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והייתי לכם לאלקים ואתם תהיו לי לעם

I will be G-d unto you, and you will be a people unto Me. (26:12)

For what more can one ask? When we look around at an environment whose degenerative societal values and plummeting moral compass and virtue are pervasive, we should feel a sense of relief and deep pride that we are part of the am kadosh, holy nation. A life wholly dedicated to moral purity, ethical integrity, virtue and kindness is, in and of itself, deeply fulfilling. It involves a strong sense of purpose and adherence to the ethical and moral principles of the Torah. In order to achieve these lofty goals, Torah study and prayer play central roles in a life dedicated…

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וזכרתי את בריתי יעקוב ואף את בריתי יצחק ואף את בריתי אברהם אזכר והארץ אזכר

I will remember My covenant with Yaakov, and also My covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Avraham will I remember and I will remember the Land. (26:42)

Noticeably, the Torah mentions the word “remembering” (v’zacharti, ezkor) only in connection with Avraham Avinu and Yaakov Avinu. Rashi explains that “remembering” is not necessary with regard to Yitzchak, because afro, the ashes, of Yitzchak appear before Hashem as they rest upon the Mizbayach. [This, of course, refers to ashes of the ayil, ram, which was offered in place of Yitzchak.] Veritably, the concept of “remembering” with regard to Hashem is unimaginable. He does not require a symbol to remind Him of anything. Hashem does not forget. If so, the issue is not why remembering is not mentioned by Yitzchak,…

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לא יבקר בין טוב לרע ולא ימירנו ואם המר ימירנו והיה הוא ותמורתו יהיה קדש

He shall not distinguish between good and bad and he shall not substitute for it, and if he does substitute for it, then it and its substitute shall be holy. (27:33)

The Torah addresses the laws of maaser beheimah, tithing of animals. Unlike other offerings, for which it is most appropriate to select the choicest animal, the tithe is left purely to chance. Even if the tenth animal to be selected is blemished and thus disqualified from being offered on the Altar, it remains maaser. It is consecrated and may be used only for food. One may neither work with it, nor shear its wool. If, however, he does substitute it (temurah) for another animal, it and its substitute are both holy. Once sanctified, it remains so. Horav Tzvi Hirsch Ferber,…

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ושבתה הארץ שבת לד'

The land shall observe a Shabbos rest for Hashem. (25:2)

In addition to our biological ascendance from the Avos Hakedoshim, Patriarchs, we are distinguished as Jews because of our acceptance of – and adherence to – the Torah. Hashem offered the Torah to the other nations, who refused it due to its incompatibility with the prevalent lifestyle. Stealing, murder and adultery are prohibited as part of our religious code. The other nations live by a different moral compass. Hashem presented us with the Torah, accompanied by an unprecedented and unparalleled Revelation on Har Sinai. We accepted with the resounding declaration, Naaseh v’Nishmah, “We will do and we will listen!” All…

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וקדשתם את שנת החמשים שנה וקראתם דרור בארץ לכל ישביה יובל הוא תהיה לכם ושבתם איש אל אחזתו ואיש אל משפחתו תשבו

You shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom throughout the Land for all its inhabitants; it shall be the Jubilee Year for you. You shall return each man to his ancestral heritage, and you shall return each man to his family. (25:10)

An obvious redundancy appears in this pasuk. “(You shall) proclaim freedom throughout the Land” implies that people who heretofore had not been free (bondsman) will now be set free. If so, why does the pasuk conclude, “You shall return each man to his ancestral heritage, and you shall return each man to his family?” How many times can one be freed? Furthermore, once freedom is mentioned (twice), what is added by ish el mishpachto, “each man to his family”? To whom else is he returning? The Brisker Rav, zl, asks these questions and explains the freedom process with the words…

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לא תרדה בו בפרך

You shall not subjugate him to hard labor. (25:43)

It goes without saying that we are a nation of rachamanim bnei rachamanim, compassionate sons of compassionate (fathers). We do not need to be exhorted not to take advantage of the weak and disadvantaged. While it is true that the individual who sold himself as a slave, to a certain extent, deserves the indignities that come with being subjugated to a master – such lording over a brother is limited. This man either was a thief or he was unable (or did not want) to earn a decent living, so he either sold himself or bais din sold him as…

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ובת איש כהן כי תחל לזנות את אביה היא מחללת

If the daughter of a Kohen will be desecrated through adultery, she desecrates her father. (21:9)

The Torah explains what a tragedy truly is. A young woman, married or betrothed, commits an act of adultery. The actual act is an egregious sin in its own right, but her pedigree magnifies the sin. This woman’s father is a Kohen, member of the Priestly family. Thus, not only does she disgrace herself, but she also humiliates and defames her father. As a result, her punishment is more harsh than if she had been the daughter of a Yisrael. The word seichel is translated as desecrated, a derivative of challal or chillul. Seichal, posits Horav Shlomo Kluger, zl, can…

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ועל כל נפשת מת לא יבא לאביו ולאמו לא יטמא

He shall not come near any dead person; he shall not contaminate himself to his father or his mother. (21:11)

Rashi infers from the pasuk (which on the surface appears superfluous) that, while the Kohen Gadol may not contaminate himself even to a family member, he may contaminate himself to a meis mitzvah, deceased who has no one to bury him. To better understand this, we will explain what it means to be alone at the time of death. By nature, the human being seeks connection and companionship. Human beings are social creatures. As such, during moments of vulnerability, the need for companionship intensifies. Having said this, we turn to the laws concerning the meis mitzvah, man who dies alone,…

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ולקחתם לכם ... פרי עץ הדר כפת תמרים וענף עץ עבת וערבי נחל

You shall take for yourselves … an esrog (the fruit of a citron tree), a lulav (the branches of date palms), hadas (twigs of a plaited tree/myrtle), and aravos (brook willows). (23:40)

Chazal (Succah 37b) state that one is to take the lulav (held) in his right hand, while he takes the esrog in the left. The reason for this is that the lulav includes three mitzvos: lulav, hadas, aravah; the esrog is singular. This does not seem consistent with the Midrash’s (Vayikra Rabbah 30:12) characterization of the symbolic representation of each of the arba minim, four species. The four species allude to four types of Jews. The esrog, pri eitz hadar, the beautiful fruit of a tree, has taam and reiach, taste as well as fragrance. It parallels the talmid chacham,…

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דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל ואמרת אליהם קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני

Speak to the entire assembly of Bnei Yisrael, and say to them: “You shall be holy, for holy am I.” (19:2)

Sefer Vayikra is called Toras Kohanim, the Laws of Kohanim. Veritably, only the first few parshiyos of Sefer Vayikra address the Priestly service and obligations. Why, then, is the entire book under the rubric of Toras Kohanim? The question is especially germane with regard to Parashas Kedoshim which addresses the normal gamut of mitzvos that applies to all Jews, who, through the observance of these mitzvos, sanctify and maintain the kedushah of the entire nation. Horav Simcha Wasserman, zl, explains that, just as the Kohanim are to be the spiritual exemplars of the Jewish nation, so, too, should the Jewish…

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