Sunday, May 6, 2018



Achrei mos Kedoshim  and emor all share a common theme of Kedushah. The death of Nadav and Avihu is described as an example of בקרובי אקדש  - a sancitifation of Hashem's Name with those who were closest to him. Following this is a Parshah that is introduced with the mitzvah of קדושים תהיו, and Parshas Emor, which describes kedushas kehunah is actually home to the mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem.

The Parsha begins with ויאמר ה' which is a soft expression of speech and Hashem instructs Moshe – אמור ואמרת – to say to the Kohanim – again, using a soft expression - all the laws of Kehunah. This seems difficult to understand with the explanation of Rashi – להזהיר גדולים על הקטנים. How does the soft type of speech - אמור – serve as a warning to further encourage the קטנים?

We have a mitzvah of וקדשתו  - to sanctify the kohanim by offering them the first honors in beginning a meal, leading birchas hamazon, and the prominent first Aliyah when the Torah is read. Is it not a bit strange that WE are making him holy? It is one thing to say we should honor or respect them, but why are we, the Yisraelim, charged with making him holy? If these "first rites" are acts of holiness they should be required of the kohein to do just like all his other special mitzvos! Why are WE sanctifying the kohein?

One last point to ponder is the fact that we seem to initially assume that Kiddush Hashem or chas v'shalom the opposite, is primarily in front of non-Jews. Yet the mitzvah is clearly presented as sanctifying Hashem בתוך בני ישראל! Surely it is a great mitzvah to impress the nations with the awesomeness of Hashem, but the actual mitzvah is בתוך בני ישראל.

We all just commemorated the story of R' Shimon Bar Yochai and its interesting to note that he was "exiled" three times. He first ran and hid in a bes medrash, then to the cave for a period of twelve years, and once again he returned to the cave for another year.

The Netziv in Ha'amek Davar explains that there are three steps in kedushah. First is Havdalah - separating ourselves from the goyim to stand as a holy nation living with a different set of duties and avodah. This is still in the realm of nature and humanity but distinctly separated for the better and thereby קדוש.

The second is taking an extra step of prishus and G-dliness to remove oneself from the mundane material world that surrounds him, and be elevated to more of a spiritual existence. This is really beyond simple nature and humanity.

The third is a Havdalah that is not discernable to the untrained eye. The second to last passuk in Kedoshim spells the word ואבדל with a missing letter – yud. The holy letter yud which represents spirituality is not noticed in this Havdalah. This is a level of kedushah in which AFTER the person has risen to the lofty world beyond, he is able to sanctify all of his human activities with a spirit of kedushah fulfilling the dictum כל מעשיך יהיו לשם שמים. While the first step of kedushah was a noticeable separation from the nations (and perhaps all נבל ברשות התורה as well – see Ramban), this step does not stand out as a separation at all.

An illustration of this lofty existence on earth can be told in the story of the Ropshitzer Gaon, who, in his older years, seemed to abruptly lose his ability to speak. He would motion and signal to those around him but did not speak a word. A beloved grandchild finally approached his zeideh and said "Zeideh it seems to me that you CAN speak but you choose not to. Please, tell me why?" After a long few moments of deep thought, the Ropshitzer answered, " מיום עמדי על דעתי I was careful with all my speech, so that every word that came out of my mouth was in some manner מייחד ייחודים – secretly unifying Hashem's Name on earth. Each word and sentence was chosen to have ראשי תיבות or סופי תיבות or gematrios etc. representing Hashem's Holy Names. Now I feel my mind has weakened and I no longer have the ability to choose my words so carefully and so it is better that I should not speak at all."

We are not on the level to live on such a sublime spiritual cloud fused seamlessly into our speech and activities. But we can – and must - bring the concept to our level so we can do what IS expected of us.




Firstly, we must know how to use absolute Havdalah. Recognizable separation is needed but also ONLY to be practiced to separate from goyim or people who are doing the wrong thing and sinning. Havdalah is not to be practiced around G-d fearing Jews. Perhaps that is the warning introduction of these three parshios with אחרי מות שני בני אהרן. They acted distinctly separate and on their own by bringing an אש זרה without consulting their Rav for direction and being too holy to find a suitable wife. When one involves himself in Kedushah he must cautious not to separate from the klall gadol baTorah of Ahavas Yisrael being included with achdus in the tzibbur.

Only then comes the mitzvah of Kedoshim Tehiyu – to separate from lowliness and from the base ways of the goyim and sinners. Not to be a נבל even ברשות התורה. When one is with a group of people that are doing the wrong thing and making bad decisions he must make a Havdalah – a clear act of separation from such people.

When one has achieved the basic level of kedushah he can elevate himself to go beyond that and involve himself in holy endeavors and G-dliness. With p'rishus from material affairs and an attachment to the heavenly spheres of avodas Hashem.

However the true mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem goes a step beyond that. It is to bring that kedushah down to earth in a manner that may not look so impressive or stand out, but will inspire others nonetheless. To be mekadesh shem shamayim בתוך בני ישראל! When someone is very noticeably holy and different from the masses, he is often too removed for the others to learn from. He may seem too extreme for his peers to be inspired or just "not my type" for so many people. But the real mitzvah of Kiddush Hashem is to impress Hashem's Greatness amongst the bnei yisrael. For a lofty individual to mingle among the masses and in small, almost indiscernible ways he acts in holiness, he is makadesh Hashem amongst klall yisrael. When a person is careful to stand by his principals of honesty, pure speech, modesty, refined character, self restraint, calm manner or trust in Hashem, with his friends, neighbors and peers, people can learn from him that he "takes G-d seriously". When a person davens from a siddur instead of miming a long distant response to his fellow across the shul, or pulls out a sefer in the waiting room or until the chazzan makes it up to the ammud, people can see – if they are attentive - that a normal friend of theirs is living his earthy life with holiness.

This is how R' Moshe explains the light expressions of  אמור ואמרת in relation to warning the gedolim regarding the k'tanim. The myriad of laws of Kehunah must taken in stride, without being seen or felt as a "big deal". Rather the Kohanim should be told that relative to their great position of kehunah these halachos and restrictions should feel and seem as minor and trivial "inconveniences" as opposed to drastic changes in their lifestyles or burdensome responsibilities. It is KEY, says R' Moshe, to transmitting anything to the next generation, that it should appear and seem as easy, pleasant, and simply a part of life. When the next generation sees their forebearers as remotely holy, extremely dedicate Jews of mesiras nefesh, it can be expected that they will feel detached from it and not ready to take on such lofty endeavors.

This may explain why WE have the mitzvah of showing the kohanim to be different and distinctly designated for Hashem;s service. THEY must incorporate their halachos in a seamless manner into their lives without seeming much different or separated from the masses. That is the only way to transmit their holy mesorah to their chidren. Therefore WE must remind ourselves and show them to be different and special.  

This perhaps was the three step development of the story of Rashbi. First, he made a complete Havdalah to escape from the goyim and hide in the bes medrash. Second was his lofty state of למעלה מן הטבע  totally detached from the world and in the heights of the spiritual realms. But when he emerged from the cave and could not live with that kedusha "amongst" beni yisrael, burning any material pursuits with his holy fiery eyes, he went back for another year to be able to fuse the two worlds and live in his holiness amongst man.

While we may not have yet achieved the middle step of living in the heavens (yet), we still can learn important lessons of kedushah from here.

·         1. Kedusha is not our choice. It is a mitzvah that is required of us all, albeit on different levels and in different ways for different people.

·         2. Havdalah must be practiced in some instances, but not from good G-d fearing Jews.

·         3. We must retain our own unique levels of holiness yet practice it in ways that are subtle, not alarming. Let others be impressed by how seriously we take Hashem without being extreme and or unpleasant.