Points to Ponder
Achrei Mos/Kedoshim 5777
And he shall send it with the Ish Itti into the Midbar (16:21) – The Mishna in Yoma (67a) tells of an extraordinary miracle that would happen with this process. When the Azazel Goat would get to the Midbar and the service there performed, a red sash would turn white at the doorway of the Ulam. If it turned white, the people were happy and if not so they were sad and embarrassed. Later they decided to tie the sash half to a stone and half between its horns. Rav Sabato Shlita asks why it was necessary to make the change in the practice? Why not let the people see if their Tefillos were answered? He answered that at times the answer was no, and an answer of “no” can lead to hopelessness and hopelessness leads to all sorts of dangerous things. Teshuva is not about knowing, it is about being helpful and hopeful. Hope happens when one feels close to Hashem and getting to that point is crucial in the development of the human being.
Tell Bnei Yisrael that I am Hashem their God (18:2) – What is being added here? Why is this the introduction to the section of Arayos instead of the reason provided at the end as is often the case after Mitzvos are introduced? Rav Zilberstein Shlita quoted Rav Baruch the grandson of the Baal Shem Tov who would regularly note that while his grandfather noted that non-Jews cannot understand Jewish strength, He would also add that Jews do not even know their own strength too. Rav Zilberstein then added that the Or HaChaim notes that Hashem gave us Mitzvos because he knows that we can keep them and that we want to. However, when it comes to Arayos, it is tougher and man does not know his own strength to overcome the toughness. That’s why Hashem begins here with the understanding that he is Hashem – and that we WANT to attach ourselves to the spiritual strength that comes from our unique relationship with him especially in this uniquely difficult area of life.
And the land shall not vomit you out when you make it impure (18:28) – Rashi compares this to a prince who vomits when his body cannot take a foreign substance – the land cannot handle those who sin. The Meshech Chochma quotes in the name of his father, that this is true initially but in the long term, like the prince, Eretz Yisrael learns to handle the sinner. Therefore, explains Rav Bernard Weinberger shlita, Hashem warns us that we should be different in the land so that the Siman of the land – as one of holiness that does not tolerate foreign Tumah, remain with us uniquely.
The hired worker’s wage shall not remain with you until morning (19:13) – This rule only applies to workers as opposed to paying for product. Tosafos (in Bava Kama) notes that if paying for damages in real estate must be paid B’Meitav. But when paying workers, one must not pay in moveable property – only in case. The reason is that the workers put their lives on the line for the hirer. The Rishonim explain that a hired worker must be paid not because you hired him but rather because it is a Milveh HaKasuv BaTorah. Rav Schachter Shlita explained that this is an imposed Chiyuv and the terms are not left to the the hirer to explain. His opinion is lowered due to the responsibility placed on him by the Torah.
Don’t take revenge or bear a grudge against your fellow man – you should love your neighbor as yourself for I am Hashem (19:18) - The juxtaposition seems a bit difficult to comprehend. Why would the Torah warn us against revenge, an act that is surely filled will malice and ill-will, and then command us to instead love our brother as our self? Surely one who wants revenge is not ready to take that great leap, from anger-filled rage to the highest level of brotherly love? Isn’t asking the potential avenger to love the object of his anger like himself asking too much? Using a story from his father ztl’s experience with Rav Elchonon Wasserman ztl HY”D, Rav Mordechai Kamenetzsky Shlita explained that one cannot bear a grudge when a person chooses not to be a vehicle for Chessed – one cannot take revenge for that choice. In the same way that one does not get angry at himself for not being able to complete a particular task and needing a Chessed, one should not hold it against another who chooses to be incapable of rising to the task. Instead, treat him as you do yourself – with love and respect.
When you enter the land and you will plant any fruit tree (19:23) – Why do the rules of Orlah and Neta Revai apply to fruit trees as opposed to vegetation? Rav CY Goldvicht ztl. explained that initially the world was filled with trees and all vegetation grew on them. This is how one can entertain the possibility that the Eitz HaDaas was a wheat TREE. It was the Chessed of Hashem that symbolized this notion. After man sinned, he would need to work the land to receive the same output (or the power of Gevurah pushing back on the Chessed). Thus, the main thanks and Mitzva goes to the trees and moreover, when one gets to Eretz Yisrael, the first things to be involved in are the planting of the trees.
And you should be holy to me…and I separated you from the other nations to be for me (20:26) – Kedusha is often understood to be a means of separation from the nations of the world. This is strengthened by a Gemara in Pesachim (104a) that highlights this message in the Yom Tov Kiddush. However, Rav Gifter Ztl. added that Kedusha is inherently part of the Jewish identity. The Jew is Kadosh whether he likes it or not and the only question for him is to highlight the uniqueness of the Kedusha and make it practical.
Haftorah –And I will plant them on their land and they will no longer be uprooted from upon their land (Amos 9:15) – Why do we read this section of the Novi for this week’s Haftorah if it seemingly has no direct connection to either Parsha? Rav Soloveitchik ztl. explained that these Parshiyos speak about things that bring about fear and terror – that the Bnei Yisrael COULD lose Eretz Yisrael. They learned that the land could reject them if they kept the same negative behavior as the previous generations. The nation needed encouragement to know that Galus is only temporary and that redemption is still possible and imminent – and thus this Haftorah is read to uplift our spirits especially in these tough times.