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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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אשר יעשה אותם האדם וחי בהם

Which man shall carry out and by which he shall live. (18:5)

The mitzvos were given to us for the sake of life and living. Therefore, if the performance of a mitzvah may endanger life – the need to maintain one’s life supersedes his observance of the mitzvah. The exceptions to this rule are the three cardinal sins: murder; idol worship; and adultery. A life in which these mitzvos are not observed is no life at all. The Chassidic Masters derive from this pasuk the requirement to observe mitzvos with “life” – not apathetically. One should throw all of himself into his mitzvah observance. Indeed, it should be the source, the raison…

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כמעשה ארץ מצרים אשר ישבתם בה לא תעשו

Do not perform the practice of the land of Egypt in which you dwelled. (18:3)

The holy Peshischa, Horav Bunim, zl, renders this pasuk homiletically, deriving from the ensuing exegesis an important lesson for Jewish living. On an almost constant basis we are confronted with challenges to our spiritual well-being. These challenges come in the context of our base desires. We must exert extreme effort to overcome these physical passions, which scream out to us: “Why not be like everybody else?” Obviously, the optimum defense to triumph over the yetzer hora, evil inclination, and its wiles is to circumvent a confrontation between the provocation of physical desire and spiritual ascendancy. By providing ourselves with a…

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ושפך את דמו וכסהו בעפר

He shall pour out its blood and cover it with earth. (17:13)

The Torah commands us to cover part of the blood of the kosher birds or non-domesticated kosher animals that he slaughters. The Sefer HaChinuch explains that the shoresh, root, of this mitzvah is in the relationship between the soul of the slaughtered animal or fowl and its blood. Blood is the life source of the living animal, thus, it is fitting for us to cover the soul and hide it from the eye prior to consuming its meat. When we eat the meat with the blood exposed, we acquire a tinge of cruelty in our souls. In other words, to…

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ונתן אהרן על שני השעירים גרלות גורל אחד לד' וגורל אחד לעזאזל

Aharon shall place lots upon the two he-goats: one lot “for Hashem”; and one lot “for Azazel.” (16:8)

The two goats are identical in every way; yet, one becomes a korban, sacrifice, to Hashem, while the other is sent to Azazel. Apparently, the goats had no say in the matter. We assume that this also happens to people. Two people both do all of the right things (or at least they thought so), but one makes it, while the other does not fare as well. What happened? What about bechirah chafshis, freedom of choice? It almost seems that regardless of past choices, one’s future is determined for him. Clearly, this is not true. If we are taught that…

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ולקח מלא המחתה גחלי אש מעל המזבח מלפני ד' ומלא חפניו קטרת סמים דקה והביא מבית לפרכת

He shall take a shovelful of fiery coals from atop the Altar that is before Hashem, and his cupped handful of fiery ground incense-spices, and bring it within the Curtain. (16:12)

The Kohen Gadol entered the Kodesh Hakodshim, Holy of Holies, four times on Yom Kippur. The first time was to burn incense. This was followed by sprinkling the blood of the bull between the Badim, Poles, of the Aron Kodesh. The third time, he entered with the blood of the sa’ir, he-goat, that was slaughtered l’Hashem. This blood was also sprinkled. Each time the Kohen Gadol entered the Kodesh Hakodshim, he immersed himself in the mikveh. He also changed the vestments, since the Kohen Gadol was not permitted to enter the Holy of Holies while wearing gold vestments. He performed…

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