Illuminations #91, Tishrei 5776, Parshat Vayelech

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Illuminations #91, Tishrei 5776, Parshat Vayelech

Torah Gems

The service in the Temple on Yom Kippur is discussed in Vayikra 16:1. One part of the service was to bring a Korban Chatat (sin-offering) on behalf of the whole nation. The verse states, “From the assembly of the Children of Israel [Aron] shall take two he-goats for a sin-offering, etc.” From this directive one would assume that both of the goats are to become korbanot for the purpose of a sin-offering. However, immediately afterward we find that Aron was told to draw a lottery for the two goats. One would be used for the sin-offering. The other was sent, as part of the service, to be thrown from a steep rocky cliff in the desertIf the second goat was to be used for a different service, how can the verse say that both are called sin-offering?

Rabbi Dov Weinberger in his Shemen Hatov offers an amazing insight with a powerful lesson. The two goats were selected for the Yom Kippur service. However, the Kohen Gadol would use a lottery to determine which goat was to be offered on the Holy Altar and which would be identified as the one that would be taken to the desert and be thrown off the rocky cliff. It would seem that the goat selected to be sent to the desert was deprived of being used in the Temple service. Rabbi Weinberger points out that the selection of this goat for this purpose plays a role in allowing the other goat to become the holy chatat sacrifice. If this goat is responsible for causing something to be sanctified it, too, earns the distinction of being called holy. By our actions, we can also inspire others to do good things and can share in the good that they do by simply being the catalyst for their good deeds.

Let us elaborate with a story.

There once lived a religious fellow who was very serious about Tefilah. One by one, as his children came of age, he would bring them to shul and educate them with his appreciation for praying in Shul. One particular child gave him a difficult time in keeping the proper mode of conduct. As many times as he reminded his son to stay in his place and focus on the prayers, the boy did not seem to get it. It came to a point that the father felt that all his efforts were for naught. One Friday night after prayers, he was approached by a man who proceeded to thank the father from the bottom of his heart. He related that it was to the father’s credit that he is now a regular at Shabbat services. He explained how initially he was completely disinterested in Judaism. “When I first came to shul I was taken aback at how people would come and socialize. Where was the respect for prayer? I had just about decided to leave the synagogue. Then I noticed you and your son, how week after week you patiently and consistently reminded him of the special decorum demanded in a shul. I came to the conclusion there must be something deeper here if you are so dedicated to imparting it to your son.”

This story demonstrates how, even unbeknownst to us, we can have a tremendous impact on others and inspire them to make a good decision.

Parsha Pearls

As discussed previously, there were two goats brought to the Temple for the special Yom Kippor service. One was used as a korban to atone for the whole nation. The second was called Azazel and was sent to be thrown off a rocky cliff.

The Mishna in Yoma (6:4) states, “MiyakiraiYerushalayim hayu melaveen oto.” Many commentators explain this to mean, “From the important people of Jerusalem would accompany [the Azazel goat],” using the word “miyakirai” in place of “chashuv,” meaning important. Others translate “miyakirai” to mean beloved.

By whom were they beloved? These men sacrificed their personal time and opportunity to observe the kohanim at work doing the holy service on Yom Kippor. The clear flowing precision with which the kohanim carried out the holy service was truly a spectactular sight. This was so much so that we declare in the Yom Kippor prayers, “Fortunate is the eye that saw all these [acts of the holy service].” Those that availed themselves of the opportunity to accompany the Azazel goat were surely beloved by everyone else who were enabled to stay back and participate in the magnificent ritual of the temple services on Yom Kippor.

We all can think of times in our lives when it might be necessary to stand up and do the less desireable jobs. Let us remember that it is precisely doing so that earns the accolade beloved’.

Glimpses of Greatness

Moshe Boudelovsky was a newcomer at Leningrad University. He also held a sensitive position in the military. For this reason alone, one can imagine how reluctant the Russian government would be to allow him to emigrate.

Born in Kiev and raised like the rest of his generation on the ideologies of communism and atheism, his sole connection to Judaism lay in his personal encounters with anti-semitism. It was precisely those encounters that ignited an urge to learn about his religion. 

A  small group of Jewish students in the university met regularly to draft letters and send them to various activists around the world to enlist their help in obtaining exit visas. One particular meeting was called to write a letter to the President of the United States, Richard Nixon. When Moshe checked his calendar, he immediately realized the meeting was scheduled for Kol Nidrei night. He had already made plans to attend a Kol Nidrei service, and he informed the group that he would be unable to attend. They felt sorry for him that he would miss out, and they went ahead with their plans. 

In those days there were very few Jewish prayer services, and the closest to Moshe’s dormitory was a few hours by foot. He did not even know how to read Hebrew, yet on that night in the clandestine minyan, Moshe prayed harder then ever before. He prayed that he would be granted permission to leave the evil Soviet empire. 

Soon afterward, he was informed that he was free to emigrate to Israel. When he broke the news to his fellow Jews at the university, the leader of their secret group began to cry. Through his tears he asked Moshe, “I’m here for six years now, what haven’t I done for myself to get a visa? I’ve sent letters to every person who could possibly help me. You just got here and already you received permisssion to leave!” The young Moshe replied with remarkable faith, “You sent the letter to the wrong person. I went to Hashem, you went to President Nixon.”


Halacha Weekly

Q.  If One Has Heard Lashon Harah (Slander) About His Friend And Believed It Does He Have To Ask Forgiveness? 

A. Az Nidberu (11-11) (R. Binyamin Yehoshua Zilber, Z”L ) holds that even hearing lashon harah (slander)  is among the sins that are between a person and his fellow  and requires teshuva (repentance) and atonement, but the matter does not depend on requesting forgiveness (they are two separate issues).  

Requesting forgiveness is only required if his friend is caused to be lowered in the esteem of others or damage to him is incurred through him: for example, if  by his accepting lashon harah damage is caused to his fellow. Accepting lashon harah is not relevant to the issue of asking forgiveness from one’s fellow. As regards the rectification for the sin of believing lashon harah, one should attempt to bring the  matter to heart and not to believe what he has heard about his fellow.