Parashat Hashavuah - Aharei Mot Kedoshim
By: Rabbi Nissim Mordechai Makor
What's going on here?
One of the students of Rabbi Aharon zs”l, author of “Shomer Emunim,” sent his rebbe a deep question regarding his first work, “Shulhan Hatahor.” In his response, which was published in a collection of his letters, the sadik revealed something fascinating: “You should know, my son,” he wrote, “that when I wrote my book, I beseeched the Al-mighty that the answer to every question which arises in the book should be found on the same page as the question. Indeed, the answer to your question is found on that same page.” True, it is amazing, but this is not anything new. We have a tradition that the answer to any question can be found in the weekly parashah, as it will always offer insight into a Torah perspective on any issue.
The State of Israel is currently covered with flags in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the state. Although fifty years is not all that much, still, something is happening here. Throughout this period we have not lived in peace, be it politically, strategically, or economically. The impression is that from every perspective the blanket is a little too small. When we finally got inflation under control, unemployment rose. As soon as we made progress securing our borders, we faced political crises. No matter where we go, something starts to crumble. We are in trouble if we leave Lebanon, we are in trouble if we stay. It is not in our best interest to seal off the territories, nor is it wise to lift a closure. What’s going on here?
The answer may be found in the parashah, and is related to the following story of a wealthy man who had but one son. The father hired the most experienced teachers and tutors for his son, and he adopted an orphan boy to be his son’s friend.
At first, the orphan was very grateful for this opportunity, and he studied diligently. Gradually, however, he began feeling too comfortable in his new home, and his enthusiasm started weakening. He caused trouble for his tutors, his games became wild, he walked the streets and befriended the wrong crowds, and introduced vulgar speech into his benefactor’s home, threatening to drag the man’s son along with him.
Upon realizing what is happening, the man immediately drove the mischievous boy from his house, sending him to the streets whose inhabitants he had already befriended.
The orphan left the house, but the seeds of mischief which he implanted in his friend’s heart grew and flourished. He, too, began rebelling against his teachers, he behaved disrespectfully towards his parents and tutors, and, following his friend, joined the wild street-gangs.
Eventually, the father took his son by the arm into his room, grabbed the rod and hit him fiercely, until the boy’s shrieks filled the house. Only when the boy promised to improve his behavior did his father’s anger subside.
His servant asked him, “Why were you so much more angry with your son than that orphan boy, who was the one who incited your son to behave this way in the first place?”
The father responded, “That boy was a stranger - what do I have to do with him? As long as he helped my son, I kept him here. Once he left the proper path, I let him go. But my son is my own flesh and blood. How can I send him from my house? I will punish him until, whether he likes it or not, he returns to the proper mode of behavior.”
Similarly, we read in our parashah (chapter 18): “Speak to Benei Yisrael and say to them, I am Hashem your G-d.” As if to say, “You are my sons, and I cannot allow you to collapse!” The pesukim continue, “Do not do like the ways of Egypt which you left, and do not do like the ways of Canaan to which I am bringing you, and in their ways you shall not walk. You shall observe my statutes and laws to walk with them, I am Hashem your G-d.”
What follows is a series of warnings: “For all these abominations were done by the inhabitants of the land before you, and the land was defiled.” Perhaps you will think that if you behave this way you will be driven out, as well?
Wrong! “The land will not discharge you when you defile it like it discharged the nation before you.” They were like foreign children who were then sent away. But you are sons to the Al-mighty, and, whether you like it or not, you will be punished until you return to the proper path: “For anyone who does these abominable activities will be cut off from their nation.” Therefore, you will have no choice but to obey. “You will observe my warning not to do any of these abominable acts which were done before you so that you will not be defiled by them, I am Hashem your G-d.” I am your father who loves you dearly, and I will not leave you until you improve your ways and return to Me.
"You shall become holy, and you shall be holy"
Parashat Kedoshim opens with the directive, “You shall be holy.” The parashah concludes with the commandment, “You shall be holy to Me.” Likewise, we find in the middle of the parashah, “You shall become holy, and you shall be holy.” Explaining the significance for this repetition, the Midrash presents a story of a king who owned a large wine cellar. He hired watchmen to guard the wine. Among the watchmen were several “nezirim,” who are forbidden to drink wine, while the others were alcoholics. At the end of the day, when their shift ended and the king paid them for their work, he doubled the salary of the alcoholics. The nezirim asked him, “Your Majesty, didn’t we all guard the cellar together? Why did the others receive double pay?” The king answered, “They are drunkards, and therefore had a far more difficult struggle to overcome. They are therefore entitled to double salary.” Similarly, the angels, who do not have a yetzer hara, are described with only one expression of sanctity. Humans, who must constantly struggle with their evil inclination, receive the mention of two “kedushot” - “You shall become holy, and you shall be holy.” Their reward is doubled and tripled, as we fulfill a mitzvah each time we hold ourselves back from indulgence, each time we observe the proper degree of seni’ut and sanctity.
Similarly, we might add, in the earlier generations the lifestyle more closely resembled that of angels - the streets were clear of immodest dress and behavior, people were constrained. Nowadays, however, the opposite can be said. Therefore, with every limitation which we take upon ourselves, with every added degree of seni’ut which we observe, our reward will be multiplied again and again.
The wonders of the Creator
Have you heard of the kiwi? No, we are not referring to the fruit which has become more and more common at our tables. Rather, we are dealing with a strange, winged creature, who shares the same name as the aforementioned fruit - the kiwi. The kiwi is an awfully strange bird which resides in New Zealand. Its wings are completely non-functional and thus it cannot fly. The Creator, in His infinite mercy, ensured that it will not have to fly. Most birds fly in order to run away from various enemies. Others need to travel vast distances in order to find food, while others need to travel to change climates. The kiwi, by contrast, lives in a comfortable climate on a permanent basis with no need to migrate. Furthermore, its food is easily secured and it faces no danger as it lives in thick forests and remote places, where there exists no threat to its life.
The most interesting question regarding this creature is, how does a bird which does not fly and whose vision is impaired find its food? The answer is just as interesting. At night, the kiwi goes out using its beak like a cane. Leaning on its beak, it walks around slowly in the dark. When its smells a worm, it thrusts its beak into the ground and waits. When it captures the worm, he raises it ever so carefully to ensure that it does not break on the way up. Apparently, the kiwi prefers its food whole and not cut.
Another interesting method of the kiwi to catch food is by stamping on the ground with its strong legs. The worms down below think that the rain season has begun and come out of their holes, right into the kiwi’s beak.
We see, therefore, how the Al-mighty provides for even a bird who cannot fly and whose vision is impaired, ensuring that it is nourished.
As Jews, we realize that the key to livelihood is held by Hashem alone, and we are therefore not only confident that we are in the best hands possible, but we are also careful not to violate any prohibitions, as we need merely to turn to the source of all wealth, since prayers are always helpful.