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Acharei Mot(Leviticus 16-18)

Constant Tzedakah

Constant Tzedakah

Rabbi Yonason Eibeshutz was once collecting tzedakah for a poverty-stricken family. He approached one of the wealthy men in his town for a donation. The man attempted to excuse himself by quoting the Talmud (Kesuvos 50a), which discusses the verse in Psalms 106:3: אשרי שמרי משפט עשה צדקה בכל עת – “Praised are those who guard justice and do acts of righteousness at every moment.” The Talmud questions how it is possible to do tzedakah every second, and answers that the verse is referring to a person who sustains his own young children.

The man claimed that he had no need to contribute to the Rabbi’s cause, as through his children, he was already considered by the Talmud as somebody who gives tzedakah “at every moment.” To this argument, the quick Rav Yonason sharply responded by quoting Leviticus 16:2 and explaining, ואל יבא בכל עת אל הקדש – A person who only gives tzedakah based on the Talmud’s interpretation of the words בכל עת “won’t be permitted to enter into Holy places.”

Rabbi Yehudah’s Death

The Talmud (Kesuvos 103b) relates that when Rebbi – Rabbi Yehuda HaNasi – passed away, a piece of paper fell from Heaven. On the paper was written that all who were present at the time of his death would merit a share in the World to Come. Although Rebbi’s level of holiness and spirituality was tremendous, why don’t we find similar episodes in conjunction with the deaths of other righteous individuals?

Rabbi Yitzchok Elchonon Spektor answers that the Talmud (Yoma 85b) records a dispute between Rebbi and the other Sages with respect to the atonement effected by Yom Kippur (Leviticus 16:30). The Sages maintain that Yom Kippur is only effective together with confession and repentance for one’s misdeeds, but Rebbi maintains that the holiness of the day intrinsically causes atonement and forgiveness for all.

It is also known that the death of the righteous is compared to Yom Kippur in its ability to effect atonement (Gur Aryeh, Bamidbar 20:1). Although the law is decided in accordance with the majority of the Sages, in deference to the honor of Rebbi his death was treated in accordance with his opinion, and all who were present received forgiveness, even if they didn’t repent.

Temporarily Impure

How is it possible that somebody became Biblically impure and was able to become pure without having to wait for sunset?

Although a living animal is ritually pure, the Torah decrees that the man who is in charge of transporting the goat to Azazel on Yom Kippur becomes ritually impure as soon as he exits the walls of Jerusalem. After completing his mission, the Torah requires him to immerse both his clothing and himself in a mikvah, at which point he may reenter the Jewish camp. The Ibn Ezra comments that the immersion alone suffices to render him pure and he is not required to wait until sundown. Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman (Ayeles HaShachar 16:26) notes that this is quite unusual, as it is the only case of a person who is Biblically impure yet is able to become pure even before sunset.

Marrying Two Sisters

The Torah (Leviticus 18:18) commands –“do not marry a woman in addition to her sister.” Given that the prohibition isn’t the initial marriage to a woman but rather the subsequent marriage to her sister, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to reverse the wording and to forbid “marrying a sister in addition to your wife?”

The Chanukas HaTorah notes that the Talmud (Pesachim 119b) discusses who will lead the recitation of Grace after Meals at the festive meal which will be eaten after the coming of Moshiach. The Talmud says that Yaakov Avinu will disqualify himself by saying, "I married two sisters (Rachel and Leah), which the Torah was destined to prohibit against me," and it would therefore be inappropriate for him to act as leader. In what way is the Torah's prohibition against marrying two sisters directed against Yaakov more than every other Jew?

When Yaakov agreed to work for Lavan for seven years, it was due to his love for Rachel and his desire to marry her. As a result, even though Lavan tricked Yaakov and he ended up marrying Leah first, Rachel is still considered his primary wife (Rashi Genesis 31:4). In light of this, he suggests that the unique wording of our verse is specifically alluding to Yaakov. It forbids "marrying a wife in addition to her sister," as Yaakov first married the sister (Leah) and only afterward married the wife (Rachel). This is what Yaakov was referring to when he said that the Torah would prohibit marrying two sisters "against him," and for this reason he viewed himself as unfit to lead the recitation of Grace After Meals.

Published: April 22, 2012

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