Parshas Acharei Mos/ Kedoshim
April 19, 2012
9 Iyar 5773
Candlighting Time: 7:24
This edition of Sparks of Torah is dedicated in honor of the 17 men traveling to Israel on our Men’s Mission this week. Go in shalom and return in shalom. And bring us some falafel!
- Kosher by Design in Denver, May 29th. Meet renowned cookbook author Susie Fishbein for demonstration and dinner. Call to register, (303) 316-6412 or register online at www.theje.com..
- Sunday of next week is Lag b’Omer, a minor Jewish holiday celebrated with bonfires and barbecues. Join us for a Festive Family Picnic BBQ at Mir Park in Glendale from 11:30am – 2:30pm. Call or email to RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- www.theje.com is under construction. Meanwhile, check us out (and like us) on facebook, http://www.facebook.com/
thejewishexperience, and follow us on twitter @RabbiLeban.
The Great 96er
By Rabbi Raphael Leban
I once heard about a restaurant in Colorado that serves a 96 ounce steak dinner. It’s really a great deal for the money. Because if you can finish every morsel of that 6 pound flank of beef, you get it for free. Can you imagine saving up your appetite all day (or all week) and taking a crack at it? Put some newspaper on the table, tuck a napkin in your shirt collar and dig in – with your hands, of course – until you put away every last scrap of fat and gristle. Yum.
This kind of menu item is rarely found on a kosher restaurant’s menu. Not because you can’t get 96 oz. of kosher meat in one piece. You certainly could. In fact, that steak could be 100% Glatt Kosher (which I once heard translated as Super Kosher) served under the Rabbinic supervision of the Chief Rabbi of Israel. Everything on the (enormous) plate – totally kosher. So why don’t we find this culinary challenge offered by our favorite kosher steak joint?
In this week’s parsha, the Torah commands us, “Kedoshim Tihiyu…”, ‘Be Holy’. Further instructions on how to fulfill this commandment are not given. Just do it – Be Holy.
If I asked you to give me some ideas of how to become holy, what would you tell me? Think about it for a second. You would probably say, do the mitzvos. Go to synagogue a lot. Give a bunch of tzedaka. Say the Shema every single day. Twice. That’s really holy.
And I won’t argue with you. To be good and holy, you have to do those things.
However, the Torah has already given us those mitzvos. We know that we have to do that already. What’s the mitzvah of ‘Be Holy’? Is the Torah saying, ‘Really, I’m serious, you have to do these things’? What’s this new mitzvah, that the whole parsha is named for, coming to add?
It’s possible to do all the mitzvos, go to synagogue a whole lot, give oodles of tzedaka – and still not be holy. It’s possible to take 96 ounces of Glat kosher steak and eat them in one sitting like a complete pig. It’s possible to take almost any aspect of a permitted, Torah-mandated lifestyle, and live it like a frat party. That’s not holiness.
In the immortal words of Nachmonides, that’s what this mitzvah commands us not to do. Being holy means setting appropriate limits for ourselves within the confines of what’s otherwise permissible. It means taking into account the spirit of the mitzvos also, not using the mitzvos as tools with which to satisfy every urge and desire we might have. To do the mitzvos, and to do them in the appropriate time and measure.
That’s holiness. The right thing done in the right time and measure. Drinking to excess one night a year on Purim in the context of the holiday is holy. On every Saturday night of the year is not – even if the only thing you drink is Manischewitz.
Each of us, at our own level of observance and knowledge, can make strides in our holiness. All it takes is a bit of timing, good judgement, and a modicum of self-restraint. The right thing done at the right time, in the right measure. That’s holiness.
Are We Ready or Not?
By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
The High Priest is allowed into the Holy of Holies only one day a year, the most auspicious day on the calendar, Yom Kippur. Even then, only when the appropriate procedure is followed can he enter. If the proper process is not adhered to, then the Kohen is liable the death penalty. Of course, this is very reasonable considering that we are dealing with the most important day of the year and the most important place in the Beis Hamikdash.
The parsha continues to describe the duties of the Kohen that he performed on Yom Kippur. In the middle of the sacrifices offered, the Torah states that the Kohen atones for the contamination that has occurred throughout the year. The verse concludes that this process to rid the nation of its impurities is an ongoing task because the Mishkan resides amongst the nation even though we are tainted by our sins. It appears as though the Torah is contradictory. On the one hand, if procedural application is not attended to, then the Kohen is subject to death. On the other hand, Hashem requires that we continuously purify the Mishkan because its presence is continuous despite the fact that we may be incessantly defiling it! Why is there no appreciable standard here? Why is the Torah so lenient in allowing this polluted state to exist whereas when it came to the Kohen Gadol the Torah was very strict?
Although this may appear as somewhat novel, Judaism actually subscribes to a double standard. However, it is a just double standard as we will point out. The most righteous of our generation are subject to an extreme scrutinizing by Hashem. Their every movement is monitored and inspected. This may seem unfair since the average individual is not required to perform at such a level of perfection, nonetheless, Hashem, in order to spur on and encourage these extraordinary people expects that they do indeed achieve at a dizzying intensity of exactness and brilliance. This allows this special group of gifted individuals to come closer to Hashem in a way that the average person is unqualified of doing.
The Kohen Gadol typifies the crème de la crème of our nation. He spent years perfecting his conduct and his approach in serving Hashem. Of course, if anyone deserves a special remuneration for their life accomplishment, it is truly the Kohen Gadol. But in order to reach this apex in life, he has been subjected to a very rigid and strict code of behavior.
However, for the vast majority of the Jewish nation this is not true. Granted we may attempt to serve Hashem and not make any mistakes, however, we are usually not highly successful and we make many errors, often even on a daily basis. We represent that cross section of the nation that obliges that Hashem must tolerate his nation and display patience and acceptance for each and every one of us.
The Mishkan was a meeting place that accommodated the entire nation and allowed them to reach Hashem, each person at his unique and special level. However, even though the Mishkan permitted this policy of acceptance, we must have a leader that personifies the definitive extent of flawlessness that exemplifies the true leader of a generation. Truthfully, a double standard applies to our nation, however, each and every person has the opportunity to elevate their standard and upgrade from where they are to where they could be!
Byte For Shabbos
We are commanded to observe the Torah’s statues and ‘do’ them. This means that we are obligated to enhance our observance of the Torah and strive to augment our relationship with God to the greatest extent possible.
A Question for the Rabbis
The Torah prohibits tattoos, and indeed for thousands of years, tattoos were anathema to any Jew. One of the most common misconceptions about tattoos is that if a Jew has a tattoo he or she may not be buried in a Jewish cemetery. This is completely untrue; although tattooing is forbidden, it is a sin like any other, and having a sin does not prevent someone from a Jewish burial. Someone once asked Rav Chaim Pinchas Scheinberg this question and he answered, “If we didn’t bury people who have sinned in a Jewish cemetery, then no one would be buried there” (Rabbi Yekutiel Yehudah Greenwald,Kol Bo Al Aveilut, pp. 191-196, Rabbi David Zvi Hoffman, Responsa Melamed Le-Ho’il, 2:114).
Joke of the Week
A rabbi was asked why Jews always answer a question with another question.
The Rabbi responded, “Why not?”