The last words of Parashat Kedoshim are, “VeIsh Oh Ishah Ki Yiheyeh VaHem Ov Oh Yideoni Mot Yumatu BaEven Yirgemu Otam Demeihem Bam,” “Any man or woman in whom there shall be the sorcery of Ov or of Yideoni, they shall be put to death; they shall pelt them with stones, their blood is upon themselves” (VaYikra 20:27). This rather morose conclusion of the Parashah seemingly contradicts the practice not to end a Sidrah on a negative note. The death and blood of sinners certainly appears to be negative.
The Imrei Shammai makes an interesting observation. He asserts that the words “Demeihem Bam” are in fact positive, contrary to what one may initially think. If a person is punished for his sins in this world, even via a violent death of stoning, the sin is atoned for, which enables the person to enter Olam HaBa sinless. “Demeihem Bam” indicates that the sinner has achieved atonement in this world, a goal many strive for daily. These words, therefore, should be considered as positive ones. The Imrei Shammai buttresses this idea with a Pasuk from Sefer Melachim and an amazing Gemara from the Talmud Yerushalmi.
When David HaMelech was about to die, he instructed Shlomo to deal with all of his enemies. Yoav Ben Tzeruyah had been David's chief general, but he eventually rebelled against David. David instructed Shlomo, “VeLo Toreid Seivato BeShalom Sheol,” “And do not allow his white hair to go down to the grave in peace” (Melachim I 2:6). Rashi comments that David was telling Shlomo not to allow Yoav to die a natural death without atoning for his wrongdoings in order that he not face Geihinom (punishment in the next world). Sometimes, people suffer terribly before their death and one cannot help but question God’s judgment, but we must bear in mind that Hashem’s judgment is infallible and that sometimes what appears to be an unjust torture is actually a merciful act of kindness. This is the lesson of the conclusion of Parashat Kedoshim.
The Talmud Yerushalmi (Terumot) relates that Rav Imi was captured by bandits. Upon hearing this news, Rav Yochanan instructed for shrouds to be purchased for Rav Imi’s burial. However, Reish Lakish made a deal with the bandits and freed Rav Imi. Reish Lakish then convinced the bandits to come see Rav Yochanan, who would pray on their behalf in appreciation for freeing Rav Imi. The bandits were expecting a tremendous Berachah of appreciation but much to their surprise, Rav Yochanan cursed them, wishing upon them whatever sinister actions they had had in store for Rav Imi. They left Rav Yochanan and were killed on the way home. It appears as if Reish Lakish tricked these bandits by fooling them into receiving a curse, but it is quite the opposite. They had indeed received the Berachah they were expecting, however unwittingly. The death of these bandits functioned as an atonement for all of their sins. Here too, the harsh punishment of murder is seen as the ultimate atonement and, accordingly, as the ultimate Berachah.
Sometimes, blessings must occur in the form of tragedies, but we must never lose faith in the judgment of the Dayan Emet, Hakadosh Baruch Hu. That is why Parashat Kedoshim ends on the note of Demeihem Bam. Not only is it a positive note, but it is directly connected to the theme of the Parashah; the Sidrah deals with the necessary steps to becoming a proper Jew, comparable to a “Judaism 101” guidebook. It is full of the positive and negative commandments of being a Ben Yisrael, but, if one is unfortunately unable to fulfill these Mitzvot, one must not give up hope, for atonement is always possible, no matter how terrible the sin may be. This message of hope is key to not just the Parashah, but Judaism itself and is therefore an appropriate final note for a guidebook on how to be a proper Jew.
Furthermore, this message of a greater meaning behind God’s actions is especially important to realize now, just days after Yom HaShoah. The tragic and indescribable horrors that took place during the Holocaust may seem unfair and cause one to lose faith in Hashem, but it is crucial to never lose Emunah and to understand that everything Hashem does has a deeper meaning to it even if we are unable to comprehend it. Emunah is a fundamental principle of Judaism that cannot be disregarded. With the help of Hashem, we will all merit the ultimate atonement and be able to welcome the Mashiach speedily and in our days.