Points to Ponder

Achrei Mos 5776

After the deaths of Aharon’s 2 sons  (16:1) – Why do we highlight the time frame as a prelude to the Avodas Yom HaKpippurim? Rav Simcha Wasserman ztl. explained that when tragedy happens, it calls to the survivors to conduct a personal Yom Kippur in order to seek atonement.

And he shall atone for himself and his family (16:6) – The Mishna (Yoma 1:1) notes Rav Yehuda’s opinion  that they would prepare an extra wife for the Kohein Gadol so that he would have someone to atone for in the home. Rav Yitzchak Rappaport ztl. Maggid of Wolkomir notes that the Mizbeiach cries for the family that divorces. What role does the Mizbeiach play? The Maggid explained that only with grave difficulty do we allow the Kohein Gadol to divorce his wife and there it is for a mitzva. Certainly, the Mizbeiach cries for a personal divorce.

And no man shall be in the Ohel Moed (16:17) – Ramban explains that even Malachim are not allowed to be there. So how is the Kohein Gadol able to be there? Rav Eliyahu Sternbuch of Antwerp explains that the Kohein Gadol would be transformed into an angel at that time. The idea being that no angel and no person could represent the Jewish people and plead our case in front of Hashem necessitated the transformation of the Kohein Gadol so that he would be able to plead on our behalf in front of Hashem on Yom Kippur.


 For on this day the Kohein Gadol shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you  (16:30) – What is the purpose of this cleansing? Rambam seems to suggest that it is beyond human understanding. Kuzari however, understands that the concept of Tumah involves a cessation of life and conversely, Tahara involves a bond with life. Rav Haim Sabato Shlita suggests that this is the intention here as well. Lifnei Hashem Titharu is a command that we are to commit to life and not allow a part of our personality to die as a result of sin. Yom Kippur is the opportunity for man to renew himself and shed the difficulties of the past.

So that Bnei Yisrael will bring their Korbanos to Hashem (17:5) – Rav Aharon Lichtenstein ztl. noted the parallel between this Parsha and that of Shichutei Chutz mentioned in Parshas Re’eh. On the surface, the Mitzvos are the same. However, the section in this Parsha seems to counteract the desire to engage in the pagan worship of Egypt. The concerns of Parshas Re’eh seem to be more focused on the need to counteract the difficulty of recognizing the centrality of the Mikdash in human life and the need to seek it instead of being mired in the everyday functioning.

Like the actions of the Egyptians you shall not do (18:3) – The command not to be as the Egyptians seems somewhat harsh for a nation that even prior to receiving the Torah AND living in Egypt still did not submit to this urge. Why this concern now? Rav Shmuel HaLevi Wosner ztl. explained that when one is surrounded by a debased society, it is easier for one to commit himself  to a life distinct from the society around him if he so chooses. However, when the Jews went into Eretz Yisrael, their challenges would come from within – and the reminder to be careful not to debase themselves became more important. Thus, the harsh reminder.

 And you shall live by them (18:5) – Rav Schachter Shlita noted that this teaches us that the more one studies the Torah, the more he learns and discovers the way of life. Thus, he explained, while the Gemara notes Chochma BaGoyim Taamein – if you find logic in secular knowledge, believe it because the ability to understand and make discoveries and observations in the natural sciences. Still, Torah BaGoyim – if you seek the Derech HaChaim – that you shall not find without the Torah.


Haftorah: Machar Chodesh – Look the arrows are on this side of you, get them and then come (Shmuel Alef 20:21) – Rav Soloveitchik ztl. noted that the test can also be interpreted homiletically. If man wishes to shed the Divine role that Hashem has selected for him than he can come to town and live a normal life in peace and pleasure. However, if man if I tell the lad that the arrows are far away, that you might partake a great vision, but you will need to travel far and enter steep valleys and ascend tall mountains to achieve those faraway horizons – then start on your journey because you will have been sent by Hashem on it.