Today's farbrengen is primarily connected to the Torah reading of Acharei and Kedoshim. The Alter Rebbe taught us to live with the times -- meaning the daily Torah section -- how much more so on Shabbos when we read the entire portion!
The content and theme of every portion is represented by its name, in our case: Acharei- Kedoshim.
In some years we read Acharei on one Shabbos and Kedoshim on the following Shabbos, in which case the theme and lesson of the Torah portion would be related to each week independently. When they are combined, however, additional aspects are introduced, while all the previous themes continue. As the Talmud tells us regarding human potential: "The weight which a man can raise upon his shoulder is a third of the weight he can carry" (Sotah 31a); on which Rashi comments: "... when others help to set it on his shoulder." (Rashi, loc. cit.) Thus, the whole is equal to more than the sum of its parts, because we have all the original components plus the new aspect created by the fusion of the two parts. Just as the unity of Ahavas Yisroel creates a new, loftier condition of "All together as one," the same is also true in the case of Torah, which is the blueprint of the world.
What is the lesson of Acharei? The word Acharei refers to something which happened after the death of Aharon's two sons. Aharon's sons expired because their state of intense dveikus (attachment -- devotion) to G-dliness reached the point of Kelos Hanefesh (flight of the soul) which came as a result of their yearning to be absorbed in Divinity. Thus it was "After the death of the two sons of Aharon ..." that G-d placed the emphasis on Divine service of the soul only as it is in a body, for only then can the purpose and goal of creation be attained; to make an abode for the Shechinah in the lower worlds:
Clearly, the purpose of the hishtalshelus (downward gradation) of the worlds and their descent, degree by degree, is not for the sake of the higher worlds, because for them this is a descent from the light of His blessed countenance. But the ultimate purpose [of creation] is this lowest world ... (Tanya ch. 36)
A further point to consider is that the condition of coming after something else is normally understood to connote a diminution. At the same time however, the latter stage serves as a conduit, or gathering, for the earlier, higher level; a form of ingathering of all the forces.
This may be clearly understood in our Divine service. When the soul enlivens the body and takes on temporal existence, it is surely a descent for the soul compared to its lofty spiritual state and its former level of Divine service. Nevertheless, it is specifically through this diminution that the true purpose of existence is fulfilled, to make an abode for G-dliness in the physical world. This is the purpose of the hishtalshelus (downward gradation) of the worlds.
This teaching applies to everyone. The average person, involved in normal material matters, might be deterred or even depressed -- the goal of spirituality seems to be so far away! Therefore Acharei comes to tell us: "Don't be depressed. It is through your actions that the purpose of creation is realized."
But the message of Acharei is broader; it is addressed to the scholar as well. Do not assume that being on the level of "Chiefs of the tribes" dictates that your Divine service should be "intense devotion, lovely, pleasant, sweetness, etc." (Ohr Hachaim -- commentary on sons of Aharon) You too must remember that the true purpose is to create an abode in the lower world -- the lowest world. For that reason were you made scholars and chiefs, to incorporate your higher potentials in simple action.
What is the lesson of Kedoshim? "Kedoshim" (Be holy) is translated to mean, "Be self restraining." The Ramban adds that we should:
... practice moderation even in matters which are permitted ... Just as I am Holy so be you holy. Just as I am Pure so be you pure.
(Ramban, beginning of Kedoshim)
This indicates the opposite theme of Acharei. Acharei said, descend to the world and get involved. Kedoshim says, abstain from worldly enterprise and stay aloof.
When the two viewpoints come together on the Shabbos of Acharei-Kedoshim we must stop a moment to consider and to understand what we are being told. The message we garner is that the Jew really has the ability to unite these two opposites. Just as G-d "negates any restriction," a Jew must also be like the Creator and unite the opposite themes of Acharei and Kedoshim together.
There is a Midrash which Chassidus explains:
"You shall be Holy ...," might be taken to imply that your holiness is to be equal to Mine, and so Scripture plainly states, "... for I the L-rd your G-d am Holy"; that is to say, My Holiness is superior to yours. (Midrash, Vayikra Rabbah, 24:9)
The simple meaning of this Midrash is that we cannot attain the level of G-dly Holiness. But, Chassidus interprets the Midrash in a positive way, "... your holiness is to be equal to Mine...." We can reach the level! And for those who challenge this approach, look at the Rashi on the verse: "For I am the Eternal your G-d; you shall therefore sanctify yourselves, for I am Holy." (Vayikra 11:44)
Rashi: "Just as I am Holy, I who am the L-rd your G-d, similarly make yourselves holy below on earth, ... because I will treat you as holy above."
(Rashi, loc. cit.)
In Toras Kohanim we also find: "If you will sanctify yourselves I will consider it that you have sanctified Me." The Jew has the potential for holiness and the ability to increase, as it were, the Sanctity of G-d.
Now, clearly this power is bestowed by G-d; as an extension of His Holiness. He (G-d) "... consider(s) it that ... have sanctified Me." The Hebrew term used is "Maaleh Ani Aleichem," which literally may be translated to "I raise you ...." G-d raised the Jews to a point where our actions raise G-d's Holiness.
There is a parallel here to the interpretation of the verse: "... you should have a desire to the work of your hands." (Iyov 14:15) Chassidus interprets this verse as meaning that G-d "desires the work of our hands," i.e. that our actions in this world are pleasing to G-d and make an abode for the Shechinah in the world. Why is this actually the case? Because we are "G-d's handiwork" and just as a man can raise his hands above his head, so too, G-d raised the work of His hands -- the Jewish people -- to a level higher than "Rosh -- head." The result is that our mitzvah actions give satisfaction to G-d and bring an increase in His supernal Sanctity, so to speak.
Now, since we truly have this relationship to G-d, there is no wonder that we also have the ability to unite opposites; the themes of Acharei and Kedoshim.
These two approaches of Acharei and Kedoshim may be compared to the two levels of: "... with all your heart, with all your soul ..." and "... with all your might."
The Divine service of Acharei requires the person to keep his composure and presence of mind, which parallels the service of "with all your heart and ... soul." The love for G-d which is felt in your heart and soul must pulsate in a serene and settled manner; the opposite of "... when they approached G-d and died."
The manner of Divine service of Kedoshim however, is to be separated from the world, and to lose one's self in a form of sublimation from the terrestrial to ethereal. This is embodied in the words "... with all your might"; the infinite and uncontrollable love, which cannot be encompassed by the heart, and bursts out in a surge of "flight of the soul," out of the casing of the body, in ecstatic expiration.
Chassidus associates the state of "... with all your might" to the concept of "Doing the will of the Omnipresent." Having become disembodied and having committed self-immolation he no longer exists as a "self," but only as a vehicle "for doing G-d's will," with G-d's Will -- power.
Thus the condition of Kedoshim is the same concept as the idea of being likened to G-d's Holiness, mentioned earlier. The ultimate state of self-negation can only come from the higher power of being like G-d. By acting in a manner of "... all your might" he actually "makes (not only does) G-d's will" (and places himself on the level of G-d's Holiness).
This same distinction may be applied in viewing the different approaches of tzaddikim (righteous) and baalei teshuvah (penitents). The tzaddik serves G-d with all his "heart and soul" while the baal teshuvah serves G-d with "all his might." Because he was in the place of darkness and desolation, his thirst was stronger and harsher, and he reached a more intense longing and infinite love to free his soul from its prison and fall into the bosom of his Father, to truly cleave to Him.
Acharei symbolizes the tzaddik and Kedoshim symbolizes the baal teshuvah. So the baal teshuvah comes with the power of being "like G-d," and thereby adds holiness, from the infinite Torah levels; loftier than measure and restriction. This is the true idea of teshuvah, which explains why: "Where penitents stand, the completely righteous cannot stand" (Rambam, Teshuvah 7:4) This power is bestowed by G-d -- similar to the ability to add holiness (to G-d).
This brings us to a more profound ability in the level of Kedoshim -- to unite the opposites. Being that the power of Kedoshim stems from "being like G-d," just as G-d is "unlimited by any restrictions," so too, the Jew has the ability to unite antagonists. Now this lofty power of the infinite must penetrate to the level of Acharei.
Thus, the revelation of the quality of Holiness in the individual engenders the Divine service beyond limitations; but a deeper and stronger revelation will arouse more G-dlike powers so that a new ability will emerge to be able to unite the opposites -- Acharei and Kedoshim together, the finite and measured, with the infinite and immeasurable.
How can we understand this concept in practical application of Torah and mitzvos? The infinite power of G-dliness that we possess will express itself in the superrational acceptance of the yoke of Heaven or in the practice of actual self-sacrifice to do a mitzvah. Consequently, the combination of Acharei and Kedoshim means to permeate the normal observance of Torah and mitzvos with self-sacrifice.
One who is righteous and stands in the states of "love of delights" in relation to G-d, clearly makes no sacrifice when he does the will of G-d. On the other hand, one who is in the lowly state of "a slave prefers the common ...," (Gittin 13a) certainly for him, the observance of Torah is a complete burden and done only with great sacrifice.
Nevertheless, we say that for everyone, accepting the yoke of Heaven must be: "... the beginning of the service and its core and root." (Tanya chap 41) Is this the combination we are seeking? No! In the tzaddik this root remains covered at the time of doing the mitzvah because of the intensity of desire that he feels at the time. At other times the root of his service might be revealed, but then the aspect of pleasure will be suppressed.
There is, however, a case where the joining of the opposites may be effected. Normally the Rambam lists the mitzvah of sanctifying G-d's name as a separate commandment:
All the members of the House of Israel are commanded to sanctify the Great Name of G-d, as it is said, "But I will be hallowed among the children of Israel." (Vayikra 22:32, Laws of Basic Principles of Torah 5:1)
There is a mitzvah to sanctify G-d's name, which can be associated to a general religious responsibility, beyond any specific mitzvah.
There is, however, a level on which the sacrifice of sanctification will penetrate into specific aspects of Torah and mitzvos. The Mechilta speaks of this phenomenon in its interpretation of the following verse:
And we shall say to him, what are these wounds between your hands? Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.
The Mechilta goes on:
Why are you taken out to be stoned? Because I have circumcised my son ... because I have observed Shabbos. Why are you taken out to be beheaded, because I ate matzAh ... because I put on Tefillin ... because I did the will of Father in heaven.... These wounds have caused me to become beloved to my Father in heaven."
(Mechilta, Yisro 20:5)
Here now, we have a case where a specific mitzvah takes on the added aspect of being a sacrifice! To sanctify His Great Name. This is expressed in the Gemara:
... if there is a "royal decree," one must incur martyrdom rather than transgress even a minor precept ... Even to change one's shoe strap....
(Sanhedrin 74 a-b)
Rashi explains that if Jews tied their shoes in a certain way, different from the gentiles, and there was a decree made against the Jews to force them to change their way, and the purpose was to subdue religious observance, than although this was only a custom, one must be ready for martyrdom.
So, normally a mitzvah is just a mitzvah, but when it is the subject of a decree against Judaism, then it exemplifies the essence of religion and one must be ready for sacrifices. Hence you have a concurrence of a normal mitzvah and supreme sacrifice. You can sanctify G-d's Name.
We, however, live in a "benevolent kingdom"; we are not hampered in our observance of Torah and there are certainly no life-threatening decrees! Do we lose the quality of sacrifice?
The answer is no. At least not in the figurative sense. Mesirus nefesh -- martyrdom -- may also be understood as mesirus haratzon -- dedicating his will and devoting his desire. This is the real sacrifice -- nullify your will in front of G-d's will.
Along these lines let us explain the concept for Jews in the lands of democracy and comfort. You study Chassidic philosophy and you intellectualize the true esoteric intention and purpose of Tefillin: the drawing of three levels of "mind" and four levels of "intellect," in the Supernal Man and the nether man, the straps drawing down the radiance. You absorb these elaborate thoughts and meditate on them in your mind to the point that you are involved and motivated and enthused. You have found the inner pleasure of the mitzvah. But ... when you come to put on the Tefillin, having just concluded this satisfying mental exercise, you remember that the act of the mitzvah must be done because of accepting the yoke of Heaven and giving over your will and desire to G-d. You do the mitzvah because it is the command and will of G-d "... who has sanctified us with His commandments etc...." At this junction, you have the opportunity to try to be holy, to separate yourself from your well-developed understanding and pleasure, and to do the mitzvah only because of the command of G-d. Now you have a real connection with the Will of Hashem. You have now united the opposites, the pleasure and the sacrifice; by accepting the yoke they both shine at once!
Here too, the average Jew, who has not yet studied the Chassidic insights into Tefillin, must also say the blessing, "... who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us ..." And he, too, has both aspects. Therefore a young boy or girl who does a mitzvah and says the blessing before he or she does the mitzvah also has all these benefits. For this is the fusion of Acharei and Kedoshim to infuse the orderly observance of mitzvos -- Acharei -- with the enthusiasm of self-sacrifice and the martyrdom of self-immolation -- Kedoshim.
In our goal to spread the teachings of Chassidus there must also be the blending of contradictions. For the "wellspring" is at the loftiest level, "outside" is the lowest level -- yet the "wellsprings" must go "outside" and spread the teachings. To accomplish this one must be in the state of "Ufaratzta," beyond restrictions, then he can spread the wellsprings. This also breaks the restrictions of the golus and it brings the true and complete redemption through or righteous Moshiach, speedily and truly in our days -- "immediately they are redeemed."
There is another main theme of this farbrengen connected to the Yartzeit [anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Yisroel Aryeh Leib -- brother of the Rebbe, Shlita]. Although this is a personal matter, nevertheless, since it has been revealed and become generally known, we should take a lesson from this day in our Divine service.
The names of the Baal HaYartzeit [the person whose Yartzeit we commemorate] were Yisroel and Aryeh with the additional suffix, Leib. We will see that these two names may be compared with the themes described earlier of Acharei and Kedoshim, and also the combination of the two.
One of the distinctions between the service of the tzaddik and the baal teshuvah is that the tzaddik does not descend to the lowest depth to effect a purification of the "other side," the forces opposing holiness! The baal teshuvah had been in the depth of sin and had reached the nadir of darkness. He then rose, with the great love and longing, and transformed his transgressions to merits. These virtues are now of a quality even higher than those of the tzaddik. Using the power of "... with all your might" and disregarding the normal system and order, the baal teshuvah transcends all the worlds and effects a refinement in all the areas of the "other side" that he was in contact with before.
When we analyze the names we find that "Yisroel" connotes the form of Divine service which does not include descending to purify the forces of evil. As the Gemara says: "Even though he has sinned, he is still called Yisroel." (Sanhedrin 44a)
Even when a Jew sins he still retains the aristocratic title of "Yisroel," which alludes to the essence of his soul that remains faithful even while he sins (the pattern of tzaddikim).
"Aryeh" symbolizes the power of rectifying the forces of evil. For a lion is an unkosher animal -- the king of the jungle -- incorporating the power of the "other side"; yet it is purified and transformed to holiness and becomes the lion of the Divine chariot: "The face of the lion to the right side." (Yechezkel 1:10)
The name "Leib" likewise indicates the involvement in worldly matters to refine them to holiness. Being a Yiddish suffix it represents the intermediary between Hebrew and all the languages of the 70 nations. Thus the two names Yisroel and Aryeh-Leib parallel the themes of Acharei and Kedoshim, tzaddik and baal teshuvah.
When we analyze the Divine service of the tzaddik who does not possess the added quality of baal teshuvah, we find a gap. Standing in the lofty level of perfect Tzaddik he still lacks the aspect of the Divine service of the baal teshuvah. This is alluded to by the adage: "Even though he sinned ..., he is Yisroel"; he is in the role of tzaddik, and yet he has a sin, a deficiency. [Note how the context of the verse is reversed.] Chassidus explains the verse: "There is not a tzaddik upon earth who does good and does not sin" (Koheles 7:20); the word "chet" here means a deficiency, something is lacking. What is it? -- the work of teshuvah.
Chassidus teaches us that in the future tzaddikim will also do teshuvah. If so, the lack of teshuvah in the Divine service of the tzaddik can be very fateful. It is the neglected teshuvah of the tzaddik which is holding up the redemption!
Consequently, the Divine service of tzaddikim must indeed include the quality of teshuvah. They must descend to the darkness and purify the world and the forces of evil -- go out into the street -- far away from Yiddishkeit and make baalei teshuvah. In this manner they will introduce the aspect of accepting the yoke and self-sacrifice into the normal orderly observance of Torah and mitzvos. The two opposites will function at one and the same time.
An illustration of this may be found in Laws of Torah Study of the Alter Rebbe:
The Gemara says: "A man should always occupy himself with Torah and good deeds though it is not for their own sake, for out of doing good with an ulterior motive, there comes doing good for its own sake." (Pesachim 50b) This means he may learn for fear of punishment in the world to come, or even this world; or for the desire for reward in the world to come or even in this world. Even if he studies and does not fulfill, in which case he is called "evil"; and even if he learns in order to rebel, he should always occupy himself with Torah, for out of doing good with an ulterior motive there comes doing good for its own sake.... The light of the Torah will turn him to do good. The sages of the Kabbalah have said that all the Torah and mitzvos which one does when he is a wicked person, at the time, adds power to the forces of evil and Kelipah, nevertheless when the person later repents, whether in this life or in a later reincarnation, all the good deeds will be drawn out of the Kelipah, and return to the realm of holiness, as it says: "... that none of us be banished." (Shmuel II 14:14) So never refrain from Torah!
(Laws of Torah Study 4:3)
At first glance this seems strange. Although later on, through teshuvah, you will rectify the problem, how can you allow the strengthening of Kelipah -- the forces of evil -- even temporarily? To paraphrase Tanya: you are taking the head of the king and sticking his face in the mud, there is no greater shame -- even if just for a while! [For this reason in fact, the first opinion, in Laws of Torah Study, rules not to teach Torah to those who are unworthy.]
To clarify this point, we must take a deeper look into the essence of the person's soul -- the "Yisroel" of his being, which remains pure despite the defect of a sin. On the level of the inner essence of the soul no sin can attach itself, even at the time of sin he remains faithful. And even on the level where sin can make a negative impression, when we realize that the ultimate hope [and even reason and assurance] is that because of the transgression he will reach the infinitely more lofty level of baal teshuvah, it appears to justify the condition. [Note: Remember we are not speaking here of doing evil, only of doing a mitzvah without the purest intention!]
This brings us to a more careful clarification of the term "... out of doing ... with an ulterior motive there comes doing good for its own sake":
- Simply, this would mean, that after a while he will reach the category of doing good for its own sake. But if one realizes that the two motives are opposites, why will one lead to the other?
Therefore another meaning is:
- The true intention of the essential soul of every Jew is to do G-d's will -- therefore here too his real inner intention is for the sake of G-d.
But the true meaning is more profound:
- The intrinsic purpose of the ulterior motive, which appears to be not for the sake of G-d's will, really is to reach the higher level of proper intention, as a teshuvah for his wrong intention, thus to attain an infinitely higher position; yet, it can only be reached by the preface of an ulterior motive.
In Laws of Torah study -- revised edition -- the Alter Rebbe writes:
And regarding not instructing an unworthy student, it should be stated that the teacher must not enter a "questionable house," for maybe he (the student) will not repent, etc. But the pupil himself must enter, etc.
Thus, what we quoted earlier, that although the forces of Kelipah are strengthened, he should not be stopped from study because he will repent -- that applies only to the students -- the teacher is not obligated to enter the house of doubt.
We can now superimpose the two paths of Yisroel and Aryeh-Leib on the teacher and student. The master takes on the role of Yisroel who does not descend to teach Torah to the unworthy student, even though there may be the intention that he should later do teshuvah and purify the side of evil. This is the way of the tzaddik.
The student, however, assumes the role of Aryeh-Leib who descends to the depths of the lower world -- even to the point of lending strength to Kelipah -- Heaven forbid; nevertheless, through teshuvah he purifies the other side and "His iniquities are transformed to merits."
The Alter Rebbe continues in the Kuntres Acharon -- "Another opinion is that the teacher may also enter a house of doubt." The master sometimes must make a self-sacrifice and descend to a disciple who is unworthy and tie his destiny to his student; for if the student should be exiled the teacher will be bound to follow. He takes the chance with the hope to bring him back. Here we have the combination of Yisroel and Aryeh-Leib -- being on the level of a tzaddik he makes the sacrifice and assumes the role of baal teshuvah.
We find this mode of conduct by Moshe. The Midrash tells us:
G-d said to Moshe: "Should you be buried near those who died in the wilderness, then they will enter the land for your sake and you will be at their head as it is said: 'And he chose a first part for himself, for there a portion of a ruler was reserved, and there came the heads of the people.'" (Devorim 33:21, Midrash Devorim 2:9)
Despite Moshe's great desire and wish to enter Eretz Yisroel, he sacrificed his will and remained in the desert with his generation so that in the future, in his merit, they will also rise from the dead to enter Eretz Yisroel.
And in the case of Moshe, G-d's Will became his will, and thereby the state of accepting the yoke of Heaven and self-sacrifice became incorporated into his will and desire -- the combination of Yisroel and Aryeh-Leib.
The Rambam always searches for the clearest and simplest verse to use as a source for his halachos. Sometimes the Rambam substitutes a different sentence from the one brought in the Talmud. Why should this be so? If the Rambam's verse is more to the point, why did the editors of the Gemara not say so?
We can understand this by looking at the Rambam's Introduction:
In our days, severe vicissitudes prevail and all feel the pressure of hard times. The wisdom of our wise men has disappeared; the understanding of our prudent men is hidden. Hence the commentaries of the Geonim and their compilations of laws and responses which they took care to make clear, have in our times become hard to understand so that only a few individuals properly comprehend them. Needless to add that such is the case in regard to the Talmud itself.... On these grounds, I ... bestirred myself ... putting together the result obtained from them ... all in plain language and terse style ... so that all the rules shall be accessible to young and old (small and great).
Because of the weakening of the generations the Rambam found it necessary to change the words of the Gemara and to substitute verses which were more clearly understood according to the plain meaning of the Scripture. The Rambam's purpose in quoting any verse is to make the halachah more interesting and hence add enthusiasm for fulfillment of the mitzvos.
Thus, in the days of the Talmud they were on a higher intellectual level, so that the verses brought to substantiate the oral law could be quoted, even though they would be understood only on the level of symbolism or homiletics. But in the time of the Rambam when the generations were diminished, he had to substitute verses which would be understood on the level of p'shat -- simple meaning.
On the other hand, the editors of the Gemara did not seek the simplest level of exegesis by quoting verses which would be understood in plain translation. At that time the average person was on a higher level and easily comprehended the symbolism and homiletics of the Talmud.
There is a rule in Torah that he who is capable of studying a more difficult, advanced subject, or on a more profound level, really does not fulfill his obligation to study Torah if he merely studies superficially, or is complacent with studying elementary subjects. Thus, if one is able to learn Gemara and understand the pilpul, dialectics and intricate logic of a "Ketzos Hachoshen" or "Shev Shematesse" he really does not fulfill the obligation of Torah study by simply reading the commentary of Rashi or Bartenura. Despite the fact that both were written with a spirit of Divine inspiration.
Similarly, in the days of the Amora'im of the Talmud everyone comprehended the interpretation level of symbolism or homiletics, therefore the Gemara quotes the Scriptural verses which pertain to a particular subject symbolically or homiletically. Anything simpler would be considered neglecting their studies.
However, this fact has brought many scholars to the misconception that one who can understand the deeper meaning does not have to learn the simple meaning first. Their mistake is that instead of not being satisfied with the plain meaning and studying more, they disregard the plain meaning altogether. Why learn Rashi on Chumash when he can understand Ramban?
The truth, however, is as the Alter Rebbe explained, that Rashi is the "Wine of Torah." [Meaning: the secrets of Torah are hidden in the simple commentary of Rashi and if we know how to "press" it, they will be revealed.]
To return to the subject at hand -- the deed is of the essence -- to greatly increase the efforts of going out to spread Torah, Yiddishkeit and the wellsprings of Chassidus -- to go out into the marketplace and encourage Jews to become baalei teshuvah, which will also bring the teacher to the level of Kedoshim together with Acharei.
We will shortly read the beginning of Emor where the Torah says "Emor ... V'Amarta" and the commentaries say: "To charge the adults regarding the minors." (Rashi, Vayikra 21:1) The word "L'hazir" -- to charge -- also means to make shine. When the adults will teach the children they will polish themselves. Similarly, when the teacher goes out and influences another Jew, his own life is improved and brightened.
May we soon merit to the fulfillment of the prophecy:
And they who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament; and they who turn many to righteousness like the stars forever and ever," (Daniel 12:3)
including also the promise, "Awake and sing, you that dwell in dust" (Yeshayah 26:19); with the true and complete redemption, through our righteous Moshiach, quickly and truly in our days.
The portion of Kedoshim begins with the words: "You must be holy ..." on which Rashi explains:
This means, keep aloof from the forbidden immoral relations just mentioned and from transgression (sinful thoughts). It is evident that this is the meaning of "You must be holy," because wherever you find in the Torah a command to fence yourself in against such relations you also find mention of "holiness." Examples are: "They shall not marry an immoral or profaned woman ... I am Holy and I am making you holy." (Vayikra 21:7-8); "He will then not profane his children ... I am G-d and I make him holy." (Ibid :15) "They must be holy ... They shall not marry an immoral or profaned woman."
(Ibid: 6-7, Rashi, Vayikra 19:2)
This presents several difficulties:
- The five-year-old Chumash student has learned many verses where the word "Kedoshim" is used. In the past the term "Kedoshim" was translated to mean "holiness" and not "aloofness from immorality," why here does Rashi introduce this new meaning?
- On the other hand, once Rashi has introduced this meaning of "Kedoshim -- keep aloof ...," why must Rashi repeat it later in the chapter: "Sanctify yourselves and be holy ...," Rashi: "This implies keeping aloof from idolatry"? (Ibid 20:7) This is obvious, a minori ad majus, if one must keep aloof from immorality and transgression, how much more so must one keep aloof from idolatry, which was prohibited by the first two mitzvos of the Ten Commandments.
- Rashi's use of the term "... fence yourself in against such relations ..." is also unclear. As mentioned many times, all aspects of the plain meaning of Torah must be made clear [even] to the five-year-old Chumash student, either because there is no question, or because Rashi has already answered it.
The explanation of Rashi is as follows. At the beginning of Kedoshim, Rashi informed us that:
... this section was proclaimed in full assembly (Hakhel) because most of the fundamental teachings of the Torah are contained in it. (Ibid)
This raises the query, "What new, momentous principle do we learn from "You must be holy?" At the time of Mattan Torah, when we became a nation, G-d told us: "You will be a kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation, to Me." (Shemos 19:6) Why was it necessary to teach this "Kedoshim -- you must be holy," specifically again, at a Hakhel assembly?
You might ask the same question regarding the verses of holiness in Shemini: why repeat something which was stated at Mattan Torah? But there Rashi explains that the sequence of the verses introduces the reason for being holy. Because G-d redeemed us from Egypt on the condition that we will fulfill His mitzvos, which adds appreciation and enthusiasm for observance. Not so here.
In answer to this query Rashi informs us here of a new directive in the word Kedoshim: Not only are we forbidden to actually transgress, G-d forbid, but we must also be aloof and separated from immorality and transgression -- even the thought of sin. We must place ourselves in a loftier spiritual space. This will also illuminate Rashi's use of the term "Wherever you find ... to fence yourself in against such relations you also find ... holiness."
To be aloof from sin would be nothing new -- instead Rashi says the verse means to be separated even from the parameters of sin, not to be near the fence surrounding the immoral act.
Therefore Rashi brings several Scriptural examples from the portion of Emor which speak of the greater level of holiness of the Kohanim, and of the Kohen Gadol, to show us that the usage of the term Kedoshim speaks of increased aloofness and greater sanctity.
What about the verse which Rashi says refers to aloofness from idolatry? Isn't that still obvious? Why does Rashi repeat it? The answer is that the two areas of idolatry and immorality need special emphasis. Refer back to Acharei:
"Speak to the Jewish people ... Do not follow the ways of Egypt where you once lived, nor of Canaan, where I will bring you, do not follow any of their customs." (Ibid 18:2-3)
This tells us that the deeds of the Egyptians and the Canaanites were more corrupt than those of other nations and that the district of Egypt in which the Jews had resided was even more corrupt ... that those Canaanite clans whom the Jews subdued were more corrupt than all the others of them. (loc. cit.)
The Torah goes on to command:
No person shall approach a close relative to commit an immoral act ... Do not give any of your children to be initiated to (the idol) Molekh ... Do not let yourselves be defiled by any of these acts. It was as a result of them that the nations that I am driving away before you became defiled ... the land vomited out its inhabitants ... You however must keep ... and not become involved in any of these disgusting perversions ... But [you shall not cause] the land to vomit you out ..." (Ibid:6-28)
It is clear that the citizens of Egypt and Canaan were steeped in immorality and idolatry -- the place the Jews left and the place they were going to. It is quite understandable that special caution must be employed and meticulous care must be exercised in such places for such cases.
Therefore Rashi emphasizes the separateness with regard to the whole arena of illicit relations at the beginning of Kedoshim, after those specific relationships were delineated and prohibited. Later in Kedoshim, after the description of idolatry, Rashi once again reminds us to be aloof and separated from the whole subject of idolatry.
There is a special connection between this Shabbos which occurs on the 13th of Iyar and Pesach Sheni which is tomorrow.
Generally when a holiday falls on Sunday, during Minchah (afternoon prayers) on Shabbos, Tzidkoscha Tzedek is not recited because, normally, Tachnun (confessional prayer) is not recited on the afternoon before a holiday. Pesach Sheni is an exception, as we do say Tachnun -- or in our case Tzidkoscha -- during the Minchah preceding it.
Nevertheless, there is still a connection between Shabbos and Pesach Sheni on Sunday. The blessing of Shabbos spreads to the following week, especially the first day. Motzoei Shabbos (Saturday night) is still associated with Shabbos; as we eat the special Melaveh Malkah meal to escort the Shabbos when it leaves, just as we would accompany a king when he takes leave of us. And Pesach Sheni already begins the night before so that the evening hours of Saturday night are connected to both Shabbos and Pesach Sheni.
What is the theme of Pesach Sheni? -- that "It is never too late!" Even though you may be deficient in something you can make it up; you can even create something new. Pesach Sheni is a time of restitution for those who could not sacrifice the Pascal offering on the 14th of Nissan. At the same time it is a new holiday and therefore a proselyte or minor who was not obligated to bring the sacrifice on Pesach must now bring the Korban Pesach on Pesach Sheni.
This idea of rectification applies in all areas of Torah, but on Pesach Sheni it is especially true in matters pertaining to the 14th of Nissan -- the first Pesach.
My reference is to the subject of the study of Rambam, and to find a remedy for those who have fallen behind.
The Rambam was born on the 14th of Nissan after midday -- the time of offering the Pascal lamb.
Now that we stand at Pesach Sheni it is the appropriate time to repair, remedy and correct every aspect of deficiency in Rambam study, and it should be added that even those who knew nothing about the study of Rambam should also now be included among the learners.
Pesach Sheni also shows us that we must accept those who previously had no connection whatsoever with learning Rambam; even one who was a Ger -- proselyte. When that person now takes the lesson of Pesach Sheni to heart and attaches himself to the regular learners, they will accept him with double love. Just as we have two mitzvos connected to proselytes, first, to love a fellow Jew, and second, to love the convert.
In this manner anything that was missing will be remedied and they will reach the ultimate perfection, even to the point of creating a new holiday.