Points to Ponder
Kedoshim Teheyu (19:1) – Rav Schachter Shlita used to remind us that we are created not only B’Tzelem Elokim but also with Banim L’Makom so we have the same DNA as the Ribbono Shel Olam and it needs to reflect on us. Kedoshim Teheiyu means we need to constantly review to see what we are doing in our lives to be better mentchin (See similarly in Nidchei Yisrael of the Chofetz Chaim chapter 22) . It does not need to be with newfangled Chumros. It means to keep striving in our lives so that we are always moving (we are holchim as opposed to Malachim who are called Omdim) forward in our actions.
You shall not curse a deaf man" (19:14)- Rashi learns that this Possuk teaches us that you may not curse a member of the Jewish nation. Rambam learns that the Possuk speaks to man’s need to engage the process of self restraint. In fact the Or Sameach learns that the Rambam’s position will help explain why the one who does so, is able to merely receive Makkos and be exempt from further atonement. After all, the person affronted Hashem and the person he cursed. The Or Sameach explained that through the rule of Lo Sikalel Cheireish, the Torah wants us to understand that the error here is that the person is not demonstrating self-restraint and not due to his offense of another human.
With righteousness you shall judge your fellow man (19:15) – Rashi notes that we have a responsibility to give our friends the benefit of the doubt. Rav Yaakov Bender Shlita, today a Rosh Yeshiva once related that when a head counselor of a camp, he instituted a policy of no cars on the campus on visiting day. On the appointed day, he waved through a chauffeured limo. A staff member angrily noted the inconsistency of his actions that for the plebes the people had to walk but for the rich limos, the rules don’t apply. Rav Bender didn’t answer then but later related that the car contained the seriously ill parent of one of the campers who could not drive or walk but wanted to see his son on visiting day. So he hired a car that he could lie down in in order to be able to make it. Since he couldn’t walk, we needed to make an exception. Yes, often we see the exceptions as hypocrisy but often it is because he do not know the story.
Love your neighbor as yourself (19:18) – How does Hashem place the responsibility of the way we treat someone else as based on ourselves? Rav Goldvicht ztl. used to quote Rav Izik Sher ztl. who would often explain that it is a misconception that Kavod is a bad Midda. The only problem is that people who seek and demand Kavod don’t really know what Kavod is. Respect that one has internally for who he is and what he stands for and what his personal purpose and contribution to existence is about, , is the ultimate positive expression of self-respect and Kavod. The job of V’ahavta is a recognition that everything else in this world too, has the same status – it too, was created with a designated benefit and purpose that does not rain on your designated purpose. His financial wealth is designated with the same purpose as yours too. And you should protect both as you would your own --- for it all serves the greater purpose of Kavod Shomayim.
Don’t eat on the blood (19:26) – In the myriad of Dinim learned from this Possuk there is one that seems quite out of place. The Gemara (Berachos 10b) learns from here that one should not eat before davening. Yet, there is no mention of Tefillah in this context at all so from where does the Gemara interpret this idea? Rav Shmuel Brazil Shlita explains that if you take the gematria of the word Dam spelled out fully “Daled Mem” = 514 which is one less than the gematria of the word Tefilla. We are told not to eat until we are Al HaDam – we raise the status of Dam to something greater – which we do by bringing ourselves into the process called Tefillah.
You shall not make cuts on your face for a person who died (19:28) – Why is the death of a person the time that one is not allowed to hit himself? The Gemara in Sanhedrin notes that when Rabbi Eliezer died, Rabbi Akiva injured himself noting that he had much money and no banker to exchange it? Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl. explained that the main reason one thinks about injuring himself at the news of the death of a loved one is the financial security that the deceased provided and now who will provide. That is not the reason to mourn. Mourning (See Bava Metzia 84a) is an expression of loss for a person who in the course of living performed Mitzvos and learned and taught Torah. Thus, relatives shouldn’t overdo the hurt and pain of the loss of financial security – that could lead to a faith crisis. But one can mourn the loss of a living Torah figure – as Rabbi Akiva did for now who would answer his Torah questions?
And the animal should die too (20:15) – Rashi explains that although the animal didn’t do anything wrong and didn’t deserve to die but it is put to death because it it caused a person’s death. It goes without saying that that a person who can differentiate between good and bad and still causes his friend to transgress an aveira will be punished. Rashi continues that when Bnei Yisrael come into Eret Yisrael they will destroy the trees of the Avoda Zara facilities. They did not do anything but caused others to stray from the path of life to the path of destruction. Rav Shlomo Wolbe ztl. explained that the same is true for us. We bear the same responsibility of ensuring that no Jew is denied or turned off from the path of life because of our actions. Quite to the opposite, if we turn them on to Torah, it creates a Kiddush Hashem that can reap huge rewards in Olam HaBa.
Haftorah: Are you not like the Kushiites to me (Amos 9:7) – The two Parshiyos Achrei Mos and Kedoshim speak of matters that result in fear and terror. The possibility is even raised that they would lose the promised land and be exiled. Vomiting the people off the land is an idea that is contained twice – once in Achrei Mos and again in Kedoshim. Rav Soloveitchik ztl. explained that Chazal wanted to encourage the people and let them know that the pain of Galus was temporary and that they should not become hopeless. As such, while the reading of the Torah is to teach the nation about the knowledge of Torah and Mitzvos, the reading of the Haftorah is to strengthen the belief in the Geulah and the eturn of Bnei Yisrael to the land of our Avos.