Acharei Mot-Kedoshim (Leviticus 16-20 )
The different natures of children are
fascinating. I have one child who, when given a piece of candy, will
ask before eating it, "Do you have a second piece for my little
sister?" If not, he would give the piece of candy to his little sister. I
have another child who, when given a piece of candy, will ask
before eating it, "Do you have a second piece of candy?" He
wants to plan ahead for maximum candy intake.
In a group, children can often be very mean. Sometimes,
however, they can raise to great heights of sensitivity and kindness.
I bring the following story to you with permission from Rabbi
Paysach Krohn from his latest book, Echoes of the Maggid. (All of
his books are available by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242.) A
young boy, Shaya, attends a special school during the week,
Chush, for learning-disabled children. He loves baseball, but
because of his lack of coordination isn't often chosen to play. One
time Shaya came to Yeshiva Darchei Torah, where he learned on
Sundays, as his classmates were playing ball. His father asks if
Shaya can play. Being six runs behind and in the eighth inning, they
figured, "Why not?" and Shaya went out to play short center field. I
will now let the master story teller, Rabbi Krohn, take over the telling
of the story:
"In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shaya's team scored a
few runs, but was still behind by three. In the bottom of the ninth
inning, Shaya's team scored again and now with two outs and the
bases loaded and the potential winning runs on base, Shaya was
scheduled to be up. Would the team actually let Shaya bat at this
juncture and give away their chance to win the game?
"Surprisingly, Shaya was told to take a bat and try to get a
hit. Everyone knew that it was all but impossible, for Shaya didn't
even know how to hold the bat properly, let alone hit with it.
However, as Shaya stepped up to the plate, the pitcher moved in a
few steps to lob the ball in softly so that Shaya should at least be
able to make contact.
"The first pitch came in and Shaya swung clumsily and
missed. One of Shaya's teammates came up to Shaya and
together they held the bat and faced the pitcher waiting for the next
pitch. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball
softly towards Shaya.
"As the next pitch came in, Shaya and his teammate swung
the bat and together they hit a slow ground ball to the pitcher. The
pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could easily have thrown
the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that
would have ended the game.
"Instead, the pitcher took the ball and threw it on a high arc
to right field, far and wide beyond the first baseman's reach.
Everyone started yelling, 'Shaya, run to first! Shaya, run to first!'
Never in his life had Shaya run to first.
"He scampered down the baseline wide-eyed and startled.
By the time he reached first base, the right fielder had the ball. He
could have thrown the ball to the second baseman who would tag
out Shaya, who was still running. But the rightfielder understood
what the pitcher's intentions were, so he threw the ball high and far
over the head of the third baseman's head, as everyone yelled,
'Shaya, run to second! Shaya run to second!'
"Shaya ran towards second base as the runners ahead of
him deliriously circled the bases towards home. As Shaya reached
second base, the opposing shortstop ran towards him, turned him
toward the direction of third base and shouted, 'Shay, run to third!'
"As Shaya rounded third, the boys from both teams ran
behind screaming, 'Shaya, run home! Shaya, run home!"
"Shaya ran home, stepped on home plate and all 18 boys
lifted him on their shoulders and made him the hero, as he had just
hit the 'grand slam' and won the game for his team."
Concludes Rabbi Krohn about the lesson of this story, "Too
often we seek to find favor and give honor to those who have more
than us. But there are people who have fewer friends than we, less
money, and less prestige. Those people especially need attention
and recognition. We should try to achieve the level of perfection in
human relationships which the boys on the ballfield at Yeshiva
Darchei Torah achieved. Because if children can do it, we adults
should certainly be able to accomplish it as well."
Portion of the Week
Acharei Mot - Kedoshim
Acharei Mot includes the Yom Kippur service where the
Cohen Gadol cast lots to designate two goats -- one to be
sacrificed, the other to be driven to a place called Azazel after the
Cohen Gadol - the High Priest - confessed the sins of the people
upon its head. Today it is a very popular epithet in Israel to
instruct another person in the heat of an argument to "go to Azazel."
(I don't believe the intent, however, is to look for the goat.)
The goat sent to Azazel symbolically carried away the sins
of the Jewish people. This, I surmise, is the source of the concept
of using a scapegoat. One thing you can truly give credit to the
Jewish people -- when we use a scapegoat, at least we use a real
The Torah then proceeds to set forth the sexual laws -- who
you are not allowed to marry or have relations with. If one
appreciates that the goal of life is to be holy, to perfect oneself and
to be as much as possible like G-d, then he/she can appreciate that
it is impossible to orgy at night and be spiritual by day.
The Torah portion of Kedoshim invokes the Jewish people
to be holy! And then it proceeds with the spiritual directions on
how to achieve holiness, closeness to the Almighty. Within it lie the
secrets and the prescription for Jewish continuity. If any group of
people is to survive as an entity, it must have common values and
goals -- a direction and a meaning. By analyzing this portion we
can learn much about our personal and national destiny.
based on Growth Through Torah by
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, "For on this day (Yom Kippur) you shall receive atonement to purify you for all your transgressions, before the Almighty you shall be purified" (Leviticus 16:30). Does the day
of Yom Kippur itself achieve atonement for ALL of one's transgressions?
The Sages (Talmud Bavli, Yoma 85b) comment that Yom
Kippur atones for transgressions between man and the Almighty.
However, Yom Kippur only atones for transgressions between man
and man if a person first attains the forgiveness of those whom he
has offended or harmed.
While our main reason not to hurt others should be out of
compassion and caring, we learn from here that we should be
careful not to hurt others out of our own self interests -- the
embarrassment of having to ask others for forgiveness and the
possibility that they won't or can't forgive you.