Metzora/Pesach/Acharei Mot Vol.9 No.27
Date of issue: 10-24 Nissan 5760 -- April 15-29, 2000
|This week’s issue has been sponsored by
Rabbi and Mrs. Yosef Adler in memory of
Moreinu V’rabbeinu, Harav Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik, zt”l, whose seventh Yahrtzeit will be observed this Pesach,
Asher Mitorato Anachnu Shoavim
This week’s issue has also been sponsored by Rabbi and Mrs. Barry Nussbaum of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, in memory of Mr. Eric Nussbaum,
Yitzchak ben Shimon, of blessed memory.
The staff of Kol Torah would like to wish a Mazal Tov to Rabbi and Mrs. Yosef Adler and family on the occasion of the birth of a granddaughter.
The Great Shabbat
by Rabbi Joel Grossman
This Shabbat is known as Shabbat Hagadol, the Great Shabbat. There are numerous reasons found in Chazal for the choice of this name. Some say the reason is because the word Hagadol appears in the special Haftara that was designated to be read this Shabbat.
The Mishna Berura offers another reason. He writes that when Bnai Yisrael were in Egypt they were commanded to take the Seh, sheep, which was the god of the Egyptians, on tenth of Nissan, which was a Shabbat that year, parade it through the streets of Egypt, and tie it to their bedposts so they could examine it for four days to make sure it was perfect for slaughter on the 14th of Nissan as a Korban. Because of this great miracle, that that the Jewish People did this and were not afraid of the Egyptians on that Shabbat, the Shabbat prior to Pesach received the name Shabbat Hagadol.
Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his Darash Moshe, offers another reason. He explains that Shabbat testifies that Hashem created the world Yaish Mei'ayin, from nothing. The holiday of Pesach teaches us that Hashem continues to run the world. There are some people who believe that Hashem runs the world, but they do not believe that Hashem created the world. Such a person is considered a Min, heretic, and one who denies the existence of Hashem. Without the belief that Hashem created the world, one must think that there is another power in this world, because even if he believes that Hashem is the Leader of the world, he still thinks there is something He could not accomplish. This was the mistake of Paroh. He believed that the plagues were from Hashem and that Hashem runs the world, but since he did not believe that Hashem created this world he thought that he could find a weakness of Hashem. Therefore, before we celebrate the holiday of Pesach that illustrates that Hashem runs the world and took a nation from the midst of another nation, we must celebrate this Shabbat, which commemorates that Hashem created the world and it is the same Hashem Who accomplished both feats. This is also why the Torah lists the order of the Yamim Tovim beginning with Shabbat; without our proper belief in Shabbat the keeping of Yom Tov would be useless. So Shabbat is called Hagadol, great, since we require this message of Shabbat to truly appreciate the message of the Yom Tov of Pesach.
The Gemara in Masechet Rosh Hashanah (11a) quotes Rabbi Yehoshua, who says that in the month of Nissan we were redeemed from Egypt and the future redemption will also take place in Nissan. May we learn from this message of the connection between Shabbat and Pesach well; let us strengthen our belief and commitment to Hashem and His Torah, and let us hope that this Nissan is the Nissan that the Gemara referred to, when we will be able to sing a Shir Chadash, a new song of praise, to Hashem.
Tosafot in Pesachim (127b) quotes the Mechilta, which says that all the other songs are called in feminine (Shira) except for the song we will sing when Mashiach arrives, which will be called in masculine (Shir). Why? The explanation is that a woman has the pain of childbirth. The other miracles involved pain as well. But when Mashiach comes, there will not be any more pain. May Hashem say that we have had enough pain so we can sing this Shir Chadash and so that His great Name should be one and accepted by everyone.
The Power of Words
by Yoel Eis
Parshat Metzora deals with a skin condition that people at one time contracted as a result of speaking ill of others. Many people have difficulty relating to the idea that the Torah forbids negative speech about others. Often, when cautioned about speaking negatively, people will react by saying, “Well, it's true!” Still, the Torah forbids such speech. The question is: Why?
The Chafetz Chaim offers a beautiful explanation in his book Shmirat Halashon. King David in Psalm 34 says, “Who is the man who desires life, loves days to see good? Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from deceit.” Why does King David say that life and goodness depend on proper speech? He wanted to convey to us the importance of concern for the well being of others. This means that people should be careful even about what they say of others, taking care not to harm anyone through something they say. Someone who is careful about his speech will certainly develop a sensitivity not to do an action that would cause harm to another person.
Although this is certainly true, it seems that speaking ill of others has an intrinsic negative side to it as well, aside from what it may lead to. The Talmud Yerushalmi writes that the act of learning Torah is the greatest of all of the commandments, and, corresponding to that, the transgression of speaking ill of others is the worst of sins. The Chafetz Chaim explains that the more spiritual a force is in the world, the stronger it is. His example is fire, which has the ability to consume most things more tangible than it is. Wind is the second example he cites. Wind is less of a palpable force, yet it has the ability to destroy in a most profound way. Since speech involves air, it is a very spiritual force. When it is used positively, its effect is more profound than a positive act that takes on more physical trappings. The same is true in the converse. Negative speech has a more significant effect than a corresponding negative act on a more physical plane.
No one needs to be convinced of the problems people cause through negative speech. We probably all remember the time we wished we had not said something. Sensitivity in what we say is an important key to living a happy, effective life.
There is a famous analogy regarding the topic of speech. A man who was not particularly careful about his speech came to a Rabbi. He had decided to change and needed advice on how to go about it. The Rabbi gave him a very peculiar answer: “Take a feather pillow into the street and release its feathers in every direction.” The man was perplexed, but his resolve was firm to do as he was advised and change his life. After doing as he was told he returned to the Rabbi. "Now what should I do?” he asked. “Go back into the street and collect all of the feathers to the very last one,” was the astounding reply. The man made his way into the street once again and began the daunting task. At his wits end, he returned to the Rabbi dejected, reporting his inability to keep the last words of advice. “Remember,” said the Rabbi, “that your words are like those feathers. Once they leave your mouth they never return. Make sure the words you allow out are ones you will not have to go chasing after!”
The Big Kehuna
by Daniel Wenger
The power of words can be seen throughout the sections of the Torah discussing the Metzora. Speech plays key roles throughout all of the processes of the Metzora, from declaring him contaminated to declaring him pure. The laws of the Metzora are all in place to show Bnai Yisrael the importance of watching what they say.
The most noticeable of these sightings is in the word Metzora itself. The Gemara says that this word is a contraction of Motzi Ra, someone who brings out evil. Someone who is branded a Metzora has the detrimental title of someone who indulges in evil, which may impact severely on his life in adverse ways by making him less credible and less likable.
However, there is even a stronger use of language impacting the Metzora that is meant to teach him just how powerful words can be. When the Metzora sees marks of Tzaraat on his body, he must come before the Kohen to be examined. The future of the Metzora is then in the hands of the Kohen. All the Kohen needs to do is say the word “impure” and the Metzora must leave the camp for at least one week. Similarly, after each week of impurity has passed, the Kohen must reexamine the Metzora, and only when the Kohen pronounces the Metzora “pure” can the Metzora then undergo the final process of purification, which includes bringing various Korbanot and going to the Mikva.
This is just one of the many examples of the power of a Kohen’s speech. Nowadays, even though the Halachot of Tzaraat are not applicable, there is still one major occasion when a Kohen’s words have strong meaning. On all Yamim Tovim, and every day in Israel, the Kohanim bless the congregation. We are given the blessing that Hashem should bless us, protect us, and favor us. These words can have a profound effect on people’s lives because the words of the Kohanim are taken by Hashem to be true.
The connection between Hashem and the Kohanim can be seen throughout the Kohanim’s services. When a Kohen receives Teruma or a portion of a Korban to eat, he eats it as if Hashem is really partaking of the food, since it is really Kadosh and thus not fit for use by any regular person. Also, the Kohanim are the ones who can come the closest to Hashem, being allowed into the Kodesh section of the Mishkan and Bait Hamikdash.
From the above references we can the see the power of speech, especially when used by the Kohanim. We should make sure to always be careful to watch what we say about other people, lest we damage our own reputations. We must also make sure to respect the Kohanim, for it is through them that we can come closer to Hashem.
by Rabbi Yosef Adler
The Mishna in Masechet Pesachim formulates some of the guidelines of the Seder to enable us to perform the Mitzva of telling the story of Yetziat Mitzraim. One instruction states, Vedoresh Parshat Arami Oved Avi, that one is to read the Parsha of Mikra Bikurim with its accompanying Midrashic commentary. Our Hagada begins with the phrase, Tzei Ulemad Mah Bikesh L'ben Ha'arami La'asot. Two questions emerge. Why begin with the word Tzei, which literally means go out? Learning generally takes place within the home and not outside. This is particularly true during the Seder night when we were told V'ish Lo Tetzei Mifteach Beito, man was not to leave his house in Mitzraim. Rav interprets the phrase Ein Maftirin Achar Hapesach Afikoman as Shelo Yakru Mechaburah Lechaburah, one should not leave his group after consuming the Korban Pesach (Pesachim 119b). Why, then, would we begin the paragraph with the directive Tzei? Second, why do we insert this paragraph immediately following V'he She'amdah Lavoteinu V'lanu?
We find the word Tzei used in Parshat Noach following the flood. Hashem instructs Noach, Tzei Min Hatevah, "Leave the ark." Why was it necessary for Hashem to instruct Noach to leave the ark? One would have expected that once the water receded Noach would have left the ark even without a command from Hashem. Apparently, Noach contemplated the option of remaining in the ark. Having witnessed an entire world destroyed as a result of moral corruption, Noach doubted whether it was worth investing the effort to rebuild the world. If the world is going to be destroyed a second time, why bother rebuilding the world? Hashem had to implore Noach to leave the ark and begin the reconstruction of the world. A similar theme emerges in the context of the Seder. We have just stated Shelo Echad Bilvad Amad Aleinu Lichloteinu. Not only did Paroh rise and attempt to destroy us, the Spaniards, the Poles, and the Germans all have tried to eradicate Am Yisrael. Many have regrettably said, "Be a Jew at home and a general citizen when interacting with society." Yaakov may have felt this way when he was about to encounter Esav having just escaped the clutches of Lavan. But Yaakov responded, "I lived with Lavan, but I kept the 613 Mitzvot." Go out to the world and make a resounding statement that with the assistance of Hashem we will repel each challenge and to remain a vibrant, unique people dedicated to the word of Hashem.
The Order of the Night
by Meir Dashevsky
Every year, the Pesach Seder opens with a table of contents. Many sing this list, but its purpose goes beyond a simple song to open the Seder before the serious rituals begin. Its main purpose is to refresh our memories of the order of the Seder. Unfortunately, many people are familiar only with the order and the words and not with the meanings, symbolisms, and interpretations of the fourteen parts of the Seder. This article will help attempt to combat this unfortunate situation by delivering a short Dvar Torah on each of the fourteen parts of the Seder. (Note: The following Divrei Torah are not Halacha Lemaaseh and do not represent all opinions on any particular topic. Any questions should be referred to one's local Rabbi.)
Kiddush, the first part of the Seder. Kiddush is recited on Shabbat and on all biblical holidays (except Yom Kippur). Therefore, it is no surprise that we recite Kiddush on Pesach during the Sedarim. However, it is surprising that the Beracha on wine is recited (according to Ashkenazic practice) three more times (a total four cups of wine) throughout the Seder; why is this so?
The most common explanation may be found in the Talmud Yerushalmi. The Yerushalmi explains that the four cups correspond to the four expressions of redemption used by Hashem in the opening of Parshat Vaera (6:6-7): a) I will take you out from the burdens of Egypt, b) I will save you from their slavery, c) I will redeem you with an outstretched arm, and d) I will take you to Me as a nation. Though the people, who were still slaves, were unable to comprehend or absorb the ideas Moshe had presented, their descendants demonstrate their thankfulness to Hashem for redeeming the Jews by drinking four cups. But what do four cups of wine have to do with redemption? The Gemara states (Sanhedrin 38a) that wine has the ability to bring to the surface things that we would ordinarily not say, think, or express. Wine is used because it helps bring out our feelings of gratitude towards Hashem for freeing our ancestors. Because it is not simply enough to thank Hashem, we must also feel the freedom as an emotion rising from our heart and soul.
Urchatz, the washing of the hands, is a most peculiar part of the Seder. Usually, one's hands are washed prior to eating bread. Why, here, are the hands washed for no apparent reason? This washing is in order to purify one's hands from any impurities because before eating any foods that had been dipped in water or certain other liquids, the washing of the hands for the purpose of purity was required in the time of the Bait Hamikdash. However, if we no longer have the Bait Hamikdash and no longer are able to attain a full level of purity, why do we still wash our hands?
Indeed, some rabbinic authorities do not require us to wash nowadays. Nonetheless, it is customary for the person conducting the Seder to wash one's hands before eating the Karpas at the Seder as a reminder of the procedure of the Bait Hamikdash, which will hopefully be restored with the coming of Mashiach. Today, many rabbinic authorities state that when food is dipped into a liquid one's hands should be washed. According to them, all participants at the Seder should wash their hands.
Karpas, the eating of a green vegetable. The procedure of eating a piece of green vegetable is taking the vegetable, dipping it in salt water, making a Beracha, and eating it. The section of Karpas is very interesting because it displays two opposite ideas at the same the time. The eating of the Karpas represents freedom and the bitterness of slavery, as the dipping of food is considered a luxury yet the salt water it is dipped into is a reminder of bondage. Ironically, the same act that represents freedom represents oppression.
Yachatz, the breaking of the middle Matza and hiding of the other half for the Afikoman. During Yachatz, the leader of the Seder breaks the middle Matza in two, the larger half is placed aside to serve as the Afikoman, and the smaller is returned to its place between the other two Matzot. One of the reasons the Matza is broken in half is to remind us of the extreme poverty Bnai Yisrael experienced in Egypt. Like the very poor, they only had a broken Matza, never a whole one.
But why is the middle Matza broken and not the top one? To discover this answer one must look ahead to the rest of the meal and notice that the first Beracha after Magid is Hamotzi Lechem Min Ha'aretz. As at all Yom Tov and Shabbat meals, this Beracha must be made over two unbroken loaves of bread or Matza. Only afterward do we make the Beracha that denotes the Matza as a bread of poverty. Therefore, the Matza is arranged in the order in which it will be used, leaving the top Matza unbroken to be used later.
Magid, recitation of the Pesach story. Perhaps the most known section of the Seder is the Mah Nishtanah and its answer, Avadim Hayinu. However, the answer does not seem to fit the question. How does saying we were slaves in Egypt answer how this night is different from all others? The answer of Avadim Hayinu makes sense because the father is instructing the child that the observances mentioned in Mah Nishtanah must be performed because Hashem is our master, because He took us out of Egypt. However, the answer of the father also explains the observances the child asked about as well. The practices of the Seder reflect both slavery and freedom because on this night Bnai Yisrael were freed from slavery.
Rachtzah, the washing of the hands before the meal. Usually when one washes his hands, it is in order to eat bread, but on Pesach it is to eat Matza. In Ha Lachmah Anya, Matza is referred to as , poor man's bread, which our ancestors ate in Egypt. Later, this "poor man's bread" is contrasted with the bread of Eretz Yisrael, as the Pasuk in Devarim (8:9) states: "a land in which you shall not eat bread in poverty." Beneath this contrast there is a profound spiritual distinction. When Bnai Yisrael left Egypt with their Matza, they had no part in their own liberation. In this sense, it was a liberation of poverty not sustained by their own merits. However, when they entered Eretz Yisrael, they were charged with a new mission to serve Hashem in a Torah atmosphere. In reward for following Hashem initially, Bnai Yisrael were given the opportunity to follow Hashem in a Torah environment.
But why does the Seder emphasize that Matza is the "bread of poverty?" The answer provided by the Mishna in Avot (4:11) states, "Anyone who neglects the Torah amidst wealth will eventually neglect it in poverty." Emphasizing this characteristic of Matza teaches us a lesson. That Hashem gave us a gift and a mission but our ancestors chose to neglect creating a Torah environment in Eretz Yisrael when they had the opportunity to do so led to exile. From this we should learn to take advantage of the spiritual opportunities presented to us and create proper Torah environments.
Motzi Matza, the eating of the Matza. Matza is eaten on Pesach because the bread Bnai Yisrael were baking did not have the chance to rise due to their being rushed out of Egypt. But what was the rush? What terrible thing would occur had they not left Egypt quickly? A Midrash states that the reason they left Egypt so quickly was that had they stayed even a few minutes longer they would have been completely assimilated into Egyptian society. How? Bnai Yisrael were on the forty-ninth level of Tumah; had they stayed even a few more minutes they would have fallen to the fiftieth and then even Moshe, as charismatic as he was, would not have been able to lift them from that low level.
Marror, eating of the bitter herbs. It is usually assumed that Maror is a sad and negative note in our night of joy. However, it seems that every act in the Seder reflects our gratitude towards Hashem, even the Maror. However, this idea seems rather paradoxical: are we thanking Hashem for the bitterness Bnai Yisrael experienced in Egypt? The answer is yes: though it was a period of extreme suffering, many positive things happened as a result. One example is thanking Hashem for the hatred of the Egyptians that kept the people from totally assimilating. Even today we have to be thankful for the benefits of the suffering of the Jewish People. By eating the Maror on Pesach we are demonstrating our gratitude and belief that all our suffering is merely a prelude to the coming of Mashiach, just as Bnai Yisrael's suffering was a prelude to Yetziat Mitzraim.
Korech, eating Matza and Maror together. What is the purpose of eating Matza and Maror together? By combining the Matza and Maror we demonstrate that Hashem is present not only in periods of freedom, represented by the Matza, but also in periods of slavery, represented by Maror. Another idea is that by eating the Matza and Maror we recognize why Bnai Yisrael did not assimilate in Egypt. The Matza, on the other hand, represents unyielding loyalty to tradition, as the ingredients of Matza have never been changed. By eating Matza and Maror together we suggest that it was the Maror's bitterness that allowed us to attain Matza-like characteristics. If Bnai Yisrael did not adopt Egyptian culture, it was because of the Maror, bitterness, the Egyptians showed us. That Maror allowed us to keep the characteristics of the Matza.
Shulchan Orech, eating the meal. Why is it customary to eat a hard-boiled egg during the meal? To answer this question it is helpful to look to a different situation where someone eats an egg, the first meal of a mourner after the funeral. The mourner is given an egg to symbolize the circle of life, which, just like an egg, has no beginning and no end. On the Seder night it is also appropriate to eat an egg because we are mourning the Bait Hamikdash. (This is especially true because the first night of Pesach and Tisha B'Av always fall out on the same day of the week.)
Tzafun, eating the Afikoman. Why do we eat the Afikoman? The Rosh gives the classical answer that the Afikoman was established as a reminder of the Korban Pesach. Similar to the Korban Pesach, the Afikoman must be the last thing eaten at the Seder and must be eaten before a certain time. On the other hand, the Rashbam states that the Afikoman is not a remembrance of the Korban Pesach but a remembrance of the Matza eaten with it. In fact, the Rashbam believes that this Matza, the Afikoman, is the real fulfillment of our obligation to eat Matza during the Seder.
Barech, grace after meals. Here's a question: In Birkat Hamazon we insert the Harachamon of Yom Tov and many insert an additional statement following it which says, "That everlasting day, the day when righteous people sit with crowns upon their heads, enjoying the radiance of the Divine Presence - may our portion be among them." What does this mean? Why is this phrase used? (E-mail suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org)
Hallel, recitation of Hallel. Why is the recitation of Hallel split in two; the first part recited at the end of Magid, and the rest now? The first part of Hallel deals with the deliverance from Egypt and therefore belongs in the section of Magid. The second part, however, looks ahead to the redemption of Mashiach, which is the theme of the end of the Seder.
Nirtza, conclusion of the Seder. It appears that with the paragraph of Chasal Sidur Pesach the Seder should come to an end, as it says, "The order of the Pesach service is now completed in accordance with all its laws, ordinances and statues." Why, then, does the Seder continue; what is the meaning of the end of the Seder? According to Rav Moshe Feinstein, this introduces the informal part of the Seder. In this section, any additional praises of Hashem are expressed. Though all required observances have been completed, it is desirable to continue discussing the Exodus throughout the night or until we fall asleep.
(Ideas and thoughts taken from: The Three Festivals: Ideas and Insights of the Sfat Emet, The Hirsch Hagadah, The Artscroll Hagadah, and the Torah Anthology Hagadah.)
Come One, Come All
by Noam Singer
At the beginning of Magid, we say the paragraph of Ha Lachma Anya, "This is the bread of affliction." In this paragraph, we say the words, "All those who are hungry, let them come and eat." This is a very nice gesture toward the poor, however it seems to be out of place. If this was an actual invitation, it should be made during the day or at Shul, not in the privacy of our own homes after the Seder has already started.
This invitation is just a further illustration of why Matza is called, "the bread of poverty." In the time of the Bait Hamikdash, guests could not be invited in the middle of the Seder because the Korban Pesach could only be eaten with prearranged participants. The reason that we are permitted to invite guests to join our meal is because, in our spiritual poverty, we have no Korban Pesach. Therefore, our call for guests is to emphasize the fact that we are in exile.
There is another explanation as to why we invite the needy. Pesach recalls not only Hashem's kindness to the Jewish People but also the kindness that Jews extend to their fellow Jews. The Chachamim tell us that the Jews merited redemption from Egypt because no Jew ever informed on another to the Egyptian authorities, no matter how cruel their persecution was. On the contrary, they made a pact among themselves to render kindness to each other. In turn, they merited the Divine kindness from Hashem that lead to their redemption. As we relive this special moment, we invite all people to join our celebration and share our blessing with them. This is the reason we begin our Seder with an act of benevolence.
The Root of Karpas
by Yechiel Shaffer
Karpas. What significance does this word have in the Hagadah? What does this word mean? What was the reasoning of Chazal to include the step of Karpas in the Seder?
Everyone knows the famous and beautiful answer that the salt water reminds us of the bitterness and hardship the Jews suffered in Egypt. Another explanation is that it is to remind us of those Jews who cried out to Hashem for mercy to be freed from hardship and slavery.
I would like to present another answer, which was heard in a Shiur given by Rav Isaac Bernstein, zt"l, of London. He suggested a beautiful and profound idea that changes the whole outlook of the beginning of the Hagadah.
In Megilat Esther it says, "There were hangings of fine white cotton and blue wool (Karpas)" (1:6). This, of course, refers to Achashverosh's party with all the people of Shushan, and it describes the beauty and splendor of the party. From the Megila we find out the meaning of the word Karpas: fine woven linen. How would this fit into our context? What does fine woven linen have to do with us taking a vegetable and dipping it into salt water?
The message is a beautiful one. How did the Jews get to Egypt? The decisive incident in sending Yosef down to Egypt was the story of Yosef and his multi-colored coat. What happened in the story of Yosef and his coat that sent the Jews to Egypt? Yosef wore his coat in front of his brothers, his brothers were jealous, and they sold him into slavery. In order to save themselves from being punished, they took Yosef's coat, dipped it into the blood of a goat, and told their father that a wild animal had eaten Yosef.
Now the idea of Karpas in the Hagadah makes sense. It is a way of introducing the story of going down to Egypt; it is showing us that because of the brothers' sins, Yosef was sold into slavery in Egypt. How does Karpas fit in with this? We take the vegetable, representing Yosef's coat, and dip it into the salt water, representing the blood of the goat. The story of Pesach told at the Seder goes all the way back to the sons of Yaakov, all the way back to Yosef's coat.
The Meaning of Shir Hashirim
by Daniel Wenger
We read Shir Hashirim on Shabbat Chol Hamoed Pesach, or, if there is no Shabbat Chol Hamoed, on whichever of the last two days of Pesach falls out on Shabbat. Shir Hashirim is a very hard Megila to understand. Literally, it is a love song or serenade. If this is true, what is it doing as part of our holy scriptures?
Rashi, along with many other commentaries, concludes that Shir Hashirim is an allegory to the love between Hashem and Bnai Yisrael. King Shlomo laments over the separation between them that will come with Bnai Yisrael's exile from Israel, but he also foresees their return. This would explain why it is read on Pesach; Pesach is the time when we recall Bnai Yisrael's exile in Egypt as well as their escape by the hand of Hashem.
Although this interpretation of Shir Hashirim makes sense when looked at in the light of Pesach, it still seems odd that King Shlomo would write something that could be meant to connote something completely different. To take a Pasuk (1:2) as an example, a literal translation reads, "Oh, that he might kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your caresses are more pleasant than wine," whereas an allegorical translation says, "Communicate Your innermost wisdom to me again in loving closeness, for Your friendship is dearer than all earthly delights." The differences are obvious; how can there be two entirely different translations to the same Pasuk? Furthermore, the only other time Shir Hashirim is read is before Kabbalat Shabbat. There is a Minhag that on Shabbat night men read Shir Hashirim to their wives. Seemingly this is due to the fact that this is a love song, and it is recited at this time because of the loving atmosphere that is brought by Shabbat.
The similarities between these two interpretations, however, can lead to reconciliation regarding these differing understandings. The allegorical version refers specifically to the deep love between Hashem and Bnai Yisrael, whose love for each other are said to be like the love between a husband and wife. So long as this idea is still intact, the point of Shir Hashirim can still be expressed; it is only due to the function of Pesach that it is translated to draw out the aspect of Geula that can be taken from the Shir.
It is important that one understand the true meaning of Shir Hashirim. Even though the allegorical translation has meaning during Pesach, the literal translation is still important to understand. It is safe to assume that King Shlomo's writings can be taken at face value, even though one may be able to extract certain lessons from them, and so to replace the literal translation in favor of an allegorical one might deprive the reader of a true meaning of Shir Hashirim. (See, however, the first footnote of Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik's classic essay entitled "U'Vikashtem Misham".)
by Rabbi Zvi Grumet
One of the most perplexing acts of Avoda found in the Mishkan is described in this week's Parsha, as the Kohen draws lots and identifies one of the Seirim as a scapegoat - the Sair Laazazel - which is to be sent out into the wilderness. Neither the function of this sending out nor the fate of the scapegoat is clear; the only thing of which we can be sure is that this animal is not a Korban and that the entire ceremony is shrouded in mystery.
In his comment on this, Ramban cites a Midrash in Bereishit Rabbah, which identifies the Seir with Esav (after all, Esav is identified in the Chumash as an Ish Seir and his people eventually merged with the nation of Seir). The Midrash continues explicating 16:22, Venasa Hasair Alav Et Col Avonotam El Eretz Gezeira, parsing the word Avonotam (their sins) as Avont Tam (the sins of the simple one) - a clear reference to Yaakov. The Midrash is apparently suggesting that an understanding of Yaakov and Esav is at the core of the process of the scapegoat, yet what the exact connection is left unclear.
When we look at the story of Yaakov and Esav, we notice that Yaakov succeeded initially in receiving his father's blessing by mimicking Esav, or, perhaps, in becoming Esav. In donning the goatskin clothes (notice: goat = Seir!) he took on the very attributes that had been identified with his older brother. Yaakov, the Tam, or smooth one, became hairy like Esav. It was through this act of deception that he initially got the blessing, and that act of deception is the Avon Tam, the sin of the smooth one.
Anything positive emerging from that act of deception must be seen as an ill-gotten gain and must be disposed of before genuine blessing can be earned. The process of atonement for the Jewish People on Yom Hakippurim demands that we divest ourselves of anything gained through deception as an integral aspect of earning true expiation and blessing. Toward that end we take the Seir, representing Yaakov's posing as Esav and all that was profited from that, and send it away to a desolate place, signifying that we are prepared to give up the benefits of deception.
Aside from the national implication of the act, there is personal meaning as well. Yom Hakippurim is a day on which we are to explore who we truly are; in other words, a day in which we are to shed the masks and disguises we wear. It is only through an honest confrontation with the self, with no airs or self-deception, that we can truly merit the forgiveness of the day. As the nation confronts its own past, so too, the individuals within, the net result being the personal and national redemption from that which we brought upon ourselves.
Don't Do What You are Not Told
by Moshe Glasser
The beginning of Parshat Acharei Mot records the Yom Kippur service as performed by the Kohen Gadol. Immediately before that, however, the Torah mentions that Hashem taught these laws to Aharon immediately after the death of two of his sons, Nadav and Avihu.
Anyone who has learned Rashi knows his favorite question at the start of a new section: Why is this section next to the one before it? In this case, the question is why the Torah mentions the death of Aharon's sons in conjunction with the Yom Kippur service.
According to one interpretation, the sin of Aharon's sons was bringing Ketoret to the Aron that was not asked of them. Interestingly enough, an important part of the Yom Kippur service is the Kohen Gadol's bringing of the Ketoret in the Kodesh Hakodashim, in front of the Aron. Why would Hashem want to remind Aharon of the sin that killed his sons in the description of the Yom Kippur service?
We see a very similar idea in Parshat Shemini. Some commentaries indicate that the entire Mishkan served as an atonement for the Cheit Haegel. Then, on the eighth day of the inauguration of the Kohanim, Aharon is ordered to bring an Egel as a Korban Chatat - the very same animal that precipitated one of the greatest sins in Jewish history and prompted the building of the Mishkan.
In fact, Aharon himself was the one who built the Egel Hazahav to begin with. Now he is reminded of his error, which cost more than three thousand lives, and told to bring a Chatat for it.
Perhaps we must look into the reason Nadav and Avihu were killed for their error to determine an answer. Nadav and Avihu were killed for bringing a "foreign fire," meaning that God did not tell them to bring it. Their initiative was not appropriate because the Mishkan was not their domain to control. Since God needed to show Nadav and Avihu that he controlled the Mishkan, He killed them for their arrogance of presuming that they could bring their own Ketoret.
Bnai Yisrael were also punished for something one would not think is a sin. The nation created the Egel, according to some, because they needed something physical to represent God, something for them to relate to. Why were they punished for this? The Mishkan itself serves almost the same purpose, being a physical representation of Hashem and a place to serve Him.
Both the Egel and the Ketoret of Nadav and Avihu were strange sins because they were actions that are permitted under other circumstances. The one reason they were not permitted in those cases is because God did not command them. The underlying theme is that one cannot believe he controls the Mikdash. The Mikdash demands our subservience to Hashem and not His subservience to us.
The Sealed Room
by Reuven Pepper
This week's Sedra discusses the Yom Kippur service and says, Daber El Aharon Achicha Veal Yavo Bechol Eit El Hakodesh Mibait Laparochet El Penei Hacaporet Asher Al Haaron Velo Yamut Ki Beanan Eiraeh Al Hacaporet., "Speak to your brother Aharon, he should not come at any time into the Kodesh, behind the curtain, before the cover that is on the Aron, and he will not die, for I (Hashem) will appear on the cover" (16:2). We see that Aharon cannot come into the Kodesh Hakodashim anytime he wants to do so lest he die. Even the Kohen Gadol cannot take advantage of Yom Kippur and enter the Kodesh Hakodashim whenever he wants.
First we must understand what happens when the Kohen Gadol enters the Kodesh Hakodashim. The Rav, zt"l, says that Kedusha thrives in Heeleim, hiddenness, and not on Galuy, openness. On Yom Kippur something special happens. There is a convergence of the three dimensions of Kedusha. The holiness of time - Yom Kippur, the holiness of the place - Kodesh Hakodashim, and the holiness of the personality - the Kohen Gadol. These three facets converge into one exalted Kedusha. If the masses came into the Kodesh Hakodashim it would lose its character of Kedusha, because Kedusha does not prosper in the presence of the masses. There has to be a measure of Tzniut, modesty, as the natural environment of Kedusha is in the hidden.
By the Pasuk saying Veal Yavo Bechol Eit, we see that the situation is more extreme. The Kohen Gadol can only enter at a specific time on Yom Kippur. The Rambam says only when the Kohen Gadol deals with the incense service can he enter the Kodesh Hakodashim, otherwise he will die. So this does not even refer to the masses but the Kohen Gadol himself. Just as the Rav said Kedusha thrives in Heeleim, hiddenness, so too entering the Kodesh Hakodashim at the improper time violates Hashem's hiddeness, His Tzniut.
We can now derive that if one enters the Kodesh Hakodashim at the wrong time he will be overwhelmed with Kedusha. It will be too much of a spiritual experience that any person's, even the Kohen Gadol's, soul will jump out of its body and return to its source, Hashem. This is the same overwhelming experience that took place on Har Sinai. The Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt"l, explained that Bnai Yisrael were so overwhelmed by the Kedusha that they lost all connection to their physical reality, and their souls left their bodies and returned to Hashem. This is also what happened to Nadav and Avihu. They got so carried away with their service in the Mishkan that their high level of spirituality caused their soul to disconnect from their bodies and they died.
Rav Kook, zt"l, saw this problem and explains that in this world we need to create a unity of body and soul. Therefore, a person's will must be in accordance with his inner direction to the profound depths of Hashem. The unified personality is one that binds the internal and external but centers on the inner worlds in order to control and direct the random forces of everyday activity in the way we can overcome death by Tikkun.
Halacha of the Week
It is proper on the afternoon of Erev Pesach to study the laws concerning the offering of the Korban Pesach. In doing so one hopes that Hashem should regard this study as the equivalent of our having offered the Korban Pesach (Mishna Berura 471:22). If one is traveling during that time, it might be appropriate to listen to a tape of a Shiur teaching about Korban Pesach.
Food for Thought
by Dani Gross
1) The paragraph after Dayeinu basically repeats the content of Dayeinu. What is the reason for this repetition? Can this repetition be compared to the repetition of the paragraph in Shabbat Davening of Hodu Lahashem Ki Tov, which repeats the paragraph before it?
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