lluminations #29, Iyar 5775, Parshat Acharei Mot – Kedoshim

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lluminations #29, Iyar 5775, Parshat Acharei Mot – Kedoshim

Torah Gems

To Unite or To Disarrange

The posuk (Vayikra 19:19) describes three types of mixtures that are prohibited: mating two species, mixing agricultural seed, and combining wool and linen fibers. The modern mind would certainly perceive these mandates as ‘chukim’ – the laws which are not readily understood. Some people may even question the motive of such laws. After all, are we not a pluralistic society? Can we not tolerate two different species uniting as one? It would even be preferable if we can unite the inhabitants who share this beautiful world. One might even suggest that mixing species brings us one step closer to messianic times- “When the wolf will dwell together with the lamb, and the leopard will crouch with the kid goat.” (Yeshaya 11:6) If so, why would the Torah prohibit these mixtures? What benefit can possibly result from this law?

The Ramban illuminates this issue with a fascinating concept. During the creation of the world, Hashem programmed each living and growing thing with the potential to procreate in its own likeness and form. No animal ever bore an animal from a different species. Similarly with vegetation, no seed of a fruit tree ever blossomed into a vegetable plant. This is alluded to in the word ‘l’mino’ (Breishis 1-2). Hashem created all living things to “its own kind.” Apparently, Hashem was pleased with the result of his original creation, as stated throughout the parsha discussing the creation, “And Hashem saw that it was good.”

Therefore, when a person mates two species or mixes vegetation, he is challenging Hashem. He is suggesting that the world requires further development. He is suggesting that Hashem actually needs his help in running the world.

Furthermore, Ramban reveals that everything in this world was created with the intention of showing Hashem’s glory. Each creation intrinsically expresses a unique praise of the Master of the World. These praises are described in Perek Shira. Accordingly, Hashem showers the world with blessing and sustenance. In order for the world to receive these blessings each praise must be expressed properly. If a person goes ahead and combines two animals or plants, the result is a devastating loss of potential blessing.

Clearly, arranging this unity is in fact creating disarrangement.

Parsha Pearls

Loyalty, Fidelity and Virtue

Vayikra (19:11): “You (plural) shall not steal, you (plural) shall not deny falsely, you (plural) shall not swear falsely.”

The Torah’s attitude toward honest dealings between one another is obvious. The Torah emphasizes the importance of civilized societies in many places. In truth, it would be unlikely to find a society where no one is sensitive toward developing civility amongst themselves in a structured way. Most likely, the majority of the people are inclined to create a livable society, for if not, mayhem and bedlam would be the order of the day.

If so, asks Rav S. R. Hirsch, why would the Torah exhort the Jewish people in this area with a plural “you?” If most people are already going to act this way, why did the Torah imply that this is something that everyone is guilty of? The Torah would just need to use a singular “you” to indicate that each and every individual should refrain from things such as lying and stealing.

Rav Hirsch explains that there is a much deeper and nuanced aspect to honest dealings. “Business is business” is the motto. One can tout the fact that he does not steal, yet he will use questionable business tactics to prevent any competition i.e. underpaid laborers. He will deceive others in business. He can do everything technically legal, but still be completely unethical- all in the name of business.

Therefore, Rav Hirsch observes the Torah chose the plural “you” in order to imply that there is a dimension which pertains to everyone and that is general upright conduct. The Jewish people aren’t simply law abiding, they are a virtuous people.

Glimpse of Greatness

There was once an individual who, after learning for several years in America, decided to take a trip Eretz Yisroel. He was ecstatic about his first opportunity to experience the Holy Land he had learned about so much. He imagined the elevated feelings he would have. He dreamed about the inspiration that would propel him to new heights in his service to Hashem.

After several days in Eretz Yisroel, he went to visit Rav Noach Weinberg. Visibly agitated, he blurted out, “I’ve been all over the country from the Kosel to the Golan and the Negev, and I didn’t see any holiness!” Rav Noach paused and looked at the man. “Did you see any Bafoofstiks?”

Caught off guard, the man replied, “What?”

“Did you see Bafoofstiks? They are all over the place”

The man said, “Listen, I do not know what you are talking about. I just came to tell you that I did not see any holiness.”

Rav Noach persisted, “But did you see any Bafoofstiks?”

The man was getting confused so he asked, “What are Bafoofstiks?” Rav Noach answered, “I did not ask you if you know what they are, I asked if you saw them.”

The man, who was already anxious by now, asked, “If I don’t know what they are, how do I know if I saw them?”

“Aha,” said Rav Noach, “if you don’t know what holiness is, how would you know if you saw it?”

Rav Noach’s message is that we must not assume we know holiness based on secular imagery we may have absorbed from our cultural surroundings. We must look in the Torah for the definition of holiness. This story is especially apropos this week, Parshat Kedoshim Tihiyu.   

Halachah Weekly

Q: Is one allowed to mention both parents’ names when one is called up to the Torah or when saying Mi Sheberach (prayer for the sick)?

A: This question is also applicable to other situations, for instance writing of a Ketuva (Jewish marriage contract), writing on gravestones, and Hashkava (a prayer said during the year for one who passed away), in addition to an Aliya to the Torah (being called up to the Torah ) and the Mi Sheberach prayer.

The custom is that whenever we mention the name of a man or woman in any of the above cases, we say their name along with their father’s name.  The source for this is in the Torah: when Hashem wanted to count the Jewish people after they left Egypt, the Torah counts every male from the age of twenty and over and recognizes them by their father.  This is important because a Jew should know for a fact who one’s father is (in most cases a person knows who one’s mother is).  Our Rabbis wanted us to know for a fact who the father of a family is, therefore the custom is that we call a person by the father’s name.  If someone chooses instead to be called up by the mother’s name, then it would be considered improper and as if they wanted to change the customs set forth for Israel.

The only instance we mention a mother’s name is when we are reciting a Mi SheBerach for a sick person.  The Ben Ish Chai points out the reason is that when one is sick, we want to bring out the most zechuyot (merits) for them. The mother does not carry the sin of Bitul Torah (not learning Torah). Since the father, on the other hand, may carry this sin, we therefore find it more meritorious for the sick person to mention the mother’s name.  The custom according to Sephardim regarding the Hashkava prayer is to mention the mother’s name.  However, some Sephardim and Ashkenazim mention the father’s name.  For an Aliyah to the Torah, Ketuva, and writing on gravestones, the common custom of Israel is to mention only the father’s name.

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