Illuminations #158, Iyar 5778, Parshat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

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Illuminations #158, Iyar 5778, Parshat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Torah Gems

Found in Parshas Acharei-Mot is the reading of the Yom Kippur service. “For on this day He shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all of your sins.” The Gemara in Yuma states that as the Kohen Gadol emerged from the Holy of Holies in the Beit HaMikdash on Yom Kippur, the people eagerly awaited to see if their sins were forgiven. The sign of atonement was when the scarlet red thread had turn to snow white. The red represented the Jewish people’s sins while the white represented that they were forgiven. The question is asked: Shouldn’t the thread be black which it the opposite of white? What is the significance of it being red? The Ponovizher Rav, Rabbi Yosef Kahanaman, on a fundraising trip to South Africa, had an interesting encounter. There was a public debate between an Orthodox Rabbi and a Reform Rabbi. As the first speaker, the Reform Rabbi asked the President of the Orthodox shul to stand us and answer a question. He was asked, “ Do you keep Shabbat?” Ashamed and embarrassed, the president replied that he did not.  The Reform Rabbi then turned to the Rabbi and said “You see there is no difference between them and us.” The Ponovizher Rav watched all of this and could not bear the desecration of Hashem’s name. With permission, he ascended to the podium and asked the Reform Rabbi if he would answer a question.  The Reform Rabbi answered in the affirmative.  The Ponovizher Rav asked of the Reform Rabbi, “Do you keep Shabbat?” The Reform rabbi answered, “Of course not!” The Ponovizher Rav then turned to the crowd and said, “The difference between the two men’s responses is obvious!” The Ponovizher Rav had made his point and the debate was over. If someone feels bad about his actions, it shows he wants to change and be forgiven, but if someone is unashamed by his sinful ways, it shows that he has no interest in Hashem and his sins will not be forgiven.  The scarlet thread was red and not black to show that it represented someone who was ashamed of his actions and looking for forgiveness.

Parsha Pearls

In Parshas Kedoshim, the Torah states, “ You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against members of your people.”  What is so bad about revenge that it is prohibited? It is it really so bad? For one person it may give closure to a dispute, another wants the opposing fellow to feel some of the physical and emotional pain that he went through. Can’t a person who feels he was wronged deal with it the way that he wants?

The Chida, in his sefer Divarim Achadim, explains with a parable. A young boy was building a sand castle. It was beautiful, tall and very creative. The boy felt so good about it. When he was done his brother came along and with one swift swoop smashed it to the ground. The younger brother complained to his father and asked him to mete out punishment to the highest degree. Although the older brother was completely wrong and needed to be reprimanded, the father did not fulfill the wishes of his younger son. The father understood that it was imagination. In the real world sand does not play a major role. The younger son was playing not building. Life in this world is like the sand castle. We think we are building, however it is all like the sand. Only Torah and Mitzvot is what counts. When someone encroaches on us it is really on our sand castle. By taking revenge we lose focus on the purpose of life. We need to concentrate on spiritual achievements, otherwise much of what we do is meaningless. With this in mind we will be less bothered and more forgiving of the people around us.

Glimpses of Greatness

At the age of 30 years, a single man approached Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky.  He shared his shidduchim troubles with the Rav and asked him for a blessing to meet his zivug. The great Rabbi told him that perhaps his match has not yet been born.  Confusion enveloped the man. He did not know what to make of the Sage’s comment.  30 days later he returned to Rabbi Kanievsky as a chatan. He told the Rabbi that in fact the rabbi was correct! The kallah was a giyoret. When the man had met with Rabbi Kanievsky, she had not yet undergone her conversion, so she had not yet been born a Jew! (As brought down in GemaraYevamos 48b that “a person who converts to Judaism is like a newborn child.”)

Halacha Weekly

Q. Why doesn’t the Blessing on Torah study make the blessing on Keriat Shemah unnecessary? [I-2-4-14]

A. We learn in Mesechet Berachot (11b): “If one got up early to study [the Torah] before one has recited Shema, one must say a blessing [over the Torah study one does].  But if he had already recited the Shema, one does not say a blessing [on Torah] because he has already discharged his obligation by saying [the blessing] Ahavat Olam [‘with abounding love’ said in shacharit before Shemah]. But doesn’t that make the blessing of Ahavat Olam unnecessary [a berachah levatalah], so one should be concerned maybe one should not say it if one already said the blessings on Torah Study earlier?!

Chakrei Lev (Orech Chaim 1-9, R. Yosef Chazan Z”L), writes that the Sages decreed a blessing on the Torah and one should not be concerned about it being an unnecessary blessing. Even though it is possible to discharge one’s obligation with the blessing Ahavat Olam [in Shacharit] in the first instance [lechatchilah], one does not act this way because one does not do mitzvot in bundles [chavilot chavilot].  Also, if we have discharged our obligation on the blessing over the Torah with the blessing Ahavat Olam, there would be a bundle [of two Mitzvot] since we have the blessing Ahavat Olam which discharges [Torah study and] also the blessing on reading the Shemah.  (Only after the fact [Bediavad] is it permitted to discharge one’s obligation on Torah Study with Ahavat Olam, but not in the first instance [Lechatchilah].)