"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)

Dvar Torah Questions and Answers on Kedoshim

"דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם קדשים תהיו"
“Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy.’ ” (19:2)

QUESTION: The meaning of the text would be conveyed with the word, “lahem.” Why does the Torah choose the longer word “aleihem”?

ANSWER: The root of the word “kedoshim” is kadosh,” which means sanctified and “separated.” When one gives something to the Beit Hamikdash it becomes “hekdeish,” meaning that it is no longer available for general use; it is separated and designated for Hashem.

Likewise, when a man marries and puts the ring on his bride’s finger, he proclaims, “Harei at mekudeshet li” — “With this act you have become sanctified to me — separated from the entire world and designated only for me.”

When Hashem demands that the Jewish people be holy, He means that they must elevate themselves above the mundane, materialistic world and conduct themselves in an exalted way. The word "אלהם" is an acronym for "הרי את מקודשת לי" — Hashem told Moshe to speak to the entire assembly of Israel and to declare to them that, in effect, they were separated and sanctified to Hashem, who says “I separated you from the entire world to be specifically My people and, thus, I request of you that you keep yourselves holy — separated from all humanity.”

(זכרון ישראל - ועי' לקוטי אמרים - תניא פמ"ו)


"דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם קדשים תהיו"
“Speak to the Congregation of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy.’ ” (19:2)

QUESTION: Rashi comments: “This parshah was stated behakheil — in an assembly.” Why does the Torah want us to know the circumstances surrounding the transmission of this parshah?

ANSWER: There are people who are pious and careful about matters of Torah and mitzvot in their homes, but reluctant to appear “too Jewish” in public.

This attitude is summed up in a slogan by the originators of the Reform movement: “Yehudi bebeitecha ve’adam betzeitecha” — “Be a Jew at home and a normal person in the street.”

Rashi wants to emphasize that Jews must be holy at all times. They should conduct themselves according to the Will of Hashem not only in the privacy of their home, but even “behakheil” — when they are out in the “assembly” of other people — even there they should proudly display the holiness of the Jewish people.

(דברי שערי חיים)


"דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם קדשים תהיו"
“Speak to the entire Congregation of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy.’ ” (19:2)

QUESTION: Grammatically, the verse should have said “kedoshim heyu,” which would be a command to be holy, rather than saying “kedoshim tiheyu” — “you will be holy” — in the future tense.

ANSWER: The Rambam (Teshuvah 7:5) writes, “The Torah assures us that, at the end of the galut, all the Jews will do teshuvah and will be immediately be redeemed.” This pasuk may be alluding to this by promising that, “kedoshim tiheyu” — “you will be holy” — and thereby merit the coming of Mashiach and the complete redemption.

(ר' יחזקאל זצ"ל הלברשטאם)


"דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל ואמרת אלהם קדשים תהיו כי קדוש אני ה' אלקיכם"
“Speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel and say to them, ‘You shall be holy for I am holy, G‑d your G‑d.’” (19:2)

QUESTION: Why is the word “kedoshim” written without a "ו" and the word “kadosh” written with a "ו"?

ANSWER: The Midrash Rabbah (24:9) says on this pasuk that when Hashem said the words, “Kedoshim tiheyu” — “You shall be holy” — He asked “yachol kamoni” — “You may think My intention is for you to be as holy as I am.” That is not so because, ‘ki kadosh Ani Hashem’ — ‘I G‑d am holy’ — that is to say, ‘My holiness is superior to yours’” Hence, He indeed wants us to be holy, but not on the same level that He is, because there are certain levels of understanding which were not given to man. (See Rosh Hashanah 21b.)

In view of this, “kedoshim” is written without a "ו" to indicate that our Holiness is not absolute. However, G‑d’s holiness is written with a "ו", indicating that He represents the ultimate degree of holiness.

(מעינה של תורה)


"קדשים תהיו כי קדוש אני ה' אלקיכם"
“You shall be holy, for I am holy, G‑d your G‑d.” (19:2)

QUESTION: On this pasuk, the Midrash Rabbah (24:9) says, “Kedushati lema’alah mikedushatchem” — “My holiness is greater than yours.”

Why is it necessary for the Midrash to inform us that Hashem’s holiness is greater than ours? Why would we think otherwise?

ANSWER: Indeed, the intent of the Midrash is not simply to inform us of Hashem’s greatness, but to relate an important message to K’lal Yisrael. Every Jew is able to add to the holiness of Hashem, by conducting his life in a way which is a Kiddush Hashem — sanctification of Hashem. People impressed with the behavior of the Jewish people will ultimately praise Hashem.

Thus, in effect Hashem is saying, “Kedushati lema’alah” — “My holiness [in Heaven is] — mikedushatchem” — “dependent on the holiness of your conduct on earth.”

(מאיר עיני ישרים בשם ר' דובער זצ"ל ממעזריטש)


"איש אמו ואביו תיראו"
“You shall fear every man his father and his mother.” (19:3)

QUESTION: The word “ish” usually refers to an adult, someone over the age of Bar-Mitzvah. Why in stating this mitzvah does the Torah use “ish”?

ANSWER: The Torah is teaching us that the obligation to fear our parents does not derive from our dependence on them. Even as adults, with our own households, we must still fear our parents simply because they are our parents.

(כתב סופר)


"איש אמו ואביו תיראו ואת שבתתי תשמרו אני ה'"
“You shall fear every man his father and his mother and My Shabbats shall you observe: I am G‑d your G‑d.” (19:3)

QUESTION: Rashi comments: “The observance of the Shabbat is placed next to the law of fearing one’s father to inform us that, even though I have admonished you to fear your father, if he should say to you, ‘Desecrate the Shabbat,’ do not listen to him.”

1) If a father wants his son to desecrate the Shabbat, he is a rasha, and thus, it seems unnecessary for the Torah to tell the son not to respect his wishes.

2) Why is Shabbat written in the plural (“Shabtotai”)?

ANSWER: In addition to the actual Shabbat, which begins at shekiah — sunset — and concludes at tzeit hakochavim — the appearance of three stars — the following night, a person must also add time to Shabbat by beginning Shabbat earlier than sunset on Friday and ending it later Saturday night (Yoma 81b). This is known as “Tosafot Shabbat.” Thus, in a sense there are two Shabbat — the actual one from shekiah to tzeit hakochavim, and the additional time one adds to that.

This pasuk is talking of an instance when the son had accepted the Shabbat earlier in the day than his father. And the father thinking that it is still weekday, asks his son to do work for him. The Torah instructs the son, that even in “Shabtotai” — the time that he added to the actual Shabbat — he may not listen to his father to desecrate it.

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי ועי' חזקוני)


"וכי תזבחו זבח שלמים לה' לרצנכם תזבחהו"
“When you slaughter a feast peace-offering to G‑d, you shall slaughter it to find favor for yourselves.” (19:5)

QUESTION: From the word “tizbachuhu” — “you shall slaughter it” — the Gemara (Chullin 29a) learns that one Kohen may not slaughter two animals at the same time. However, with respect to “chullin” — “animals not consecrated for Beit Hamikdash purposes” — it is permissible (see Shach, Yoreh Dei’ah 24:2).

What is the reason for this distinction?

ANSWER: There is a rule, “Ein osin mitzvot chavilot chavilot” — “Mitzvot may not be performed in bundles.” Therefore, one Kohen may not give two suspected women the water to drink at the same time, nor are two lepers purified at the same time, nor are the ears of two slaves bored at the same time (Sotah 8a). One of the reasons for this is that, when a person performs a mitzvah, he must be entirely involved in it and devote to it his undivided attention (see Mo’eid Katan 8b, Tosafot).

According to the Gemara (Chullin 31b), if someone throws a knife and in mid-flight it properly cuts through the throat of an animal, the shechitah is kosher. This indicates that slaughtering does not require any “kavanah” — proper intention. This rule applies only to non-consecrated animals. However, for “kadeshim” — “consecrated animals” — “mit’aseik” — “an unintentional slaughtering — is disqualified” (ibid. 13a).

Consequently, by “kadeshim,” where kavanah is essential, mitzvot cannot be done in bundles, and therefore two animals cannot be slaughtered by the same Kohen with one stroke of the knife. However in the case of “chullin” where kavanah is not required at all, it is permissible to slaughter two animals simultaneously.

(הדרש והעיון, ועי' שו"ת אגרות משה או"ח ח"א סי' קפט)


"ביום זבחכם יאכל וממחרת והנותר עד יום השלישי באש ישרף. ואם האכל יאכל ביום השלישי פגול הוא לא ירצה. ואכליו...ונכרתה הנפש ההוא מעמיה"
“On the day of your slaughter shall it be eaten and on the next day, and whatever remains until the third day shall be burned in fire. But if it shall be eaten on the third day, it is rejected; it shall not be accepted. Whosoever eats it...that soul will be cut off from its people.” (19:6-8)

QUESTION: Rashi explains that the first pasuk is referring to a Kohen whose intention at the time of the slaughter is that the offering be eaten “chutz lizemano” — “after the designated time.” The offering immediately becomes“pigul” — “rejected” — and one who eats it is liable to kareit (premature death). The second pasuk is referring to a Kohen who had in mind that the offering will be eaten “chutz limekomo” — “out of the limited place where it may be eaten.” It, too, immediately becomes “pigul,” but the punishment for eating it is not as severe as kareit.

What lesson can be derived from the two forms of “pigul” and their respective punishments?

ANSWER: A Jew should keep the Torah at all times and under all circumstances. Unfortunately, there are Jews who are occasionally lax in their Torah observance. Some justify it with the thought that Torah is currently “chutz lizemano” — not for contemporary times. Although they dwell in a community saturated with Torah and Yiddishkeit, they choose to go in a different direction, claiming that Torah is outmoded. Others excuse themselves by reasoning that they are “chutz limekomo” — residing outside of the heavily-populated Torah communities, and thus find it too difficult to be Torah observant Jews.

Both these perspectives are “pigul.” However, the person who has the opportunity to be observant but “writes off” Torah as belonging to another time is much worse than the one who would like to observe Torah, but finds it difficult because he lacks the proper community and environment.


"ובקצרכם את קציר ארצכם לא תכלה פאת שדך לקצר"
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap the corner [leave it for the poor].” (19:9)

QUESTION: Why does the pasuk start with plural (“uvekutzrechem”) and shift to singular (lo techaleh)?

ANSWER: In a European city there was once a meeting about how to obtain whiskey for Simchat Torah. It was decided that someone would go around town with a barrel, and that every household would contribute a glassful. The first person visited thought to himself, “Since every family will give a glassful, I will pour in water and no one will notice it.” Strangely, everyone made the same calculation and to the townspeople’s great dismay, on Simchat Torah, instead of a barrel of whiskey, they had a barrel of water.

In the harvest season, some individuals may think, “Since all the fields are now being harvested, the poor have enough and I will keep my entire crop for myself.” The Torah, therefore, stresses that every individual must give his share and not calculate that all the others will contribute and so the poor people will have enough regardless of his own contribution.

(כלי יקר)

* * *

Alternatively, the Gemara (Shabbat 23a) says that the Torah designates the last remaining corner of the field as pei’ah and not any other part because of the unscrupulous farmers. If the corner is designated, the poor people will have their eyes on the last corner of the field and receive their just due. If a farmer is caught harvesting the last corner of the field, he will not be able to absolve himself by claiming that he had left over a piece in the middle.

However, it is still possible for the unscrupulous farmers to rob the poor of their portion if two people who own adjacent fields agree between themselves to tell the poor people that it is really one field, thereby allowing them only one corner for the combined area.

Thus, the Torah warns “uvekutzrechem” — “When two neighbors will harvest their fields” — “lo techaleh” — one should not try to deceptively bypass the obligation to leave the corner of the field, because though the poor may not find out, I am G‑d, your G‑d, and I know the truth.”

(מלא העומר)


"ובקצרכם את קציר ארצם לא תכלה פאת שדך לקצר...וכרמך לא תעולל...לעני ולגר תעזב אתם אני ה' אלקיכם"
“When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap the corner...You shall not pick the undeveloped twigs of your vineyard...For the poor and the proselyte you shall leave them, I am G‑d your G‑d” (19:9-10).

QUESTION: In the commandment to give gifts to the poor, why is it necessary to emphasize, “I am G‑d your G‑d”?

ANSWER: There are many catchy and memorable slogans employed by charitable organizations to encourage people to be generous. Appealing to logic and common sense they persuade many people to share their blessings with the less fortunate. However, the reason that we are to give tzedakah is not because, “no one loses by giving” or because “it is better to be a giver than a receiver” etc., but because it is a mitzvah like all the other mitzvot which Hashem has commanded us to perform.

There is a great difference between the two attitudes: If we give because our logic and intuition dictates that it is the proper thing to do, then sometimes the human mind goes astray and can justify not giving and not sharing. If one gives in order to fulfill Hashem’s commandment we can be sure that charity will be performed always.

* * *

It is noteworthy that the laws of leaving the corner of the field unharvested for the poor and not taking the leket — gleaning — of the harvest, as well as the laws of leaving for the poor the single grapes that have not formed clusters and the grapes that fall during the harvest, are discussed in the tractate Pei’ah, which is the tractate that follows the first tractate of the Talmud, Berachot.

The juxtaposition of these two tractates emphasizes that, just as Berachot, which discusses the laws of reciting the Shema, accentuates kabalat ol malchut shamayim — absolute submission to the yoke of Heaven — tzedakah should be practiced because Hashem commanded us to do so, and not because of human logic or rationale.

(משך חכמה)

* * *

Incidentally, in the English language, the word for helping the poor is “charity.” This is commonly translated as “alms,” gratuitous benefactions for the poor. The giver of charity is a benevolent person, giving when he does not have to. He does not owe the poor person anything, but gives him because of his generosity.

“Tzedakah” has a completely different meaning. Its root word is “tzedek,” which means “justice.” Thus, it connotes that it is only right and just that one gives tzedakah. There are two reasons for this:

1) A person is obligated to give to another, for the money is not his own. Hashem has given the money to him on trust for the purpose of giving it to others.

2) Hashem is not indebted to man, yet gives him all that he needs. A Jew must act in the same way; he must give to others although he is not indebted to them. In return, Hashem rewards him in the same way. Because the person has transcended his natural instinct and given when not obligated, Hashem in turn grants him more than he would otherwise deserve.

(לקוטי שיחות ח"ב ע' 409)


"לא תגנבו"
“You shall not steal.” (19:11)

QUESTION: Why is this commandment in the plural?

ANSWER: The Torah is teaching that, in addition to the person who actually steals, one who witnesses the theft and remains silent is also considered a thief. It also teaches us that one who knowingly purchases stolen merchandise from a thief is considered a partner in the robbery because he is encouraging crime.

(שער בת רבים)

* * *

The tzadik Rabbi Meshulam Zusya of Anipoli, learned a number of methods to serve Hashem from a thief: 1) The thief works quietly without others knowing. 2) He is ready to put himself in danger. 3) The smallest detail is of great importance to him. 4) He labors with great toil. 5) Alacrity. 6) He is confident and optimistic. 7) If he does not succeed the first time, he tries again and again.

(היום יום, ג' אייר)


"לא תגנבו"
“You shall not steal.” (19:11)

QUESTION: Why is the violation, “You shall not steal” written in plural whereas in the Aseret Hadibrot — Ten Commandments — it is written “lo tignov” in the singular (Shemot 20:13)?

ANSWER: In the Aseret Hadibrot the commandment, “You shall not steal” refers to the stealing of a person — kidnapping. In our parshah, however, it is an admonition against stealing money. When one steals money, his punishment is to repay double the amount stolen, while the penalty for abducting and selling a person is death.

Since it is impossible to divide the death penalty between the two abductors, when two people kidnap jointly they are exempt from the death penalty. On the other hand, two partners in a robbery, jointly receive the penalty of double payment. Thus, the pasuk about stealing money uses the plural.

(פנים יפות)


"לא תעשק את רעך ולא תגזל"
“You shall not cheat your friend and you shall not rob him.” (19:13)

QUESTION: Why does the Torah emphasize “rei’acha” — “your friend?”

ANSWER: Once two good friends came to the Chassidic Rabbi, Reb Yitzchak of Vorka seeking his berachah to enter into partnership. The Rebbe asked them if they had written a partnership agreement, to which they replied in the negative. The Rebbe said, “In that case I will write one for you.” He took a piece of paper, wrote on it, and handed it to the two friends saying, “Now you have your partnership agreement.”

They opened the paper and saw only four letters: א, ב, ג, ד. The Rebbe, noticing their amazement, said, “These four letters are the secret to your success. 'א' stands for אמת',' the 'ב' for ברכה',' the 'ג' for 'גזל', and the 'ד' for דלות'.'

“If you will deal among yourself with emet — truth and honesty — there will be berachah — blessings in your enterprise. However, if you deal with gezel — cheating each other — then you will have dalut — poverty — i.e. your partnership will not succeed and you will end up in poverty.”

The Torah is informing us that even if your partner is a good friend and you think he would not mind, you may not deceive him. Doing so will destroy both the friendship and the enterprise.

(פון אונזער אלטען אוצר)


"לא תלין פעולת שכיר אתך עד בקר"
“You shall not withhold a worker’s wage until morning.” (19:13)

QUESTION: To what extent should one go to fulfill this precept?

ANSWER: The famous Chassidic Rabbi, Reb Meshulam Zusya of Anipoli was very poor. His wife once complained to him that she had not bought a new dress for many years. She demanded that he get money so that she could have a new dress sewn. He complied.

On Erev Shabbat Reb Zusya noticed that his wife was very thoughtful and subdued. “Why aren’t you more cheerful?” he asked in amazement, “You already have your new dress. Be happy!” She told him that when she came to the tailor to pick up her new dress, she noticed that he was very sad. When she inquired about his sadness, he told her that his daughter became a kallah not long ago. Recently, the chatan visited his home and noticed that he was sewing a new dress. The chatan was under the impression that the dress was for his kallah and was quite pleased. However, when he found out that it was not for her, he became extremely despondent. “Now I am afraid that because of his disappointment, the engagement will be cancelled, and my daughter will not get married,” the tailor said.

“The tailor’s dilemma moved me so,” concluded Reb Zusya’s wife, “that I told him to keep this dress as a present for his daughter, and thus I am where I began. I still do not have a new dress.”

After hearing his wife’s story, Reb Zusya asked her: “Did you at least pay the tailor for his work?”

In amazement, his wife replied: “I do not understand you. Did you expect me to pay him, when I already gave him the dress to keep?”

Reb Zusya said to her: “This is no excuse. The poor tailor worked an entire week to sew a dress for you, expecting to receive money to buy food for Shabbat. If you want to do a mitzvah and give your dress to his daughter, that’s your business, but he deserves to be paid for his work.”

She immediately ran to the tailor and paid him.

(סיפורי חסידים)


"לא תלין פעלת שכיר אתך עד בקר. לא תקלל חרש ולפני עור לא תתן מכשל"
“You shall not withhold a worker’s wage until morning. You shall not curse the deaf, and you shall not place a stumbling block before the blind.” (19:13-14)

QUESTION: What is the link between these three commandments?

ANSWER: There is a story in the Gemara (Shabbat 127b) about a person who hired himself out and worked for a period of three years. Erev Yom Kippur he asked for his salary so that he could return home and provide for his family. The employer told him, “I have no money.” The man said, “If so, please give me produce.” Again, the employer responded that he had none. “Perhaps a piece of land?” the man asked. The employer said he had no land and the employee returned to his home empty handed and depressed.

After Sukkot, the employer arrived at the home of his worker with his entire salary and a large gift. After they had eaten together, the employer gave the man his wages and inquired, “When I told you I had no money, produce, land, etc. what did you think about me?” The employee replied, “At the beginning I thought your money was tied up in business. When you told me that you had no produce, I thought that perhaps you had not yet put aside ma’aseir so that you could not give me any produce. When you responded negatively for the other things I asked you, I thought that perhaps you made all your belongings hekdeish — sanctified to Hashem.”

The employer said, “Indeed you are right, my son Horkinus was not studying Torah; therefore I decided to give everything away to Hashem. Later, the Rabbis released me of my vow. Since you judged me favorably and gave me the benefit of the doubt, may Hashem judge you in the same way.”

By citing these three laws together, the Torah is instructing an employer that he should be extremely careful in paying his employees’ wages of immediately when due. In the event that the employer misses a payment, the employee is told not to curse his employer for not meeting his obligation. On the other hand, the employer must scrupulously try to meet his obligations and not place a stumbling block before the employee, who may, G‑d forbid, suspect him of violating Torah law.

(לקוטי בתר לקוטי)


"בצדק תשפט עמיתך. לא תלך רכיל בעמיך"
“With righteousness shall you judge your fellow. You shall not be a tale-bearer among your people.” (19:15-16)

QUESTION: What is the connection between these two pesukim?

ANSWER: When two Jews have a dispute, Torah requires that they bring it before a Beit Din. Very often the “scholars” in the community will attempt to guess the outcome and declare how they would have ruled if they had been participants of the Beit Din. Unfortunately, when the decision is rendered, so-called scholars may ridicule the Beit Din. They tell the loser that the Rabbis were wrong in not favoring his claim.

In these two pesukim the Torah addresses both the Rabbis of the Beit Din and the “experts.” To the Rabbis of the Beit Din the Torah says, “With righteousness judge your fellow.” To the “experts” the Torah declares, “Do not be a tale-bearer among your people.”

(ילקוט רצב"א)


"לא תלך רכיל בעמיך לא תעמד על דם רעך"
“You shall not be a talebearer among your people; you shall not stand idle while your fellow’s blood is shed.” (19:16)

QUESTION: What is the link between these two commandments?

ANSWER: To speak evil against another Jew — even if it is true — is a very serious transgression. However, one who knows that a person is planning to harm another is not only permitted but obligated to warn the intended victim. Remaining idle is a violation of the commandment, “You shall not stand idle while your fellow’s blood is shed.”

(חזקוני - אור החיים)


"הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך"
“You shall surely rebuke your fellow.” (19:17)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Bava Metzia 31a) states that one should admonish a sinning Jew even one hundred times. If one is a repeat violator of Torah, does not this repeated rebuke seem to be in vain?

ANSWER: Our sages have faith in every Jew and encourage us not to hesitate to admonish the wrongdoer. Eventually, our words will penetrate and the sinner will do teshuvah. The Torah also describes how to reprimand: One who observes another Jew acting improperly should not be harsh in his rebuke, but rather speak to the person over a period of time, gradually helping him to reform. Harsh or abusive criticism can cause the violator to fall into despair over the gravity of his sin. The Gemara is thus stressing that one should admonish patiently, even if it involves a process of one hundred mild admonitions.

(מעינה של תורה)


"הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך ולא תשא עליו חטא"
“You shall reprove your fellow and not bear a sin because of him.” (19:17)

QUESTION: The word “amitecha” — “your fellow” — seems superfluous?

ANSWER: King Shlomo says that when admonishing, “Do not reprove the jester lest he will hate you; admonish the wise one and he will love you” (Proverbs 9:8). This is puzzling. Why should the wise person require reprove, and why desist from admonishing the jester who has a light-hearted attitude towards Torah and mitzvot? It seems that Shlomo, the wisest of all men, is suggesting that everyone ranging from the jester to the wise man — can benefit from criticism. He is not instructing whom to reprove, but giving sound advice about how to reprove.

In general, in the process of criticizing a person, one should be careful not to ridicule or belittle him. If a person does wrong, he usually regrets it, so that scorning and ridiculing him will only provoke anger. You should say to him, “It is strange that such a wise person as yourself should act so foolishly,” and he is likely to be receptive to your words.

The Torah encourages one to offer rebuke, but counsels to emphasize “amitecha” — the friendly relationship between the wrongdoer and the rebuker. The rebuker might say, “My good friend, I feel bad to see you acting in such a way.” In addition, when your rebuke someone, bear in mind that, “Velo tisa alav cheit” — “Do not accentuate the transgression and all its ramifications.”

(ויקהל משה)


"ואהבת לרעך..."
“You shall love your fellow...” (19:18)

QUESTION: What is the ultimate ahavat Yisrael?

ANSWER: The famous Chassidic Rabbi, Reb Moshe Leib of Sassov once said that he learned the meaning of ahavat Yisrael from a conversation he overheard between two simple farmers. While sitting in an inn and drinking, they became intoxicated and one said to the other, “Do you really love me?” To which the other replied, “Of course I love you.”

The first one asked again, “If you really love me, tell me what I need.”

“How should I know?” his friend queried, “Am I a mind reader?”

“How can you say you really love me when you do not know what I need?” replied the first.

True ahavat Yisrael entails sensitivity and feeling for the anxieties and needs of another Jew, even one who has not approached you for help.

(עיטורי תורה)


"ואהבת לרעך כמוך"
“You shall love your fellow as yourself.” (19:18)

QUESTION: How can the Torah demand that one love a stranger as much as oneself?

ANSWER: Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of Chabad Chassidut, explains it in the following way: Every Jew consists of two components: a guf (body) and a neshamah (soul). While all Jews are separated by virtue of different bodies, they are like one with regard to the neshamah. This is because all neshamot are a part of Hashem, and Hashem is the father of us all. With this realization, it is easy to love the other Jew as oneself, because through our neshamot we are all one.

(תניא - לקוטי אמרים, פל"ב)


"ואהבת לרעך כמוך"
“You shall love your fellow as yourself.” (19:18)

QUESTION: The word “kamocha” seems superfluous. Should not the Torah simply have said “Love your fellow”?

ANSWER: Regarding the creation of man, the Torah says: “Betzelem Elokim bara oto” — “In the image of G‑d He created him” (Bereishit 1:27). The reason a Jew should love another Jew as himself is because of “kamocha” — the common denominator that both are “betzelem Elokim” — “in the image of G‑d.”

(טל אורות)

Interestingly, the word “Elokim” (אלקים) and the word “kamocha” (כמוך) both have the same numerical value, 86.

* * *

Alternatively, the Midrash Tanchuma (Bereishit 8) says that although many people have love and affection for others, “Every craftsman hates his rival of the same profession.” Therefore, the Torah emphasizes that not only “ve’ahavta lerei’acha” — “you shall love your fellow” — but even if he is “kamocha” — in your field of work — you must still make every effort to love him.

(אבק סופרים)

* * *

Alternatively, it is human nature not to see any faults in oneself. Even one who has failings will usually not see his failings. This is substantiated by King Shlomo’s statement, “Love covers all offenses” (Proverbs 10:12), and what greater love is there than self-love? Nevertheless, it is human nature to see and recognize the faults and wrongdoings of others and even to admonish them for it.

Hence, the Torah is teaching us that one should love his fellow “kamocha” — “as yourself” — just as you love yourself and overlook your own faults, you should overlook the faults of your friend.

(ר' לוי יצחק זצ"ל מבארדיטשוב)


"ואהבת לרעך כמוך אני ה'"
“Love your fellow as yourself, I am G‑d.” (19:18)

QUESTION: What is the connection between “Love your fellow as yourself” and “I am G‑d”?

ANSWER: Not only is a Jew required to love his fellow, but it is also a mitzvah to love Hashem, as the Torah says, “And you shall love G‑d your G‑d” (Devarim 6:5). Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, says that “Loving your fellow as yourself is a vessel through which one can accomplish loving G‑d.”

When the Torah tells us that, “You should love your fellow as yourself” and concludes with the words “I am G‑d,” it is alluding that through ahavat Yisrael — loving your fellow — one can attain ahavat Hashem — the love of G‑d.

(היום יום ו' תשרי)

Incidentally, the words "ואהבת לרעך כמוך אני י-ה-ו-ה" — “love your fellow as yourself I am G‑d” — and the words "ואהבת את י-ה-ו-ה א-ל-ה-י-ך" — “and you shall love G‑d your G‑d” — both have the same numerical value, 907.

(אוצר חיים)

* * *

Alternatively, a Jew was once convicted for a grave infraction against the government, and the king’s court sentenced him to death by hanging. At the designated time, a large crowd assembled at the gallows to witness the event. As the noose was being placed around the Jew’s neck, a Jew suddenly screamed, “Stop! He is not guilty I committed the crime!”

Everything was immediately brought to a halt, and the king ordered a new trial to determine who was really guilty. To everyone’s amazement, the tribunal found them both innocent. The king invited the two Jews to his palace and asked the second one, “Since you knew you were innocent, why did you endanger your life by confessing?”

“Your Majesty,” he replied, “the condemned man is my best friend; without him my life would be empty and meaningless. As I saw him being led to the gallows, I realized that I preferred death to the loss of my friend.” The king listened, awestruck. Deeply moved, he asked the friends, “I have never seen such true friends; would you accept me in your friendship?”

When Hashem perceives that we are united in a bond of true friendship, He yearns to be accepted into our friendship.

(ר' ישראל זצ"ל מריזין)

Alternatively, the word ahavah (אהבה) has the numerical value of 13. When one Jew loves another as himself, the other will reciprocate the love, and there will thus be “ahavah,” which totals 26. The name of Hashem, as it is written in the Torah ("י-ה-ו-ה"), has the numerical value of 26. When two Jews feel ahavah for each other, they merit, “Ani Hashem” — G‑d’s presence in their midst.

(ר' אברהם זצ"ל מטריסק)

* * *

Alternatively, the Yiddish word for “Jew” is Yid (taken from the word “Yehudi”). When one puts two “yudden” side by side (י-י), the abbreviation for Hashem’s name is formed. However, a yud placed above another “yud,” results in a “sheva,” a soundless vowel which is equivalent to “nothing.”

The Torah instructs a Yid to love his fellow Yid, “kamocha,” as his very self. He should see the other as being exactly on his own level. The two “yud”s alongside each other thus form G‑d’s name, and He will dwell among them.

(ר' נפתלי זצ"ל מרופשיץ)

* * *

QUESTION: In printed sefarim we do not write Hashem’s holy four-lettered name, but rather two “yudden” (י-י). Why is there the vowel “sheva” under the first “yud” and the vowel kamatz under the second “yud”?

ANSWER: Among the holiest names of Hashem are י-ה-ו-ה and א-ד-נ-י. The first name expresses the fact that Hashem is above the limitations of time; He is past, present, and future all in one. The other name accentuates that He is the Master of the universe. The first name starts with a “yud” and the second name ends with a “yud.” The first vowel in the first name is a “sheva” and the final vowel in the second name is a “kamatz.” Therefore, as an abbreviation for these two names, we now write Hashem’s name with two “yudden” and a “sheva” and a “kamatz.”

(שמעתי בשם זקני הרב צבי הכהן ז"ל קאפלאן)

* * *

Though Hashem has other holy names, the first “Yud” of the Tetragrammaton (י-ה-ו-ה), and last“yud” of the Name A-donai (א-ד-נ-י) are used as a reference to Him, because there is a special connection between these two names. Chassidut (see Sha’ar Hayichud Veha’emunah, Chapter 7) offers a detailed explanation of these two names and the intertwining of the name “Adnut” with the name Havaye and the intertwining of the name “Havaye” with the name “Adnut.”


"וכי תבאו אל הארץ ונטעתם כל עץ מאכל וערלתם ערלתו את פריו שלש שנים יהיה לכם ערלים לא יאכל"
“When you shall come to the land and you shall plant any food tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years it shall be forbidden to you; it shall not be eaten.” (19:23)

QUESTION: What is the eternal significance of the laws of arlah to every Jew in his daily life?

ANSWER: Man is compared to a tree of the field (Devarim 20:19), and many lessons have been learned from trees about nurturing human development. A little boy is compared to a little tree. For the first three years the fruit of a tree is prohibited so that we may not benefit from it. Likewise, the speech of the young child is undeveloped and unclear.

When he enters his fourth year and is able to talk, it is the obligation of his father to teach him “Torah tzivah...” — “The Torah that Moshe commanded us is the heritage of the Congregation of Yaakov” (Devarim 33:4), and “Shema Yisrael...” — “Hear O’ Israel, G‑d is our G‑d, G‑d is the One and Only” (Succah 42a). With this, the Torah directive, “In the fourth year all its fruit should be sanctified for praising to G‑d,” is accomplished.

At the age of five, the child starts learning Torah (Pirkei Avot 5:22) and thus commences his development into the human equivalent of a beautiful fruit tree.

(אור החיים)


"וכי תבאו אל הארץ ונטעתם כל עץ מאכל וערלתם ערלתו את פריו שלש שנים יהיה לכם ערלים לא יאכל"
“When you shall come to the land and you shall plant any food tree, you shall treat its fruit as forbidden; for three years it shall be forbidden to you; it shall not be eaten.” (19:23)

QUESTION: What is the significance of a boy’s first haircut (upsherenish) at the age of three?

ANSWER: The laws of “arlah” — the first three years of a tree’s life — are a Biblical source for the widely practiced custom of not cutting the hair of a little boy until the age of three. At the “upsherenish” — “hair cutting ceremony” — the long hair is cut off, leaving the peiyot (earlocks), and he is introduced to pesukim of Torah. The hair of the head is cut to indicate that the first and most important thing a Jew has to be concerned about is that his head (his thinking) should be imbued with a Torah perspective.

After his haircut, the child is trained in the mitzvah of peiyot, which are in front of the ear, hinting to the little boy that he should always use his ears to listen to the words of Hashem.

The word for hair in Hebrew is “sa’ar” (שַׂעַר). The three letters can also be re-arranged to spell the word “osher” (עשֶׁר) — “wealth.” Heeding the lessons of the upshernish throughout life will be a source of blessing to merit material and spiritual wealth.

(שמעתי מאחי הרב שמואל פסח שי' באגאמילסקי)

* * *

Alternatively, the word “pei’ah” — “sideburn” — (פאה) has the numerical value of eighty six. A head has a pei’ah on each side; thus, two times eighty six equals one hundred seventy two.

The Gemara (Nedarim 32a) says that our father Avraham recognized the existence of his Creator at the age of three, as the verse states “Eikev — Because — Avraham hearkened to My voice” (Bereishit 26:5). The numerical value of the word eikev (עקב) is one hundred and seventy two. Since Avraham lived for 175 years (ibid. 25:7), it follows that he began to fulfill Hashem’s word at the age of three.

Hence, when a Jewish child reaches the age of three we cut his hair and leave him peiyot to inculcate him with the message that he should endeavor to emulate the first father of the Jewish people, Avraham, and use his head to recognize the existence and greatness of Hashem and listen to His teachings from now and throughout his entire life.

* * *

From the day of the “upsherenish” and leaving the peiyot it is customary to take particular care in accustoming the little boy to wear a tallit katan, to recite the early-morning berachot, the Blessing after Meals, and the bedtime Shema.

(היום יום, ד' אייר)


"לא תאכלו על הדם"
“You shall not eat over the blood.” (19:26)

QUESTION: The Gemara (Berachot 10b) derives from this pasuk that a person should not eat prior to praying for his blood, that is, his well-being. How did they derive this from the pasuk?

ANSWER: In the Torah man is known as “adam” (אדם). The title consists of two words "א" and ".דם" The "א" refers to Hashem who is “Alufo Shel Olam — “Master of the World” and "דם" refers to the blood, which is the life-source of all living beings, as the pasuk says, “Ki nefesh habasar badam hi” — “For the soul of the flesh is in the blood (17:11). Before a person prays he is merely “dam” — “blood.” Once he prays he becomes attached to Hashem — the “Alufo Shel Olam” — and earns the title “adam.”

Since the pasuk says “You shall not eat al hadam — over the blood” — our sages derived that we are talking here about a person who is still only “dam” — “blood” — and has not yet prayed and earned the title “adam.”

(רבי דובער זצ"ל ממעזריטש)

* * *

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn of Lubavitch recounted the following story. When his grandmother,Rebbetzin Rivkah, was eighteen years old she became ill, and the physician ordered her to eat immediately after awakening. She, however, did not wish to eat before praying. So she prayed very early, then ate breakfast. When her father-in-law, the Tzemach Tzedek (Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the third Lubavitcher Rebbe), learned of this, he said to her: “A Jew must be healthy and strong. The Torah (18:5) says about mitzvot that one must ‘Live in them,’ that is, bring vitality into the mitzvot. To infuse mitzvot with vitality, one must be strong and joyful.” Then he concluded: “You should not be without food. Besser essen tzulib davenin vi davenin tzulib essen — Better to eat for the sake of praying rather than to pray for the sake of eating.” Then he blessed her with long life. She was born in 5593 (1833) and passed away on 10 Shevat, 5674 (1914).

(היום יום י' שבט)


"מאזני צדק אבני צדק...אני ה' אלקיכם אשר הוצאתי אתכם מארץ מצרים"
“You shall have correct scales, correct weights...I am G‑d, your G‑d, who brought you forth from the land of Egypt.” (19:36)

QUESTION: What is the connection between Hashem taking the Jews out of Egypt and correct scales and weights?

ANSWER: At the Brit Bein Habetarim (Covenant Between the Divided Parts) Hashem told Avraham, “Know with certainty that your offspring shall be aliens in a land not their own. They will serve them and be oppressed 400 years. But also, the nation that they shall serve I shall judge, and afterwards they shall leave with great wealth” (Bereishit 15:13-14). Commentators ask: Since the Egyptians brought Hashem’s promise to fruition, why were they punished for enslaving the Jews?

The Ra’avad (Hilchot Teshuvah 6:5) answers that although the Jews were destined to be slaves, the Egyptians overworked them with exceptionally strenuous labor and for this they had no permission. For taking from the Jews more than they were allowed (analogous to tipping the scales), they were punished, and the Jews left Egypt with great wealth.

A Jew who has incorrect scales and weights, is showing that he believes that the Egyptians did nothing wrong and that they did not deserve punishment for the additional hard labor that they took from the Jews.

By associating the release from Egyptian bondage with incorrect scales and weights, the Torah is cautioning us to remember what happened to the Egyptians for taking more than they were entitled to.

(הדרש והעיון)


"והתקדשתם והייתם קדושים"
“You shall sanctify yourself and you shall be holy.” (20:7)

QUESTION: When the prophet Elisha visited the home of the Shunamit, she told her husband, “Behold, now I perceive that the G‑dly man, kadosh hu — is holy” (II Kings 4:9). According to the Gemara (Berachot 10b), she perceived that he was holy because she did not notice a “zevuv” — “fly” — over his table. How does this prove holiness?

ANSWER: The word “zevuv” (זבוב) is an acronym for "זה בכה וזה בכה" — “this one is here and this one is there.”

The Shunamit was a very hospitable person, and many Rabbis would stay over at her home when passing through the city of Shuneim. She noticed that when a prominent person came to her home and conducted a tish (gathering), some would come and some would not; some would listen attentively while others would walk about the room. However, when Elisha came and conducted his “tish” she did not see, “This one here and this one there,” but everyone came to his table and they all listened attentively and respectfully. One who is respected and revered by all is undoubtedly a holy person.


"ואמר לכם אתם תירשו את אדמתם ואני אתננה לכם לרשת אתה ארץ זבת חלב ודבש"
“And I said to you: You shall inherit their land and I will give it to you to inherit it, a land flowing with milk and honey.” (20:24)

QUESTION: 1) What is the reason for the repetition “You shall inherit” and “I will give it to you to inherit it”? 2) Why does Hashem now mention the praise of the land, that it is flowing with milk and honey?

ANSWER: Ultimately the Jewish people will inherit Eretz Yisrael by taking it away from the nations who are in possession of it. Hashem told the Jewish people, “Superficially, the land of Israel is similar to any other land in the world, but when you will inherit it, ‘Ani etnenah’ — At that time I will give the land a gift (etnenah is from the same root word as matanah — gift): I will enhance it with flowing milk and honey. However, the land endowed with this unique gift will be ‘lachem lareshet otah’ — an inheritance only for you; should you, G‑d forbid, lose possession of the land and be exiled, the miraculous quality bestowed on the land as a gift will depart from the land together with you.”

(אור החיים)


"ארץ זבת חלב ודבש"
“A land flowing with milk and honey.” (20:24)

QUESTION: There are so many exceptional things about Eretz Yisrael. Why does the Torah choose to emphasize milk and honey?

ANSWER: There is a halachah (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Dei’ah 79:2) that something which comes from tumah is also tamei. An exception to this rule is milk. Milk is produced from the animal’s blood, which is tamei, but nevertheless it is permissible. (See Bechorot 6b.)

The Torah is informing us that Eretz Yisrael is a remarkable land, which has been blessed with a unique quality: Any Jew who comes there, even if at certain times he lacks purity, will find that the air of Eretz Yisrael will help him become tahor.

(הרב מאיר ז"ל שאפירא מלובלין)

* * *

The land of Israel is praised for “devash” (דבש) — “honey” — which has the numerical value of 306. This is also the numerical value of the words “Av Harachaman” (אב הרחמן) — “Merciful Father.” The uniqueness of Eretz Yisrael is that it is blessed with G‑d’s mercy, as the Torah states, “A land that G‑d, your G‑d, seeks out, the eyes of G‑d your G‑d are always upon it from the beginning of the year to years end” (Devarim 11:12).

(ר' פנחס זצ"ל מקוריץ)

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Incidentally, the milk referred to in the praise of Eretz Yisrael is not cow’s milk but goat’s milk, and the honey is date honey rather than bee honey (Shemot 13:5, Rashi).


"והבדלתם בין הבהמה הטהרה לטמאה ובין העוף הטמאה לטהר"
“You shall distinguish between the clean animal and the unclean and between the unclean bird and the clean.” (20:25)

QUESTION: Why in regard to animals does the verse mention the clean animals first, and in regard to birds the unclean birds are mentioned first?

ANSWER: The Gemara (Chullin 63b) says that Hashem knew that there are more unclean animals in the world than clean ones and that there are more clean birds than unclean. Therefore, when the Torah speaks of the clean and unclean animals and birds, it lists the clean animals, and the unclean birds. From this the Gemara derives that a teacher should always use concise language when teaching his students.

From the fact that the Torah says “zot hachayah asher tochlun mikol habeheimah” — “these are the creatures you may eat from among all the animals” (11:2), the Gemara (Chullin 42a) derives that Hashem held up each animal and told Moshe, “This you shall eat.”

Since it is important to be brief when teaching, undoubtedly, Hashem showed Moshe the clean animals, and all the others automatically being designated as unclean. Likewise, with the birds He showed him the unclean ones, and all the others are clean.

This pasuk alludes to this procedure by telling us, “You shall distinguish between the clean animal and the unclean — by My displaying the clean animals, you will be able to distinguish and automatically know which are unclean, uvein ha’of hatemei latahor — and between the unclean and clean birds — that is, by My displaying the unclean birds — you will know that all the other birds are clean.”

(כתנות אור)