Acharei Mot

“Do Not Get Close To G-d, But Stay Close To G-d”
By, Ofir Afenzar

This week’s Parsha is filled with a rollercoaster full of Halachot and laws that if broken will end badly for whoever breaks them. It has got everything from laws of the Cohen Gadol to laws of what happens if a man of Israel decides to drink blood. One thing stands out to me, although these ideas are all expected to be followed to the letter, they seem very stringent to someone who would just be learning them for the first time. For most of the time We as a people are told to love HaShem and to get as close to him as possible. To not be afraid to ask for things, to follow the Mitzvot in a beautiful and peaceful way. Mitzvot are suppose to seem like a blooming flower, beautiful colors, freely moving in the wind on a sunny day. This Parsha makes them seem more like a flower that is jet black metal that cannot be taken down by even the strongest of gusts. So we have a problem here, how can we deal with these laws in the same way as we accept all other laws in the Torah? We are suppose to be seen as Tzelem Elokim, but as this parsha puts, we are tzelem elokim, but like magnets, both positive charged magnets. We are the same, but we cannot get close. Let’s now go over some Key Pasukim and Commentaries so we can understand this difficulty.

The Parsha opens with picking up the story line of the death of Aaron’s two sons. Then, it brings up the first rule of the parsha in 16:2, “. . . he [Aaron] may not come at all times into the Sanctuary. . ..”. We know that the Kohen HaGadol can enter on Yom Kippur to offer Incense. Besides for that time, we see that not many other times does anyone enter the Sanctuary. This is certainly an appropriate law, as all the laws we will be discussing. The problem here, is that this is only mentioned after the death of the two sons. Does that mean before Aaron’s sons decided to give their own Corban that anyone was allowed to go at any time? Did Hashem want to now physically, in a human sense, distance Himself from us? This is one example of HaShem wanting us to stay in a boundary, but at the same time staying close to him by bringing sacrifices on Yom Kippur.
Next, a bit further into the Parsha we are introduced to how Aaron would lean his hands on a goat and confess the sins of Bnei Israel. In that same Pasuk something interesting is mentioned, “. . . and send it with a timely man to the desert” (16:21). What is this Timely man? Well, Rashi explains him as someone who was prepared for the task one day in advance. Here we have a prime example of someone who wants to do HaShem’s Mitzvot, but it comes at a 24 hour preparation. Of course, such preparations are needed when dealing with such an important task. However, we can see this example as: We need to keep distance, but stay close. This man goes through rigorous spiritual renewal for 24 hours before getting closer to HaShem. This of course makes it hard to do the mitzvah, not everyone is built to go through such trials. However, in our next example we will see how it becomes easier.

Have you ever wanted to rent a car at the airport? You walk down the hallway as see signs of at least 10 different companies one seeming better then the next until you went through all of them. Mind boggling experience, right? Now imagine, you want to bring your offering to HaShem, and just like the rental car company line up, you have 10 different “companies” of Cohens who will do it, offering special 2 for 1 deals and what not. It would make doing the mitzvah very hard to do, maybe almost impossible. Good thing we see this Law in 17:3-4, “Any man from the house of Israel who will slaughter an ox, or a sheep, or a goat in the camp, or who will slaughter outside the camp, and he has not brought it to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting to bring it as an offering to HaShem before the Tabernacle of HaShem – is shall be considered as blood for that man, he has spilled blood, and that man shall be cut off from his people”. What these pasuking mean is that if a man were to sacrifice his offering anywhere but the Beit HaMikdash it would be considered as if he killed a man, and that would cut him off from the people, Am Yisroel. So in this case we have HaShem making it very easy for us by making it so that there is only one place in the world you can come and atone for any sins. This is HaShem wanting His People to come close to him. Stay Close to G-d.

To conclude, and answer the question: Why does HaShem make it difficult to get close to him even though we are commanded to? Well, the answer lies at the beginning of the last chapter of the Pasha, as well as the end of the chapter. In the beginning of the chapter in the second verse we have the phrase, ” I am HaShem, your G-d”. Rashi explains that when these two names of HaShem are used, it means that HaShem is a judge that Decrees on us punishment for sins and reward for the faithful. The rest of the chapter explains all the different laws of morality. At the end of the chapter as well as the Parsha the phrase is used again as the final words to end this rollercoaster. Preceding this phrase is a reminder, a last note, not to act upon any of the abominations listed before. What’s interesting is the Rashi on the last phrase of the parsha. The Gur Aryeh has a rule that when something is mentioned again in the same chapter it has the same meaning as it did before, but also with something else. What is that something else? Well, it could be our answer. The answer to why HaShem gives us these obstacles in performing His Mitzvot when we already have obstacles in our everyday life. The reason why the Kohen HaGadol can only enter the sanctuary once a year, why a man has to prepare for 24 hours before bringing a goat, why we can only bring offering to the Beit HaMikdash. It’s True HaShem is Merciful (Elokim) at the same time He will bring punishment for those who sin (G-d). But that added idea: that HaShem Loves each and everyone of us, Just like HaShem, when we love someone we Do not make it easy for them. We show who we are in every way, Our likes and dislikes. In the same vain , HaShem loves us so, He makes it hard for us to get close to him because when we do get close to him we will realize exactly how much that love is. May we have the Merit to have the Beit Hamikdash in our time. Shabbat Shalom!

Student Studying in Yeshivat Lev HaTorah