather the nation in ‘full assembly’: As they hear the commandment “Holy shall you be…,” let the cobbler stand shoulder to shoulder with the Kohen Godol; let the blacksmith stand with the elders; let they unlearned stand with the scholar; that they may know that the search for holiness knows no favorites, that a relationship with their Creator is equally open to all.
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 thrice 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, as Naama Issachar is now free and home — which can only occur when Jonathan is home in Israel and carrying for his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha, and that the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of five 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’nei 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.