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Updated 17-Nov-2007


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A survey of parsha thoughts from Gedolei Yisroel compiled by Fred Toczek. Perfect for printing and use at your Shabbos tisch.



I. Summary

A. The Yom Kippur Service. After his sons Nadav and Avihu had died as punishment for their improper service, Aharon was told to enter the Holy of the Holies only on Yom Kippur, at which time atonement was to be made for the sins of the community (including the Priesthood) and the Sanctuary was cleansed because it might have been entered by those who were ritually unclean. On Yom Kippur, the Kohein Godol (High Priest), dressed in white garments rather than gold ones, offered all the sacrifices (i.e., the personal and communal sin and burnt offerings). The ritual included the casting of incense upon coal taken from the Altar, and the sacrificing of one of two male goats provided by the people for their offering. The commandment was given for the Jews to observe Yom Kippur as a most solemn Shabbos (the Shabbos of Shabbosim), to fast and to repent for their misdeeds. The people were again cautioned that sacrifices could only be offered in the Sanctuary (offering sacrifices in one's own spot was an act of idolatry).

B. Kashrus. The laws forbidding the eating of meat of an animal which wasn't ritually slaughtered and the in take of blood were given.

C. High Moral Conduct. The people were reminded that Hashem expected of them a high level of moral conduct; thus, adultery and illicit marriages were prohibited (the Torah citing examples of nations destroyed for immoral behavior).

II.  Divrei Torah

A. LilMode U'lilamed (Rabbi Mordechai Katz)

Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is called "Yom HaZikoron" ("Day of Remembrance") since not only Hashem remembers and reviews our action, but we must also recall and review our actions, learn from our mistakes, atone and decide how to avoid making the same mistakes in the coming year. Yom Kippur is not, however, a complete exoneration of our sins; rather it is the beginning of the process leading to true Teshuvah (repentance) and self-improvement.

B. Growth Through Torah (Rabbi Zelig Pliskin)

1. Use Techniques To Overcome Excessive Concern About What Others Think About You. The Torah teaches that no one was to be in the Tent of Meeting when the High Priest performed the Yom Kippur services. That is, the High Priest was to mentally view the world as if no one else existed. Why? To free himself from the shackles of seeking honor or approval. We, too, should try to implement this illusion at times to free ourselves from the hurt and pain of excessive worry about what others think of us.

2. Do Something for Growth Every Day. "My ordinances shall you do, and My statutes you shall observe, to walk with them, I am the Lord your G-d". The Ksav Sofer comments that to "walk with them" means that a person needs to walk from one level to the next. That is, one should constantly keep on growing and elevating oneself. It isn't enough to stay at the same level -- we must climb higher than the day before.

C. In the Garden of the Torah (the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, z'tl)

Souls Afire. There is a paradox in this week's Parsha -- Nadav and Avihu's action were undesirable (as evidenced by their punishment), yet Moshe stated that they were greater than he and Aharon and that through their actions the Sanctuary was consecrated. Chassidic thought states that our love for Hashem must involve 2 phases -- (a) ratzu (a yearning for connection with Hashem); and (b) shuv (a commitment to return and express G-d's will by making this world a dwelling place for Him). As the Or HaChayim explains, Nadav and Avihu reached an all-encompassing level of ratzu, but failed to follow through with shuv by expressing this bond in their lives. Thus, their sin was not the closeness they established with Hashem, but that this connection didn't bear fruit (i.e., they never expressed the bond in the realm of ordinary experience). There are two lessons: (a) a positive one -- that every Jew has the potential to draw as close to G-d as Nadav and Avihu did; and (b) a negative one -- that such service alone lacks the vital element of shuv (application within the context of this world). Based on this there are different customs re: the name of the Torah portion -- some call it Acharei ("after"), highlighting the potential for spiritual closeness after the height of connection reached by Nadav and Avihu; others call it Acharei Mos, highlighting the failure to complement such closeness with a commitment to developing an awareness of Hashem in the material world. (Lubavitch custom is to call it Acharei, in recognition of the fact that each Jew can achieve closeness with Hashem; for the core of every Jew is at one with G-d, inseparably linked.)

D. Living Each Week (Rabbi Abraham Twerski)

1. G-d is always with us. "[I am G-d] Who rests among them, even amidst their uncleanliness." Regardless of how far a person may have strayed, regardless of how much a person may have rejected G-d, G-d never rejects anyone. As Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev said, "You can be for G-d, and you can be against G-d. You just cannot be without G-d."

2. The spirit of Mitzvos. "You shall observe My ordinances and My laws in order that the person may do them and live by them." The Talmud cites this verse as the basis for waiving a Torah prohibition when there is a threat to life. Thus, one is required to provide whatever help is necessary on Shabbos to save a life, even though this involves a transgression of the Shabbos. (Yoma 85b) The Rabbi of Kotzk offered another interpretation of this verse: "You shall observe My ordinances . . . and bring life into them." Performing mitzvos as a matter of rote without joy and excitement is inadequate. Observance of mitzvos must be vibrant and lively. One who fulfills mitzvos by bringing life into them will lead of life of joy of holiness, of forever coming closer to G-d.

E. Peninim on the Torah (Rabbi A. L. Scheinbaum)

Before Hashem we are all the same. "A sacred linen tunic he shall wear." Upon entering the Holy of Holies, the Kohein Gadol divested himself of his ornate priestly garments and clothed himself in simple, white linen. In public, the Kohein was responsible to maintain the dignity appropriate to his noble station in life. When he went into the Holy of Holies to confess the sins of the Jewish People, however, he dressed as an ordinary Kohein. At the spiritually heightened moment, the most solemn of the year, he became a simple mortal. The facades of dignity and station in life no longer distinguished him from anyone else. This was his moment of truth. All human devices are valueless when a person comes in face-to-face confrontation with his/her maker. Before Hashem, all people are the same. The only distinguishing characteristics are the merits of Torah, service of Hashem, good deeds and acts of kindness which an individual has accrued during his/her lifetime.


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