In several places the Torah forbids mutilating the body as a sign of mourning. In our parsha, we learn: “You are children of HaShem your G-d; don’t cut yourselves nor make a bald spot between your eyes” (Devarim 14:1).
Ramban’s commentary explains the connection between the beginning and the end of this last verse. Since we are children of HaShem, His chosen people, we have confidence that He will judge us favorably, and that the departed will find eternal rest with G-d. While we are still sad that we are separated from our loved ones, our sorrow is tempered by the faith that the deceased will receive an eternal reward in the World to Come. Therefore, our expressions of grief need to be restrained, to show that our sorrow does not approach despair.
According to the Ramban, the rule that we shouldn’t mourn excessively even in permissible expressions of mourning is really an extension of this Torah mitzva (SA YD 394:1; explained in the column on Shelach Lekha).
Another connection is that when we recall that we are children of HaShem, we recall that we are created in His image, which we should not deface (Based on Rashi).
DON’T DIVIDE INTO SECTS
Our Sages inferred another imperative from this verse: Don’t cut yourselves up – into different sects (Yevamot 13b). This is a prohibition on the community to slice itself up into divisive segments. We should strive to have uniformity of communal leadership and conduct, and each community should have uniform customs (SA OC 493:3).
This mitzva is also related to the first half of the verse. Since we are children of HaShem, we are all one family. We have to express this by having the greatest possible degree of national unity, and avoid at all costs dividing ourselves up into conflicting factions.
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