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קדושים תהיו כי קדוש אני

You shall be holy, for holy am I. (19:2)

Holiness for the Jew is a Divine mandate, whose meaning is debated by the Rishonim (Ramban, Rashi). Rashi posits that kedoshim tiheyu means perushim tiheyu, distance yourself from the illicit relationships detailed in the previous parshah. Ramban contends that is an exhortation to approach all aspects of life through moderation. Despite the fact that a particular behavior is permitted, surrendering to self-indulgence, gluttony and licentiousness undermines the goals of kedushah. Having said this, we turn towards what appears to be an enigmatic statement by Chazal (Vayikra Rabbah 24), “‘Be holy’ – I might think that this means Kamoni – like…

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איש אמו ואביו תיראו

Every man: your father and mother shall you revere. (19:3)

One fears his father more than his mother. Rashi explains that this is why the Torah places mother first. A child naturally fears his father more than his mother. He is instructed that Torah does not “play” by the rules of nature. Both parents are the same. Likewise, concerning the mitzvah of honoring a parent, the Torah mentions the father before mother, because a child is predisposed to honoring his mother. Thus, the Torah teaches that both parents are on the same level. The Jew does not act because he is so inclined. He acts in accordance with Hashem’s dictates….

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ובקצרכם את קציר ארצכם לא תכלה פאת שדך לקצר

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not complete your reaping to the corner of your field. (19:9)

Before one may consider his crops to be his own, he must first discharge his obligations to others. Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, observes that, even at the closing moment of an entire growing season – after he has put in his time and effort, cultivated, planted, seeing to it that his crops have grown well and are ready for reaping – the produce still does not belong to him until he leaves peah, the corner of his field to the poor. They, too, must eat. This is how they sustain themselves. The obvious question is: Why not give them…

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ולקח מלא המחתה גחלי אש מעל המזבח... ומלא חפניו קטרת סמים דקה... ונתן את הקטרת על האש לפני ה'

He shall take a shovelful of fiery coals from atop the Altar and his cupped handful of finely ground incense spices… He shall place the incense upon the fire before Hashem. (16:12,13)

The incense service performed on Yom Kippur was unique in that it could only be performed by the Kohen Gadol, who performed this service only once a year in the Kodesh HaKodoshim, Holy of Holies. The Kohen Gadol would scoop a shovelful of burning coals from the outer Altar, then fill his hands with the incense, which he then placed into a ladle. With the shovel in his right hand and the ladle in his left hand, the Kohen Gadol would proceed into the Holy of Holies where he would pour the incense onto the fire, after which the smoke…

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ופשט את בגדי הבד אשר לבש בבאו אל הקדש והניחם שם

He shall remove the linen vestments that he had worn when he entered the Sanctuary, and he shall leave them there. (16:23)

After the Kohen Gadol completed the Yom Kippur service, he removed the white linen vestments that he had worn upon entering the Holy of Holies. We wonder why he should discard such expensive garments. Why can he not wear them the following year? Horav Zalman Sorotzkin, zl, explains that the white linen vestments leave a powerful impact upon the Kohen Gadol. He realizes that the white linen is essentially the same material used to sew shrouds. The priestly vestments accompany him into the Holy of Holies, while the shrouds are the garments he wears when he meets his Maker. He…

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כי ביום הזה יכפר עליכם

For on this day, he shall provide atonement for you. (16:30)

The Yom Kippur service revolves around the Kohen Gadol, in the sense that he has the leading role in performing the service, the culmination of which is his entrance into the Kodesh HaKodoshim, Holy of Holies. The Kohen Gadol had been accorded extraordinary honor when he left his home one week prior to Yom Kippur, enroute to the Bais HaMikdash. Tens of thousands of Kohanim and Leviim, along with the rest of Klal Yisrael, accompanied him on this “journey.” This display of kavod haTorah, honor accorded to a person who represents Torah, was unusual. What did the Kohen Gadol do…

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אשר ישחט מחוץ למחנה. ואל פתח אהל מועד לא הביאו... דם יחשב לאיש ההוא דם שפך

Who will slaughter it outside the camp. And he has not brought it to the entrance of the Ohel Moed… it shall be considered as bloodshed for that man, he has shed blood. (17:3,4)

At one time, murder was an egregious sin, while hunting animals, taking the life of an animal for no other reason other than it suits one’s fancy, was not considered sinful. The Torah teaches us otherwise. Horav Simchah Wasserman, zl, observes the text of the pasuk concerning shechutei chutz, slaughtering consecrated animals outside of the environs of the Ohel Moed: Dam yeichashev…dam shafach, “It shall be considered bloodshed… he has shed blood:” When a person kills an animal in a manner upon which the Torah frowns or prohibits, it is considered shefichas damim, bloodshed. The Rosh Yeshivah explains how the…

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זאת תהיה תורת המצרע ביום טהרתו

This shall be the law of the metzora on the day of his purification. (14:2)

One sins – he is punished. It is as simple as that. Lashon hora, the sin of slanderous speech, is apparently different. Shortly after he commits the act of defaming his fellow, he is visited by various negaim, plagues, which first appear on the walls of his house. Then, if his scurrilous activity does not cease, he will see the plague make an appearance on his clothes. If he still does not get the message, he becomes a metzora, spiritual leper, which requires him to be removed from the community and take up residence in isolation. It seems that the…

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זאת תהיה תורת המצרע ביום טהרתו

This shall be the law of the metzora on the day of his purification. (14:2)

Probably more has been written concerning the sin of lashon hora than any other aveirah. Its common occurrence is due to human failing. Veritably, the only way to protect oneself from falling prey to the abyss of lashon hora is not to speak. Two powerful vignettes inspires one to think twice before he speaks ill of others. A young man came to the saintly Horav Shloimke, zl, m’Zevhill, and petitioned the Rebbe for a blessing. He and his wife had been married for a considerable amount of time and had yet to be blessed with a child. They were broken-hearted….

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זאת תהיה תורת המצורע ביום טהרתו

This shall be the law of the metzora on the day of his purification. (14:2)

Taharah, purity from sin, can only be achieved once the sinner has repented. While repentance addresses the sin between man and Hashem, the hurt that he has caused his fellow can only be ameliorated once he sincerely asks for mechilah, forgiveness. Otherwise, he has achieved nothing. What about the sin of lashon hora, whereby one has slandered his fellow, but the fellow is unaware of this incursion? Does the baal lashon hora need to meet with his victim and inform him, “I spoke lashon hora about you, and I would like to beg your forgiveness”? Why not let “sleeping dogs…

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