Pearls of Rashi – Acharei-Pesach

This Shabbos begins the festival of Pesach. Accordingly, we will read a portion from the Torah related to this holiday. Nevertheless, those who follow the custom of learning a daily portion of Torah with Rashi’s commentary, learn the Torah Portion Acharei. We are therefore presenting one of Rashi’s comments on this Parshah.

The beginning of this Parshah describes the order of the service of the High Priest in the Tabernacle and the Temple on Yom Kippur. As a prelude to this, we are told when these commandments were given[1].  “Hashem spoke to Moshe after the death of Aharon’s two sons, when they drew near before the Lord and died.”

Why is this introduction to the laws which apply to the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur necessary? Rashi[2] explains that “Rabbi Eleazar ben Azariah explained this with a parable of a patient whom a doctor came to visit. The physician said to him, ‘Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place.’ Then, another doctor visited him and said to him, ‘Do not eat cold foods or lie down in a cold, damp place so that you will not die in the manner that so-and-so died.’ The second doctor’s warning was more effective than the first. Therefore, the Torah says ‘after the death of Aaron’s two sons.’”

What does Rashi’s allegory come to teach us? Everything in Torah provides each of us with a timeless lesson. The Rebbe explains that generally one who is ill suffers from fever; he is very hot. Therefore, it is natural for him to want to eat cold food and stay in cold places. Just warning him not to do so will not help; his desire is too great. It is only by telling him of the possible consequences that one can successfully curb this desire.

The same is true of the High Priest. He has such a burning desire to come close to G-d that it is only natural for him to “draw too near” to Him, thereby losing his soul. Therefore, Hashem warned him of the consequences.

The Rambam[3] teaches that the laws of priesthood apply “not only the tribe of Levi but to anyone whose spirit generously motivates him. It applies to one who understands on his own to set himself aside and stand before G-d. He serves Him, ministers to Him and knows Him. If he proceeds justly as Hashem made him and removes from his neck the yoke of worldly things which people seek, he is sanctified as holy of holies.”

He is saying that each of us can attain the status of a High Priest. We each have this burning desire to cleave to G-d. Thus, we all need the warning which was given to Aharon. We may not allow our souls to soar above, remaining “out of this world.” Rather we must serve Hashem here in this physical, material world.

Wishing one and all a good Shabbos and a happy and Kosher Pesach!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 7, Page 117

Mr. Sholom Moshe Hacohen
ben Reb Shlomo Meir Hacohen ע”ה Cohen
Passed away Shabbos Parshas Beshalach, 13 Shevat, 5779
May His Soul be bound in the Eternal Bond of Life
* * *
לעילוי נשמת
ר’ שלום משה הכהן בן ר’ שלמה מאיר הכהן ע”ה כהן
נפטר ש”ק פ’ בשלח, י”ג שבט, ה’תשע”ט
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
יו”ל ע”י בני משפחתו שיחיו

[1]. Parshas Acharei, Vayikroh 16:1.

[2]. Ibid.

[3]. The Laws of the Sabbatical Year, Chapter 13, Paragraph 13.

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