SPARKS OF TORAH
VOLUME 60 NUMBER 6
MAY 4, 2012
IYAR 12, 5772
PARSHAS ACHAREI MOS/KEDOSHIM
Candle-lighting Time: 7:39 PM
3-Part Shavuos Series with Aliza Bulow, R’ Menachem Nissel and Ita Leban on 3 Monday nights, starting this week, May 7th at 8:00 pm at the new Southeast JCC location.
Gambling for G-d
by Rabbi Raphael Leban
I never really considered gambling to be such a holy thing. Las Vegas is certainly not the holy city. Bingo is what the “other guys” do. Yet the Temple service on the holiest day of the year has a lottery in it. What possible sanctity could there be in a lottery?
Maybe it’s the silent, heartfelt prayer that is uniformly offered at the transcendent moment of lottery ticket purchase.
In Parshas Acharei Mos, the Torah teaches us about a fascinating, unique service performed by the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur. He brings two goats into the Temple. (This is not the fascinating, unique part—there were lots of animals in the Temple.) He then places two lots in a box, one indicating G-d and one indicating Azazel. He reaches in his hands and, through a simple lottery, assigns each one of the lots to one of the goats. One will be for G-d and one for Azazel. The one for G-d is offered in a typical fashion on behalf of the people. The other is sent to its death in a distant place far outside the Temple, a mountain that many commentators explain was known as Azazel.
Why the lottery? Think the Jewish mafia was taking bets on which one would go where? What kind of odds could you get on two goats?
Nachmonides offers an amazing explanation.
Throughout history it has been suggested that there are two forces in the world, the force of Good and the force of Evil. This has been suggested even in our own day, and not only by Yoda. It is commonly believed by many cultures, especially in the East and amongst surfboard clothing manufacturers.
The Torah clearly teaches to the contrary. We declare it in the Shema every day. There is only one ultimate source behind everything that happens in the Universe—G-d.
To the casual onlooker, it might seem like the Yom Kippur service includes two offerings, one to G-d and one to the “dark side.” In fact, Nachmonides mentions many connections between the goat and Azazel and evil. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Both aspects of our lives come directly from G-d, and both goats are offerings to Him and to Him alone. The goat that goes to Azazel is for G-d’s spiritual messenger that carries out His instructions for negativity in the world. And the goat is a gift from us to G-d, who then gives it to His spiritual messenger.
The lottery is what prevents it from looking like we are giving an offering to Azazel. Instead we give two goats to G-d, and G-d, through the lottery, decides which one to give to Azazel. It’s His gift that we deliver to His messenger on His behalf.
On the holiest day of the year, the Temple service indicates one of the fundamentals of Jewish philosophy in this remarkably unorthodox way. Everything in life comes from the One Ultimate Source, even though it may look to us like a roll of the dice.
Is Honoring Important?
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
We live in a day and age when everyone tries to make everything equal. Men and women are the same. The young and old are alike; just a few years separate them. All types of lifestyles are equal. Parents and children are really similar; nary a generation between them. We have even gone so far as to compare animals to people. We walk erect and talk; otherwise we’re just part of the animal kingdom. Is this the Torah outlook or have we gone too far?
The Torah obligates us to recognize different echelons in society. Besides the fact that we are organized into Kohanim, Leviim and Yisraelim, there is another important segment of Jewish society that we must acknowledge. We are required to accord honor to Torah scholars. In the words of the Sforno, we must revere the venerable members of our nation. We do not subscribe to the philosophy that the older one is, the less focused and sagacious they are. On the contrary, we firmly consider those who have spent their lives amassing immense warehouses of Torah knowledge to be extraordinary and deserving of our respect and admiration.
Chinuch explains that the primary function of a person in this world is to study Torah. When one delves into the Torah, he becomes more conscious of Hashem and undoubtedly is more inclined to fulfill His will. Therefore, someone who is a committed Torah scholar and truly subscribes to this philosophy should be accorded tremendous respect, encouraging others to follow suit and emulate him.
Netziv mentions another insight contained within the verse. The mitzvah to honor a Torah scholar follows immediately after the prohibition not to harness the powers of impurity for our benefit, for example to heals those who are ill. Even if our intentions are good, if we connect with such forces, they will deter us and sever our bond with Hashem. The Torah offers another option. We should approach great Torah scholars and ask them to pray on behalf of those who need healing. Hashem sends his blessing for good health through those who are closest to Him. Additionally, our greatest Torah scholars constantly beseech Heaven on behalf of the entire Jewish nation, for all the needs that we so fervently pray for such as livelihood, that our children should be successful in their lives and for peace.
Zohar derives the obligation to stand up for a Sefer Torah from this verse as well. Since a Torah scholar has imbibed the wisdom of Torah present in a Sefer Torah, it stands to reason that the source of that wisdom certainly demands respect, the Sefer Torah itself. Subsequently, it also follows that since the Torah mandates that we admire and revere Torah scholars, we certainly must revere and honor a Sefer Torah and all the mitzvos that are contained within. Furthermore, a Torah scholar who embodies the message of Torah contained within a Sefer Torah must be listened to as well. His words deserve the same attentiveness that we reserve for the Torah.
So in answer to our opening question, the Torah does not equate everyone at the same level. There are those whom we must place on a pedestal, whose accomplishments we must respect and to whose directives we must adhere. As we witness the global revitalization of Torah in our generation, we must seize the opportunity to participate in this amazing renaissance to the best of our ability.
Byte For Shabbos
Shabbos is referred to as a bride and we as the groom. If we treat the bride appropriately then ‘her father,’ G-d, will shower the groom with gifts. This is what it means that G-d blessed the seventh day, Shabbos.
Joke of the Week
The doctor gave a man six months to live. The man couldn’t pay his bill, so the doctor gave him another six months.
A Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher
“And you shall not walk in their statutes” (Leviticus 18:3) is the source for the prohibition against imitating the ways of the pagans (Avodah Zarah 11a). How far does this prohibition extend? Pagans wear glasses, use cars, electricity and medication; clearly these are not prohibited. Why? Rabbi Moshe Isserless (Yoreh Deah 178) rules that if a particular activity of the pagans has a logical reason and tangible benefit, it is permitted. Only those statutes and practices that can be traced to paganism or to immorality, or whose origin is unknown, but they lack tangible benefit or logical reasons, are prohibited. According to the Gaon of Vilna (Shulchan Aruch ad loc) anything which the pagans would do independently of their religion, such as, clothing, technology, and medicine, are not considered “statutes” of the pagans and are thus not included in the prohibition.
Reprinted with permission from Parsha Partner, a publication of Partners in Torah. Please add us to your weekly Parsha reading list. www.partnersintorah.org/parshapartner