Acharei Mot(Leviticus 16-18)
Acharei Mot-Kedoshim 5772
GOOD MORNING! Last week I wrote about the Torah laws governing speech and about the importance of judging someone favorably even though circumstances seem not to allow it.
I would like to share with you an amazing story that illuminates this idea from Rabbi Paysach Krohn's Around the Maggid's Table. A maggid is a storyteller; you may recognize that the word sounds a lot like "Haggadah." For hundreds, if not thousands, of years itinerant maggidim, learned and wise individuals, would go from one Jewish community to another speaking, telling stories and inspiring the listeners to improve their character and behavior.
In our generation, Rabbi Krohn is a maggid in his own right. He is a highly sought-after speaker who captivates and motivates his audiences. Rabbi Krohn has also authored a series of Maggid books (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242) which compile wondrous and beautiful stories. I have abbreviated the story for the sake of space; names have been changed.
In Ashdod lives the Feingolds, a family with financial challenges. The father needed to raise funds to pay for his daughter's upcoming wedding. He traveled around Ashdod, Israel and even the United States asking for help. Friends and neighbors also helped to raise funds.
When the guests arrived at the wedding hall they were surprised. The wedding was in the largest ballroom. When they entered the ballroom they were shocked -- the floral arrangements were stunning, the tableware elegant and a seven piece band was playing. The meal was a seven-course dinner with huge portions. Photographers were everywhere. People were highly offended! The Feingolds had always portrayed themselves as poor people, and now they were spending not only beyond their means, but enough to pay for three weddings!
The matter was so distasteful that it was virtually all that people talked about at the wedding. Of course, no one had the audacity to say anything directly to the Feingolds, but the bride's parents sensed the resentment and criticism. After the wedding the situation worsened with each passing day. Eyes were raised and noses were turned up as the comments became more obvious.
Not being able to take the resentment any longer, Mr. Feingold went to speak with the community rav, Rabbi Elya Weiss to explain the situation. "When I first came with my wife and daughter to the hall to discuss prices and fix a date, we spoke with the owner's wife. We got into a discussion and suddenly she looked up at me and asked, 'Do you by any chance have any Feingold relatives that lived in Germany?' I was taken aback by the question, because I didn't think anyone knew us from the small town we were from. 'Yes," I told her, 'we do come from Germany.'
"She asked if we knew a Leo Feingold. When I told her he was my father, her face paled. Tears welled up in her eyes as she exclaimed, 'I am alive today only because of your father! He hid my family and me and saved us from the Nazis. My whole family owes their lives to your father!' She had always wanted to meet her saviors, but never found them.
"She insisted on making us a beautiful wedding to express her gratitude. We tried to talk her out of it. When we came to the wedding hall that night, we were as shocked as everyone else. I couldn't say anything to anyone because our benefactor has asked that her present remain a secret. When I realized the worsening attitudes of many of our friends, I requested her permission to reveal the truth and now I ask you to let people know the truth." The next Shabbat after the Torah reading, the rabbi told the whole story to the congregation. People again were surprised -- but this time at themselves for speaking disparagingly without all of the facts.
It behooves us to constantly keep in mind that things are not always what they seem to be -- and that there is often another side to the story. Hopefully, the merit of judging others favorably will allow us to be judged favorably -- in this world and in the next.
Torah 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 - confesses 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 goat!
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 God, 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 (referring to Yom Kippur) you shall receive atonement to purify you for all your transgressions, before the Almighty you shall be purified" ( Leviticus 16:30).
Does Yom Kippur atone for ALL transgressions?
The Sages in the Talmud (Yoma 85b) clarify that Yom Kippur atones for transgressions between man and the Almighty. However, with regards to transgressions between man and man, Yom Kippur can only atone if a person first attains forgiveness from those whom he has offended or harmed. This includes returning what was taken and possibly financial recompense as well as asking for forgiveness.
From this principle, we see the importance of being careful not to cause other people harm, either financial, physical or emotional.
It is proper to forgive those who sincerely ask for forgiveness; however, it is not always easy to forgive. One has to be able to forgive with a full heart for the person to receive atonement from the Almighty. Therefore, since this is difficult for a person to do, we should be even more careful not to wrong or hurt someone.
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