"אחרי מות שני בני אהרן"
“After the death of the two sons of Aharon.” (16:1)

QUESTION: The Midrash Rabbah (20:5) says that when Iyov heard of the death of Nadav and Avihu he said, “Af lezot yecherad libi veyitar mimkomo” — “Also for this my heart trembles and is moved out of its place” (Job 37:1).

What did Iyov see in the death of the children of Aharon, Nadav and Avihu, that made him tremble?

ANSWER: Alarmed by the growth of the Jewish people, Pharaoh, consulted his three advisors, Bilaam, Yitro and Iyov. Bilaam advised that Pharaoh drown the Jewish children, and Yitro fled. Iyov, however, remained silent and did not give any advice. (See Sotah 11a.)

According to the Gemara (Sanhedrin 52a), one of the reasons for which Nadav and Avihu died is related to the following incident: Once, while walking behind Moshe and Aharon, Nadav said to Avihu, “When will these two old people die and you and I take over the leadership?”

Why, we might ask, was Avihu also punished for Nadav’s comment? We must conclude that tolerating evil is equal to doing evil. Therefore, when Iyov learned about the death of Avihu, in addition to Nadav, his heart trembled, out of fear that he also would be punished for having remained silent.

(נחל קדומים)


"וידבר ה' אל משה אחרי מות שני בני אהרן בקרבתם לפני ה' וימתו... ואל יבא בכל עת אל הקדש"
“And G‑d spoke to Moshe after the death of the two sons of Aharon, when they approached before G‑d and they died...‘He shall not come at all times into the Sanctuary.’” (16:1-2)

QUESTION: 1) Why after the death of Nadav and Avihu did Hashem instruct the Kohanim not to enter the Beit Hamikdash while intoxicated (10:9), nor to enter the Sanctuary at all times? 2) What relevance do these prohibitions have to all Jews, even in contemporary times?

ANSWER: The death of Nadav and Avihu was not simply due to the violation of an ordinary Torah precept. It was a spiritual death which was caused by their immersion in the deepest esoteric teachings of Torah and detachment from this mundane and physical world.

Chassidut analyzes this spiritual immersion in terms of the concept of “ratzo” and “shov” — advancing and retreating — as in Ezekiel 1:4. When the soul senses the all-encompassing greatness of G‑dliness it is aroused to a passionate desire for “ratzo” — running — seeking to be merged in G‑dliness. In this state, the soul yearns to leave the body and the world, but the Divine will is for it to remain on earth and to establish a dwelling place for Hashem. Thus, man must “shov” — retreat — return to this world and to observe Torah and mitzvot.

Comprehending the beauty and profundity of G‑dliness, Nadav and Avihu reached the level of “kelot hanefesh” — expiration of the soul through absolute attachment to Hashem — and thus departed from their physical bodies. From this we learn that ratzo without shov — advancing without retreating — caused their unfortunate end.

“Kelot hanefesh” can occur in one of two ways: either through understanding the profundity of G‑dliness or by perceiving the lowliness of this physical world. When a person realizes the extent of his degradation and how he has succumbed to his evil inclination and transgressed the Torah, he may resolve 1) to dispense with physical existence, or 2) live a holy life in seclusion.

The Torah does not approve of either of these approaches, and consequently, after the spiritual death of the sons of Aharon, the following Torah decrees were issued: “Beware of becoming intoxicated with wine” and “He shall not come at all times into the Sanctuary.”

Wine alludes to the secrets of Torah. (“Yayin” [יין] — “wine” — and “sod” [סוד] — “secret” — have the same numerical value of 70). The prohibition of priestly drunkenness thus teaches all scholars of Torah that, even while involved in the most esoteric and sublime teachings of Torah, one must remember that the neshamah has to remain vested in a physical body in this world and not become so “intoxicated” with holiness that the soul loses its moorings in physical reality.

The prohibition of “Al yavo” — “not to come” — “bechal eit el hakodesh” — “at all times into the Sanctuary” — teaches Jews of all levels that, when one repents for inappropriate behavior and is in a Yom Kippur spirit, the resolve should not be to enter a life of seclusion from worldly matters. A Jew must exist in this physical world and through Torah and mitzvot make it a dwelling place for Hashem.

(לקוטי שיחות חכ"ז, ועי' אור החיים)


"דבר אל אהרן אחיך ואל יבא בכל עת אל הקדש"
“Speak to Aharon your brother he shall not come at all times into the Sanctuary.” (16:2)

QUESTION: The phrase “bechol eit” — “at all times” — forbids the Kohen’s constant presence in the Sanctuary, but seems to permit occasional visits. Since he was allowed to come in only on Yom Kippur, what is the reason for the strange construction of this verse?

ANSWER: It is Satan’s mission to continuously induce the Jew to sin. The Gemara (Yoma 20a) notes that “hasatan” (השטן) — “the Satan” — has the numerical value of 364. From this we may infer that, during 364 days of the solar year, the Satan has permission to cause trouble, but on the 365th day of the year — Yom Kippur — this permission is revoked. Thus, the day of Yom Kippur, is very different from the other 364 days of the year.

The message that Hashem conveyed to Aharon was that he should not come “bechol eit” — “at all times” — any ordinary day of the year. The only day when he could enter the Inner-Sanctuary was on the special day of the year — Yom Kippur.

(כלי יקר)


"בזאת יבא אהרן אל הקדש"
“With this Aharon should come into the Sanctuary.” (16:3)

QUESTION: Since the Torah details all the things that the Kohen Gadol had to do on Yom Kippur, the word “bezot” (בזאת) — “with this” — seems superfluous.

ANSWER: On Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we proclaim, “Uteshuvah, utefillah, utzedakah ma’avirim et ro’a hagezeirah” — “Repentance, prayer and charity can avert the severity of the decree.” In every machzor, above these three words, the words “tzom, kol, mamon” (צום, קול, ממון) — “fasting, voice, money” — appear in small print. Each of these words has the numerical value of 136, totaling 408, which is the numerical value of the word “zot” (זאת).

The Torah is hinting to us that in addition to all the karbanot that the Kohen Gadol must bring on Yom Kippur, another important element is “zot” — the three things that add up to 408, and through these he will be able to avert any evil decrees against K’lal Yisrael, G‑d forbid.

* * *

A similar interpretation can be applied to King David’s statement “Im takum alai milchamah bezot ani voteiach” — “If a war would rise against me, I am secure with zot” (Psalms 27:3). King David also said, “uchesil lo yavin et zot” — which in light of the above may mean, “A fool does not understand the significance of zot” (Psalms 92:7).

(נחל קדומים - פרדס יוסף)


"ומאת עדת בני ישראל יקח שני שעירי עזים לחטאת"
“From the community of the Children of Israel he shall take two he-goats for a sin-offering.” (16:5)

QUESTION: According to the Gemara (Yoma 62a) the he- goat for Azazeil, which was to be thrown over the cliff, and the one offered in the Beit Hamikdash to Hashem were (preferably) to be identical in color, height, and value.

Why should Jews have to spend extra sums of money on a he-goat that will anyhow be thrown over a cliff?

ANSWER: The money we spend during our lifetime can be divided into two parts: One goes to spiritual matters such as tzedakah, mitzvot, and tuition, and the other to physical necessities and personal pleasures. Unfortunately, many people who are blessed with affluence spend freely on personal amenities yet plead poverty when it comes to spending money on spiritual matters. In retrospect, we often feel that money spent on pleasures has been wasted. However, money spent on the spiritual has an everlasting effect.

The two he-goats can also serve as metaphors for these above-mentioned two categories of expenses. And the instruction of our sages that they should be of equal value, conveys an important lesson.

Hashem, in His benevolence, does not mind how much money we spend or waste on our personal pleasures. He requests however, that at least an equal amount of money (and perhaps more) be spent on spiritual matters. If one has money for “Azazeil” — to throw over the cliff — one should not plead poverty when it comes to spending for Hashem.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)


>"והשעיר אשר עלה עליו הגורל לעזאזל יעמד חי לפני ה'"
“And the he-goat designated by lot for ‘Azazeil’ shall be caused to stand alive before G‑d.” (16:10)

QUESTION: The words “ya’amad chai” — “shall be caused to stand alive” — appear superfluous. The text could simply have said that the he-goat should be sent alive to “Azazeil”?

ANSWER: The world consists of four categories of beings: Domeim — inanimate, tzomei’ach — vegetation, chai — animals, and medabeir — human beings (literally “articulate”).Each one is elevated to a higher level by the one above it. The inanimate is elevated through vegetation, because the earth makes grass grow. Similarly, animals eat the grass, and man consumes the animal.

When one brings a sacrifice and the Kohanim do not eat or benefit from it, then the animal has no connection with the higher level — human beings — but remains strictly in the category of a “chai” — a creature. Since the he-goat is not brought on the altar, but rather is send to Azazeil, and no one has any benefit from it, “ya’amad chai” — it therefore “stands” stationary in the category of “chai” and does not rise to a higher level.

(קרבן אשר)


"והתודה עליו את כל עונת בני ישראל ואת כל פשעיהם לכל חטאתם ונתן אתם על ראש השעיר ושלח ביד איש עתי המדברה"
“And he shall confess upon it [the he-goat for Azazeil] all the iniquities of the Children of Israel, and all their rebellious sins among all their sins, and place them upon the head of the he-goat, and send it with a man to the desert.” (16:20)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Yoma 66b) relates that Rabbi Eliezer was asked, “If the he-goat becomes ill, may he carry it on his shoulder?” Rabbi Eliezer replied, “Yachol hu leharkiv ani ve’atem” — “He is capable of carrying me and you.”

Rabbi Eliezer’s response is enigmatic: Who is ‘He’ referring to, and how do his words answer the question posed to him?

ANSWER: The statute of the “scapegoat for Azazeil” serves as a metaphor of the Jewish people. For many years we have been under the reign of alien regimes, oppressed and persecuted. Whenever something has gone wrong anywhere in the world, the Jew has been made the “scapegoat.” Like the scapegoat who was sent out of the camp to the wilderness, the Jewish people, too, have been expelled from one country after another, and have gone through a stage of wilderness before establishing themselves in another part of the world.

Fortunately, regardless of their trials and tribulations, the Jewish people have managed to “stand on their feet,” to remain firm in their commitment to Torah and mitzvot and to miraculously survive all attempts to destroy them physically and spiritually.

Rabbi Eliezer was asked, what if the “scapegoat” — the Jewish people — becomes ill, i.e. what if their suffering sickens them to the extent that they no longer have the strength to ‘stand on their feet’? Should they yield in their Torah observance and accept the ways of the prevailing forces? Should they acknowledge the dominant powers and compromise on their Yiddishkeit?

Rabbi Eliezer’s answer is an unequivocal “no.” He told the worried Jews, “Yachol hu leharkiv ani ve’atem — He [Hashem] is capable of carrying me and you. Do not, G‑d forbid, falter one iota in your Yiddishkeit. Indeed, galut may be difficult to endure, but be assured that Hashem is able to take us all out of it, and He will do so very speedily.”

Moreover, the one who leads the scapegoat is referred to as “ish iti,” which, according to commentaries, means a person whose time has come to die and who will not live more than a year (see Chizkuni). Not only will Hashem take the Jewish people out of galut, but all their oppressors will perish and the Jewish people will exist forever.

(מצאתי בכתבי אבי הרב שמואל פסח ז"ל באגאמילסקי)


"ושלח ביד איש עתי המדברה"
“And send it (the he-goat) with a designated man to the desert.” (16:21)

QUESTION: Why is the designated man known as “ish iti”?

ANSWER: The word “iti” stems from the word “eit,” which means “time.” According to Targum Yonatan ben Uziel the appointed man was designated for this mission after Yom Kippur of the previous year. Thus, he had been chosen for a long time prior to his actual service.

According to the Rashbam, he was called, “ish iti” because he had spent much time in the wilderness and knew the roads.

According to Chizkuni, the messenger was destined to pass away before the next Yom Kippur. Thus, “ish iti” means a person whose time to leave this world has arrived. By referring to him as “ish iti,” the Torah is emphasizing that although he knew his life would end with his mission, he did not hesitate to perform it. He happily agreed to give up his life in order to assure that K’lal Yisrael received Divine atonement for all their sins.


"וסמך אהרן את שתי ידו על ראש השעיר החי והתודה עליו את כל עונת בני ישראל ואת כל פשעיהם לכל חטאתם"
“Aharon shall lean his two hands upon the head of the living he-goat and confess upon it all the iniquities of the Children of Israel, and all their rebellious sins among all their sins.” (16:21)

QUESTION: While in confessing “all the iniquities of the Children of Israel” upon the he-goat, why must he place both hands on it?

ANSWER: The daily prayers include a section known as tachanun — “the confessional prayer.” It is recited in the morning in the Shacharit service and towards evening in the Minchah service. The custom is to recite this prayer with the face of the worshipper lowered over his hand. In the morning, the head rests on the right hand and, in the afternoon, on the left. A reason for this distinction may be the following: In the Torah there are actions we are commanded to do and actions we are commanded not to do. Sometimes one fails by omitting to do the right thing and, at other times, one fails by doing something forbidden.

The right hand symbolizes action, because in most people it is the more active hand. The left hand is the “weak hand,” the less active one, symbolizing inactivity. During our daily confessional prayers, we bend our heads low and bury them in our hands. In the Shacharit service, we express shame that the right hand was not always employed to act and fulfill our obligations. In the Minchah service we express remorse through the left — our weak hand — for the things we were not supposed to do and nevertheless did.

When the Kohen Gadol confesses, “all the iniquities of the Children of Israel,” he places both hands on the he-goat. The right hand represents the mitzvot we should have done but failed to do, and the left hand represents the wrong doings which should have been avoided.


"והיתה לכם לחקת עולם בחדש השביעי בעשור לחדש תענו את נפשתיכם"
“It shall be for you an eternal decree; in the seventh month on the tenth day of the month you shall afflict your souls.” (16:29)

QUESTION: According to the Midrash Rabbah (Devarim 2:14), when the angels ask Hashem for the dates of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, He tells them, “Let us go and inquire of the beit din below on earth.” What does it mean that Hashem has to ask others to clarify the dates of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur?

ANSWER: In the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 428), there is a rule that Rosh Hashanah cannot be on Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday. The Midrash Tanchuma (Mishpatim 5) states that, when judgment occurs below, no judgment takes place above. Consequently, on Monday and Thursday, the days when aBeit Din is officially in session, there is no judgment from Heaven.

The angels asked: Since “Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are known as days of judgment. When does Rosh Hashanah take place? It cannot be Sunday, Wednesday, or Friday. Neither can it be Monday or Thursday. The only days left are Tuesday and Shabbat, which are also disqualified since Yom Kippur would then occur on Thursday and Monday, respectively. But this is impossible because when there is judgment below there is no judgment above.”

Hashem informed them, “Indeed Rosh Hashanah is on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday or Shabbat. As to your question, ‘How can Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur be on Monday or Thursday,’ we will go down on that day to the Beit Din below and G‑d’s judgment will emerge from the court below.”

(שמנה לחמו)


"והיתה לכם לחקת עולם בחדש השביעי בעשור לחדש תענו את נפשתיכם"
“And it shall be for you an eternal decree: in the seventh month, on the tenth day of the month, you shall afflict your souls.” (16:29)

QUESTION: Does a person who must partake of food on Yom Kippur have to make Kiddush before eating?

ANSWER: According to halachah (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 618:10) a sick person who is forced to eat on Yom Kippur does not have to make Kiddush, although he is obligated to recite berachot and Birkat Hamazon — the Blessing after a Meal — (including Ya’aleh Veyavo) over the food he eats.

* * *

When the famous Torah scholar Rabbi Avraham of Sachetchav (renown for his works “Avnei Nezer” and “Aglei Tal”) was five years old, his father instructed him to go home to eat something after Shacharit on Yom Kippur. When he returned to shul, his father asked him, “Avremele, did you remember to make Kiddush?” to which he replied, “I did not make Kiddush.” When his father asked him why not, the young genius replied, “In truth, a minor does not have to perform any mitzvot. The only reason he fulfills mitzvot is for chinuch — training to prepare for the time when he will become Bar-Mitzvah and obligated to perform them. Thus, I make Kiddush every Shabbat so that I will be accustomed to remember not to eat the Shabbat meal before reciting Kiddush. However, when I will be older, I hope to fast on Yom Kippur, so there is no reason for me to make Kiddush today while I am a minor.”

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)


"והיתה לכם לחקת עולם בחודש השביעי בעשור לחדש תענו את נפשתיכם"
“It shall be for you an eternal decree; in the seventh month on the tenth day of the month you shall afflict your souls.” (16:29)

QUESTION: Regarding Shabbat the Torah states, “Vekarata laShabbat oneg — “Shabbat shall be a day of delight.” According to the Rambam (Shavuot 1:6, see Rashba, Responsa 614), one is obligated to eat at least a kezayit — a quantity the size of an olive. Yom Kippur is violated if one eats an amount the size of a “kosevet hagassah” — “a thick date” (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 612:1). A “kezayit” is smaller than a “kosevet hagassah.”

In the Gemara (Yoma 73b) Reish Lakish is of the opinion that eating less than the prohibited amount is not considered a violation of Torah law. If so, when Yom Kippur falls on Shabbat, one should be required to eat a “kezayit,” which is less than the amount prohibited on Yom Kippur and thus fulfill the Torah obligation of delight on Shabbat?

ANSWER: Although Reish Lakish is of the opinion that a person did not violate halachah if he ate less than “kekosevet,” it is forbidden, however, to do so by Rabbinic ordinance. The halachah is that a Rabbinic ordinance must be obeyed even if it entails non-fulfillment of a positive commandment from the Torah (b’sheiv ve’al ta’aseh — inactive non-compliance) — in this case not eating the amount of kezayit (see Yevamot 90b).

* * *

Alternatively, a person who eats on Yom Kippur violates both a positive commandment and a negative commandment (Rambam, Shevitat Asor 1:4). Delight on Shabbat is only a positive commandment and is not strong enough to supersede both a positive and a negative commandment. The Rabbis have endowed their opinion with the authority of a Torah prohibition, thus a Rabbinic ordinance carries the authority of a Torah prohibition. Hence, although according to Reish Lakish, the prohibition (of eating less than a kosevet on Yom Kippur) is only of Rabbinic origin, it has the same strength as a Scriptural positive and negative commandment and cannot be superseded by a positive Scriptural commandment. (See Talmudic Encyclopedia, vol. 15, p. 94.)

* * *

Alternatively, when the Torah states the law of fasting on Yom Kippur, it does not distinguish between a weekday and Shabbat. Thus, it applies equally to every day of the week, including Shabbat. The intent of Torah is that when Yom Kippur is on Shabbat, the mitzvah of delight on Shabbat does not apply because it is superseded by the mitzvah of enduring privation and discomfort on Yom Kippur.

(When Yom Kippur is on Shabbat, one actually fulfills the mitzvah of delight through fasting, as the halachah specifies in the instance when food is detrimental to one’s health on an ordinary Shabbat [see Shulchan Aruch Harav, Orach Chaim 288:2]).

* * *

It should also be noted that according to some opinions (ibid., 291:1), delight on Shabbat is accomplished with eating food equivalent to the size of an egg. Consequently, since kekosevet is less than the size of an egg it is impossible to fulfill the mitzvah of delight on Shabbat, without violating the Torah law of not eating on Yom Kippur.

(שו"ת צמח צדק או"ח סי' ל"ו)


"כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם לטהר אתכם מכל חטאתיכם לפני ה' תטהרו"
“For on this day He shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you from all your sins; before G‑d shall you be cleansed.” (16:30)

QUESTION: The word “mikol” — “from all”— seems to be unnecessary. It could have said “meichatoteichem” — “from your sins”?

ANSWER: The Tur Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 581) relates that it is the custom in Ashkenazic communities for prominent people to fast on Erev Rosh Hashanah and explains the reason with a parable. A country had a large debt of unpaid taxes to its king, who descended on the country with his army to collect. An entourage consisting of the prominent people went out to greet him, “We do not have any money to give you,” they told him. Touched by their pleas, the king pardoned one-third of the debt. As he came closer to the city, a contingent of the middle-class people went to meet him and after pleading, again he pardoned a second third of the debt. As he came very close to the city, everybody went out to greet him and after listening to their pleas, he freed the entire city of its debt.

The inhabitants of the country are the Jewish people. During the year they go into debt because of their transgressions. On Erev Rosh Hashanah the “prominent” people fast and Hashem forgives one-third of our sins. During Aseret Yemei Teshuvah (Ten Days of Repentance) the “middle-class” people join in the fast and a second third is forgiven. On Yom Kippur, everybody fasts and Hashem pardons us completely.

The Beit Yosef asks: “How can it be thatErev Rosh Hashanah should be equal to the nine days of teshuvah and even to Yom Kippur itself?” He explains that on Erev Rosh Hashanah, Hashem forgives the first third of the sins, the ones that are easier to forgive. To forgive the second third is more difficult, and therefore a period of nine days is necessary. And finally, the last third are the most difficult to forgive and this is accomplished on Yom Kippur.

Referring to Yom Kippur, the Torah says that “For on this day He will provide atonement” although two-thirds of our sins will already be forgiven, the uniqueness of Yom Kippur is that we will be cleansed entirely “mikol chatoteichem” — from all our sins — including the final and most difficult third.

(כתנות אור)


"כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם לטהר אתכם"
“For on this day He shall provide atonement for you to cleanse.” (16:30)

QUESTION: With regard to Hashem forgiving the sins of the Jewish people, the prophet says, “If your sins will be like scarlet (red), they will turn white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18). Why the colors red and white? The opposite of white is usually considered to be black, not red. To emphasize Hashem’s compassion, the prophet should have said, “If your sins will be like black, through teshuvah Hashem will convert them to white”?

ANSWER: A public debate was once held between a Reform Rabbi and Orthodox Rabbi regarding Torah and Reform Judaism. The astute Reform Rabbi decided that the best defense was an offense. When he was called upon to make the first presentation he avoided all discussion of theology, Jewish law, etc. but instead, to everyone’s surprise, he commenced by asking the president of the Orthodox synagogue, who was in the audience, to rise, and then asked him the following question: “Are you truly a Torah observer?” The president of the Orthodox synagogue became red-faced, hemmed and hawed, and with a deep sigh of embarrassment admitted that he was not. The Reform Rabbi then asked the other officers of the Orthodox synagogue to rise and he asked them the same question. They, too, stammered their response that their Torah observance was lacking.

The strategy of the Reform Rabbi became clear when he said, “Ladies and gentleman, you see, there is no difference between my officers and their officers: neither of them are real Torah observers, so why debate, we are both equally non-observant?”

During all this time the late, venerable Ponavezer Rav, Rabbi Yosef Kahanaman — sat in the audience as a curious onlooker. He asked for permission to ask a question. He mounted the platform and asked the president of the Reform Temple to rise and he asked him, “Are you a Torah observer?” The president of the Temple burst into laughter, saying, “Why, of course not!”

“This,” said the Rav with quiet triumph, “is the difference between the two presidents, namely, the sense of shame that was so evident in the Orthodox President’s word’s and that was so utterly lacking in the reply of the Reform President.” A person who turns red-faced with shame when confronted with his wrong-doing, exhibits remorse.

The Prophet’s words are teaching us that when shame is gone there is less hope for moral regeneration, but if a person’s sins cause reddening with shame, there is hope that the person will do teshuvah and Hashem will forgive him and turn everything to “white.”

(הרב דוד שי' הולונדער)


"כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם לטהר אתכם"
“For on this day He shall provide atonement for you to cleanse you.” (16:30)

QUESTION: In the Gemara (Yoma 85b) Rabbi Akiva says that the Jews are lucky because “Just as a mikveh cleanses et hatemei’im — the defiled — so Hashem purifies the Jewish people.”

Since only the defiled need a mikveh — in order to become clean, the words “et hatemei’im” — “the defiled — seem superfluous?

ANSWER: The way we merit purification from Hashem is through teshuvah. Sometimes, people who have committed numerous transgressions avoid rectifying some of their wrongdoings, erroneously thinking that concerning Judaism it is ‘all or nothing.’ For instance, they reason: “Why should I start putting on tefillin if I am not a shomer Shabbat?” or “Why should I eat kosher if I do not put on tefillin?”

Rabbi Akiva with the phrase “cleanses the defiled” refutes this logic. A mikveh can purify a person from certain defilements even if he will still require additional purification from other defilements for which the time to immerse and become clean has not yet arrived (see Mishnah, Berachot 3:6).

Thus, Rabbi Akiva is teaching us that, just as the mikveh can purify the defiled [who were defiled for more than one defilement] even if they remain defiled to a certain extent, so too, Hashem accepts and wants our teshuvah, even if it is done in parts.

(לקוטי שיחות חי"ז)

* * *

A mikveh can purify only be’ashboren (באשבורן) — if the water is gathered together in one place. If the water is flowing or leaking out, then it is an invalid mikveh and the one who immerses in it does not accomplish anything.

The mikveh is a metaphor for the Jewish people: When they are united together as one, Hashem purifies them and forgives all their sins.


"ועל הכהנים ועל כל עם הקהל יכפר"
“Upon the Kohanim and upon all the people of the congregation shall he bring atonement.” (16:33)

QUESTION: The word “hakahal” — “of the congregation” — seems to be superfluous. The text could have read “and upon all the people he shall bring atonement”?

ANSWER: The word “hakahal” alludes to the concept of “hakheil” (Devarim 31:12), which means united, gathered together. The Torah is emphasizing the importance of unity among the Jewish people. When “Ha’am” — the people — are “hakahal” — united and together — the Kohen is able to beseech A-mighty G‑d to forgive their transgressions.

(באר משה)


"והיתה זאת לכם לחקת עולם לכפר על בני ישראל מכל חטאתם אחת בשנה"
“And this shall be to you for an everlasting statute to bring atonement upon the Children of Israel for all their sins once a year.” (16:34)

QUESTION: It is customary to immerse in a mikveh on Erev Yom Kippur. In the Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 604:4) the Rama says that one should immerse one time. There are, however, other opinions concerning the number of times one should immerse. Some say three times, others 14, and a third opinion states 39. The Rambam (Mikvaot 1:9) declares that one who immerses in a mikveh more than once is acting in a way that is despicable (“meguneh”). How does this accord with the various opinions in the Shulchan Aruch to immerse more than once?

ANSWER: According to the Kesef Mishneh (Avot Hatumah 6:16) one acquires purity only after emerging from the mikveh and not while still in the mikveh.Consequently, as long as one is in the mikveh, one may immerse himself as many times as he wishes. Only leaving and then returning to the mikveh to immerse again is “meguneh” because it appears as though he is using the mikveh to cool off and refresh himself rather than for purification.

(הדרש והעיון, ועי' פרדס יוסף י"ד:ח', ולקו"ש חל"ב ע' 241)


"ואלהם תאמר איש איש מבית ישראל ומן הגר אשר יגור בתוכם אשר יעלה עלה או זבח"
“And to them you shall say, ‘Any man of the House of Israel, and of the proselyte who shall dwell among you who will offer a burnt-offering or sacrifice.’ ” (17:8)

QUESTION: This parshah discusses the prohibition of offering sacrifices anywhere except in the Sanctuary area. The words “Ve’aleihem tomar” — “And to them you shall say” — in the middle of the parshah appear to be superfluous?

ANSWER: As a general rule, the Torah does not give reasons for its prohibitions. This is because in two instances where a reason was given, men erred and sinned. The Torah states regarding a king that “he should not have too many horses so that he will not return the people to Egypt in order to acquire horses.” The Torah also states that a king should not marry many wives so that his heart will not turn astray (Devarim 17:16-17). King Shlomo the wisest of all men, confident that his wisdom would protect him, violated these two prohibitions and ultimately suffered the consequences (Sanhedrin 21b).

When Hashem told Moshe of the prohibition of slaughtering sacrifices outside of the Sanctuary area, He also said, “They shall no longer slaughter their offerings to the demons after whom they stray” (17:7). Sacrificing to the demons was an Egyptian practice which some Jews observed in Egypt. Since Hashem gave a reason for this prohibition, one may erroneously think that it is permissible to bring sacrifices outside the Sanctuary if one does not have improper intentions.

Therefore, after stating the reason, Hashem said to Moshe, “I am revealing the reason only to you. However, va’aleihem tomar — to them you shall say — that is, when you speak to the people — tell them only the prohibition and the punishment it carries, but do not reveal to them a rationale or reason, to prevent their lapsing into error.”

(מקור ברוך)


"את משפטי תעשו ואת חקתי תשמרו ללכת בהם"
“You should do My judgments and you should keep My statutes to walk therein.” (18:4)

QUESTION: The words “lalechet bahem” — “to walk therein” — seem to be superfluous?

ANSWER: There are many people who are Torah observant Jews in their homes. However, when they are “on the go,” away from their homes, on vacation, or in the company of friends or business associates, they are lax in observance of Torah and mitzvot. With the words “lalechet bahem,” the Torah is emphasizing that even when one is away from home — “on the go” — one should keep Torah and mitzvot as at home.

(הדרש והעיון)


"ושמרתם את חקתי ואת משפטי אשר יעשה אתם האדם וחי בהם אני ה'"
“You shall observe My statutes and My laws, which man shall do, and live by them; I am G‑d.” (18:5)

QUESTION: The words asher ya’aseh otam ha’adam vechai bahem” — “which the man shall do and live by them” — seem to be superfluous.

ANSWER: The statutes are decrees of Hashem which the human mind cannot comprehend, while civil laws are based on principles which are comprehensible. In order for any society to survive, it is necessary to have a set of laws and rules for social stability.

The “mishpatim” — “civil laws” — of the Torah can be understood and mortal man agrees that they are necessary for the welfare of society. Nevertheless, we must view them essentially as Divine ordinances that in their primary source are beyond our comprehension.

The Gemara (Yevamot 61a) says that the Torah uses the term “adam,” to refer to the Jewish people and not to the gentile world. However, the term “ha’adam” includes the gentile world too, (see Tosafot, ibid.). This pasuk therefore declares, “You shall observe mishpatai — My civil laws.” [However, unlike] “asher ya’aseh otam” — “those done (observed)” — by “ha’adam” — the “gentile world” — because “vechai bahem” — they realize that they are necessary for their very existence and the welfare of society, — [your rationale should be because] “Ani Hashem” — “they are My mitzvot which I, G‑d, have instructed you to observe.”

(ישועות יעקב)


"ושמרתם את חקתי ואת משפטי... וחי בהם"
“You shall keep My statutes and My laws... and he shall live in them.” (18:5)

QUESTION: What does the Torah emphasize with the words “vechai bahem” — “he shall live in them”?

ANSWER: When a person is young and strong, Torah and mitzvot may not be his priority, due to his being deeply involved in worldly matters and financial accomplishment. When he has grown older and inactive, he may begin to study Torah and become occupied with the performance of mitzvot. Hashem negates such conduct, and proclaims, “These are My statutes and laws which a person should do when ‘vechai bahem’ — he is still full of life — young and energetic.”

(שערי שמחה)


"ואשה אל אחתה לא תקח"
“You shall not take a woman in addition to her sister.” (18:18)

QUESTION: Since the Torah forbids marrying the sister of one’s wife, it should have said the reverse, “You shall not take a sister in addition to a woman”?

ANSWER: TheGemara (Pesachim 119b) says that in the future Hashem will make a festive meal for the tzaddikim. At the conclusion of the meal Yaakov will be given a cup of wine to lead in the Birkat Hamazon — Blessing after Meals. He will decline, saying, “I cannot be the one to bless because I married two sisters, שעתידה תורה לאסרן עלי — the Torah will forbid them to me.” What did he mean with the word “alai” (עלי) — “to me” — it is forbidden for everyone?

Rivkah had two sons, Eisav and Yaakov. Her brother Lavan had two daughters, Leah and Rachel. Popular opinion had it that Eisav would marry Lavan’s older daughter Leah, and Yaakov would marry Rachel (Bereishit 29:17, Rashi). When Yaakov came to the home of Lavan he asked permission to marry Rachel, and in order to obtain her he worked for Lavan for seven years. In the end, Lavan deceived him and gave him her sister Leah. Seven days later, Lavan allowed him to also marry Rachel, the woman whom he really worked for and wanted to be his wife.

Consequently, Yaakov married first the sister (Leah) and afterwards married the woman (Rachel) whom he really wanted as a wife. Therefore, Yaakov is saying, “I cannot lead in the Blessing because the Torah reversed the order and wrote ‘You shall not take a woman in addition to her sister,’ ” to forbid my marriage of two sisters.

(לקוטי בשמים)


"ולא תקיא הארץ אתכם בטמאכם אתה כאשר קאה את הגוי אשר לפניכם"
“Let the land not vomit you out for having made it impure, as it vomited out the nation that was before you.” (18:28)

QUESTION: Why does the pasuk use a negative expression — “let the land not vomit you out.” Shouldn’t it have said “If you make the land impure it will vomit you out as it vomited out the nation that was before you”?

ANSWER: Hashem loves the Jewish people like a father loves an only son and even more. Human nature is to permanently expel a stranger who commits an iniquity but to ultimately re-admit a son who was expelled for the similar iniquity.

Thus, the pasuk is saying, [For perpetrating such abominations you will be vomited out of the land. However,] “the land will not vomit you out for having made it impure, [the same] as it vomited out the nation that was before you. They were ejected from the land forever, but, while you too will be ejected, it will not be the same as then. Since you are His child and He loves you, eventually He will bring you back to the land.”

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי בשם מלאכת מחשבת)