Select your language

לימוד תורה

Purpose and holiness out of unity

Parasha and its realization - for the Parashot Acharei Mot - Kedoshim and the counting of the Omer - 5783

Rabbi Eliezer Chaim Shenvald

The Parashot 'Acharei Mot – Kedoshim' are recited during the counting of the Omer days. In the past week, the winds were stormy over the way Memorial Day should be conducted, to preserve the honor of the fallen soldiers. Leaders from all parties called not to change from what they have been doing all these years, to honor the memory of the fallen, and not to involve the bereavement in politics. The bereavement must express the unity and brotherhood of the fighters. They went to battle together, from all sectors, without distinction.

Our Beit Midrash at the Meir Harel Yeshiva bears the name of the IDF martyrs HY'D. The name of my dear brother, Sgt. Meir Shenvald, and the name of one of my students Lt. Harel Sherm. Our temporary Beit Midrash commemorates the memory of Sgt. Jonathan Einhorn, and our community library is dedicated in memory of Lt. Col. Pilot Avner Goldman Z'L.

When we decided to establish our special Beit Midrash, which combines Torah study with military service, we wanted it to be established in a city where there is a religious and non-religious population, living together in cooperation and mutual respect. We wanted to become part of the city.  We believed it was the right time to create partnerships and connections within the people of Israel, not only during military service but also in everyday life. For the students who grow up in the Yeshiva will see this task as part of their spiritual world. This is not an easy task, but it is always necessary and even more so in recent times.

At the beginning we did not know where we would build our Beit Midrash. However, today as we celebrate eighteen years since the establishment of the Yeshiva in the city of Modi'in, we see how the Divine providence led the moves and shaped them into a blessing.

Over the years, we found two ancient Batei Midrash that existed in the city of Modi'in in the days of the Tanaim connecting us: the Beit Midrash of the Hasmoneans and the Beit Midrash of רַבִּי אֶלְעָזָר הַמּוֹדָעִי Rabbi Elazar HaModai (From the city of Modi'in, Bar Kochba's uncle).

These Batei Midrash had an important influence in the national point of view, while existing a few hundred years apart. They have something in common and at the same time something is different between them. These two Batei Midrash combined Torah study and military service. Both were active in the national struggle for freedom and the preservation of the Jewish identity against foreign rule. The Hasmoneans fought the Greeks who wanted:

לְהַשְׁכִּיחָם תּוֹרָתֶֽךָ וּלְהַעֲבִירָם מֵחֻקֵּי רְצוֹנֶֽךָ

'…to make them forget Your Torah and to turn them away from the statutes of Your will'.

And Rabbi Elazar HaModai faced the Romans in the Bar Kochba rebellion that broke out after the Romans turned Jerusalem into 'Aelia Capitolina' and wanted to build an idolatrous temple on Temple Mount (Dio Cassius, Roman History, Book 69).

The Hasmoneans managed to achieve temporary political independence: "and the kingdom returned to Israel for more than two hundred years" (Rambam Chanukah 3:1).

In memory of their victory, we celebrate Chanukah for generations. In contrast, the Bar Kochba rebellion failed because of 'baseless hatred' and fraternal war. The Jerusalem Talmud Ta'anit 84:5) narrates the work of Rabbi Elazar HaModai while the rebels gathered in the besieged Beitar. Rabbi Elazar HaModai was sitting in sackcloth and ashes, praying every day, and saying, "Master of the World, do not sit in judgment today, do not sit in judgment today".

The Gemara there indicates the enormous impact of his prayer, thanks to which Hadrian the Roman emperor despaired and decided to remove the siege from the city and return to his country. However, a Samaritan collaborator managed to create a conflict between Bar Kochba and the source of Beitar's power: Rabbi Elazar HaModai. The Samaritan managed to arouse Bar Kochba's suspicion over his uncle, and this killed Rabbi Elazar HaModai. The Gemara blames the failure of the rebellion on this:

"מיד יצאה בת קול ואמרה (זכריה יא יז) : "הוי רעי האליל עזבי הצאן, חרב על זרועו ועל עין ימינו, זרעו יבוש תיבש, ועין ימינו כהה תכהה". הרגת את רבי אלעזר המודעי זרוען של כל ישראל ועין ימינם, לפיכך זרועו של אותו האיש יבש תיבש ועין ימינו כהה תכהה. מיד נלכדה ביתר ונהרג בר כוכבא".

"Immediately there came an unembodied voice and said, woe, criminal shepherds, who abandon the flock, a sword on his arm and on his right eye. His arm shall dry up and his right eye darken. You killed Rabbi Elazar from Modiin, the arm of Israel, and their right eye. Therefore, this man’s arm shall dry up and his right eye darken. Immediately Beitar was taken and Bar Kochba killed". (Jerusalem Talmud Ta'anit 4:5)

In memory of the failure of the rebellion and the death of Rabbi Akiva's students, who were great in Torah and served as warriors in Bar Kochba's army, we practice mourning customs during the counting of the Omer. The Gemara mentions "they all died in one period of time, because they did not treat each other with respect" (Yevamot 62b), and there was no brotherhood-in-arms between them.

In Parshat Kedoshim we read:

דַּבֵּ֞ר אֶל־כׇּל־עֲדַ֧ת בְּנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאָמַרְתָּ֥ אֲלֵהֶ֖ם קְדֹשִׁ֣ים תִּהְי֑וּ כִּ֣י קָד֔וֹשׁ אֲנִ֖י ה' אֱלֹקיכֶֽם׃

"Speak to the whole Israelite community and say to them: You shall be holy, for I, Hashem your G-d am holy". (Vayikra 19:2)

There is a deep and essential connection between the commandment of sanctity of the people of Israel and their destiny to reveal to the world the holy, transcendent, disappearing, unique and special reality of Hashem: 'For I am holy':

לומר אם מקדישים אתם עצמכם מעלה אני עליכם כאילו קידשתם אותי, ואם אין אתם מקדישים עצמכם, מעלה אני עליכם כאילו לא קידשתם אותי

"If you sanctify yourselves, I will consider it as if you had sanctified Me, and if you do not sanctify yourselves, I will consider it as if you had not sanctified Me". (Sifra Kedoshim Section 1)

This also has a deeper meaning. The vocation of the people of Israel to represent and reveal 'G-d's one name' and His holiness in the world, creates an inseparable bond between the people of Israel and what they represent, and the reality of one G-d. This destiny also depends on the unity of Israel:

לְמָה הַדָּבָר דּוֹמֶה לְפָלָטִין שֶׁהָיְתָה בְּנוּיָה עַל גַּבֵּי הַסְּפִינוֹת, כָּל זְמַן שֶׁהַסְּפִינוֹת מְחֻבָּרוֹת פָּלָטִין שֶׁעַל גַּבֵּיהֶן עוֹמֶדֶת, כָּךְ הַבּוֹנֶה בַשָּׁמַיִם מַעֲלוֹתָו, כִּבְיָכוֹל כִּסְאוֹ מְבוּסָם לְמַעְלָה בִּזְמַן שֶׁיִּשְׂרָאֵל עֲשׂוּיִן אֲגֻדָּה אֶחָת...

"To what is the matter comparable?  To a palace that was built upon boat[s]. For as long a time that the boats are connected, the palace that is upon them will stand. Hence, it is stated (in Amos 9:6), “Who builds His upper chambers in the heavens.” When is His throne, as it were, established above? When Israel becomes one society (aguddah)." (Bamidbar Rabbah 15:18).

Contact Form

Please type your full name.
Invalid email address.
Invalid Input
Invalid Input
Invalid Input