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Parshas Kedoshim

04/26/2018 07:55:00 PM


Parshas Kedoshim introduces a wide assortment of mitzvos, and it is hard to discern any sort of meaning in the sequence of the ostensibly disorganized presentation of these new laws. However, Chazal understood that there must be meaning to the order of the Torah, and they expound various lessons and teachings based on the juxtaposition on the Pesukim.  Given that Chazal’s comments to this order are dispersed in the Talmud, Brasisos, and Midrash, some of them are better known than others.  A lesser known comment is found in the Midrash Raba’s analysis of the flow between the laws of Orlah- not to benefit from a tree’s fruits during its first three years- and the law of “Do not eat over blood.”  “Do not eat over blood” is a vague mitzvah, and the Talmud says that it has multiple meanings.   It is forbidden to eat before praying in the morning, (eating before praying for one’s “blood”) to eat the meat of a slaughtered animal before all signs of life disappear, to eat the meat of a Korban before the blood is thrown on the Altar, and finally, “do not eat over blood” mandates that Beis Din abstain from eating on the day they implement death sentences.  Offering yet one more interpretation, the Midrash suggests that the words are a euphemistic reference not to engage in marital relations with one’s wife during her menstrual flow.  The Midrash then explains that the reason the Torah writes this following the laws of Orlah is to allude to the following words of Musar/encouragement: “If you were able to wait three years to eat the fruits of the tree, you can’t wait a few days before having relations?”  Chazal’s fascinating psychological insight was that there may be a person who would observe the laws of Orlah and would still perhaps struggle with the shorter time of Nidda, and they saw that the Torah was encouraging this person through his struggle by telling him to reflect on what he had accomplished previously with the laws of Orlah.  There are many variables that can explain why a person would grapple more with Nidda than Orlah, but irrespective of those points, we see that a powerful tool for inspiration in a struggle with an “easier” mitzvah is to reflect on the “harder” mitzos that one has previously observed.  To illustrate the point, it can be compared to the fight from running out of shul right after Yom Kippur to break the fast.  One the one hand, it is a light mitzvah and only a matter of minutes, but the struggle in its moment may seem harder than fasting the whole day!  Chazal teach that we call tell ourselves-“If I just fasted 26 hours, can I not wait a few more minutes?”


A Mishna in the fourth Perek of Pirkei Avos teaches: One should be especially diligent with “light mitzvos,” and flee from the sin.  What does diligence with light mitzvos have to do with fleeing from sin?  Secondly, the word “Ha’aviera” really means “the sin,” implying a known sin.  What sin is the Mishna referring to?  It is suggested that “the sin” does not refer to one absolute or particular sin, but it rather means the “toughest” sin that faces each of us and yet differs from person to person.  A highly personal term that is purposely left open, there is one sin that stands out for each of us as a most formidable struggle that we can’t seem to conquer or even tame.  From a different psychological perspective, the Mishna suggests that the way to fight this battle is to become diligently committed to the observance of a small mitzvah that can constantly provide positive feelings of achievement and connection that can be harnessed in the battle with “the sin” when it arises.  “Light mitzvos” surround us and we observe them, but a deeper connection and diligence to their fulfillment can afford one the positive energy and motivation that carries over to the battle with “the sin.”  As an illustration, it is noted that the value of exercise in weight loss is heightened by its “carry-over” effect after one leaves the gym, as the good feelings and connection to the goal help with the struggles of the rest of the day.

It is fascinating to compare and contrast these two Chazals against each other.  The lesson of the juxtaposition of Orlah and “don’t eat over blood” is to reflect upon harder battles previously won and to channel them as inspiration with smaller battles, while the lesson of the Mishna in Avos is that the way to fight “the sin” and the harder mitzvos is to build upon the smaller battles won first.  We see that no mitzvah is too hard to observe and no mitzvah is too easy to observe, and both need constant encouragement.  Ironically, human nature dictates that at times harder mitzvos will seem easier and easier mitzvos will seem harder, and we must be cognizant and understanding of our psyche in order to employ the applicable method to each struggle.  There is no approach that is correct for all contexts, and it is rather up to us to implement both in their right times.   

Wed, June 26 2019 23 Sivan 5779