We Continued to Take Personal Inventory…
The kohen shall provide him atonement before Hashem, and it shall be forgiven him for any of all the things he might do to incur guilt” (Vayikra 5:26).
The Chozeh of Lublin commented that after a person achieves forgiveness for a particular sin, he is then in a position to
discover that there were other things he did to incur guilt. Improper behavior serves as a barrier to our awareness of the nature of our actions. When we are forgiven for something, the barrier is lifted, and we are then able to see that there were other
things we did that require rectification and atonement.
This is why teshuvah is an ongoing process. The more we are forgiven, the more sensitive we are to our actions. In other words, teshuvah begets teshuvah.
This portion of the Torah describes the olah offering, which was entirely burned on the Mizbei’ach, and none of it was eaten by the kohanim. The Talmud says that the kohanim needed a stringent warning about the olah service because it involved a financial loss. One opinion is that inasmuch as the olah is totally burned and none of it is eaten, the kohanim might be lax in its service.
On the surface, this sounds absurd. The kohanim had more meat than they could possibly consume from the other offer- ings. Why would they care if one offering was entirely burned?
The Torah is pointing out the irrational nature of the acquis- itive drive. A multibillionaire who could not possibly consume even a fraction of his wealth if he lived for a thousand years still seeks to increase his wealth. Why? Because! It is like the mentality of the alcoholic who sees a sign on a tavern, “Grand Opening! All the booze you want for $1,” and says, “Give me $2 worth.”
The kohanim had no use for the meat of the olah, but if it was not available to them, they might be lax in its ritual.
Thy Will, Not Mine, Be Done
The Torah relates that the two sons of Aharon died when
they introduced “an alien fire” to the Mizbei’ach. Rabbi Yishmael says that they died because they were intoxicated with wine when they did the service.
How does Rabbi Yishmael dare to contradict the Torah that clearly states the reason for their death is that they introduced an alien fire in the sanctuary?
Rabbi Yishmael is saying that the “alien fire” term is figurative. The sons of Aharon felt that they could intensify the spiritual experience of the Divine service if their spirits were lifted with wine. But this was a defiance of God’s will. One’s spiritual expe- rience is not enhanced artificially by mind-altering chemicals.
Some people mistakenly think that they attain a spiritual mood with hallucinogens. (Others might imagine that giving in to their addictive desires would make them happy or free them of the obsession for a while so they can serve Hashem). This is an “alien fire,” inimical to God. God desires that one achieve spirituality by observing His will as expressed in the Torah.
Admitted to God…
Step 5: “We admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.”
The Torah says that if a person develops a skin lesion that may be tzaraas, he must show it to the kohen.
The Stoliner Rebbe said, “How different the chassidim of today are from those of the previous generation. Today’s chas- sidim try to show the Rebbe how pious and observant they are. When I used to go to my Rebbe, I would show him all my defects, in the hope that he could help me divest myself of them.”
When we take a garment to be cleaned, we may call the attention of the cleaner to those stains that we think are most resistant, alerting him to be particularly certain that they are removed. How foolish it would be to conceal these stains from the cleaner’s eyes!
We should not deceive ourselves that we have reached per- fection. Since we do have imperfections, who if not our spiritual leader can help us improve upon them? But in order for them to do so, we must allow them to see what they are.
ACHAREI MOS KEDOSHIM
Practicing These Principles
The Torah says, “You shall not do as the Egyptians do, from whose land you left, nor as the Canaanites do, to whose land you are entering.”
What can this mean? There are already 365 specific prohibi- tions. What is the Torah referring to?
There are many permissible activities that a Jew is required to do as part of one’s service to Hashem. Eating because one is hungry and sleeping because one is tired are not uniquely human activities. Animals do these things as well. A Jew should direct
all one’s activities to Hashem — i.e., eating because one needs the nourishment to serve Hashem, sleeping to be adequately rested so that one can serve Hashem. Earning money and even procreation can be directed to the service of Hashem.
This is what the Torah means. The Egyptians and Canaanites did not direct their non-religious activities to Hashem. Jews should be different. Shlomo HaMelech said, ‘Know Hashem in all your ways” (Mishlei 3:6). Bill Wilson echoed this in Step 12, “To practice these principles in all our affairs.”
Rashi versus the Ramban
In 2011, Rabbi Twerski wrote this article for TorahWeb.org and shared it with us for use on the GYE website.
Hashem instructs Moshe to tell the b’nei Yisrael, “Kedoshim tihiyu, you shall be holy” but does not specify what one must do to be holy. Rashi says that this means one must abstain
from immoral behavior. The Ramban says that it means one should restrain oneself from indulging in permissible pleasures. His famous statement is that a person might be a naval birshus haTorah, a degenerate person who is technically observant of all 613 mitzvos.
Today we can realize that these two interpretations are one and the same.
The frum community is being swept up in an epidemic — yes, a plague of addiction to inappropriate material on the Internet. As the Talmud says, when a plague occurs, it does not discriminate
between tzaddikim and reshaim (Bava Kama 60a). This is af- flicting men and women of all ages, some of whom appear to be stellar in Torah and Yiddishkeit!
The Satan is waging a ferocious battle, and it is claiming victims. Some bachurim are drifting away from Yiddishkeit, publicly and privately. They know that what they are doing is an abomination to Hashem, but because they cannot control themselves, they feel they have lost their connection with Hashem. Their davening and learning suffers, and even Shabbos observance is affected. Wives feel they have been betrayed, and marriages are ruined, with children being the innocent victims.
The effort to stop this plague by outlawing computers and Internet is unfortunately futile. Every day, more of our daily actions are becoming dependent on the Internet. It is predicted that check writing will become extinct, and all transactions will take place online.
Filters are the first line of defense, but essentially, they are a defense to avoid accidental pop-ups. This is important, because if an indecent picture pops up and one does not immediately turn it off, one can be in trouble. Some people can become “hooked” by a single exposure of just several seconds.
Unfortunately, filters are of limited value for the person who is addicted. One can find ways to circumvent the filters.
I may sound naïve, but I believe the only truly effective antidote to this terrible plague is developing a genuine sense of kedushah. A person would not think of taking a siddur or Chumash into the bathroom. Yet when one looks at inappro- priate material, one is doing much worse. One is taking one’s neshamah, which is part of Hashem Himself, and dragging it into the pits of disgusting filth! I believe that if a person
had a true feeling of personal kedushah, one would be loath to defile it.
Meticulously observing Shabbos, or eating only glatt kosher, pas Yisrael, and chalav Yisrael, as important as they are, are not enough to gain a feeling of kedushah. The Ramban said it well. One can observe Shabbos, eat only glatt kosher, pas Yisrael, and chalav Yisrael and still be an Olam HaZehnik and devoid of kedushah.
Rashi and the Ramban do not disagree. The only way to avoid immorality is to develop a feeling of kedushah, which is not achieved when we are indulgent in permissible gratifications.
Kedoshim tihiyu is a mitzvah d’Oraisa, and its proper ful- fillment is literally life saving.
There are few therapists that deal with addiction to inap- propriate material. The website guardyoureyes.com is a most valuable resource for help, providing chizzuk, education, and anonymous support groups. Countless people have been helped by this website.
There must be a dedicated effort at developing kedushah, in the home, shuls, yeshivos, and girls’ schools. The study of mussar and Chassidic writings should be a profound emo- tional experience rather than an intellectual one. Parents and teachers must realize that they must model kedushah in their lives, because only this way will our young people adopt it in their lives.
I am not an alarmist, but I must say that we are in a crisis, and we must make heroic efforts to avoid the disintegration of our families.
One Day at a Time
In this parashah, we have the mitzvah of Sefiras HaOmer.
Hashem instructed the Jews to count forty-nine days, and this would then lead to the Divine revelation and giving of the Torah at Sinai.
There were many miracles at the Exodus, but the greatest miracle of all was that a people that had been enslaved, degrad- ed, and dehumanized were able, within a few short weeks, to be transformed to the highest level of spirituality and to declare, “We will do, and we will listen.” How could so radical a change be achieved?
The answer is the mitzvah of Sefirah is to count one day at a time, and on each day, rectify a particular spiritual shortcom- ing. The Torah is teaching us that no challenge is so great that it cannot be successfully overcome if only it is broken down to manageable morsels.
The yetzer hara tells a person, “There is no way you can be a tzaddik. The Torah’s demands cannot possibly all be met.” Our response should be, “I only have to do that today, and that is manageable. I’ll deal with tomorrow’s challenges tomorrow. One day at a time.”
Our Maker’s Manual
The Torah tells us the rich rewards we will receive if we observe the Torah, and this is followed by a stern warning
of the harsh consequences that will result if we deviate from the Torah.
In Pirkei Avos, we are instructed to observe the Torah, “not as servants who serve their master for reward, but as servants who serve their master without anticipation of reward.” How, then, are we to understand the verses cited above?
When you buy a new automobile, you receive a “user’s manu- al” that instructs you how to care for your car so that it functions optimally and for a long duration. If one follows the instructions, one is not being “rewarded.” One is simply getting the best use of the car.
Hashem created man, and gave man the Torah as the “user’s manual.” If we neglect to follow the instructions, we will not be “punished,” but we will simply suffer the consequences of not having cared for the organism according to the Manufacturer’s instructions.