Parshiyot Acharei Mos/Kedoshim 5772: The Kohen Gadol’s Clothing of National Atonement and Paradigm

       



   


by Moshe Burt

Parshiyot Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are normally what baseball fans refer to as another of the “doubleheader” parshiyot. And just as Parshiyot Tazria and Metzora are extensions of each other, visa vi Tumah and Ta’Hara regarding post-birth, regarding skin, hair, clothing or regarding one’s home or building; Acharei Mos and Kedoshim are extensions of each other regarding Kohanim, Yom Kippur, the Kohen’s Yom Kippur avodah in the Kodosh Kedoshim and the Kohanic model of Darchim, which ideally the entire B’nai Yisrael would embrace and exhibit as a paradigm, as model, as a light for all mankind.

Parsha Acharei Mos opens with Hashem speaking with Moshe Rabbeinu explaining that he (Moshe) must inform Aaron HaKohen, in the context of the deaths of his sons Nadav and Avihu, that he can not enter Kadosh Kedoshim at all times.

And so, Rabbi Artscroll explains that our Parsha connects Yom Kippur with the service of the Kohanim in that it is the one and only time of the year when only the Kohen Godol, adorned in his white garments, is permitted, required to enter the Kadosh Kedoshim to atone for himself, his household and for the nation. At all other times of the year, the Kodosh Kedoshim is off-limits to all.

The Sefer “L’lmod U’lamed”, by Rabbi Mordechai Katz, notes in its summary of Parshat Acharei Mos (pages 112-113):

The Kohen Godol, himself… offered all of the sacrifices [korbonot]. These consisted of his personal sin and burnt offerings, which he paid for himself, and similar communal offerings brought on behalf of the populace.

The Artscroll Chumash (Parsha Acharei Mos, commentary on the deaths of Aharon’s sons and the Yom Kippur Service on page 636), by way of a citing from the Yerushalmi Yoma 1.1, connects Yom Kippur’s atonement with atonement inherent in the death of the righteous, i.e. Aaron’s two sons Nadav and Avihu. An explanation is brought in the commentary from the Meshech Chochmah which says that:

Yom Kippur is… a time of favor, and thus an opportune time for atonement.

However, …this is crucial, both Yom Kippur and the deaths of the righteous bring atonement ONLY on one condition. Yom Kippur atones only for people who recognize it as a holy day and treat it as such; those to whom it is merely a day of refraining from food and work, but with out a spiritual dimension, do not find atonement on Yom Kippur. Similarly, those who do not honor the righteous in life, do not benefit from their ascent to Shemayim in death.

In Tazria and Metzora, we learn that it is the Kohen who is the only one Divinely invested with ruling as to Tumah or Ta’Hara regarding ones’ skin, hair, clothing or homes. So too, it is the Kohen who atones for the nation and is the conduit to bring about unity among, and Divine Brachot for B’nai Yisrael. He is the paradigm of both; kindness and loving care for his brethren and the conduit for unity.

Shem Mishmuel (on Parshat Acharei Mos, English translation of parsha selections by Rabbi Zvi Belovski, pages 254-256) speaks at length about reasons for the distinction between the Kohen Godol’s white linen tunic and white linen tunic trousers worn when entering the Kodosh Kedoshim on Yom Kippur and his normal gold attire worn during his service at all other times of the year.

He first cites gemora Rosh HaShannah 26a:

Why does the Kohen Godol not enter the Holy of Holies wearing his gold vestments to perform the Divine service? Because an accuser cannot become an advocate.

Shem Mishmuel then indicates that this concept relates to the Eigel Zahav and writes:

The sin of the eigel has been with the Klal Yisrael throughout their history and is still with us today. The sin is so deeply etched into our national consciousness that we will not be entirely free of it until Messianic times.

Aharon’s… intentions in involving himself with the calf…. were considered good, for he wished to reunite the people and refocus them toward their correct goal…. Given that Aharon lost his two sons, at least partially in response to his involvement in the eigel episode, no trace of the sin remained within him. This means… that the principle “an accuser cannot become an advocate” should not have applied to him… for there was no remnant of the sin [in him] which could be recalled at this crucial time.

But this applied only to Aharon acting in a personal capacity; what about his role as emissary for atonement of the whole nation? In that capacity, the rule would pertain, for the people still had (and have) a remnant of the sin of the eigel in their national character which needed to be expunged. Thus Aharon experienced a dichotomy: as himself he could wear his usual gold garments, but as representative of the nation, he could only wear white.

Thus, we learn the Halacha that Aharon HaKohen Godol, and every subsequent Kohen Godol wore white vestments when serving in the Kodosh Kedoshim and atoning for the nation on Yom Kippur. And we learn that Aharon HaKohen Godol was THE paradigm, the role model for every subsequent Kohen Godol to emulate in order that the masses of Am Yisrael throughout the generations would follow suit.

One of the main themes underlying Parsha Kedoshim is the loving care with which each Jew is to treat his Jewish brother. Indeed, we see that the first posuk of our Parsha conveys that spirit, “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, “Speak to the entire assembly of B’nai Yisrael and say to them: You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem, your G’d.” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 1) Our Parsha then goes on to enumerate the Asseret HaDivrot, the Ten Commandments in depth.

But the spirit of our Parsha is best expressed by the principle taught by Rabbi Hillel to the convert, on one foot, that the entire Torah can be summed up with this one key concept whch says “V’ohavtoh L’rei’achoh Komochoh” — “… you shall love your fellow as yourself…” (Sefer Vayikra, Perek 19, posuk 18); to want for your fellow Jew what you would want for yourself, to not do to your fellow Jew what you would not want to happen to youself.

Sadly, in our times we’ve lacked the Beit HaMikdash, the Kohen Godol, the Kodosh Kedoshim for generations, and V’ohavta L’rei’acha Komochah, more often than not, seems lacking amongst B’nai Yisrael, supplanted by “Me”, “Mine”,“my convenience”, “Me first” both on a national level — how the political/governmental leadership rules the governed, as well on an individual level — how Jewish brother treats Jewish brother.

On a national level, long gone is the founding precept of modern-day Israel; what happens at your doorstep is like it happened at mine — whether we live as neighbors next door, or down the block, or in different cities or towns, whether on the northern-most and southern-most towns near the borders of Eretz Yisrael. Today’s governance in the Jewish state seems directed toward detention and persecution of Jews for the crime of being connected to The Land of Israel as it pits sector vs sector, dividing and conquering the Jewish masses through agitating sectors against each other, thus endangering our very existence on our land and through offering a give-away our Divine legacy and birthright — the Land of Israel.

On a Bein Adam L’Chaveiro level, that V’ohavta L’rei’acha Komochah is superseded by personal expediency, selfishness or self-
advancement at the next guy’s expense. As was indicated in a
Dayenu d’rash during Pesach, speed-of-light davening is symptomatic of traits of indifference and insensitivity which find their ways into the place of business, our interactions with our Jewish brethren and dealing with our families. We, in our autos, speed past our brother, ignoring his welfare or that he has his finger out to go exactly where you are going. We see our brother running to catch a bus and don’t make an effort, on his behalf, to get the driver to wait that extra second. We see that Kupat Cholim doctors care more about meeting their personal contract “quotas” — jamming 6 patients into an hour, rather than fighting the system and providing their brethren with the quality of health care and support to which they are entitled as fellow Jews. We flatly refuse to help a brother in even the smallest of ways and we are given excuses and rationalizations why we are refused, i.e., how they live such a hard life in Israel. A hard life?? A hard life?? Are there still slaves with a quota of bricks each day and no straw to produce them?

Are there still unmerciful whip beatings? In Mitzrayim even then, a Jew reached out to help another Jew. But in modern-day Israel, Israeli merchant after Israeli merchant flatly refuse to reach into one’s cash register, or pocket, to make change for a Jewish pedestrian’s 10 shekel piece. We seem, often at the hghest communal levels, to turn a blind-eye and deaf ear to domestic or child abuse, criminality in the neighborhood, etc. And we invoke protexia to advance ourselves even though, in fairness — in a just society , our brother may actually be more needy, more worthy, more qualified.

Instead we give our brother a blank countenance, or a state of indifference and/or blunt insensitivity for we are only self-concerned. We are not totally forthcoming and truthful with our brother concerning the facts of a business or banking transaction often putting “obstacles in the way of the blind” as we grub for that last shekel at the other guy’s expense.

There is a connection between this mido of loving kindness to our brethren and the role of the Kohen Godol as a unifier and as a national emissary. The Kohen’s very essence is the paradigm of unity and of the concept of “V’ohavta L’rei’acha Komochah” in which we all unify as one.

If the B’nai Yisrael were to only glean from the Kohen, and apply the unity of loving kindness to our brethren, as to ourselves, corrupt figures like Olmert, Barak, Bibi, Livni or Mofaz and their like would cease to exist, and Israel’s system of governance would be turned upside down. And then, B’ezrat Hashem, we’ll zocha to fulfill our assigned mission, to serve as a light, a model to the nations of Hashem’s blueprint for creation and how a G’dly Nation acts on Its Land.

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard and the other MIAs be liberated alive returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage, backbone and moral stength of conviction to prevent both the eviction of Jews from their homes in all or any part of Eretz Yisrael and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima — the Ultimate Redemption bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim” — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos! Chodesh Tov!

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Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.
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