“Acharei-Mot - Kedoshim” - 5761
HaOmer, Shmittah and the Tenth of Tishrei”
this Shabbat, we find ourselves past the mid-point of Sefirat
HaOmer, the count of 49 days and 7 weeks, between the Second Night of Pesach,
the Holiday that celebrates our liberation from Physical Slavery in Egypt,
and the Holiday of Shavuot, the
Holiday that commemorates HaShem’s
giving us the Torah, thereby liberating us from Spiritual Slavery, and
pointing us towards the goal of becoming a “Kingdom of Priests and a Holy
Nation (Shemot 19:6).”
Torah Reading this Shabbat begins with Parshat Acharei-Mot, that describes
the Sacrificial Service of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, that falls on
the Tenth Day of Tishrei. The
number “ten” is highly significant within Jewish Tradition.
For example, Avraham faced and met ten tests of his faith, HaShem
used ten miraculous plagues to teach the Egyptians His greatness, and there
were Ten Commandments given by G-d to the Jewish People at Sinai.
is another counting in Yahadut, that conceptually links all three occasions,
Each seven years, the Jewish People living in Israel are commanded by the Torah to observe a Year of Shmittah, a “Shabbat,” or Year of Rest for the Land. Monetary debts are also cancelled; the lesson of the year, aside from the fact that this “Sabbatical” is apparently good for the soil, is to demonstrate our belief that the Land is not ours, but rather, G-d’s, as are all of our possessions. The fiftieth year is called the “Yovel,” or Jubilee Year, and then there is even a more vivid demonstration of that belief.
Hebrew indentured servants whose ears had been pierced, because they
didn’t want to leave a life of servitude, and in fact signed on “forever,”
must at this time leave, because “forever,” from the human
perspective, is measured by the scale of the “Yovel,” fifty years,
nearly a lifetime. In addition,
all real estate sold during the interval of a “Yovel” must revert to
their original owner.
the Holiday of Shavuot, we are also returned to our “original owner,”
the only Master that a human being may subject himself to; namely, G-d
Yom Kippur, the MAHARAL
points out, we also return to our original “owner,” HaShem, and abandon
the “Yetzer HaRa,” the “Evil Inclination,” that has come perilously
close to assuming complete domination over us.
seems to be a fundamental disagreement among the Torah Sages as to whether
Yom Kippur, and its tremendous power as a Day that can atone for our sins,
was a gift from G-d, or was earned by Man.
How this distinction manifests itself is possibly revealed in another
Talmudic disagreement, between Rabbi
Akiva and Rabbi Yishmael in Masechet Shabbat (111a).
Rabbi Yishmael says that the sacrificial fats from Shabbat may be
offered on Yom Kippur, although the sacrificial fats of Yom Kippur may
not be offered on Shabbat, implying that there is a close connection
between the two Holidays. Whereas
Rabbi Akiva takes the position that neither may be offered, implying
that even though one Day is called “Shabbat,” and the other “Shabbat
Shabbaton,” suggesting that G-d Himself invested both Days with “Kedushah,”
Holiness, the reason for that investiture was qualitatively much different.
to Rabbi Akiva, the Holiness of Shabbat is invested in it by HaShem, because
it was the “Day” on which He rested from His Creation. In the case of Yom Kippur, perhaps HaShem invests Yom Kippur
with Holiness, because Man has earned it.
Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer (Chapter 29), the Midrash
associated with Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrkanos, the Teacher of Rabbi Akiva, we
find that it is in the merit of the blood shed by the ninety-nine year old
Patriarch, Avraham Avinu, in his “brit,” or circumcision, that HaShem
grants Atonement on Yom Kippur to Avraham’s descendants.
“Rakanti” differs and says that it is in the greater merit, for
the “self-sacrifice” of the father was greater, of “Akeidat
Yitzchak,” the Binding of Isaac, that we have Yom Kippur.
The Yalkut Reuveni (Shemot, Ki-Tisa Pg. 77) says that it was in the merit of donating Shekalim to the Temple that the Jewish People were given a Day of Atonement.
says that it was in the merit of accepting the Torah and saying “Na’aseh
Ve-Nishma,” “We will first obey and later, understand” that Yom Kippur
was given to the Jewish people.
addition, it might be said that Rabbi Akiva was himself a man of action, as
we see from his leadership role in the Bar Kochba Rebellion against Rome,
and in other contexts, and it therefore fits that he should take the
position that “Atonement” can only be obtained through action by Man.
the other hand, Rabbeinu Bechaye says (VaYikra 23:28), “…for there is no
mention of a sacrifice in connection with Yom Kippur, implying that the
Atonement of the Day is not dependent on a Sacrifice (ed., or anything else
done by the Jewish People), but rather it is simply the Essence of the Day,
that atones for those who repent.”
“Sefer HaChinuch” (Acharei-Mot, 185) is even more explicit, “…and
from the time of the Creation of the World, did HaShem assign the Destiny of
the Day and Sanctified it as such, and after it was specified and
sanctified, it received the power to assign Atonement from the Exalted
Yehudah HaLevi, in the “Kuzari,” Essay (3,5:53), writes, “…and the
Atonement of Sin on Yom Kippur, and the Sanctification of the Temple…were
all conceived of by the Creator, for their imagination is not within the
power of flesh and blood…”
HaGadol” (Shemot 30:12) attempts a compromise.
He says that If the Jewish People have merit, then HaShem lets them
carry the process of Atonement; otherwise, He Himself provides it.
the source of its Atoning Power, Yom Kippur is a very special Day.
It was the Day that we received the Torah “for keeps.”
The Talmud says “if all the Holidays are (somehow) cancelled, Yom
HaKippurim and Purim will remain.”
Why these two?
MAHARAL says, in extremely simplified form, that Purim was the Holiday that
HaShem saved us from the physical genocide that Haman had in mind for us,
and Yom HaKippurim is the Day on which HaShem saves us, by Atonement, from
the consequences of our sins; namely, spiritual destruction.
Rabbi Pinchas Frankel