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וחי בהם

By which he shall live. (18:5)

If one cannot/does not live bahem, in them (Torah and mitzvos), he has no life; he is not living in the true sense of the word. A life without purpose is not living. Torah gives purpose to life. The Chiddushei HaRim interprets the enjoinment of V’chai bahem as an exhortation to live through mitzvah performance; mitzvos should be alive, our primary sense of joy, through which we enthusiastically live life to the fullest by observing mitzvos to perfection. Anyone who has ever davened well, studied through a difficult blatt, page, of Gemorah will attest to such an ecstatic, rapt feeling….

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ומאת עדת בני ישראל יקח שני שעירי עזים לחטאת

From the assembly of Bnei Yisrael, he shall take two he-goats for a sin-offering. (16:5)

Actually, only one of the he-goats was used as a sin-offering. The other one was sent into the wilderness to Azazel. Why does the Torah refer to them both as a chatas? Horav Zev Weinberger, zl (Shemen HaTov), explains that both he-goats were selected (almost) simultaneously, with a requirement that their appearances resemble one another. At first, they were both potentially a sin-offering. Ultimately, only one “makes it,” because the other one was selected to be a Korban l’Azazel. A powerful lesson to be derived herein. We see that it is not one’s direct personal achievements that carry weight, but…

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בקרבתם לפני ד' וימותו

When they approached before Hashem, and they died. (16:1)

Chazal (Vayikra Rabbah 20:6; Eiruvin 63a) enumerate a number of errors/sins attributed to Nadav and Avihu which precipitated their tragic, untimely deaths. One of these infractions is moreh halachah bifnei rabbo; “renders a halachic ruling in the presence of his rebbe” (in this case, Moshe Rabbeinu). We have no question that to paskin, rule halachically, in front of his rebbe is disrespectful and interrupts the chain of transmission/Mesorah from Sinai, but does it warrant such a devastating punishment? Furthermore, the Torah alludes to the reason for their deaths. B’karvasam lifnei Hashem va’yamussu, “When they approached before Hashem and they died.”…

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אחרי מות שני בני אהרון... והיתה זאת לכם לחקת עולם לכפר על בני ישראל

After the death of Aharon’s sons… This shall be to you an eternal decree to bring atonement upon Bnei Yisrael. (16:1,34)

The Yalkut Shemoni (Shmuel 2:155) teaches: “On the first of Nissan, the sons of Aharon (HaKohen) just died. Why does the Torah record their passing juxtaposed upon the laws of the Yom Kippur service? This teaches that just as Yom Kippur serves as an atonement, so, too, do the deaths of the righteous (expiate the sinful acts of Klal Yisrael). Why is the death of Miriam HaNeviyah juxtaposed upon the laws of Parah Adumah? This teaches that just as the ashes of Parah Adumah purify one from ritual contamination, so, too, does missas tzaddikim, the death of tzaddikim, atone.” What…

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בזאת יבוא אהרן אל הקדש בפר בן בקר לחטאת ואיל לעולה ... ומאת עדת בני ישראל יקח שני שעירי עזים.

With this shall Aharon come into the Sanctuary: with a young bull for a sin-offering and a ram for an elevation offering… from the assembly of Bnei Yisrael he shall take two he-goats. (16:3,5)

Chazal (Midrash Rabbah, Vayikra 21:11) state that the three korbanos, offerings, that were brought on Yom Kippur represented the three Avos, Patriarchs. The young bull that served as a korban chatas, sin-offering, represented Avraham Avinu. The ram that was used as a korban olah, elevation-offering, symbolized Yitzchak Avinu. The two he-goats denoted Yaakov Avinu. When the Kohen Gadol entered the Sanctuary, he did so b’z’chus, in the merit of, the three korbanos that he brought. Avraham Avinu sacrificed himself, manifesting extreme devotion, for the purpose of bringing a pagan world closer to Hashem. His love for people and his constant…

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איש איש מבני ישראל אשר יתן מזרעו למלך מות ימות עם הארץ ירגמהו באבן ואם העלם יעלימו עם הארץ את עיניהם מן האיש ההוא בתתו מזכעו למלך לבלתי המית אתו... ושמתי את פני באיש ההוא

Any man from Bnei Yisrael… who shall give of his seed to Molech (Idol) shall be put to death; the people of the land shall pelt him with stones. But if the people of the land avert their eyes from that man when he gives from his offspring to molech, not put him to death – then I shall concentrate My attention upon that man. (20:2,4,5)

Chazal identify a number of ambiguities concerning the pshat, explanation, of this pasuk. We will focus on two of them. The second pasuk states: “But if the people of the land avert their eyes… not to put him to death.” Why are the Jewish people referred to as am ha’aretz, “people of the land”? This vernacular suggests that their primary focus is to settle the land. Second; what is the meaning of the phrase “not to put him to death”? Why not simply say:  “they will not kill him”? The pesukim concerning the Molech debacle are unusually redundant. The Tevuos…

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ואהבת לרעך כמוך

Love your fellow as yourself. (19:18)

Rashi quotes the well-known dictum of Rabbi Akiva, “Zeh klal gadol baTorah:  “This is a great principle of the Torah.” Why is the word “baTorah” added? It would be sufficient to have said simply, “This is a great principle.” The Chasam Sofer explains that the principle of loving one’s fellow kamocha, like yourself, is specifically baTorah, concerning Torah study and other spiritual pursuits. Regarding physical pursuits, one’s personal needs precedes those of his fellow. There is a case in Chazal in which Rabbi Akiva seems to underscore the difference between spiritual pursuits and physical pursuits with regard to helping one’s…

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הוכח תוכיח את עמיתך ולא תשא עליו חטא

You shall reprove your fellow and you shall not bear a sin because of him. (19:17)

The Bialystoker Maggid, zl (cited by Horav Gedalya Schorr, zl), posits that we have two forms of tochachah, rebuke. In one instance, the rebuker chastises his fellow, saying, “How could you commit such a sin?” Another scenario has the rebuker challenging his fellow, alleging, “Who are you (who do you think you are) to have the audacity to commit such a grave sin?” In both instances, the rebuker is magnifying the sin and making it greater/larger than the sinner. He is either too small or the sin is too large, but, in any event, the offense is greater than the…

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כמעשה ארץ מצרים אשר ישבתם בה לא תעשו וכמעשה ארץ כנען אשר אני מביא אתכם שמה לא תעשו

Like the practice of the Land of Egypt in which you dwelled do not do; and do not perform the practice of the Land of Canaan to which I will bring you. (18:3)

The Toras Kohanim derives from the words, yishavtem bah, “in which you dwelled,” that Egypt was the most morally bankrupt nation (followed by the Canaan), specifically because the Jews lived there. Likewise, the moral turpitude of the Canaanim plunged even lower as a result of its Jewish conquerors/inhabitants. This statement begs elucidation. One would think that the moral standard which the Jews set should have served as an example for these pagans to emulate. Instead, Chazal indicate that they became worse. Why? In his commentary to Toras Kohanim, the Raavad writes: “This means: as a result of the sin of…

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ונתן אהרן על שני השעירים גורלות - גורל אחד לד' וגורל אחד לעזאזל

And Aharon shall place lots on the two goats – one lot “for Hashem” and one “for Azazel.” (16:8)

We all find excuses to justify our chosen way of life. We blame it on an accident of fate – anything to absolve ourselves of our erroneous decisions. Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, applies this idea to the diverse fate experienced by the two Seirei Yom Kippurim, goats used to atone for Klal Yisrael on Yom Kippur: one being used l’Hashem as a sacrifice; and one for Azazel. They were two completely identical goats. Why does one end up as a sacrifice for Hashem, while the other goes to Azazel? Likewise, two people are identical in spiritual background, family lineage,…

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